ISIS bodies line Kobani streets after Kurdish forces take control of destroyed city

ISIS bodies line Kobani streets after Kurdish forces take control of destroyed city

31/Jan/2015  //  637 Viewers

Kurdish fighters rounded up the bodies of about 20 terrorists Friday, days after they claimed to recapture the city Jan. 26. Kobani has been a battleground since September, and the destruction in its wake means it may take a long time for more than 200,000 refugees to return home.

 The bodies of ISIS fighters lined the streets of Kobani, a Syrian border town, days after Kurdish fighters claimed to regain control of the destroyed city, according to reports.

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) rounded up the bodies of around 20 Islamic extremists Friday after a four-month intensive battle, the AFP reported.

Kurdish forces pushed ISIS militants out of the mainly Kurdish town outside Turkey Monday, Syrian state media reported. They managed to take back 17 out of the hundreds of villages and "liberated several regions" to its west, YPG told AFP.

ISIS supporters said in an online video they withdrew because of airstrikes but vowed to return, AFP reported.

Militants fired a mortar shell inside the city Thursday, wounding four civilians, Turkey's Radikal newspaper reported. In recent weeks, they carried out more than 35 suicide attacks in Kobani.

It's too soon to say "mission accomplished" because battles rage on to the southeast and southwest of the city, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

More than 200,000 refugees who fled to Turkey joyously celebrated the victory claim, Reuters reported. They are eager to return home after months of cold weather, hunger and poverty.

But their hometown is littered with debris from fallen buildings and bombs, suggesting that it might be a while before they can return.

The violence hollowed out the town - the roads have craters meters deep - and reduced large swaths of Kobani to rubble. Sheets meant to hide residents from snipers' views still hover over the wreckage.

 Although Kurdish flags hang where ISIS ones used to, civilians and fighters are nervous about walking around because of continued mortar shell firings and the potential for unexploded traps to go off.

"Coming back to Kobani will be even more difficult than leaving it," one YPG fighter from the Kurdish told Reuters, clutching a machinegun and standing in front of the ruins of a building.

"This city needs to be rebuilt from scratch. Everything is destroyed," he said, pointing to a pile of debris as tall as the single-story building next to it.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan questioned whether the city could be fixed.

"Today they are dancing with happiness. What happened?" he told local government officials in his Ankara palace. "(Islamic State) is out there, fine. But who will repair all those places you bombed? Will those 200,000 who fled Kobani be able to go back? When they are back, where will they live?"

Kobani became the symbol of the international fight against the terrorist group -- which controls large portions of territory in Syria and Iraq -- after ISIS militants streamed into town with heavy artillery Sept. 16, prompting U.S.-led forces to drop weapons and ammunition.

The terrorists never fully captured the city but had enough power in the area -- they controlled about 300 villages -- that they used Kobani as a background for propaganda videos. An October clip showed captive British photojournalist John Cantlie in the city, which the group used to prove that its fighters had pushed deep inside the city's core.

Since the battle began, the death toll has reached about 1,600 people, including 1,075 ISIS fighters, 459 Kurdish soldiers and 32 civilians, activists estimated.

Ill-Omened Rumbles From Niger Delta Militants

Ill-Omened Rumbles From Niger Delta Militants

31/Jan/2015  //  660 Viewers

By Law Mefor

The Niger Delta militants are regrouping and threatening war. And going by the reason they regroup and issue threats, which is the assault and intimidation that President Goodluck Jonathan and his campaign train have suffered in some States in the north, their new posture is, without a shred of doubt, an ill omen.

This potent group, which had once held the Nigerian nation to ransom and crippled her economy by crashing daily crude oil production to a paltry 700 barrels from 2 million barrels through militancy, can be ignored at nation’s peril. They are simply saying that forcefully removing President Jonathan from power is only unacceptable and promised to resist it and to retaliate all ill-treatments to the President and, going by their antecedents; they apparently have the capacity to make good such threat.

