China military planes flew close to disputed isles: report

Agence France-Presse. April 29th, 2013

China military planes flew close to disputed isles: report

Chinese  military planes, mostly fighter jets, made more than 40 flights close to  Tokyo-controlled islands at the center of a territorial dispute on a single day  this week, a press report said Saturday.

The flights took place on Tuesday, when eight Chinese marine surveillance  ships entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off the islands in the East China Sea,  which Japan  calls the Senkakus and China calls the Diaoyus, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper  reported.

The conservative daily, citing senior government officials, said F-15 fighter  planes from an airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa scrambled to intercept  the Chinese aircraft which flew in waves towards the skies over the islands.

“It was an unprecedented threat,” one of the officials was quoted as  saying.

Another said: “If such a show of force continues, it is feared it could lead  to a situation where the (Japanese) air defence force may not be able to  cope.”

The report said the military planes included updated Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighter  aircraft.

The report, which did not say whether the planes intruded into Japan’s  airspace, could not be immediately confirmed by Japan’s Defence Ministry.

Chinese government ships have frequently sailed around the five  Tokyo-controlled islands in recent months sparking diplomatic clashes.

But Tuesday’s flotilla was the biggest to sail into the disputed waters in a  single day since Tokyo nationalized part of the island chain in September.

On December 13, a Y-12 turbo-prop plane from China’s State Oceanic  Administration breached airspace over the disputed islands, prompting the launch  of Japanese F-15s.

It was the first known incursion ever by a Chinese plane into Japanese  airspace, the government said at the time

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US army seeks new technology to replace GPS

Agence France-Presse. April 29th, 2013

The US army  is working to limit its dependence on GPS  by developing the next generation of navigation technology, including a tiny  autonomous chip, the director of the Pentagon’s research agency said  Wednesday.

Lockheed Martin Delivers GPS III Pathfinder Satellite to


DARPA, the research group behind a range of spy tech and which helped invent  the Internet, was also the driving force behind the creation of the Global  Positioning System, director Arati Prabhakar said at a press conference.

“In the 1980s, when GPS satellites started to become widely deployed… it  meant carrying an enormous box around on your vehicle,” she said.

“Now it’s got to the point where it’s embedded not just in all our platforms  but in many of our weapons,” as well as in many civilian devices, she said.

But “sometimes a capability is so powerful that our reliance on it, in  itself, becomes a vulnerability,” she added.

“I think that’s where we are today with GPS.”

Among the fears: the GPS signal could be scrambled by an adversary, as  happened recently in South Korea.

Starting in 2010, DARPA has been working on a variety of programs aimed at  developing new navigation and positioning technology — at first with the goal of  extending their reach to places where satellites don’t work, such as  underwater.

But now, amid fears of over-reliance on — and possible vulnerabilities with — global positioning satellites, experts are looking to create not just a  companion, but an alternative to GPS.

To that end, researchers at DARPA and the University of Michigan have created  a new system that works without satellites to determine position, time and  direction, all contained within a eight-cubic-millimeter chip.

The tiny chip holds three gyroscopes, three accelerometers and an atomic  clock, which, together, work as an autonomous navigation  system.

DARPA envisages using this technology to replace GPS in some contexts,  especially in small-caliber ammunition or for monitoring people.

Another approach would use existing signals, such as those generated by  broadcast antennas, radios, telephone towers and even lightning to temporarily  replace GPS.

Prabhakar emphasized there “will not be a monolithic new solution, it will be  a series of technologies to track and fix time and position from external  sources.”


ANC leaders visit Mandela say he’s in good health, good spirits

Reuters | 29 April, 2013 15:46

        Nelson Mandela. File photo.
        Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela is in good health and good spirits, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said on Monday, in the first update on his condition since he was discharged from hospital in early April.
President Jacob Zuma and other party leaders visited the 94-year-old former president at his Johannesburg home.

“After receiving a briefing from the medical team, the national officials are satisfied that President Mandela is in good health and is receiving the very best medical care,” the ANC said.

Zuma and the other leaders had found “Mandela in good shape and in good spirits”, the party added in a statement.

Mandela spent more than a week in hospital being treated for pneumonia – the third health scare in four months for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

He stepped down as president in 1999 and has not been politically active for about a decade.

But he is still revered at home and abroad for leading the long campaign against apartheid and then championing racial reconciliation.

Mandela’s lung problems date from his time as a political prisoner when he contracted tuberculosis. He spent 27 years on Robben Island and in other jails for trying to oust the white-minority government.

