January 2019

It's fundamental, but unexpected.

Arguably two of the most successful people in the world, Richard Branson and Elon Musk have a combined net worth of $25 billion.

But neither is only about dollar bills. They're both committed to paths of a higher order, and their strong values are part of what make them role models.

It's worth noting, then, what Branson's advice to Elon Musk was, when asked by CNBC's Nancy Hungerford. In light of the recent controversy around Tesla and SpaceX, Hungerford wanted to know what Branson's opinion was of Musk's challenges. Here's part of what Branson said:

"[Elon]'s got to find time for himself; he's got to find time for his health and for his family. He's a wonderfully creative person, but he shouldn't be getting very little sleep. He should find a fantastic team of people around him."

Branson's suggestion for how to get there? It can be summed up in one word:
Delegate.

Branson put it a little more diplomatically, but not a lot: "I think he maybe needs to learn the art of delegation."

The fact is, a lot of us resist delegating. Either we don't want to give up control; we don't believe someone else can do it as well as we can; or we don't think we can afford it.

But there are many (including Branson) who would argue that in fact, you can't afford not to. The cost of trying to do everything yourself is more than just burnout: it can end up destroying your relationships and even your business.

For example, career and business strategist Jenny Blake says delegating actually saved her business. In her piece on Harvard Business Review, she said it also facilitated her tripling her income.

Read that again: she tripled her income because she learned to delegate.

"Tasks that are relatively simple probably are not the best use of your time," Blake said. "Very straightforward tasks can (and should) be handled by anyone but you."

She suggests using a method of six T's to determine which tasks to offload. They are:

Tiny: Any tasks that are small but add up should be outsourced. For example, registering for a conference, booking the flight, and booking a hotel that's close to the venue -- they're all tiny tasks, but together they add up.
Tedious: Tasks that are simple, boring, and straightforward (i.e. updating the KPIs in your pitch deck).
Time-consuming: Research, for example. If you need a new tax person, you need to make the final decision, but you don't need to do the first 80 percent of the task, which is looking up reputable people in your price range.
Teachable: Tasks that seem complex at first, but can be systematized and passed on (you can still have final approval). For example, teaching your employee how to draft the deck for the monthly meeting, and what to include.
Terrible at: When you're awful at something, it takes you longer to do it than a pro, plus you feel drained after doing it, which is bad for your business. Hire a professional designer for your TEDx deck, for example--don't do it yourself.
Time-sensitive: You need to recover the iPad you left on the airplane, which means sitting on hold, but you have a meeting. Get someone else to sit on hold for an hour.

According to Blake, the best way to determine what to delegate is to look at what's on your plate and then ask the following questions: "What can you and only you do? How can you delegate the rest?"

Not if you should delegate the rest, but how to delegate the rest.
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Two-thirds of remote employees consider themselves disengaged. Here are a few tips to ensure your remote team is excited to do great work every day.

Over the past decade, the total number of remote employees globally has increased by 115 percent. But despite this growth, a recent study featured in the Harvard Business Review found that remote work isn't ideal for all employees. In fact, two-thirds of remote employees consider themselves disengaged engaged and over 40 percent said said getting face-time with their teams would help build deeper relationships.

Hiring remote employees can have many benefits for your team. Doing so enables you to reach a wider talent pool than being confined your local market and can help you save on office space, among other benefits.

To set your remote employees up for success, you need to put measures in place to keep them engaged and feeling like a true part of the team. Start with these three tips:
1. Set up video conferencing.

Most businesses rely primarily on email. That doesn't present much of an opportunity for your remote employees to build relationships with the rest of your team.

Start communicating via video as early as the interview process so you can put a face to the name for each of your prospective hires. During the interview stage, have various current employees -- both remote and otherwise -- talk to candidates via video, so you can get a better feel for how they'd fit with your team.

Once you have remote team members on board, make sure they have access to quality video conferencing technology. All team members inside and outside the office should have computers with cameras. And your conference rooms should have cameras so remote team members can more closely interact with team members who are in the room.

When it comes to all company meetings, include a link to Google Hangouts, Zoom or other video conferencing tool, so remote employees can join and participate. For example, my team has a weekly all company huddle and we often host lunch and learns on a variety of topics. For all these meetings, we make it a top priority to ensure the remote team has the opportunity to join via video.
2. Host All-Company Events

My team consists of close to 200 employees, a few dozen of which work remotely around the country. To build relationships with our remote team and keep them engaged, we dedicate two weeks each year -- one in the winter to kick off the year and one during the summer -- to getting the whole team together in the office.

During these dedicated weeks, we host team-building events, have a company Town Hall and bring in guest speakers, among other activities. The time in the office give both remote employees and those who work on site the chance to get to know one another on a more personal level. Ultimately, this can help them communicate even better once we're no longer all together in the office.
3. Collect Feedback from Remote Employees

Since remote employees are among the most likely to feel disengaged, it's important to continuously work toward improving the employee experience.

You probably send employee engagement surveys once or several times a year. Consider also sending separate surveys to remote employees or having your HR team touch base with each remote employee every so often.

To collect feedback from remote employees, ask about whether or not they feel engaged, how you can help them feel more engaged, if there are any resources that can help them improve in their roles, and more.

Once you receive this feedback, outline next steps to improve the experience for remote employees. It's critical that all employees -- including those who don't work in the office -- feel valued.

According to a study from TinyPulse, employees feel 91 percent more productive when working outside the office. Your remote employees can be among the greatest contributors on your team. By following these tips, you can boost remote team engagement and increase the likelihood of these employees staying with your company for the long haul. https://www.geezgo.com/sps/53359

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Picture the New England Patriots, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick probably pop to mind. But so should owner Robert Kraft.

When Kraft bought the Patriots franchise in 1994, the team had suffered through 5 straight losing seasons and a combined record of 19 wins and 61 losses.

In the 25 years under Kraft's ownership the Patriots have become one of the great dynasties in American sports. Ten Super Bowl appearances. Five Super Bowl wins. Fourteen AFC championships. Thirty-two playoff wins. Twenty playoff appearances.

Kraft is one of the most successful owners in professional sports history off the field as well. Kraft paid a total of $227 million for the franchise, the stadium, and the parking lots around the stadium.

Today, the Patriot franchise is worth an estimated $3.8 billion.
But how did Kraft manage to buy the Patriots?

It's a story of belief, perseverance, and a willingness to take huge risks.

In short, it's a classic entrepreneurial story. (One told in great detail here.)

Kraft made his first fortune by purchasing a paper mill at a time when the packaging industry was in a slump. In time, International Forest Products became one of the largest privately owned paper companies in the world.

Later he turned his sights on the Patriots. To make a long story short, the Patriots organization was made up of three different pieces: the team, Foxboro Stadium, and the parking lots surrounding the stadium. Each was owned or controlled by Billy Sullivan, but each was also, in effect, a separate entity.

Money problems forced Sullivan and his son Chuck--the primary investors in the financially disastrous Jackson Family Victory Tour--to consider selling assets. Naturally they put all three pieces of the team up for sale as a unit. To get around league debt rules, most of the team's revenue actually went to the stadium.

Bottom line: If you wanted the team, you needed to own the stadium. And in order for fans to be able to come to your stadium, you had to own the parking lots.

So when the Sullivans defaulted on the lease for the parking lots, Kraft swooped in, paying the owners of the land $17 million for a 10-year option, plus an additional $1 million per year.