Come to think of it: could the militants be right that the assaults and intimidations suffered by President Jonathan and his campaign train in parts of the north are part of ‘the list of actions that our party intends to take’ announced by the All Progressives Congress (APC) at their pre-election Walk Rally in Abuja? It will be recalled that at the said Walk Rally of the APC late last year, where Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State said his Party would not go to court if it loses the Presidential Poll, but would instead instigate anarchy, make the country ungovernable and form an alternative Government. His words: “…in 2015, we will not go to court. We will form our own government. We have met on that and we have agreed on that. We will install our own government and there would be two governments…”

At the said Walk Rally also, the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, was far more elaborate; he declared among other ominous statements that “If we do not see any discernible change of attitude on the part of the government, then we will move to the next stage on the list of actions that our party intends to take to stop the rot being perpetuated by the PDP-led Federal Government.” He did not however disclose what these other measures are, leaving so much to speculation.

In 2012, the APC Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, also promised that ‘dogs and baboons will be soaked in blood’ if the 2015 polls do not meet his expectations. His exact words: “If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’ Nasiru El Rufai, also predicting massive bloodbath for 2015 elections, had also said the only option left for the opposition is to take power by force for which the Directorate of State Service invited him over for questioning. Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State of the PDP has also made an unsavory comment of referring to those who oppose him as cockroaches to be crushed, to say nothing of the orgy of violence in Rivers between APC and PDP supporters.

The militants, perhaps following deductive reason, are now alluding to the embarrassment, intimidation and even assault being suffered by President Goodluck Jonathan in the north as part of the acts of desperation of the APC aimed at ensuring victory at all cost. Whereas the APC and its Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, have toured the lengths and breadths of the South South and South East, which are the strongholds of President Jonathan and his Party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) without any form of molestation, President Jonathan and his campaign convoys have been stoned and pelted with pure water in Katsina State the home State of Buhari and in Bauchi. The Gombe Rally of the PDP has also been disrupted by thugs.

This development is lending itself to much speculation and apprehension. Like the act of terrorism going on in the north east, the aim is to instill fear in the President and his supporters. Whereas the President is fairly protected and can resist and silently repudiate such acts of intimidation, many of his vulnerable supporters are already negatively responding to these acts in northern Nigeria. Up North, where these acts of intimidation and violence against the President’s reelection are clearly rife, southerners who form the bulk of the President’s supporters are leaving for the southern parts in droves.

While many of them left behind may be either too afraid to even collect their permanent voter’s card (PVC) let alone voting or are being frustrated from getting them, those who have been forced out of the northern parts by these deliberate acts of intimidation and violence, can no longer vote from their new locations going by the Electoral Act. Since most of these Jonathan’s supporters being threatened cannot vote, it constitutes colossal losses for Mr. President in advance.

These are part of what the militants are considering as ‘forcefully removing President Jonathan from power’- forcing his supporters not to vote – the same reason they are now vowing vengeance.

These are certainly no ordinary times. These drums of war beating up north and down south Nigeria in counteracting manner are simply a result of cliques of politicians and interests desperately pushing to circumvent the democratic process and get to power, ignoring the collateral damages inherent in their methods. They are now thrashing their way like a rot eel, not minding dragging the nation down with them.

Democracy should not be the undoing of Nigeria; it is Government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is the people who must decide what they want and not any oligarchy as is the case in the present-day Nigeria.

How the hell did we get here? How come politics and elections in Nigeria have suddenly become a do or die game? Some say it is because some people in Nigeria have been carrying on as if they were born to rule or should decide who rules. Where this is not the case, mere anarchy will be unleashed upon the country as a consequence. This is reducing the electoral process ignobly to a conflict between those who want Jonathan out at all cost and those who want to resist any undemocratic and violent process of forcing the President from power.

The militants are determined to retaliate what they called ‘coordinated attack on President Jonathan’ in the North presumably in the hands of APC supporters and have gathered in Yenagoa to harmonize their position and begin to articulate adequate response. In the face of this, what appear to be in serious short supply are statesmen who would stand in the gap for country.