Europol Report:Terrorist activities increased in 2012

RIA Novosti .April 29,2013

The number of terrorist attacks and related arrests in EU countries significantly increased in 2012 compared to previous years, Europol’s press service told RIA Novosti on Monday.

“The threat of terrorism in Europe remains strong and varied,” a representative of the European police office said.

According to the 2013 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, the threat “continues to evolve from one posed by structured groups and networks to smaller EU-based groups and solo terrorists, while the Internet remains a key facilitator for terrorism-related activities.”

There were a total of 219 terrorist attacks in EU member states in 2012, up from 174 the year before. A total of 537 individuals were arrested in the EU for terrorism-related offenses (up from 484 in 2011), and 17 people died as a result of terrorist attacks in the EU, the report said.

The Internet remains “an essential communication platform for terrorist organizations and their sympathizers,” enabling increasingly widespread access, anonymity and connection to a global audience that can be addressed in a targeted way, it said.

“The fight against terrorism remains a top priority for the European Union and for Europol,” the report said.

Nigerian businesses borrow N1.59trn in 4 months

 MICHAEL EBOH.Vanguard. April 30, 2013

Businesses in Nigeria have borrowed over N1.59 trillion from both local and international banks through syndicated loan deals, since the beginning of 2013, according to reports from Reuters released yesterday.

This, according to the report, was driven by a growth in confidence among international banks as Nigeria makes effort to address transparency and credit risk concerns.

The report stated that MTN Nigeria became the latest borrower, when, a couple of days ago, it agreed a $3 billion (N477 billion) loan deal with Guaranty Trust Bank, Citigroup , Standard Chartered, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Development Bank and China Construction Bank, to expand its network.

Meanwhile, Dangote Group, West Africa’s largest conglomerate, is in talks to raise $3.5 billion loan to fund fertiliser and oil refinery projects with lead banks Barclays, Guaranty Trust Bank, Standard Bank and Standard Chartered.

It maintained that the two loans combined, almost matched the $7.96 billion (N1.266 trillion) Nigerian businesses raised throughout 2012, which is the country’s highest-ever annual loan volume

Also this year, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, agreed a $1.5 billion corporate deal in January; Indorama Eleme took a $800 million project finance loan in mid-February to fund a $1.2 billion green field fertiliser project, and oil and exploration company, Neconde Energy marked its debut in the market with a $470 million corporate deal in early April.

Commenting on the increasing loan deals in Nigeria, a London-based banker who chose not to be named said, “The feeling is that Nigeria will have outstripped South Africa as the top market by 2015 from a loan market perspective. You have already seen that this year – you can not ignore Nigeria.

“Borrowers start getting into a finite space for tenors of five years or more, even for a strong credit. One thing that may get the deal get through is the Africa growth story.

“Nigerian banks have been through their reshuffle and I think there is a bit more trust and transparency from the banks than there previously was,” a second London-based banker said.

“Nigeria is a big economy and it poses as a very good window for investors to get started on the continent, which will benefit the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa,” a third London-based banker said.

“It is not just four international banks in Nigeria any more, consisting of ABSA, Citigroup, Standard Bank and Standard Chartered. There are at least 15 strong international banks that are keen to do deals now,” a fourth London-based banker said, citing French lenders such as Societe Generale and Natixis

Reuters stated that Nigerian banks have traditionally been rare borrowers in the loan market, but Skye Bank became the first since 2008 when it agreed a $150 million debut in May last year, while Fidelity Bank recently agreed an oversubscribed $100 million debut deal through co-ordinators Citigroup and HSBC.

It maintained that the deal’s success is expected to buoy appetite from fellow bank borrowers, with First City Monument Bank expected to return after a four-year hiatus and Skye Bank already eyeing the market for a speedy return.

Mali breaks up suspected militant cell in Bamako: security sources

Reuters |  Mon Apr 29, 2013

Malian security forces have arrested at least eight people suspected of plotting an attack in the capital Bamako for the Islamist militant group MUJWA, two senior security sources said on Monday.

Malian officials said the arrests were the first sign that Islamist rebels battling French and African troops for control of Mali’s desert north have activated cells in Bamako, which is located in the south.

A high-ranking military officer told Reuters a group made up of 15 people had been trained by al Qaeda-linked MUJWA in Gao, a northern town, and were planning to commit bombings in Bamako when they were arrested.