On paper it seemed foolish. The parking lots generated approximately $700,000 per year in revenue; over ten years, that meant Kraft would spend $27 million to generate $7 million.
But it also meant Kraft now controlled one of the three pieces.

Two years later Sullivan sold the Patriots to Victor Kiam for $83 million, and the stadium was placed in a bankruptcy auction. Kiam hoped to someday move the team. And he figured no one would want the stadium. So he bid $17 million.

But Kraft wanted it: He bid $25 million and was awarded the stadium by the bankruptcy court.

Now Kraft owned two of the three pieces--but not the team. And if Kiam moved the Patriots to Jacksonville, then Kraft would be stuck with a worthless stadium and worthless parking lots.

But he didn't have to worry. The stadium's lease with the Patriots included an operating covenant that required the team to remain in the stadium through 2001. They couldn't just leave and keep paying rent; if you agree to an operating covenant, you have to operate your business from that location. If Kiam broke the lease, in Massachusetts the repercussions would not just be civil--they could be criminal.

So Kiam, and the Patriots, were stuck in Foxboro Stadium.

Which Kraft owned.
Kraft now controlled two of the three pieces.

In 1992 Kiam ran into financial trouble of his own: The Patriots were losing money and so was Remington, his primary business. So he sold the Patriots to James Orthwein. Orthwein, a member of the Busch family and major shareholder of Anheuser-Busch, hoped to move the Patriots to St. Louis.

But Kraft held the trump card: The stadium's operating covenant still had 8 years left to run. Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to get out of the stadium lease, three times what he had paid. But he wouldn't budge. And eventually Orthwein grew frustrated and put the team up for sale.

After a long bidding process, Kraft's winning bid was $172 million, a then-record amount for an NFL franchise.
Which meant Kraft now controlled all three pieces.

But in many ways that was just the start. He needed to turn the franchise around, both on and off the field. He needed to pay down the huge loans required to finance the purchase. And he needed to build a new stadium.

Here's what Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots quarterback prior to Tom Brady, says about Kraft:

"One of the most important things that he ever said to me, and this was after I left football and was in business, I asked him at one point, 'What's the one thing that's allowed you to be so much better than everybody else?'

"He said, 'Everything. Everything we do, we're trying to be better than everybody else in everything. From the way we analyze players, to the way we practice and coach, to the way that we eat, to the way that we travel, to the way that we take care of our players, to the way we take care of our retired players.'

"Every single thing they do, he's trying to be the best in the world at it. And if he's not the best in the world, he's going to figure out how to be the best in the world at it."

And that's how Kraft turned $227 million into $3.8 billion:

One piece--one step--at a time.

Which is the same way every entrepreneur builds a successful business. https://www.geezgo.com/sps/53358

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Why it matters: There’s no shortage of Hollywood movies depicting the imminent doom of the human race thanks to a rogue asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It’s a scenario that makes for great onscreen entertainment but one that’s also a very real threat. Eventually, it’s going to happen (again) and just like in the movies, we want to have some sort of defense in place.

It’s why scientists at NASA are planning to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a space probe expected to launch in 2020 with the goal of slamming into an asteroid. The hope is that the impact will be able to alter the asteroid’s orbit.

Given the vast expanse of space, even a tiny alteration in an asteroid’s projected path could be enough to cause it to miss Earth and potentially save humanity over the course of millions of miles.

NASA’s target with DART is Didymos, a binary asteroid system orbited by a smaller satellite roughly 490 feet in diameter. The probe will crash into this smaller asteroid. Neither are on a path for Earth and there’s no possibility of an impact causing danger to us.

Mark Fittock, a Monash University alum that worked on NASA’s InSight lander, told The Sydney Morning Herald that if they’re smart about what they hit the asteroid with, they could use something smaller but to better effect.

“If this was really happening and we had to stop it, we don’t know much about our options at the moment – we know we could hit something, but we don’t know what to hit it with,” he said.
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A hot potato: Wireless carriers, regulators and consumers are seemingly powerless in their fight against unwanted robocalls. Part of the issue has to do with the fact that not all robocalls are nefarious - some are used by businesses for legitimate purposes such as package delivery notices, bank calls and technicians.

Measures taken by the FCC and wireless carriers to fight robocalls have come up short according to data from Hiya.

The Seattle-based spam monitoring service in its Robocall Radar report found that 26.3 billion robocalls were placed in the US in 2018. That’s up a staggering 46 percent year-over-year with the average caller receiving 10 spam calls per month.

Of note is that these are only verified spam calls.

According to Hiya, the average person receives 114 incoming calls per month yet only 46 percent of them are from numbers already stored in their contact list. Unsurprisingly, only 52 percent of total calls received are even answered.

Verizon earlier this month announced it would be bringing free spam alerting and call blocking features to its wireless customers in the coming months. AT&T and T-Mobile already offer similar solutions although in light of Hiya’s report, it’s clear that carriers and consumers are fighting a losing battle.

My philosophy with the phone is simple: if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer. If it’s important enough, they’ll leave a voicemail. Otherwise, block the caller afterwards and carry on.
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Something to look forward to: On Wednesday iRobot, the maker of the Roomba announced Terra, the newest robotic tool in its product lineup. Terra is a lawnmower that uses advanced mapping technology to maintain your yards.

We reported clear back in 2015 that iRobot had applied for and received clearance from the FCC to produce a “handsfree” mower. It’s been four years with no word on the project until today's press release.

Terra is by no means the first robomower. Honda released the Miimo robotic landscaper in Europe back in 2013. It works just like a Roomba but in order to create “walls,” wire must be strung around the areas to be mowed. Installation requires a Honda professional and can be quite expensive.

Terra looks to eliminate this problem with literal wireless technology. To define boundaries, you just place electronic beacons around the yard. Then run the robot one time about the perimeter. After that, it will have learned its outer bounds and mow in a back-and-forth pattern.

Terra keeps track of where it has mown. So if the battery runs low, it will return to its charging station to juice up then continue where it left off.

For internal boundaries, users will use the iRobot Home app to define areas that are off-limits such as flowerbeds. The app can also be used to customize the cutting length and schedule operating times.

Terra joins the iRobot family alongside its siblings the Roomba vacuum and the Braava mopping robots.

“iRobot is building an ecosystem of robots and technologies that help people do more both inside and outside of the home," said iRobot CEO and Chairman Colin Angle. “The robot mower segment is well established in EMEA and has tremendous room for growth in other markets, including North America.”

Terra is not quite ready for market, but it’s close. iRobot says it will be beta testing the mower in the US sometime in 2019. No estimates on pricing are available yet. Keep an eye on the iRobot website for more info.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/53292

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Last week, we reported on smartphone maker Meizu's announcement of its Zero smartphone. The phone was notable for its complete lack of ports or other exterior "holes." It has no charging port, no headphone jack, and no speaker grill (though there is a small cut-out on the back for phone resets).

That means everything from charging to audio playback is handled completely over-the-air. As interesting as the concept is, getting your hands on a working Zero model won't be as simple as taking a trip down to one of your cell provider's local stores.

Meizu is opting to sell its latest smartphone through crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo. Backing the phone will cost you $1,299, and Meizu only seems to be selling 100 of them for now. Well, technically 101, but that last device is a $2,999 "Exclusive Pioneering Unit" which has already been claimed.

So, what exactly does the Meizu Zero offer that makes it worth your hard-earned cash?

