Buhari Meets With Trump, Blames Killings On Libyan Crisis

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has again blamed killings in some parts of the country by suspected herdsmen on armed men from Libya.

President Buhari on Monday in Washington D.C. during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump said that herdsmen in Nigeria do not carry guns but only wield sticks and occasionally machetes.

He also said the herdsmen crisis has been an age-long challenge in his country.

“The problem of herders in Nigeria is a very long historical thing. The Nigerian herders don’t carry anything more than a stick and occasionally a matchet to cut down foliage and give it to their animals, these ones are carrying AK-47.

“So, people should not underrate what happened in Libya. 43 years of Ghaddaffi, people were recruited from the Sahel and trained to shoot and kill. With the demise of Ghaddaffi they moved to other countries and region and carried the experience with them,” Buhari said.

President Buhari added that this is what is aggravating herdsmen crisis in Nigeria. He also appreciated the United States government for assisting in Nigeria’s fight against insurgency and for US military presence in Nigeria.

“We are grateful to the United States for agreeing to give us the aircraft that we asked for. We are even more grateful for the physical presence of the United States military officials in Nigeria. Our institutions in Nigeria, for training them and going to the Northeast to see how they are performing.

“The commitment of the United States to get rid of terrorism across the world, we have fast earned experience from that and we are grateful for it,” he said.

READ ALSOTrump Hosts Buhari In White House

Buhari, Trump Hold Bilateral Meeting

U.S. Supreme Court Declines Google’s Appeal For Business Patents

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Google’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that narrowed the scope of patents that can be challenged before a federal tribunal whose proceedings have led to the cancellation of many patents.

The justices let stand a 2016 federal appeals court ruling against Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, which had successfully challenged at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office a patent it was accused of violating. The appeals court said the patent had been wrongly reviewed in a proceeding reserved for business-related patents.

After patent licensing firm Unwired Planet LLC sued Google in Nevada federal court in 2012 claiming infringement of a patent for restricting access to a cellphone’s location data, Google challenged the patent’s validity in a covered business method (CBM) review, a proceeding uniquely meant for checking the validity of business and finance-related patents.

The patent office reviews, conducted by its in-house Patent Trial and Appeal Board, have become a quick and cheap way for companies that are prime targets for infringement suits, such as such as Google and Apple Inc, to try to invalidate patents.

On April 24, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to a similar review proceeding known as inter partes review.

Google said Unwired Planet’s patent was eligible for a CBM review because cellphone location information can be used to sell ads. In 2015, the board agreed and cancelled several parts of the patent, saying they should not have been granted legal protection.

Unwired Planet appealed. In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the highest U.S. patent court, rejected the board’s broad view of the types of patients eligible for CBM review, prompting Google’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Unwired Planet’s parent company is Inception Holdings, LLC, according to court papers.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court denied a number of other appeals that had also challenged the constitutionality of the patent review process.

The Supreme Court on Monday took up another case involving Google, an internet privacy dispute concerning an increasingly common form of settlement in class action suits that funnels money to unrelated third parties and charities instead of to people affected by the alleged wrongdoing.

U.S., France, Britain Launch Strikes On Syria

The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime on Saturday, April 14, 2017 in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the “crimes of a monster.”/ AFP

 

The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime on Saturday in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump-branded the “crimes of a monster.”

As Trump embarked on a White House address to announce the action — taken in defiance of Russia’s threat to respond — explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus, signalling a new chapter in a brutal seven-year-old civil war.

AFP’s correspondent in the city said several consecutive blasts were heard at 4:00 am (0100 GMT), followed by the sound of airplanes overhead. Smoke could be seen rising from the northern and eastern edges of the capital.

“A short time ago, I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” Trump said, in a primetime address from the White House.

“A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both.”

“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” he said of the suspected deadly gas attack a week ago on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma.

“The evil and the despicable attack left mother and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”

– ‘Heavy strike’ –
Joseph Dunford, Washington’s top general, said the strikes hit three targets near Damascus — a scientific research center, a storage facility and command post — and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs.

Syrian surface to air missile batteries had attempted to fire back, but there were no initial reports of allied losses, he added.

Syrian state media said air defenses were activated to block the attack as it published images of smoke clouds hanging over the capital.

