Israel’s Energy Minister Slams EU

“This is the height of nerve and hypocrisy. The same European Union is now sucking up to Iran and will

“This is the height of nerve and hypocrisy. The same European Union is now sucking up to Iran and will help the country in the face of U.S. sanctions,’’ were the words of Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday.

Steinitz slammed the European Union over the bloc’s criticism of police treatment of Israeli-Arab protesters, saying: “they can go to a thousand thousand hells.

On Wednesday the EU called for a “swift investigation” into allegations that a police officer broke the leg of an Israeli-Arab social activist while the activist was detained in the northern Israeli city of Haifa.

The activist, Jafar Farah, was detained as police responded to a Israeli-Arabs demonstrating in support of Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

“I sent to Hell the European Union, which does not really represent the European countries.

“It is an organisation that no one leads but lives for itself.

“The EU is less friendly than the European countries that form it,’’ Steinitz added.

Russia Supports EU Proposal To Meet In Vienna

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has announced on Wednesday that Russia supported a European Union proposal to hold a

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has announced on Wednesday that Russia supported a European Union proposal to hold a meeting on the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna next week.

According to the country’s media, the deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions in 2016 in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

European powers this week vowed to shore up the deal after United States President Donald Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal.

Katsina Govt Partners EU To Launch Mud Stoves For Rural Areas

File photo: Aminu Masari   The Katsina State Government has collaborated with the European Union to launch 17 Mud Stove

Katsina Governor, Masari Sacks Education Commissioner
File photo: Aminu Masari

 

The Katsina State Government has collaborated with the European Union to launch 17 Mud Stove Entrepreneurship Centres in the state.

This development will help to preserve the use of firewood and address the issue of desert encroachment across the affected areas in the state.

The Director of the Centre for Renewable Energy Research at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, Dr. Abdullahi Mati stated this at the commissioning of one out of the centers in Ajiwa village of Batagarawa Local Government area of the state.

Mati while speaking on the socioeconomic and health benefits associated with the mud stove noted that the stoves have been tested with an efficiency of more than 50% which translates to the reduction in firewood consumption.

The improved mud stoves model is designed specifically to assist urban and rural communities in household cooking.

It’s part of the project administered by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning through a grant funding by the European Union and counterpart funding from the Katsina state government.

A survey conducted on the users’ sample across the project areas shows that the stove has wide acceptance in view of the advantage it offers.

Also speaking, the Deputy Director, International Cooperation Department, Ministry Of Budget And National Planning, Mr. Ntia Thompson thanks the European Union for supporting the deforestation effort of the Katsina state government.

He said that the project is in line with the Federal government’s objective of the economic recovery and growth plan in the areas of energy sufficiency.

On his part, the Director Desertification and Draught Control in the Katsina state Ministry of Environment, Mustapha Lawal, informed the gathering that the state government has already approved the production of 34,000 mud stoves to be distributed across the 34 local government areas of the state.

He asked all people in the state to make judicious use of the mud stove.

Out of the 600 traditional potters trained by the project, 400 have been gainfully employed into the newly improved mud stove entrepreneurship centres across the project areas.

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Trump To Delay EU Tariff Decision Until June

United States President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden

United States President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump has decided to push back his decision on whether to impose controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union until June 1, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing a senior administration official.

The report came just hours before tariff exemptions were due to expire at midnight for the EU, Canada, Mexico and others, after which the major exporters would face punishing import duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

The postponement would effectively leave the exemptions in place.

Trump announced the tariffs on March 8, but exempted the European Union later that month.

The Trump administration has justified the tariffs — aimed primarily at Chinese overproduction — on national security grounds and told trading partners they must make concessions to win permanent exemptions.

The EU has insisted it will not negotiate without first obtaining a permanent exemption.

The US official, speaking to the Journal on condition of anonymity, also said that the Trump administration would announce later Monday it had reached a deal to exempt South Korea from the tariffs.

Trump is working with South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the US leader’s expected summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks.

Last month, the government in Seoul said it had made concessions to secure a revised trade deal with Washington and escape its steel duties.

Extensions for Canada and Mexico had been expected, as Washington, Mexico City and Ottawa work on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement.

AFP

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PDP Condemns Plot By APC, INEC To Rig 2019 Elections

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has condemned what it called the fresh plot by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has condemned what it called the fresh plot by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to secretly create 30,000 illegal polling units in areas in favour of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari, describing the alleged plot as wicked, horrible and totally unacceptable.