Memory lane is replete with how the absence of statesmen who can speak up at such unnerving moments in the nation’s evolutionary history, has resulted in confusion and conflict in Nigeria and ultimately in a civil war, which claimed over a million lives. Leaders in other regions in Nigeria, not just in the north must rise now and prevail on those who are provoking violence to toe the path of peace and honour, and give the masses the chance to choose who governs them.

Unless Nigerians have made up their minds to go the way of Yugoslavia and Sudan, the citizens must also act more decisively and prevail on those making the country ungovernable. More importantly, the law enforcement officers should be prevailed on to treat the criminal content of this political rascality. This way, we may be able to pull back our nation from the precipice and ensure a violence-free 2015. Project Nigeria is beautiful, but there must be no slaves, no masters.


Fire rips through Brooklyn warehouse Saturday morning

Fire rips through Brooklyn warehouse Saturday morning

31/Jan/2015  //  459 Viewers

The fire started just before 6:30 a.m. at the warehouse, located on the East River in Williamsburg. Firefighters spent more than three hours trying to get the flames under control. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters were battling a fast-moving four-alarm inferno that ripped through a Brooklyn warehouse Saturday morning.

The fire at the storage warehouse on N. 11th St. by the East River in Williamsburg started about 6:25 a.m., officials said.

More than three hours later, 168 firefighters were still trying to bring the blaze under control.


NEDG unaware of any party not participating in presidential debate

NEDG unaware of any party not participating in presidential debate

31/Jan/2015  //  444 Viewers

The Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) has denied receiving an official communication from any party or group that is not interested in participating in the 2015 elections debate.

Founding Chairman/Consultant of the NEDG, Mr Taiwo Alimi disclosed this while exchanging views with journalists after a meeting in Abuja on Friday preparatory to the conduct of the debate.

Declaring that the NEDG as at Friday had already received acknowledgement copies of reminders it sent out, he assured that the body still remained very credible and non-partisan.

His words, “So far, all the political parties are attending the debate beginning from Sunday; there is no party that has written to the NEDG saying that they were not going to take part.

“Just earlier today, our secretariat sent out reminders to all the participating political parties and they all signed that they received our letter.

“Not one is saying that they will not come, all the parties will attend.”

Alimi explained that the NEDG comprises members of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, National Alliance for Credible Elections in Nigeria, Association of Young Professionals, and National Council of Women Societies.

Also affiliated is the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria made up of all privately and government owned media houses in Nigeria.

According to him, “Therefore, given the composition of the NEDG since 2003, it is an organisation with integrity, with trust, with competence and with experience.

“It remains the largest platform for debate in Nigeria and Africa. Therefore, there is no such thing about being government owned.

“All the privately owned media houses are part of the NEDG”, he stressed as he emphasised that the NEDG was the greatest platform for those who want to let Nigerians know what they will do, how they will do it.

Also speaking with news hounds, General Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, Mr Isaac Ighure, said the meeting was to fine-tune arrangements for a hitch-free conduct of the elections debates.

He noted that Nigerians had responded positively for having sent in 6000 questions so far. He stated that the questions would be considered and harmonised by the Questions Harmanisation Committee of the NEDG.

The NGE Scribe further noted that the group had forwarded all the thematic areas that question may be drawn from to all participating political parties to help them prepare.

On the alleged leakage of the questions to be asked at the debate, he said, “As we speak, the committee on the
collation of the question is still meeting. So, how possible is it that you will leak question that has not even been collated.”


2 Dead, Dozens Injured in Abuja Multiple Auto Crash

2 Dead, Dozens Injured in Abuja Multiple Auto Crash

31/Jan/2015  //  447 Viewers

Two persons, including a lady were killed Saturday afternoon in Ado, a town bordering Abuja, when a 40-foot truck hauling crates of Pepsi crashed into 18 vehicles.

Eyewitnesses told that the truck, a DAF 95, laden with crates of Pepsi and Mirinda soft drinks, lost control at about Kilometre 13 of the Abuja-Keffi expressway.