“The aggression is a flagrant violation of international law, a breach of the international community’s will, and it is doomed to fail,” the official SANA news agency said.

The strikes were a marked escalation compared to a US strike a year ago, when only cruise missiles were used against a single airfield.

Dunford said Russia’s forces in Syria had been warned through existing “deconfliction” channels that western planes would be in Syrian air space, but Washington had not revealed the target sites or timing in advance.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said no additional strikes were planned.

“We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time, it was a heavy strike,” he said.

– United front –
Trump also warned Russia and Iran not to stand by their ally in Damascus.

“Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace,” he argued.

The strikes had been expected since harrowing footage surfaced of the aftermath of the attack in Douma, which prompted a furious reaction from Trump.

Trump’s anger was shared by France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who signed his country up for a joint response.

“We cannot tolerate the normalization of the use of chemical weapons,” Macron said in a statement.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May was more cautious, but by the time the first precision cruise missile was launched, Trump had a mini-coalition.

“We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world,” May said, referring to a recent assassination attempt on a Russian double agent.

– ‘Proof’ –
In the days between the attack in Douma and the US-led response, Washington and Moscow clashed repeatedly in duelling statements and debates.

Moscow denied Assad had any role in the outrage, pushing a variety of alternative theories that peaked with a claim that Britain staged the event.

At the United Nations, Russia’s diplomats vetoed a US motion to re-establish an international investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria that could have established blame.

Washington, Paris and London have nevertheless insisted that their own secret intelligence points to Assad’s guilt, and on Friday, a US spokeswoman said they had “proof.”

The western leaders apparently found this convincing enough reason to launch a punitive strike, but other observers are concerned the crisis could escalate.

The Russian military had vowed to respond to any attack, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration had repeatedly warned that Trump was taking America down a dangerous path.

After the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: “We warned that such actions would not be left without consequences.”

And Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova ridiculed the allies for wanting to “claim moral leadership in the world” after the attacks.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday had warned the rival camps to prevent “the situation spiraling out of control.”

– Decision to act –
Trump has long criticized his predecessor Barack Obama for failing to enforce a “red line” in 2013 after earlier chemical attacks blamed on Assad’s forces.

And he set his own precedent just over a year ago when he ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base after sarin was fired at civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhun.

Backed by his hawkish new national security adviser John Bolton, Trump has been meeting with advisors and generals all week to plan.

Mattis had reportedly been arguing for a cautious response that would minimize the risk of the US being dragged deeper into Syria’s civil war.

But other advisors wanted to use the opportunity to convince Trump, who wants to pull US forces out of Syria once the Islamic State jihadist group is defeated, to take a tough stance.

These hardliners, along with influential US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, want Washington to counter Iran’s growing power in Syria — even if it means risking a perilous stand-off with Russia.

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) 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.”

US Takes Aim At Russia Over Alleged Syria Chemical Attack

US President Donald Trump hosts a working lunch with the Baltic heads of state on April 3, 2018, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

The United States strongly condemned an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta late Saturday, saying if proved Russia would bear some responsibility due to its “unwavering support” for the regime.

Douma, the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta, was pounded by renewed airstrikes that killed 70 civilians in around 24 hours — while 11 people also suffered breathing problems.

First responders have accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of using poisonous chlorine gas.

“These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately,” she added.

“Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks.”

Nauert repeated the US’s previous assertions that Moscow had “breached its commitments to the United Nations as a framework guarantor” and questioned the Kremlin’s commitment to ending the crisis.

“Russia’s protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis and to larger non-proliferation priorities,” she said, calling upon Moscow to join international efforts to prevent further attacks.

The Syrian regime has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons, with the United Nations among those blaming government forces for a deadly sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun in April 2017.

Since February 18, the regime’s Ghouta offensive has killed more than 1,600 civilians.

The regime has used a combination of a fierce military onslaught and two negotiated withdrawals to empty out 95 percent of the enclave near Damascus, but rebels are still entrenched in its largest town of Douma.