In a statement signed by Kola Ologbondiyan, its National Publicity Secretary, on Friday, April 20, 2018, the party said its investigation showed that “this is part of the grand design by the commission under Mahmood Yakubu to rig the 2019 general elections in favour of Buhari and his APC.”

In a related development, the party has resolved to constitute a shadow cabinet to redirect the county’s economic recovery policy and good governance.

According to Ologbondiyan, the decision was the major resolution of the meeting of the Party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, held on Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Abuja.

The statement read: “We are aware of series of clandestine meetings between compromised officials of the commission and certain agents of the Presidency and APC, where the plot to sneak in the 30, 000 illegal polling units in some remote areas and through which they plan to allocate votes to Buhari and the APC were perfected.

“Having realised that Nigerians have completely rejected them because of their failures in governance, the Presidency and the APC are now employing all manners of antics to create ways to rig the polls and foist Buhari back on Nigerians.”

The PDP cautioned INEC not to set the nation on fire by the action, urging Yakubu to heed wise counsel and immediately discard the thoughts of using such polling units or dividing the nation along ethnic lines in next year’s general elections, as such would be stiffly resisted.

It added: “Having completely lost confidence in the integrity of INEC under Yakubu, we unequivocally demand that all processes leading to 2019 must be subjected to open review of political parties and stakeholders at all levels.

“In this regard, we demand that INEC makes public the location and status of all polling units, as well as the report of its investigation of under-age voters in various parts of the country, particularly Kano and Katsina states.

“Finally, we urge Nigerians to remain vigilant and monitor all processes to ensure that INEC and the APC do not, at any point in the process, manipulate the elections and subvert the will of the people.”

On the formation of a shadow cabinet, the statement noted that in advanced democracies, a shadow cabinet is a group of politicians who hold political post in their party, but whose party is not in government, and a member of the shadow cabinet is a shadow minister and the leader of a shadow cabinet is called the leader of opposition.

It said the PDP meeting also resolved that the party’s doors remained open to all Nigerians, groups and like-minded political parties to foster a strong rallying point in the quest to rescue the nation from the APC and enthrone good governance in our country.

The meeting adopted suggestions “that PDP leads a strong conversation and discussion towards a formal coalition of democratic forces to guarantee Nigerians the much-desired all-inclusive platform ahead of 2019 general elections.”

According to the statement, the PDP NEC urged all Nigerians to, in unison, condemn the assault on the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, leading to the seizure of the mace and disruption of proceedings in the chamber, describing the invasion as a direct attack on the sovereignty of Nigeria and its integrity as a democratic nation.

It called for prosecution of all those involved in the act and demanded a system-wide inquest, particularly on the compromised security at the National Assembly and that the matter be expeditiously dealt with.

The NEC also strongly condemned the alleged branding of Nigerian youths as lazy by the President as a direct injury on the sensibility of our youths who are known worldwide to be hardworking.

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Macron urges Europeans to build EU as a bulwark for liberal democracy

Reuters/NAN President Emmanuel Macron of France issued a call to Europeans on Tuesday not to retreat into nationalism but to

Reuters/NAN

President Emmanuel Macron of France issued a call to Europeans on Tuesday not to retreat into nationalism but to build the European Union as a bulwark for liberal democracy against a disorderly and dangerous world.

Addressing the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, the 40-year-old head of state won a standing ovation from most lawmakers after condemning the rise of “illiberal democracies” even within the EU.

Nationalist MEPs from France, Britain and elsewhere sat in silence, however.

“In the face of authoritarianism, the response is not authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy,” Macron said, in a clear reference to the newly re-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and to Poland’s ruling party.

“Selfish nationalism” was gaining ground, Macron warned, referring to an atmosphere of “civil war” in Europe.

It was an illusion, he argued, to say a return to national sovereignty at the expense of shared EU powers would provide the reassurance voters wanted in a world of mass migration, authoritarian powers — referring to nations such as Russia and China — and powerful multinational corporations.

“We need a sovereignty stronger than our own,” he said.

Far-right lawmaker Florian Philippot, a former National Front member, accused Macron of humiliating France’s historic statehood by playing to an audience of unrepresentative European elites.

Macron accused nationalist leaders of offering a “game of fools” in responding to voters’ concerns about the globalized economy by offering an illusion of a return to national power.

“We must hear the anger of Europe’s peoples today,” he said. “They need a new project. Those who trade on that anger are risking nationalisms tearing Europe apart.”