According to the company, its IP68 water resistance and 18kw fast wireless charging capabilities are some of the main selling points. It is also reportedly capable of wireless data transfer speeds that are competitive with USB 3.0, and it has in-screen "mSound 2.0" audio technology. speakers.

Concerning the Zero's hardware, Meizu is remaining tight-lipped for now. All we know is that it will ship with a Snapdragon 845 processor, meaning things like memory or storage capacity options are still up in the air.

If you want to back the Zero, you can do so via its official IndieGoGo page. Meizu anticipates that the smartphone will launch sometime in April 2019.
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A new Greek airline carrier named Athens Spirit Airlines will begin operating in April 2019.

The company was founded in June 2017 and last month it submitted a request for an air operator certificate from the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, reports Deal News.

The airline aims to offer both domestic and international services with four A319 and two A340 aircraft.

According to the report, Athens Spirit Airlines is funded by investments from wealthy Greeks of the Diaspora and aims to take on Greece’s leading carrier Aegean Airlines.

Greece’s Business Registry lists Dimitris Vasilios Dorizas as President and Director of the company. Dorizas is a retired pilot, priest and former manager of Olympic Airways, where he worked for more than 16 years.

In October 2012, Dorizas was also one of the founders of Sky Greece Airlines, which started operations in May 2015 with a Boeing 767-300ER but ceased operations half a year later.

Over the last few decades, many smaller Greek airlines have tried to enter the aviation sector however most have not lasted very long. Apart from Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airways the other most well-known and frequently used carriers are Ellinair and Sky Express.
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SINGAPORE: Channel NewsAsia is now live 24/7 on YouTube. The announcement comes as YouTube and Singapore’s largest content creator and transmedia company Mediacorp on Friday (Feb 1) unveiled a strategic partnership to deliver an enhanced product experience for audiences and advertisers in Singapore.
The partnership, under the auspices of YouTube’s Player for Publishers (PfP) programme, combines Mediacorp’s extensive, award-winning content with the reach and marketing prowess of YouTube’s platform. The PfP programme provides a video hosting, streaming and ads management platform to publishers.

Mediacorp will host news, current affairs, entertainment and lifestyle content produced by two of its flagship platforms, Channel NewsAsia and 8world, on their YouTube channels. Through PfP, Mediacorp is expanding its network to better connect consumers with its news videos. The programme will also give Mediacorp better control of its advertising opportunities on YouTube through PfP’s specific features, reducing costs and simplifying the video infrastructure to deliver the most optimised user experience to Mediacorp’s audiences on YouTube.

Mediacorp has more than 40 products in four languages (English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil) on TV, radio, its over-the-top service Toggle and other digital platforms, reaching 99 per cent of people in Singapore every week. Globally, YouTube has over 1.9 billion logged-in users each month with more than 400 hours of content uploaded onto YouTube each minute. The website is ranked the second-most popular in the world, according to Alexa Internet.

"We’re glad to welcome Mediacorp as a PfP partner in Singapore. Tailored to the needs of the media industry, PfP’s goal is to reduce complexity, increase reach and revenue potential. It adds to Mediacorp’s multiplatform offerings while providing YouTube users with – more great content that will educate, excite, engage and inspire YouTube audiences globally. We hope that our technology will provide a solution as one of Mediacorp's movements to reach larger audiences,” said YouTube Partnerships' regional director Ajay Vidyasagar.

Mediacorp’s Chief Commercial and Digital Officer Parminder Singh said: “We are pleased to be YouTube’s PfP partner in Singapore. This strategic partnership enables us to offer our extensive range of brand-safe, quality content to the die-hard fans and digital natives of the YouTube communities. YouTube and Mediacorp share a passion for delivering great content and developing holistic advertising solutions to marketers, helping them reach the most engaged audiences in Singapore.”https://www.geezgo.com/sps/53366
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French police on Thursday (Jan 31) reaffirmed that the death of HNA Group Co-Chairman Wang Jian during a business trip in France last summer was accidental, dismissing a newspaper report that he more likely committed suicide.

A police investigation concluded Wang, who had come under pressure from Beijing over HNA's huge debts, fell off a wall in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon, on Jul 3 while taking a photograph.

In a front-page splash on Thursday, France's daily Liberation said eye-witness accounts contradicted the police investigation's findings. One witness, a local street-cleaner, said Wang jumped rather than fell.

"Only Liberation and its journalists believe this thesis of suicide," a spokeswoman for the national gendarmerie told Reuters. "We stand by our investigation's conclusions that this was an accidental death."

HNA declined to comment. The local prosecutor also declined to respond to Liberation's report.

Wang was regarded as the architect of an eye-popping US$50 billion acquisition spree that saw HNA accumulate assets ranging from a stake in Deutsche Bank AG to high-profile overseas properties. Under pressure from Beijing, HNA sold off many of those assets to slash debt.

An aviation-to-financial services conglomerate that counts Hainan Airlines Co as its core asset, HNA's sales include holdings in companies such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, Park Hotels & Resorts and Spain's NH Hotels.

At the time of Wang's death, analysts said pressure on HNA deleverage continued to be enormous and that his passing would complicate the conglomerate's efforts to restructure and pay of borrowings.

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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump began the year with US$19.2 million in campaign cash, a war chest that gives him a head start on Democrats lining up for the chance to run against the Republican in the 2020 White House race.

Trump raised US$21 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, his campaign said on Thursday. Unlike any other president in the modern era, Trump filed for re-election on the day he took office in January 2017, instead of waiting the traditional two years. That allowed him to raise and spend campaign cash his entire term.

He is likely to far outpace the fundraising by Democrats who are just beginning to build campaigns. None of the Democratic candidates have yet been required to disclose their money hauls, although US Senator Kamala Harris' campaign said she raised US$1.5 million in the 24 hours after she launched her run.

More than two dozen Democrats are expected to mount a campaign in hopes of winning the party's nomination.

David Brock, a Democratic fundraiser who oversaw the largest Super PAC his party has backed, said Trump's haul will make Democrats nervous.

"There is not going to be enough money in the system, whether its online or big dollars, to support more than six or eight candidates," Brock told Reuters. "There is a disadvantage that Democrats have to raise money to fight each other first before you can raise a war chest to fight Trump."

Some of the Democrats' biggest donors are waiting to decide which candidate to back, Brock said.

"There is a lot less interest among donors on the ideological split as there is imagining the person who is best to stand up against Trump and really take the fight to him and just beat him," Brock said.

Greg Berlin, a Democratic fundraiser at the firm Mothership Strategy, said he is confident Democrats will ultimately be able to compete with Trump's cash levels.

"Whoever is the nominee will have well over a billion dollars combined with their primary and general money to compete with Trump," Berlin said. "Trump will likely have well over a billion dollars, so I don't think money matters at the end of the day."

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Nineteen people have been charged in three "birth tourism" schemes that operated in Southern California to bring pregnant Chinese women into the United States in order to secure birthright citizenship for their children, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles said on Thursday (Jan 31).

The 17 cases unsealed on Thursday are the first federal charges brought against operators and customers of birth tourism businesses, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Three defendants were arrested on Thursday morning, while the 16 others named in the indictments unsealed on Thursday are "fugitive defendants", the prosecutors said.

The defendants are accused of links to three "birth houses" operating in Southern California that catered to wealthy women from China and were dismantled by federal agents in March 2015.

The indictments charge that Chinese customers were coached on how to pass US Consulate interviews in China by falsely stating they would stay in the United States for only two weeks and to trick US Customs at entry ports by wearing loose clothing to conceal their pregnancies, prosecutors said in the statement.