U.S. Agencies Investigate Apple Over Slowing Iphones

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple Inc violated securities laws concerning its disclosures that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

The government has requested information from the company, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues asked Apple to answer questions about its disclosures, Reuters reported this month.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An SEC spokesman and Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

The company admitted in December that iPhone software can slow down some phones with battery problems.

Apple said the problem was that aging lithium batteries delivered power unevenly, which could cause iPhones to shut down unexpectedly to protect the delicate circuits inside.

Apple posted a public apology over its handling of the battery issue and lowered the price of iPhone battery replacements from $79 to $29.

U.S. Troops Celebrate Christmas In South Korea

U.S. troops stationed in South Korea celebrated Christmas on Monday (December 25) with a traditional meal and a visit from Santa.

About 1,500 soldiers gathered at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, which lies about 100 km (60 miles) from the border with reclusive North Korea, and sat down for Christmas lunch which included roast beef, turkey, eggnog and a Christmas tree shaped cake.

Troops say they enjoyed the celebrations despite being far from their family.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are based in South Korea to help defend against North Korean hostility and maintain peace in the peninsula. North and South Korea remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in an armistice.

The U.S. Headquarters company commander of 1st battalion 8th cavalry regiment at 2nd armoured brigade combat team, captain, Andrew Gregory, said,

“So it’s Christmas day and so Christmas is a very big family holiday and holiday you celebrate another successful year with bountiful blessings. So it’s typical the army especially when you are deployed, we are from Texas and we are away from our families at home, to put our big meal big spread so you can celebrate in style with your army family.”

Macron Appeals For Calm Over U.S. Jerusalem Embassy Move

French President Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO: LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

 French President Emmanuel Macron appealed for calm on Friday after US President Donald Trump’s widely-criticised recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Speaking at a meeting to discuss Lebanon, Macron said the decision should not “add to the instability of the region. I’m issuing a call for calm and responsibility by everyone which is essential for the efforts we are undertaking here.”

His concern was echoed by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who said the decision “will complicate the peace process even more”, adding it posed yet another challenge to the tense Middle East.

“I can only repeat our rejection of this decision and our commitment to the Arab initiative for a solution based on two states,” Hariri said.

The French president’s comments come as tensions soar in the Middle East over Trump’s decision, with Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas calling for a “day of rage” on Friday.

The disputed city of Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides seeing it as their capital.

Macron’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had earlier expressed concern over the situation, saying there was a risk of a new intifada or Palestinian uprising.

“The United States, which until now has been able to play a mediation role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have now excluded themselves from that a little,” he told France Inter radio.

Washington is “isolated in this affair”, he added.

Ahead of a trip to France on Sunday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Le Drian said: “France can act, but it cannot act alone”.

“We must pursue the necessary mediation to allow calm to return so that we can commit to a negotiation process,” he said.

AFP

U.S. Donates Vehicles, Tactical Equipment To NDLEA

U.S. Donates Vehicles, Tactical Equipment To NDLEA

The United States government has donated seven vehicles and a variety of technical equipment to the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), as part of its continued support for the counter-narcotics agency.

U.S. Consul General John Bray, who made the donation on Wednesday at a brief ceremony in Lagos, emphasised the importance of law enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and Nigeria in the fight against drug trafficking and abuse in the country.

“We are pleased to support the NDLEA in its efforts to fight drug trafficking. We share the same objective of ridding our societies of the harmful effects of narcotics trafficking and illicit drug use,” said Bray, who handed over the vehicles to the NDLEA Director of Training and Manpower Development, Dr Linus Opara.

The items and equipment included three Honda Accord vehicles, three Toyota Hilux trucks, one Toyota Hiace van, a Smith Detection body scan unit, and 16 laptop computers.

Others are 16 i2 analyst notebook software, 20 digital cameras, five electric bill counters, and 25 battery power supply backups.

A statement from the embassy said the vehicles and equipment were funded through the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) Counter-narcotics and Transnational Threats Program (CTTP).

Since the establishment of the NDLEA in 1990, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria has partnered with the agency and has increased its bilateral assistance for combatting narcotics trafficking in Nigeria.

In the past four years, the United States has provided more than US$10 million in training and equipment to the NDLEA.

In May 2016, the U.S. government donated 11 pick-up trucks and transport vans to the agency, bringing to 18 the total number of vehicles donated to the agency within the last 18 months.

