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January 31, 2013

By Bashir Adigun Associated Press

 

A man who formerly helped oversee Nigeria's police pension program pleaded guilty Monday January 28 to stealing $145 million, but walked out of court a free man after agreeing to a plea bargain that saw him pay only a fraction of it back.

The plea deal given to John Yakubu Yusufu and read out in court sparked immediate anger across Nigeria, a nation where many feel government officials pilfer pension funds and oil revenue without any fear of prosecution. Yusufu will pay only a $14,000 fine, forfeit some properties and pay about $2 million in restitution, something that the nation's top anti-corruption agency immediately criticized.

Justice Mohammed Talba, who agreed to the plea deal in a Federal High Court, sentenced Yusufu to serve two years in prison. However, Talba said Yusufu could pay the fine and the restitution, which also includes turning over 32 properties he allegedly purchased with the stolen money.

In asking for the plea deal, Yusufu's defense lawyer, Theodore Bala Maiyakim, said his client had a serious heart condition.

"He has saved the time of my Lord and being a first offender, with no previous record of conviction, I urge the court to temper justice with mercy and sentence him with least possible terms," Maiyakim asked, according to an account provided by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs, however, called for Yusufu to serve prison time to "send out the message that the era of stealing public funds with impunity is gone."

Under the three charges filed against Yusuf, he could have served a maximum of six years in prison. Six others allegedly involved in the scam have pleaded not guilty.

Wilson Uwujaren, a spokesman for the anti-corruption agency which sought the prosecutions, said the commission's officials strenuously objected to the sentence in court, as money stolen in the scam remains unaccounted for.

"The commission will study the ruling and respond appropriately," Uwujaren said in a statement.

Oil money provides about 80 percent of Nigeria's government funding, which trickles down to states that have budgets greater than those of surrounding nations. But the corruption that pervades the nation often sees that money go into political leaders' pockets rather than toward government services. There also have been a series of recent scandals in Nigeria over pensions being stolen by government officials.

Transparency International's recent world rankings placed Nigeria 139th out of 174 countries when it comes to perceived corruption.

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January 31, 2013

By Kam Williams

Contributing Writer

 

The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice.

On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He is known for bringing people together on common ground across lines of race, culture, class, gender and belief.

Born on October 8, 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina, Jesse Jackson graduated from the public schools in Greenville and then enrolled in the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. He later transferred to North Carolina A&T State University and graduated in 1964. He began his theological studies at Chicago Theological Seminary but deferred his studies when he began working full-time in the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Reverend Jackson married his college sweetheart Jacqueline Lavinia Brown in 1963. They have five children: Santita Jackson, former Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Jonathan Luther Jackson, Yusef DuBois Jackson, Esq., and Jacqueline Lavinia Jackson, Jr.

LAWT: What plans do you have for this year’s economic summit?

JJ: First, to gather people to discuss the new economic agenda. We just got through the political agenda with the inauguration of President Obama. Now, we have to deal with the economic agenda. No access to capital, needing more access to technology, etcetera. We want to call the banks to invest in America. In 2009 we had 600 black dealerships, today we have 200. We have lost TV and radio stations. We must re-strategize.

LAWT: Given that we now have an African-American president and black billionaires, is this a post-racial society?

JJ: We don’t have a lot of black billionaires, actually. We are not in a post racial society. We are a multi-racial society and substantially racist. We still need to access jobs and contracts — all those level playing fields are very much needed.

LAWT: What would you say is the No. 1 economic issue African-Americans are facing today?

JJ: Access to a jobs. Next, the recovery of houses lost when the banks targeted our homes and businesses that move our future forward.

LAWT: Do you see Wall Street as being at odds with Main Street, or can the 1 percent be a part of the solution for the woes of the 99 percent? 

JJ: The 1 percent have received their needs through greed and lack of regulations — too few have too much and more have none. It’s too unequal and unbalanced. The middle class is sinking. A dormant few are at the bottom.

LAWT: Thanks again for the time, Reverend Jackson, and best of luck with the Economic Summit.

JJ: Thanks.

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January 24, 2013

By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press

The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said this week.

The changes will not happen overnight, officials said. The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.

But as news of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s order got out, members of Congress, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced their support.

“It reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” Levin said.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who will be the top Republican on the Armed Services panel, said, however, that he does not believe this will be a broad opening of combat roles for women because there are practical barriers that have to be overcome in order to protect the safety and privacy of all members of the military.

Panetta’s move comes in his final weeks as Pentagon chief and just days after President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech in which he spoke passionately about equal rights for all. The new order expands the department’s action of nearly a year ago to open about 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the Army. Panetta’s decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women.