"These cases allege a wide array of criminal schemes that sought to defeat our immigration laws – laws that welcome foreign visitors so long as they are truthful about their intentions when entering the country,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.

"Some of the wealthy clients of these businesses also showed blatant contempt for the US by ignoring court orders directing them to stay in the country to assist with the investigation and by skipping out on their unpaid hospital bills,” Hanna said.

The US Constitution grants citizenship to any child born on US soil, and immigration experts say there is nothing inherently illegal about women coming from abroad to give birth to children in the country.

But law enforcement officials in Southern California in recent years have sought to crack down on the burgeoning cottage industry of maternity tourism, in which foreign nationals, typically from China, apply for US visas under false pretenses and overstay them so that their children can attain birthright citizenship.

In the cases unsealed on Thursday, prosecutors say, the schemes committed widespread immigration fraud and money laundering and defrauded property owners when leasing apartments and houses for the pregnant women.

Federal agents raided three apartment complexes and several other sites being used as maternity houses or hotels across Southern California in March in 2015, saying they catered to wealthy women from China who paid US$15,000 to US$80,000, depending on services offered.

The sweep was believed to mark the first such enforcement action against maternity tourism.

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PARIS: A French court on Thursday (Jan 31) sentenced two police officers to seven years in prison for the rape of a Canadian tourist at the Paris police headquarters.

The men, Nicolas Redouane, 49, and Antoine Quirin, 40, had denied raping 39-year-old Emily Spanton, saying the sex was consensual.

But the court was "convinced by the victim's steadfast statements" that she was raped and "by scientific and technical" evidence, its president Stephane Duchemin said.

The officers were also ordered to pay €20,000 (US$23,000) in damages to the victim.

Spanton met the officers on the night of Apr 22, 2014, at a bar near the fabled police headquarters at 36 Quai des Orfevres, which features in Georges Simenon's Maigret detective novels.

She then agreed to visit their offices at "the 36", where both men were members of the elite BRI anti-gang unit.
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The officers, aged 40 and 49, had faced up to 20 years' imprisonment for gang rape.

Prosecutor Philippe Courroye on Wednesday had asked for seven-year prison terms for the officers, who kept jobs with the police while awaiting trial.

Spanton was "easy prey", Courroye said.

That night, he charged, the officers "were not policemen, but usurpers unworthy of their badges, acting in the same way as those they pursue".

Spanton said she was raped by up to three men but although the DNA of three people was found, only two could be identified.

She told the court that she had been excited to see the "36" and thought "there would be plenty of lights and people".

But in the middle of the night, their fifth-floor offices were empty.

"I just gave up; just wanted it to be over," she said.

Spanton told police officers on duty as she left the building that she had been raped, but said she was treated like a drunk and told to "go home".

Witnesses described her as looking happy when she entered police headquarters, but distraught when she left and immediately accused the policemen of rape.

The trial highlighted flaws in the investigation just after the incident, including that the alleged crime scene was not cordoned off.

The officers were also allowed to return home without submitting to a breathalyser test.

'I AM NOT A RAPIST'

Both defendants sobbed as they gave their final statements on Thursday morning.

"I realise that as a police officer I should never have brought Emily Spanton to the BRI offices," Redouane said, taking the stand just a few metres away from his accuser.

"All my life I've had good relationships with women. I never, never, never assaulted, attacked or raped Emily Spanton."

Quirin said it had been a "five-year nightmare" for him and his family.

"Maybe I was unfaithful, but I have never raped a woman. I never raped this woman."

Quirin's lawyer Anne-Laure Compoint had argued it was not possible to prove beyond doubt that there had been a lack of consent.

The "36" is still used as police offices, but the headquarters have been moved to a new building in northwest Paris.

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An Iranian asylum-seeker detained in Papua New Guinea under Australian asylum laws has won Australia's most valuable literary prize for a book he reportedly wrote using the online messaging service WhatsApp.

Behrouz Boochani, a Kurd who has been held on PNG's Manus Island since 2013, was awarded the Victorian Prize for Literature on Thursday (Jan 31), said a statement on a government website for the Australian state of Victoria.

The journalist and filmmaker was awarded the A$100,000 (US$72,600) prize for his book No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.

He will receive an additional A$25,000 after it also won the non-fiction category.

"(Boochani's) award was accepted by the book's translator Omid Tofighian, who worked with Boochani over five years to bring the stories to life," the state website said.

Media reports said Boochani wrote the work on his phone and sent it to Tofighian bit-by-bit in text messages.

This was because he felt unsafe in the guarded camp, which was shuttered last year after a local court ruling and the asylum-seekers moved elsewhere on the island.

For years Canberra has sent asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by boat to Manus Island or Nauru in the Pacific for processing, with those found to be refugees barred from resettling in Australia.

The harsh policy is meant to deter people embarking on treacherous sea journeys, but the United Nations and other rights groups have criticised the camps' conditions and long detention periods.

Boochani's book beat 27 other shortlisted works published last year in Australia to win the overall prize.

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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats on Thursday (Jan 31) hardened their positions over a wall being built on the border with Mexico, raising new doubts over their ability to reach a deal just as negotiations were getting underway.

At her weekly news conference, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated, "There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation" to fund border security for the rest of this year.

Instead, Pelosi said funding for more ports of entry or additional border security technology was open for negotiation. She added that the 17 House and Senate negotiators should decide the components of the nation's border security.

But the Democratic negotiators went a step further from Pelosi's prohibition on wall funds, unveiling a detailed opening position containing no money for any type of additional physical barriers on the border to control the flow of undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs.

Previously, Democrats have supported US$1.3 billion for new border fencing this year or improvements to existing fencing.

Asked by reporters about Pelosi's comment on wall funding, Trump, a Republican, said: "Without a wall, it doesn’t work."

Congress has a Feb. 15 deadline for coming up with a new plan for further securing the southwestern border.

The bipartisan conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers held a public session on Wednesday with the goal of producing a deal in about a week so it could be voted on by both chambers by the deadline.

TORRENT OF TWEETS

Democratic leaders have called on Trump to stand aside and let the negotiators do their work as a way of fostering success.

Ignoring that advice, Trump issued a series of tweets on Thursday predicting failure and sounding alarms.

"More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans," Trump tweeted.

"Democrats are becoming the Party of late term abortion, high taxes, Open Borders and Crime!" another tweet declared.

At the same time, each side has left some potential openings for the congressional negotiators to exploit.

Evan Hollander, a House Appropriations Committee spokesman, said the Democratic plan detailed on Thursday was the party's "position entering conference negotiations" and "every proposal raised by conferees will be thoughtfully considered."

Pelosi was more specific at her news conference.

"Is there a place for enhanced fencing? Normandy fencing would work. Let them have that discussion," she said, referring to low-slung vehicle barriers.

For his part, Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, said, "you can have other things" securing the border, "but the other things only really work if you have a physical barrier."

Trump has demanded US$5.7 billion for this fiscal year alone to start construction on a border wall that he envisioned during his 2016 campaign as being 2,000 miles (3,200 km) long and made of concrete.

Since then, he has said it would not run the full length of the border, could be made of other materials such as steel slats - and that the wall could be called "peaches" if that was a way to get around the semantics of a "wall."

And he has maintained that large sections had already been built.

But on Thursday, Trump reversed himself.

"Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games!" he tweeted. "A WALL is a WALL!"