According to the witnesses, one of them the driver of a Peugeot 504 pick-up truck, the DAF truck, upon losing control ploughed through 17 vehicles before finally ramming into the Peugeot pick-up.

An official of Federal Road Safety Commission told that the driver of the truck with registration number Lagos
EPE 948 XD as well as his conductor were on the run.

An official of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who didn’t want his name mentioned told that a woman was crushed to death and another died on the way to hospital.

At the scene of the crash, three vehicles, including a commercial Mitsubishi L300 bus were still trapped beneath the Pepsi truck.

Several other vehicles crushed by the DAF truck also littered the road. Hundreds of sympathizers and commuters crowded the scene even as armed policemen tried to keep the peace.

FRSC officials were also sighted clearing the road of hundreds of broken bottles, which caused a heavy gridlock on the busy road.

The constricted expressway is the main gateway from nine northern states into Abuja.

The states are Nasarawa, Benue, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, parts of Kaduna, Kogi and Cross River States.

Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen had recently disclosed that the federal government was working to obtain a loan from the Chinese government to open up the road to 10 lanes.

Africa agrees to send 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

Africa agrees to send 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

31/Jan/2015  //  412 Viewers

ADDIS ABABA: African leaders have agreed to send 7,500 troops to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, an African Union official said on Saturday.

The move came after the council urged heads of state to endorse the deployment of troops from five West African countries to fight the terror group, said the head of the African Union's peace and security council, Samil Chergui.

African leaders who are members of the 54-nation African Union are meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for a two-day summit that ends on Saturday.

UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon earlier said he support the AU's move to send a force to fight Boko Haram. Boko Haram is increasing its attacks as Nigeria prepares for Feb. 14 elections. Thousands have been killed in the 5-year insurgency.

African nations have opened up a new international front in the war on terror. On Thursday, neighboring Chad sent a warplane and troops that drove the extremists out of a northeastern Nigeria border town in the first such act by foreign troops on Nigerian soil.

Chad's victory, and the need for foreign troops, is an embarrassment to Nigeria's once-mighty military, brought low by corruption and politics. The foreign intervention comes just two weeks before hotly contested national elections in which President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking another term.

Chergui said Chad's operation against Boko Haram was a result of a bilateral arrangement between the Chad and Cameroon.

"It is conducted as part of a bilateral agreement and arrangement between the two countries. The AU, however, will launch the force in the future," he said.

Boko Haram attracted international outrage in April when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls at a boarding school in the remote town of Chibok. Dozens escaped on their own, but 219 remain missing.

Suicide bombings in recent months by young girls has raised fears that Boko Haram is using the kidnap victims in its conflict, which has displaced more than 1 million people and killed about 10,000 in the last year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

How Poverty May Affect Memory: Research

How Poverty May Affect Memory: Research

31/Jan/2015  //  1506 Viewers

School-aged children with a low-socioeconomic status exhibit both verbal and visuospatial working memory deficits, possibly due to increased levels of stress, a new study suggests.

Researcher Michele Tine from Dartmouth College investigated whether working memory of children living in rural poverty is distinct from the working memory profiles of children in urban poverty.

Both verbal and visuospatial tests were given to discern how memory deficits compared.

For the study, sixth grade students were selected to participate, broken into four categories: low-income rural, low-income urban, high-income rural, and high-income urban.

Children were categorised as low income if their family income was below the national median family income of USD 50,033, attend a school in which at least 75 per cent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and the student themselves qualified for free lunches.

Participants were categorised as urban if the school they attended served an "urbanised area" as defined by the US Census Bureau: was located in a county with a population of more than 200,000 and had an average enrollment per grade level at the secondary level of more than 300 students.

The results clearly suggest that school-aged low-SES (socioeconomic status) children exhibit both verbal and visuospatial working memory deficits, possibly due to increased levels of stress, researchers said.