“The group was dismantled at the beginning of March, but since it was a very sensitive issue we kept it secret (until now),” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the group was made up entirely of Malian nationals and that they had been living in Bamako’s Banankabougou district near a mosque.

A second security source confirmed arrests had taken place but put the number lower, at eight.

The discrepancy could not be immediately resolved. Malian authorities gave no official comment.

France, assisted by some 2,000 troops from Chad, began a military offensive in January to drive out Islamist fighters who had seized two-thirds of Mali a year earlier.

Hundreds of thousands of Malians have been displaced by fighting and the country’s north remains vulnerable to guerrilla-style counter attacks by radical Islamists.

Mali was once viewed as an example of a working democracy in Africa but its north has been plagued by rebellions and become a centre of cross-desert trafficking of drugs, stolen goods and Western hostages.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved last Thursday the creation of a 12,600-strong peacekeeping force in Mali starting July 1. It will be supported by the French.

Senate proposes six-year single term for President, govs

 John Alechenu, John Ameh   and Josiah Oluwole.THE PUNCH.April 30, 2013
President of the Senate, David MarkPresident of the Senate, David Mark  

IN an arrangement that may put a stop to the 2015 ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution has recommended non-renewable single six year tenure for the office of President, Vice-President, governors and their deputies.

The Senate panel’s recommendation also disqualifies Jonathan and  incumbent  governors from benefitting from the new arrangement if the recommendation becomes law.

The PUNCH learnt on Monday that members of the committee, who held a three-day working retreat which ended in Lagos on Sunday, arrived at the decision after a heated debate.

A National Assembly member who was privy to the recommendation confided in one of our correspondents that, “We thought hard before arriving at this decision. We considered the current heating up of the polity by those interested in running for office in 2015.

“We also looked at what normally happens each time we are about to enter into an election year.

“If the recommendation scales through, none of the current office holders from the President down will benefit from it.

“It is couched in such a way that if someone is elected as Vice-President for instance and he becomes President for the reason of the removal from office of the President, either through ill health, impeachment or death, he can only serve out the term of the President even if it is just one month.

“He or she, as the case may be, will be ineligible to present himself for election as President in subsequent elections; the same applies to the office of the governor and deputy governor.”

The source revealed further that the committee also recommended autonomy for Review administrations and if the recommendation scales through the legislative process, local government councils will collect their monthly allocations from the federation account.

“There is a caveat. Only local government councils with elected council chairmen and properly constituted councils will receive such payments,” the source added.

There is however fear that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the Presidency will oppose these recommendations.

Jonathan had in the past expressed his preference for a seven-year single tenure for elective officers.

This he justified during his first media chat on assumption of office.

He had said, “The issue is that in Africa, elections create social unrest and we need to manage this. In a situation where you elect a governor and that governor has not sat down, another election is around the corner.

“Every four years you conduct elections, you create so much tension in the political environment. As we are talking, some people are busy holding meetings for the 2015 elections.

“It creates series of confusion in the political environment. I am not saying that single tenure, alone, will bring one hundred per cent stability.

“There is no political system that is one hundred per cent stable, you must have some tension. That was why I came up with that.”

The President had also on November 17, 2011 empanelled the Justice Alfa Belgore-led committee, officially designated as Committee to Review Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences.

The committee was mandated to identify gaps in the current constitution and propose amendments as adopted by previous constitutional conferences.

The committee was, however, limited in scope as it was only required to making suggestions on issues adopted by consensus by the previous constitutional conferences.

The Belgore panel did not delve into the issue of tenure as earlier proposed by the President.

Public opinion weighed heavily against the item following fears that the President was interested in tenure elongation.

When asked to confirm the Senate committee recommendation, the Clerk of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Mr. Innocent Mebiri, did not deny the development but said details would be made available to the Senate at plenary.

“Don’t bother yourself, when it gets to the Senate at plenary, you will know whether it is true or not,” he told one of our correspondents.

The report of the People’s Public Sessions conducted on the constitution by the House of Representatives indicated that Nigerians massively supported autonomy for local government councils.

More than 90 per cent of voters in the 360 federal constituencies where the sessions were held supported abolition of State/Local Government Joint Account in order to grant financial independence to the councils.

But, they opposed a single term of five, six or seven years for the President, state governors and other political office holders.

Rather, they voted in support of retaining the present two terms of four years each.

The public sessions were held on November 10, 2012.

The results of the sessions will be incorporated into bills on constitution amendment to be passed by the House