The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, in partnership with the U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, has sponsored over 100 training courses since 2013 for the NDLEA and trained 1,580 students.

The personnel have received training in intelligence, evidence collection, management skills, tactical skills, and instructor training.

Influential U.S. Democrat Gives Up Post Amid Harassment Probe

Influential U.S. Democrat Gives Up Post Amid Harassment Probe
(FILES) This file photo shows U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) speaking at a session during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 45th annual legislative conference on September 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Democrat John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the US Congress and an iconic civil rights leader, said Sunday he is stepping down from a leadership position as he battles allegations of sexual harassment.

Even while denying the allegations, Conyers, who is 88, said he was stepping down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee while he seeks vindication for “myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.” He is, however, keeping his seat in Congress.

Conyers, whose Michigan district includes half of Detroit, is the last member of either house of Congress to have served under President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus.

Leaders of the Ethics Committee said Tuesday they planned to investigate allegations that Conyers had sexually harassed or discriminated against staff members and used official resources “for impermissible personal purposes.”

– No ‘license for harassment’ –

Conyers said in his statement that the recent allegations had been “raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger.” BuzzFeed News, which first reported the settlement, said it had received documents from Mike Cernovich, a right-wing commentator.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said on Sunday that Conyers deserved “due process” as the Ethics Committee inquiry moves ahead, calling him “an icon” who had done much to advance women’s causes.

But separately, she tweeted, in reference to Conyers, that “no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment.”

Charges of sexual harassment and misconduct have shaken politicians of both parties — as well as men in the media and entertainment businesses — raising pressure on people like Conyers and Senator Al Franken to step down, and on an Alabama candidate for the US Senate, Republican Roy Moore, to drop out of that race.

Pelosi suggested Sunday that the allegations against Franken — including that he kissed a woman against her will — were less serious than those against Moore, who is accused by one woman of sexual advances toward her when she was 14.

Asked if she would be satisfied were Franken to apologize, rather than resign, Pelosi told NBC, “Right. Also, his accusers have to accept an apology. The victims have some say in all of this as well.”

Franken was reportedly planning an announcement late Sunday evening.

AFP

Aircrew Grounded As US Pilot Draws Obscene Image In Sky

File Photo

The US Navy was left red-faced Friday after a pilot painted an enormous outline of a penis in the sky using the condensation trails from his multi-million-dollar warplane.

Residents of the town of Okanogan, in the western state of Washington, had been stunned to see the F-18 jet scrawling the phallic symbol on Thursday, and several photos quickly circulated online.

Navy officials acknowledged one of their crews was behind the stunt, saying the aircraft “left a condensed air trail resembling an obscene image to observers on the ground.”

“The actions of this aircrew were wholly unacceptable and antithetical to Navy core values,” Lieutenant Commander Leslie Hubbell, a spokeswoman for the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, said in a statement.

“We have grounded the aircrew and are conducting a thorough investigation — and we will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

“The Navy apologizes for this irresponsible and immature act,” she added.

Many onlookers on the ground posted images of the drawing on social media and appeared amused by the stunt.

Ramon Duran told The Spokesman-Review that he was running errands when he noticed the jet drawing the male genitalia.
“After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing,” Duran said.

“It was pretty funny to see that. You don’t expect to see something like that.”

27 Killed In Texas Church Shooting

About 27 persons have died following a shooting at a Baptist church in the US state of Texas on Sunday, news media reported. The shooter was also reported killed.

The shooting took place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a small community about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio, reports said.

They said the shooter walked into the church shortly before noon – at a morning service that witnesses said was normally attended by some 50 people and opened fire. A two-year-old was among the wounded, the Dallas Morning News website reported.

There were “multiple fatalities and multiple wounded,” according to Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr., NBC News reported.

A spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center in nearby Floresville told Fox News that “we have accepted a number of patients from the shooting.” She gave no number.

Helicopters and emergency personnel were arriving at the scene, and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were heading to the scene, the bureau said.

The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas, firing down from a hotel room, killed 58 people and wounded hundreds attending an outdoor concert.

And it came just over two years after a white supremacist, Dylann Roof, entered a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine people to death.

AFP