Children in urban poverty showed symmetric working memory weaknesses, while children in rural poverty had worse visuospatial working memory than verbal working memory.

The low-SES urban children had poorer verbal working memory than the low-SES rural children, possibly due to increased exposure to noise pollution, suggests Tine. The results also revealed that high-SES rural and urban children show near-identical verbal and visuospatial working memory.

"These results suggest that living in a rural vs urban area is associated with working memory for low-SES, but not high-SES children," said Tine.

Tine explains that this novel finding aligns with previous work showing that among low-SES children environmental factors account for the majority of variance in cognitive ability, while genes account for little variance. In high-income children the opposite is true.

For high-income children, genes account for the majority of variance.

The research was published in the Journal of Cognition and Development.

Western-Backed Rebels Join Aleppo Alliance: Syria Monitor

Western-Backed Rebels Join Aleppo Alliance: Syria Monitor

31/Jan/2015  //  443 Viewers

Beirut:  A Western-backed rebel group in northern Syria that is under pressure from Al Qaeda's hardline Nusra Front has joined an alliance of mainly Islamist insurgent factions in Aleppo, a group monitoring the conflict said today.

The Western-backed Hazzm movement joined the Levant Front - Jabhat al-Shamiyya - a grouping of insurgent factions formed in December in the northern province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing a statement from the alliance.

"Hazzm is under pressure because before they refused to join Jabhat al-Shamiyya and now they accept this," said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Observatory, which tracks Syria's war using a network of sources on the ground.

Forming the Levant Front was an attempt at unity among factions in Syria that have often fought each other as well as the Syrian army and hardline jihadist groups, undermining the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

The alliance includes Islamic Front, an Islamist coalition which includes Saudi-backed combatants and other factions.

"We urge our brothers in all factions to resolve their differences with the (Hazzm) movement via the Jabhat al-Shamiyya leadership and its judicial office by appealing to sharia law of God," the statement, which was also posted on Twitter, said.

Hazzm is one of the last remnants of non-jihadist opposition to Assad in northern Syria. It has been under attack from Al Qaeda's Syria wing Nusra Front in both the Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

Clashes began on Thursday when Nusra Front seized positions from Hazzm west of Aleppo. Northern Syria is dominated by the hardline Nusra Front and Islamic State, an offshoot of Al Qaeda that controls roughly a third of Syria.

Hazzm has received what it describes as small amounts of military aid from foreign states opposed to Assad, including US-made anti-tank missiles.

The fight for the city of Aleppo, divided between insurgents and government forces, is seen as one of the most significant last fronts for non-jihadist forces in the country's north.

AirAsia Captain Left Seat Before Jet Lost Control, Say Sources

AirAsia Captain Left Seat Before Jet Lost Control, Say Sources

31/Jan/2015  //  423 Viewers

Jakarta:  The captain of the AirAsia jet that crashed into the sea in December was out of his seat conducting an unorthodox procedure when his co-pilot apparently lost control, and by the time he returned it was too late to save the plane, two people familiar with the investigation said.

Details emerging of the final moments of Flight QZ8501 are likely to focus attention partly on maintenance, procedures and training, though Indonesian officials have stressed publicly that it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.

The Airbus A320 jet plunged into the Java Sea while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, toSingapore on Dec. 28, killing all 162 people on board.

It had been suffering maintenance faults with a key flight control computer for over a week, and one person familiar with the matter said the captain had flown on the same plane with the intermittently faulty device just days before the crash.

AirAsia said it would not comment while the matter was under investigation by theNational Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) of Indonesia.

Reuters reported this week that maintenance problems on the Flight Augmentation Computer (FAC), and the way the pilots reacted to them, were at the heart of the investigation.

After trying to reset this device, pilots pulled a circuit-breaker to cut its power, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.

People familiar with the matter told Reuters it was the Indonesian captain Iriyanto who took this step, rather than his less experienced French co-pilot Remy Plesel, who was flying the plane.