Without a deal by Feb 15, a partial government shutdown could resume, following a record 35-day interruption in government services that began on Dec 22 and left 800,000 federal workers without paychecks.

Included in the Democrats' plan, detailed in a summary provided to reporters, was US$98 million above last year for US Customs and Border Protection to hire 1,000 more customs agents.

There also was US$400 million for buying and deploying security technology, which would be US$353 million above Trump's request.

Furthermore, Democrats called for new constraints on the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to place in deportation proceedings the sponsors of undocumented immigrant minors who are in the United States without their parents.

If Congress fails to craft a deal or writes one that Trump does not like, the president has said he would consider declaring a national emergency in order to divert existing funds to build a wall, which would almost certainly trigger a court challenge. By law, Congress appropriates the money for federal projects.

Noting that more than 600 miles (960 km) of pedestrian and vehicle barriers already have been built on the U.S.-Mexico border over the past several years, Pelosi said, "If the president wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall."

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UNITED NATIONS: The United States is moving quickly to lift a freeze at the United Nations on humanitarian aid to North Korea, just weeks before a planned second US-North Korean summit, according to diplomats and documents obtained by AFP.

At Washington's request, several applications from aid groups for exemptions to tough UN sanctions imposed on North Korea have been put on hold at a UN sanctions committee, some for as long as a year.

But in a shift, the US has over the past weeks allowed eight requests to get the green light from the committee for such items as solar pumps, plumbing parts, milk cans, tractor tyres and children's trampolines.

The approvals could significantly ramp up humanitarian aid to North Korea, where the UN estimates that 10.5 million people, or 41 per cent of the population, are undernourished, diplomats and aid groups said.

North Korea's food crisis combined with a high incidence of tuberculosis has alarmed relief groups at a time when Washington is hoping for action from Pyongyang on scrapping its weapons programs.

President Donald Trump is planning a second summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, possibly in Vietnam, to agree on concrete steps for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

UN sanctions resolutions specify that humanitarian aid should not be disrupted by the tough economic measures slapped on North Korea for its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

'MAXIMUM PRESSURE'

Aid groups however say they have been hit hard by restrictions that make imports of material for their relief projects almost impossible and create major headaches with banking.

The eight requests approved in January concern projects run by groups from Switzerland, the United States, Britain, France, Canada and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

On Wednesday, the sanctions committee gave the green light to the IFRC's request for hospital kits, medical supplies and water filters among other items needed for life-saving work.

The IFRC also won approval for 500 bicycles to be shipped from China for its volunteers who visit households in remote North Korean villages.

"The people of DPRK are enduring another harsh winter," said Richard Blewitt, who represents the IFRC at the United Nations.

Scaling up deliveries of medicine, health care items and goods to ensure access for clean water "are badly needed to support very vulnerable people," he said.

The United States, which insists on maintaining "maximum pressure" on North Korea until it fully gives up its weapons programmes, has taken time to carefully review every aid request.

Washington has raised concerns that the goods could be diverted by Pyongyang's leaders, possibly for use in the country's weapons programmes.

But in December, the US agreed to ease its grip on humanitarian aid.

TRACTORS, WHEELCHAIRS, TRAMPOLINES

US envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun announced in Seoul that conditions were right for Washington to review its approach and expedite requests from aid organisations.

Two requests from US groups - the Eugene Bell Foundation and the Christian Friends of Korea - received the green light for equipment and medicines needed for their anti-TB programs.

A Canadian NGO, First Steps Health Society, won approval for deliveries of 300 stainless-steel milk cans used for its nutrition project. The Swiss Humanitarian Aid agency will be able to bring in a solar pump system for drinking water.

Handicap International will send 93 paediatric wheelchairs, 18 trampolines and a range of other items to help detect and prevent disabilities in North Korean children.

The sanctions committee is considering seven more requests for equipment including from Ireland's biggest aid organisation, Concern Worldwide, which runs nutrition and clean water projects.

An Italian firm, Agrotec Spa, is awaiting approval to send tractors and trailers as part of an EU food aid project while Germany's Agro Action has asked for permission to ship equipment and seed storages to North Korea.

Finland's FIDA development agency has asked to bring a tractor, iron plates and steel bars for its seed potato project.

Diplomats said they expected the sanctions committee to reach a decision on these requests in the coming weeks.

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CHICAGO: Brutally cold temperatures gripped the US Midwest on Thursday (Jan 31), freezing water mains, causing power outages, canceling flights and straining natural gas supplies.

Tens of millions of Americans shivered for a second day as the mercury dipped to record lows in several states.

More than a dozen deaths have been attributed to the sub-zero weather and a weekend snowstorm that blanketed the same region. Many of the cold-related fatalities were in Michigan, where the governor said the death toll was still being confirmed.

Schools and businesses remained closed in several midwestern states, people were encouraged to stay home, and travelers were stranded by grounded flights and halted trains.

In Michigan and Minnesota, natural gas supplies were under threat. Authorities asked residents to reduce heat consumption wherever possible and decreased heating in government buildings.

Water mains froze in Detroit, Chicago and parts of Canada, and power outages were reported in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Nearly 1,700 flights had been canceled in Chicago by Thursday afternoon. Airport crews worked in 15-minute increments on the tarmac to avoid frostbite.

Rail service Amtrak planned to begin partially restoring service after canceling all lines Wednesday in and out of Chicago.

The deadly, sub-zero temperatures were expected to lift Friday, but the misery would not end quickly in the roughly dozen states most affected.

"We are not done yet. We've got another 24 hours where the weather will be at dangerous levels," Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told a news conference.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said temperatures would slowly moderate, but the agency forecast wind chills Thursday would remain between -29 to -46 degrees Celsius over parts of the Upper Midwest.

The cold has frozen sections of Niagara Falls and sent blocks of ice floating down the river winding through downtown Chicago.
Polar vortex in Massachusetts
Ice covers the shore of the Merrimack River in Massachusetts due to the polar vortex on Jan 31, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Joseph Prezioso)

MORE SNOW TO COME

The Arctic air mass that descended from its usual northern rotation on Wednesday caused the second coldest day ever recorded in the Windy City, where residents reported hearing "frost quakes."

Local television station WGN said booms heard by residents were likely from the frozen, water-saturated ground cracking under their feet.

The NWS said a low temperature of -29 degrees Celsius was recorded in Chicago on Thursday morning. The record low of -33 degrees Celsius was on Jan 20, 1985.

It said a historic low temperature for Illinois of -39 degrees Celsius had been reported in the town of Mt Carroll and was being reviewed before being declared a state record.

Record low temperatures were also reported in some towns in Iowa and Wisconsin.
Polar Vortex in US
Ice covers the shore of the Merrimack River in Massachusetts on Jan 31, 2019. (Photo: AFP/ Joseph PREZIOSO)

Officials in multiple states warned that the extreme weather should be taken seriously, with the risk of hypothermia and frostbite setting in within minutes of exposure.

There were also concerns over another round of snow late Thursday, after a weekend snowstorm inundated the areas now frozen by Arctic cold.

"We've gone from snow to freezing temperatures, wind chill," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference. "With more snow on the way, we're not out of the woods yet."

Hundreds of warming centers were opened for vulnerable residents such as seniors, and shelter capacities increased for the homeless.

Among the dead was an 18-year-old University of Iowa student.