Calling for fellow EU leaders to follow his example in launching a public dialogue on Europe’s future, Macron said the EU required reform to strengthen what he called “European sovereignty” in the world.

He volunteered that France was ready to pay more into the EU budget as Britain leaves — on condition that the Union reforms in ways that France wants.

With a little over a year until the next elections to the European Parliament, he lamented the fact that fewer than half of EU citizens bothered to vote in previous such ballots.

Macron ran through his wish list for deeper EU integration as long sceptical Britain prepares to leave next March.

This included new taxation of digital businesses, more support for refugees, closer cooperation in defence and a stronger common approach to running the EU’s single currency.

On the euro, he faces an uphill struggle in convincing his key allies in Germany, where conservative supporters of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are pushing back against giving Brussels more power that could cost German taxpayers’ money.

Macron was speaking at the invitation of the European Parliament, which has asked leaders of all the member states to give their views on the EU’s future following Brexit.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking after Macron, cautioned against too great a focus on the Franco-German partnership or “motor” that lies at the heart of the EU project.

The former Luxembourg premier noted that, once Britain leaves, there will still be 27 member states in the Union.

However, he won loud applause in declaring his enthusiasm for the way Macron, after his surprise election a year ago, has put strengthening the EU at the heart of French policy after years in which Paris appeared to struggle for influence.

“The real France is back,” Juncker declared.

“Tomorrow’s history is being written today.”

Replying to other criticisms from members of the parliament, Macron delivered an emotional justification of France’s role with UK and the U. S. in bombing Syria following a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held area.

Suggestions the strikes defied international law would not, he said, prevent France from acting to protect those on the ground facing banned weaponry.

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EU Gives Albino Foundation N70 Million

The European Union has given the Albino Foundation 155, 838 euros (about N70 million) for baseline survey on the condition

The European Union has given the Albino Foundation 155, 838 euros (about N70 million) for baseline survey on the condition of People with Albinism (PWAs) in Nigeria.

This was revealed by the Founder of the Foundation, Mr Jake Epelle, who told newsmen in Abuja that the fund was also to provide policy and legal reform to improve the condition of PWAs.

He said that the money would also be used to pursue production of sun-protection creams for PWAs, using local and natural products.

“Right now, there is over N70 million provided by the EU for a baseline study for the beginning of census of persons with albinism and other issues.

“It is the first of its kind in the world that an organisation is supporting a census of persons with albinism,” Epelle said

He said that the foundation was operating in six states and Abuja, adding that “when we come out of that we expect other organisations or the EU to give us more funds so that we get the number of albinos.

“It is a very important project for us; it is one of the most important projects. So, we are working with the National Population Commission.”

He added that the fund would also be applied in increasing social mechanisms for PWAs and identified services for them, noting that it would advance protection of PWAs’ rights.

Epelle, however, stated that the foundation would need between N400 million and N500 million to conduct the national baseline survey of PWAs.

“To do the baseline study is very expensive venture; it is somewhere between N400 million N500 million because of the geographical nature of the country.

“We are still having difficulty in accessing the PWAs in the hinterland, but we are committed to do it. This is the first baseline project ever for PWAs.’’

Epelle disclosed that the foundation would organise a roundtable to review the National Agency for Albinism and Hypo-Pigmentation Bill (2017), adding that it would explore ways for tertiary medical facilities to treat PWAs free.

He said the foundation would engage private and public-sector partnerships for provision of economically-empowering opportunities for members, including provision of grants and products to start business.

He added that the foundation would also embark on primary and secondary schools sensitisation to create environment conducive for children and young persons with albinism.

 

EU Stands By U.S., France, Britain Over Air Strikes In Syria

  A photo released early on April 14, 2018 on the website of the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA)

 

A photo released early on April 14, 2018 on the website of the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows an explosion on the outskirts of Damascus after Western strikes reportedly hit Syrian military bases and chemical research centres in and around the capital/ AFP

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Saturday the European Union stood by the United States, France and Britain over their air strikes in Syria after alleged chemical attacks by the Damascus regime.

“Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia and Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice,” Tusk said in a Twitter message.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said this was not the first time that Damascus had used chemical weapons against civilians “but it must be the last.

“The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible for any attack with chemical weapons,” Juncker said in a statement.

“As it enters its 8th year of conflict, Syria desperately needs a lasting ceasefire respected by all parties that pave the way for achieving a negotiated political solution through the United Nations-led Geneva process, to bring peace to the country once and for all.”