In addition to questions of strength and performance, there also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women being killed in war.

Under the 1994 Pentagon policy, women were prohibited from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops split into several battalions of about 800 soldiers each. Historically, brigades were based farther from the front lines and they often included top command and support staff.

The necessities of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached — but not formally assigned — to battalions. So while a woman couldn't be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.

And these conflicts, where battlefield lines are blurred and insurgents can lurk around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat.

Still, as recent surveys and experiences have shown, it will not be an easy transition. When the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered and both failed to complete the course. And there may not be a wide clamoring from women for the more intense, dangerous and difficult jobs — including some infantry and commando positions.

In the Navy, however, women have begun moving into the submarine force, with several officers already beginning to serve.

Jon Soltz, who served two Army tours in Iraq and is the chairman of the veterans group VoteVets.org, said it may be difficult for the military services to carve out exceptions to the new rule. And while he acknowledged that not all women are interested in pursuing some of the gritty combat jobs, “some of them are, and when you’re looking for the best of the best you cast a wide net. There are women who can meet these standards, and they have a right to compete.”

Two lawsuits were filed last year challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat, adding pressure on officials to overturn the policy. And the military services have been studying the issue and surveying their forces to determine how it may affect performance and morale.

The Joint Chiefs have been meeting regularly on the matter and they unanimously agreed to send the recommendation to Panetta earlier this month.

A senior military official familiar with the discussions said the chiefs concluded this was an opportunity to maximize women’s service in the military. The official said the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps laid out three main principles to guide them as they move through the process:

— That they were obligated to maintain America’s effective fighting force.

— That they would set up a process that would give all service members, men and women alike, the best chance to succeed.

—That they would preserve military readiness.

Part of the process, the official said, would allow time to get female service members in leadership and officer positions in some of the more difficult job classifications in order to help pave the way for female enlisted troops.

“Not every woman makes a good soldier, but not every man makes a good soldier. So women will compete,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif. “We’re not asking that standards be lowered. We’re saying that if they can be effective and they can be a good soldier or a good Marine in that particular operation, then give them a shot.”

Women comprise about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to jobs in neighboring nations in support of the wars. Of the more than 6,600 who have been killed, 152 have been women.

The senior military official said the military chiefs must report back to Panetta with their initial implementation plans by May 15.

If the draft were ever reinstated, changing the rules would be a difficult proposition. The Supreme Court has ruled that because the Selective Service Act is aimed at creating a list of men who could be drafted for combat, American women aren’t required to register upon turning 18 as all males are.

If combat jobs open to women, Congress would have to decide what to do about that law.

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 January 24, 2013

 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris recently issued recommendations for mobile application (app) developers and the mobile industry to safeguard consumer privacy. The report provides guidance on developing strong privacy practices, translating these practices into mobile-friendly policies, and coordinating with mobile industry actors to promote comprehensive transparency.

“Californians want to know what personal information their apps collect, how it is used and with whom it is shared,” said Harris. “To meet this need and keep pace with rapidly changing technology, these recommendations strike a responsible balance between protecting consumers’ personal information and fostering the continued growth of the innovative app economy.”

The report, Privacy on the Go: Recommendations for the Mobile Ecosystem, is the result of an outreach effort that compiled input from stakeholders throughout the mobile industry. Its purpose is to serve as a template for the mobile industry to develop mobile-friendly privacy policies and practices that will improve consumer privacy without stifling innovation.  To accommodate the smaller screens of mobile devices, the report recommends the use of special notifications such as icons, or pop-up notifications to inform consumers about how personally identifiable information is being collected and shared.

The issue of mobile privacy is increasingly pressing as more than half of American adult cell phone owners access the Internet from their phones, and more than 1,600 mobile apps are released every day.

To protect consumers’ online privacy Harris forged an agreement among the seven leading mobile and social app platforms in 2012. The agreement – with Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion – involved displaying app privacy policies that users could find in a consistent location in the platform store and review before downloading an app.

In October 2012, she sent letters to approximately 100 mobile app developers and companies that were not in compliance with the California Online Privacy Protection Act and gave 30 days to post a conspicuous privacy policy. In December, she filed the first legal action against Delta Airlines, Inc. for violating California’s online privacy law, which requires apps that collect personally identifiable information to conspicuously post a privacy policy.

Last year, Harris also established the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit to enforce federal and state privacy laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes California’s Online Privacy Protection Act, as well as laws relating to cyber privacy, health and financial privacy, identity theft, government records and data breaches.

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