He was found unresponsive behind a campus building Wednesday morning, when wind chill temperatures in Iowa City were -46 degrees Celsius, according to local TV station KCCI.
Polar vortex in Chicago
Snow and ice covers the rooftops of homes in Chicago on Jan 31, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Scott Olson)

CALLS FOR CONSERVATION

While officials warned residents to remain on guard as long as the sub-zero weather persisted, authorities in Michigan and Minnesota were also asking them to turn down their thermostats to conserve natural gas.

Supplies were strained due to high demand from home heaters and from a fire at a natural gas compressor station in Michigan, officials said.

"This is not over until noon tomorrow. And we are asking people to continue to keep the thermostat down," Michigan Governor Whitmer said.

General Motors and Fiat Chrysler suspended or curtailed operations at more than a dozen facilities in Michigan to conserve natural gas, the companies said.

City crews braved sub-zero weather to repair a number of frozen water main breaks that plagued Motor City neighbourhoods.

Chicago reported 22 broken water mains, 16 of which had already been repaired.

America's northern neighbour Canada was also contending with extreme cold, with frozen water pipes, snarled travel on a major waterway, and temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.

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Japan is in the grip of an elderly crime wave - the proportion of crimes committed by people over the age of 65 has been steadily increasing for 20 years. The BBC's Ed Butler asks why.

At a halfway house in Hiroshima - for criminals who are being released from jail back into the community - 69-year-old Toshio Takata tells me he broke the law because he was poor. He wanted somewhere to live free of charge, even if it was behind bars.

"I reached pension age and then I ran out of money. So it occurred to me - perhaps I could live for free if I lived in jail," he says.

"So I took a bicycle and rode it to the police station and told the guy there: 'Look, I took this.'"

The plan worked. This was Toshio's first offence, committed when he was 62, but Japanese courts treat petty theft seriously, so it was enough to get him a one-year sentence.

Small, slender, and with a tendency to giggle, Toshio looks nothing like a habitual criminal, much less someone who'd threaten women with knives. But after he was released from his first sentence, that's exactly what he did.

"I went to a park and just threatened them. I wasn't intending to do any harm. I just showed the knife to them hoping one of them would call the police. One did."
Image caption Toshio displays his own drawings in his cell

Altogether, Toshio has spent half of the last eight years in jail.

I ask him if he likes being in prison, and he points out an additional financial upside - his pension continues to be paid even while he's inside.

"It's not that I like it but I can stay there for free," he says. "And when I get out I have saved some money. So it is not that painful."

Toshio represents a striking trend in Japanese crime. In a remarkably law-abiding society, a rapidly growing proportion of crimes is carried about by over-65s. In 1997 this age group accounted for about one in 20 convictions but 20 years later the figure had grown to more than one in five - a rate that far outstrips the growth of the over-65s as a proportion of the population (though they now make up more than a quarter of the total).

And like Toshio, many of these elderly lawbreakers are repeat offenders. Of the 2,500 over-65s convicted in 2016, more than a third had more than five previous convictions.

Another example is Keiko (not her real name). Seventy years old, small, and neatly presented, she also tells me that it was poverty that was her undoing.

"I couldn't get along with my husband. I had nowhere to live and no place to stay. So it became my only choice: to steal," she says. "Even women in their 80s who can't properly walk are committing crime. It's because they can't find food, money."

We spoke some months ago in an ex-offender's hostel. I've been told she's since been re-arrested, and is now serving another jail-term for shoplifting.
Find out more

Japan's Elderly Crime Wave can be heard on Assignment on the BBC World Service from Thursday 31 January - click here for transmission times

Or listen now online

Theft, principally shoplifting, is overwhelmingly the biggest crime committed by elderly offenders. They mostly steal food worth less than 3,000 yen (£20) from a shop they visit regularly.

Michael Newman, an Australian-born demographer with the Tokyo-based research house, Custom Products Research Group points out that the "measly" basic state pension in Japan is very hard to live on.

In a paper published in 2016 he calculates that the costs of rent, food and healthcare alone will leave recipients in debt if they have no other income - and that's before they've paid for heating or clothes. In the past it was traditional for children to look after their parents, but in the provinces a lack of economic opportunities has led many younger people to move away, leaving their parents to fend for themselves.

"The pensioners don't want to be a burden to their children, and feel that if they can't survive on the state pension then pretty much the only way not to be a burden is to shuffle themselves away into prison," he says.

The repeat offending is a way "to get back into prison" where there are three square meals a day and no bills, he says.

"It's almost as though you're rolled out, so you roll yourself back in."

Newman points out that suicide is also becoming more common among the elderly - another way for them to fulfil what he they may regard as "their duty to bow out".

The director of "With Hiroshima", the rehabilitation centre where I met Toshio Takata, also thinks changes in Japanese families have contributed to the elderly crime wave, but he emphasises the psychological consequences not the financial ones.

"Ultimately the relationship among people has changed. People have become more isolated. They don't find a place to be in this society. They cannot put up with their loneliness," says Kanichi Yamada, an 85-year-old who as a child was pulled out of the rubble of his home when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

"Among the elderly who commit crimes a number have this turning point in their middle life. There is some trigger. They lose a wife or children and they just can't cope with that... Usually people don't commit crime if they have people to look after them and provide them with support."

Toshio's story about being driven to crime as a result of poverty is just an "excuse", Kanichi Yamada suggests. The core of the problem is his loneliness. And one factor that may have prompted him to reoffend, he speculates, was the promise of company in jail.

It's true that Toshio is alone in the world. His parents are dead, and he has lost contact with two older brothers, who don't answer his calls. He has also lost contact with his two ex-wives, both of whom he divorced, and his three children.
Image caption Toshio is a keen painter

I ask him if he thinks things would have turned out differently if he'd had a wife and family. He says they would.

"If they had been around to support me I wouldn't have done this," he says.

Michael Newman has watched as the Japanese government has expanded prison capacity, and recruited additional female prison guards (the number of elderly women criminals is rising particularly fast, though from a low base). He's also noted the steeply rising bill for medical treatment of people in prison.

There have been other changes too, as I see for myself at a prison in Fuchu, outside Tokyo, where nearly a third of the inmates are now over 60.

There's a lot of marching inside Japanese prisons - marching and shouting. But here the military drill seems to be getting harder to enforce. I see a couple of grey-haired inmates at the back of one platoon struggling to keep up. One is on crutches.

"We have had to improve the facilities here," Masatsugu Yazawa, the prison's head of education tells me. "We've put in handrails, special toilets. There are classes for older offenders."

He takes me to watch one of them. It begins with a karaoke rendition of a popular song, The Reason I was Born, all about the meaning of life. The inmates are encouraged to sing along. Some look quite moved.

"We sing to show them that the real life is outside prison, and that happiness is there," Yazawa says. "But still they think the life in prison is better and many come back."

Michael Newman argues that it would be far better - and much cheaper - to look after the elderly without the expense of court proceedings and incarceration.

"We actually costed a model to build an industrial complex retirement village where people would forfeit half their pension but get free food, free board and healthcare and so on, and get to play karaoke or gate-ball with the other residents and have a relative amount of freedom. It would cost way less than what the government's spending at the moment," he says.

But he also suggests that the tendency for Japanese courts to hand down custodial sentences for petty theft "is slightly bizarre, in terms of the punishment actually fitting the crime".

"The theft of a 200-yen (£1.40) sandwich could lead to an 8.4m-yen (£580,000) tax bill to provide for a two-year sentence," he writes in his 2016 report.