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France, EU, UN Condemns Syria’s Chemical Attack In Rebel-Held Town

At least 85 people were killed in the chlorine gas attack in a Syrian rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital,

At least 85 people were killed in the chlorine gas attack in a Syrian rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital, Damascus, on Saturday.

Among those killed were many women and children who had sought refuge in the basements of buildings to escape heavy bombardment by pro-government forces, according to a statement by rescue workers and medical staff.

Commenting on the incidents, the European Union called for an international response to the attack.

“The evidence points towards yet another chemical attack by the regime,” the bloc said in a statement.

“It is a matter of grave concern that chemical weapons continue to be used, especially on civilians. The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and calls for an immediate response by the international community.”

The EU also called on the UN Security Council to re-establish its checks to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks and on Russia and Iran – the Syrian government’s closest allies – to use their influence with al-Assad to prevent further attacks.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France strongly condemned attacks and bombings by Syrian government forces in the last 24 hours in Douma, adding they were a “gross violation of international humanitarian law.

He called for the United Nations Security Council to meet quickly to examine the situation saying that France would work with allies to verify reports that chemical weapons were used.

Referring to President Emmanuel Macron’s warning that France could strike unilaterally if there was a deadly chemical attack, Le Drian said that Paris would assume all its responsibilities in the fight against the proliferation of chemical weapons.

In recent years, the Syrian government has been accused of using chemical weapons as a tool against the armed opposition.

Aljazeera

Facebook under pressure as U.S, EU call for probes into data practices

British privacy regulators are seeking a warrant to search the offices of the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, following reports that

British privacy regulators are seeking a warrant to search the offices of the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, following reports that the company may have improperly gained access to data on 50 million Facebook users.

The move came as U.S. and European lawmakers demanded an explanation of how the consulting firm, which worked on President Donald Trump’s election campaign, gained access to the data.

In the U.S., members of Congress called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s actions.

Facebook said on Monday it had hired forensic auditors from the firm Stroz Friedberg to investigate and determine whether Cambridge Analytica still had the data.

“Auditors from Stroz Friedberg were on site at Cambridge Analytica’s London office this evening,” the company said in a statement late Monday.

“At the request of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, which has announced it is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation, the Stroz Friedberg auditors stood down.”

Facebook shares closed down nearly 7.0 per cent on Monday, wiping nearly $40 billion off its market value as investors worried that new legislation could damage the company’s advertising business.

“The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook data practices, and the picture is not pretty,” said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley’s use of data.

Also on Monday, a source said that Facebook head of security, Alex Stamos, plans to leave the company over disagreements about the company’s policies on misinformation.

He had been a strong advocate for an aggressive approach to alleged Russian activity on the platform aimed at manipulating elections.

His departure was first reported by the New York Times. Facebook declined immediate comment.

In a tweet, Stamos did not deny he was leaving but said: “Despite the rumors, I’m still fully engaged with my work at Facebook. It’s true that my role did change.”

The criticism of Cambridge Analytica presents a new threat to Facebook’s reputation, which is already under attack over Russia’s alleged use of Facebook tools to sway U.S. voters with divisive and false news posts before and after the 2016 election.

London-based Cambridge Analytica said it strongly denied the media claims, and that it deleted all Facebook data it obtained from a third-party application in 2014 after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.

However, further allegations about the firm’s tactics were reported late Monday by British broadcaster Channel 4 which said it secretly taped interviews with senior Cambridge Analytica executives in which they boasted of their ability to sway elections in countries around the world with digital manipulation and traditional political trickery.

Cambridge Analytica rejected the allegations, saying in a statement that the Channel 4 report “is edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.”

Facebook was already facing calls on Saturday for regulation from the U.S. Congress after the reports in the New York Times and London’s Observer over the weekend.

Republican Senator John Kennedy called on Zuckerberg to testify before Congress, and Democratic Senator Ron Widen sent a letter to Zuckerberg asking about company policies for sharing user data with third parties.

Facebook usually sends lawyers to testify to Congress, or allows trade organizations to represent it and other technology companies in front of lawmakers.

Facebook and other social media companies including Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube have taken voluntary steps to restrict possible foreign interference and combat false news, but they have not been forced by law or regulation to make changes and legislation on the issue has stalled.

Late on Monday, the Connecticut Attorney General said the office will initiate an inquiry into Facebook data policies.

The Senate was expected to move forward on Monday with a bill that would chip away at the internet industry’s legal shield, a decades-old law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, with a bill intended to address online sex trafficking.

The measure has already passed the House and is expected to soon become law. (Reuters/NAN)