The outage would not directly upset the aircraft but would remove flight envelope protection, which prevents a pilot from taking a plane beyond its safety limits, leaving the junior pilot to fly the jet manually in delicate high altitude conditions.

The decision to cut off the FAC has surprised people following the investigation because the usual procedure for resetting it is to press a button on the overhead panel.

"You can reset the FAC, but to cut all power to it is very unusual," said one A320 pilot, who declined to be identified. "You don't pull the circuit breaker unless it was an absolute emergency. I don't know if there was one in this case, but it is very unusual."

It is also significant because to pull the circuit breaker the captain had to rise from his seat.

The circuit breakers are on a wall panel immediately behind the co-pilot and hard or impossible to reach from the seated position on the left side, where the captain sits, according to two experienced pilots and published diagrams of the cockpit.

Shortly afterwards the junior pilot pulled the plane into a sharp climb from which investigators have said it stalled or lost lift.

"It appears he was surprised or startled by this," said a person familiar with the investigation, referring to the decision to cut power to the affected computer.

The captain eventually resumed control, but a person familiar with the matter said he was not in a position to intervene immediately to recover the aircraft from its upset.

Data already published on the plane's trajectory suggest it may have been difficult for someone to move around the cockpit in an upward-tilting and by then possibly unstable aircraft, but there is so far no confirmation of the cockpit movements.

"The co-pilot pulled the plane up, and by the time the captain regained the controls it was too late," one of the people familiar with the investigation said.

Tatang Kurniadi, chief of Indonesia's NTSC, told Reuters there had been no delay in the captain resuming control but declined further comment.

Airbus declined to comment.

Lawyers for the family of the French co-pilot say they have filed a lawsuit against AirAsia in Parisfor "endangering the lives of others" by flying the route without official authorisation on that day.

Investigators have said the accident was not related to the permit issue.

AirAsia did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Although more is becoming known about the chain of events, people familiar with the investigation warned against making assumptions on the accident's cause, which needed more analysis.

Safety experts say air crashes are most often caused by a chain of events, each of which is necessary but not sufficient to explain the underlying causes of the accident.

Agni 5, India's Longest Range Ballistic Missile, Successfully Test-Fired

Agni 5, India's Longest Range Ballistic Missile, Successfully Test-Fired

31/Jan/2015  //  468 Viewers

New Delhi:  India today successfully test-launched Agni-5, its longest range ballistic missile, for the third time off the Odisha coast. The missile was launched from a canister from Wheeler Island, giving it higher road mobility.

The three stage, solid propellant "missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher from the launch complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 8.06 hours," ITR Director M V K V Prasad said.

"The missile, witnessed a flawless 'auto launch' and detailed results will be known after all data retrieved from different radars and network systems," he added.

With a range of 5000 km, the nuclear-capable missile can carry a warhead in the east as far as all of China and in the west all over Europe.

The three-stage missile is about 17 metres long and weighs 50 tons. The first rocket engine takes it to a height of about 40 kilometres. The second stage pushes it to about 150 kilometres. The third stage takes it to about 300 kilometres above the Earth. And the missile finally reaches a height of about 800 kilometres.

The missile travels faster than a bullet and can carry 1000 kilogram of nuclear weapon. It can be launched only on direct orders from the Prime Minister; India hopes it turns out to be a weapon of peace not war.

Unlike other missiles of Agni series, the latest one 'AGNI-5', is most advanced having some new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine, Mr Prasad said.

India carried out two successful tests of the basic version of Agni-5 in 2012 and 2013.

The development of Agni-5 began in 2009 and according to DRDO it will likely be inducted in 2015.

Agni-5 gives India the ability to launch nuclear weapons from land at will from anywhere in India.  It will give India the ability to hit back or have second-strike capability even after a nuclear strike.

It was also a super charged farewell gift for DRDO chief Avinash Chander who retires today. India's Integrated Missile Programme has been a resounding success with the Agni missiles giving the country a credible nuclear deterrence. As a scientist and team leader, Dr Avinash Chander has achieved significant success in his work.