That may be a hypothetical example, but I met one elderly jailbird whose experience was almost identical. He'd been given a two-year jail term for only his second offence: stealing a bottle of peppers worth £2.50.

And I heard from Morio Mochizuki, who provides security for some 3,000 retail outlets in Japan, that if anything the courts are getting tougher on shoplifters.

"Even if they only stole one piece of bread," says Masayuki Sho of Japan's Prison Service, "it was decided at trial that it is appropriate for them to go to prison, therefore we need to teach them the way: how to live in society without committing crime."

I don't know whether the prison service has taught Toshio Takata this lesson, but when I ask him if he is already planning his next crime, he denies it.

"No, actually this is it," he says.

"I don't want to do this again, and I will soon be 70 and I will be old and frail the next time. I won't do that again."

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The police on Thursday docked a 50-year-old cleaner, Ayuba Apagu, at an Ikeja Chief Magistrates’ Court over an alleged theft of his employer’s generator wire valued N25,000.


The defendant, who resides at No. 4 Yaya Hassan Adeshina St., Idimu, Lagos, is facing two counts of willful damage and stealing.


The prosecutor, Insp Matthew Akhaluode, told the court that Apagu damaged a Mikano Generator valued at N2.5 million, belonging to his employer, a first generation bank located in Lagos.


He said that the defendant thereafter stole the generator terminal cable worth N25,000, a property of the bank.



Akhaluode added that the offences were committed on January 14 at the bank’s Oba-Akran Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos branch.


He explained that “the security guard of the bank caught the defendant when he was about to step out of the bank gate with generator copper wire tied under his clothes.”


He said that the offences contravened sections 287 and 350 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015, (Revised) which stipulate a seven-year jail term and two-year imprisonment if convicted.


However, the defendant pleaded not guilty and the Chief Magistrate, Mrs A.A. Adetunji, granted him bail in the sum of N50,000 with two sureties in like sum.


Adetunji also ordered the defendant to produce two sureties who must be gainfully employed and who should show evidence of two years’ tax payment to the Lagos State Government as part of the bail conditions.


The Magistrate adjourned the case until February 20 for hearing.

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A former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu has said President Mohammadu
Buhari will be concentrating on economic policies that will revamp the general economy, especially in the Southeast if re-elected.

Kalu said, with the framework that the All Progressive Congress-led Federal government are putting on ground, “the new thing you are going to be seeing is economic surplus for Nigerians.”


The former governor stated this while fielding questions from journalists in his country home, Igbere in Bende Local government Area of Abia State.


“I have no reason to fear that they will not conduct credible elections. Our presidential candidate is a man that if he loses the election, God forbid, he will give up.”




Kalu, who is running for Abia North senatorial seat on the platform of the All progressives Congress (APC), said since his commencement of campaigns across the zone, he had been able to market his party and the President successfully, given the feed backs he had received from his people.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has made another huge blunder in his campaign trail ahead of the 2019 election.

In a video currently making the rounds on social media, the president can be seen raising the hand of the wrong person as gubernatorial candidate of the party in Cross River.

Instead of raising the hand of the APC gubernatorial candidate, Senator John Owan-Enoh, Buhari instead raised the hand of acting Chairman of APC in the state, Sir John Ochala.
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Ayo Oke, former director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and his wife are no longer in the country.

TheCable reports that Oke, who was to be arraigned along with his wife by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday, left the country last week.

He is said to be in a European country “for medical reasons”.

There are speculations that he may not be around for the arraignment.

In April 2017, EFCC said it had discovered $43 million, £27,000 and N23 million stashed in a flat in Ikoyi after a tip-off from a whistle blower.

Following reports that the monies belonged to the NIA, we subsequently reported that the agency had collected $289,202,382 in cash for special operations from the account of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in February 2015.

NIA said the funds were part of “covert intelligence operations” but there was public outcry that it was a case of looting.

A three-man panel headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo indicted Oke and recommended his dismissal, which was effected in October same year.

On January 20, 2019, Osinbajo said criminal allegations would be filed against Oke and Babachir Lawal, former secretary to the government of the federation, following a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari.

Sources in the intelligence community revealed that subjecting Oke to open trial might compromise the nation’s security operations.

“Most of the projects financed by NIA from the funds are aimed at gathering intelligence and these things are usually done through cash transactions. Government might have succumbed to public sentiments to treat it as a crime, but there will be dire consequences for the nation’s security operations,” an NIA operative said.
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A 12-man Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, team has met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo following the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, according to The Nation.

The meeting was to reach resolution on the row over the CJN’s suspension.

The meeting which was held at the Presidential Villa was to seek a “soft landing” for the CJN.

Onnoghen is expected to resign in what the newspaper described as a “win-win” situation.

There is also a six-point terms of resolution to be delivered to the suspended CJN through his confidants, relatives and friends, who will be expected to persuade him to quit, according to the newspaper.

The NBA team was led by its National President Paul Usoro (SAN) and two former Presidents and they met with Osinbajo on Sunday night till the wee hours of Monday in a frank session.

Also at the meeting were senior lawyers, including ex-NBA President A, B. Mahmood (SAN), Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) and others.

A source in NBA, who spoke in confidence, told the newspaper, “I am aware that 12 of our leaders met with the Vice President, who is a senior member of the bar, on how to find a lasting solution to the crisis in the Judiciary. Some of them have briefed us that they went to the Villa to meet the VP.

“The meeting reviewed the issues which led to the suspension of Onnoghen, including the allegations against the CJN, the filing of charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, restraining orders by some courts and the ex parte order by the CCT.

“Our leaders restated the fact that they disagreed on the procedure adopted by the government in handling, Onnoghen matter. They virtually repeated the case presented at the CCT since some of them are Onnoghen’s lawyers. But they said the National Judicial Council (NJC) ought to have handled the matter.

“They also faulted the government for allegedly trying to desecrate the Judiciary since Onnoghen symbolises the highest authority in this arm of government.

“At the end of the day, they sought for soft landing for the CJN who has no immunity under the 1999 Constitution.

“They also explained that it was wrong for the Acting CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to have made himself available for inauguration when a ruling of the Court of Appeal was being awaited.”

Responding to a question, the source said: “Well, we were told the VP who was with some unnamed people , accorded the NBA team utmost respect. They said he listened to them and assured them that President Muhammadu Buhari or himself will never do anything to destroy the Judiciary.

“The legal and moral burden on Onnoghen were mutually discussed at the session by both the NBA and the government team. It dawned on everybody from NBA that the minimum the government will accept is the resignation of Onnoghen.

“The NBA however sought a dignified exit for Onnoghen through either resignation or retirement without trial. They proposed that the Acting CJN should also proceed on retirement.”

The VP is said to have assured the NBA team that he will convey their requests to the government.

The newspaper put the terms discussed by NBA at the session as follows:

CJN to resign or retire without coercion;

Govt to withdraw all charges against Onnoghen.

No molestation of CJN under any guise;

Acting CJN should quit.

NBA team to prevail on relatives, friends to persuade Justice Onnoghen to resign.

Consensus on the need to clean up the Judiciary (long term measure).

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 KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Mariah Carey took the stage in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to become the highest profile international artist to perform in the Kingdom since the easing of restrictions on entertainment.

"I'm so happy to see you guys all together tonight," the superstar told an exuberant crowd at the Bay La Sun resort in King Abdullah Economic City.



She then launched into a string of her hits including "Love Takes Time," and "Make it Happen."

Wearing a full length black sequined dress, Carey dedicated the song "Always Be My Baby," to the crowd.

Fans flocked to the concert to see Carey become the first female international artist to perform in the Kingdom since social reforms removed restrictions on entertainment and segregation of the sexes.

Ahead of her performance, fans told Arab News of their excitement at seeing the star on stage.

Faisal Mulla, 21, said it was his first time seeing a concert in the Kingdom.

“I’d just like to enjoy it as much as I can,” he told Arab News as he waited excitedly outside the venue.

Hundreds gathered at the event before she arrived and the mood was joyful and full of anticipation. The crowd included a mix of Saudis and foreigners, with quite a few in their 40s and above. For many it was their first concert experience.

When Carey performed one of her classic hits "Fantasy" the crowd erupted, singing along. The mixed crowd cheered and danced with many holding their smartphones in the air.

“I came to encourage more artists to come to Saudi Arabia and celebrate," said 22 year-old Hamza Gamaraldin. "We’re all big fans of pop music and as we’re huge fans of her music, I came to support her too.”

“She’s a legend. We love Mariah and we thank her for coming to Saudi! I feel good and more encouraged about the future of Saudi Arabia, I’m encouraging it to be more improved and more open to foreigners.”

Earlier, Carey said her concert was a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation.

"Presented with the offer to perform for an international and mixed gender audience in Saudi Arabia, Mariah accepted the opportunity as a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation," Carey's publicists told The Associated Press.

"As the first female international artist to perform in Saudi Arabia, Mariah recognizes the cultural significance of this event and will continue to support global efforts towards equality for all," the publicists added.

DJ Dash warmed up the crowd before Carey took to the stage while Dutch DJ Tiesto was set to perform after Carey had finished.

Ahmad, a 29 year old Lebanese man who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, said that he was attending to see DJ Tiesto rather than Mariah Carey, and that “it's a great performance so far, it's just nice to see in Saudi.”

He added that it is the first time he has seen “something like this. I hope she comes again, and other artists.”

Carey's concert is taking place at the Kingdom's first major international golf tournament. Part of the European Tour, the inaugural Saudi International, powered by SBIA, has drawn several of golf's biggest stars.

Ticket prices ranged from SR295 for the grandstand to almost SR800 for the "golden circle."
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DEAD SEA, JORDAN: Top diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan concluded talks on Thursday aimed at coordinating policy on the multiple conflicts gripping the region.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the ministers “exchanged views on regional issues and ways of cooperation to overcome regional crises," without providing additional details.

The meeting at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center on the Dead Sea also covered the goal of achieving "security and stability in the interest of Arab benefit."

The six-hour talks were “positive, constructive, and allowed a wide dialogue with an open agenda on the developments in the region and ways to face common challenges and enhance cooperation and coordination to serve Arab issues and interests,” Safadi said.

He described the meetings as a "consultation between brothers and friends.”

The talks were attended by Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, along with foreign ministers from the other countries, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The talks came just two weeks before a planned US-Polish conference on the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the conference will look at "making sure Iran is not a destabilizing influence", although a senior US official has insisted it is "not an anti-Iran meeting."

The Dead Sea meeting also came amid debate over the return of Syria to the Arab League, which suspended Damascus's membership in November 2011 as President Bashar Al-Assad has emerged victorious from nearly eight years of deadly conflict.

Several Arab states, including Lebanon and Tunisia, have called for Syria's return.

In December, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir made the first visit to Damascus by an Arab leader since 2011, and the UAE reopened its embassy.
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Rotimi Amaechi, the director general of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCPCO), has challenged Peter Obi, vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to a public debate.

Speaking in Kano on Thursday, Amaechi said Peter Obi lied about infrastructure and transportation, while fielding questions from Kadaria Ahmed on the presidential town hall-style debate.

“I need to address some important issues, I’m addressing Nigerians, not just Kano indigenes; I speak today as a Catholic Christian. I speak with responsibility as a former governor of Rivers state, and former chairman of the governors’ forum.

“I have told my friend and my former deputy, his excellency Peter Obi, that the moment you climb the post of governor, you must deal with facts and figures, you must not lie to the people lead.”

Amaechi said Peter Obi lied by saying that former president Goodluck Jonathan had released money for all the rail projects completed by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

“It is not correct from what my friend and former colleague said that the former government of president Goodluck Jonathan had paid all the money for the railway, before we came. It is not correct,” Amaechi said.

“If they had paid all the money the contractors would have completed the job, why didn’t they complete it in their regime? We are looking for $500 million to complete all the airports, it is not correct that they had finished payment for the Abuja-Kaduna rail.

“As a former governor and a vice-presidential candidate, we expect that Peter must work with figures, he could have come to my office and ask for those figures, we would have given to him.

“He is also not correct that the Lagos-Ibadan was also there. We had to borrow money to fix the Lagos-Ibadan, there is a need for them not to deceive Nigerians. That project was initiated by us, paid for through the loan we got from China Exim bank.

“So the statement yesterday by my friend, governor Peter Obi is not correct, and if he wants it, I am ready to open a debate with him, with facts and figures and documents to show that he is not correct.

“I am open for a debate tomorrow morning; anytime any day. I am open for a debate on Sunday, he and I are Catholics, in the church, let him tell me where he’ll worship, I’d worship there, and let us open the debate on whether he is right or wrong.”

He said it important to tell Nigerians the truth, and not distort reality.
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ABU DHABI: Asian Cup hosts the UAE have protested the eligibility of two Qatari players on the eve of Qatar's appearance in Friday's final against Japan.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed to AFP on Thursday that it was investigating the case brought by the Emirati football association against the 2022 World Cup hosts.
The UAE's decision to appeal to organizers comes after Qatar thrashed the hosts 4-0 in a stormy semifinal.
According to media reports, the players in question are striker Almoez Ali, who has scored a record-equalling eight goals at the tournament, and defender Bassam Al-Rawi.
Ali, 22, is of Sudanese descent, while 21-year-old Al-Rawi was born in Iraq.
"The Asian Football Confederation has received a protest from the UAE FA regarding the eligibility of two Qatar players," an AFC spokesman told AFP.
"This protest will now be reviewed in line with the AFC regulations."
Qatar could potentially have to forfeit the match and be ordered to pay a fine, under the AFC's Disciplinary and Ethics Code.
The AFC also has the power to exclude teams from a future competition if the ineligibility is discovered after a tournament, the document says.
Their Spanish coach Feliz Sanchez insisted there was no issue.
"I'm not concerned at all," shrugged the Spaniard, after AFC moderators had tried in vain to block press conference questions on the issue.
"All the players are working with us, so no worries.
"We're very isolated (at the hotel) and we're not looking for any outside discussion," he added. "This team doesn't need any extra motivation — to play an Asian Cup final is enough motivation."
Iran made a similar protest against an Iraqi player they claimed was ineligible at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, which was rejected by the AFC.
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Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state said from the information he received, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has accepted the list of APC candidates from Zamfara state.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Yari said the electoral body has complied with the state’s High Court order asking the INEC to accept the APC’s candidates and barring the national secretariat from substituting the names of the candidates that won the primaries conducted on the 7th of October 2018.

He said the order was served to the national secretariat adding that INEC and the party have complied with the court order. He said the APC would fully participate in the forthcoming general elections.

“As of today (Thursday), from the information we received, the Independent National Electoral Commission has accepted our candidates as ordered by the court”

“It was really a serious legal battle and I think it is over now with the acceptance of our candidates and we are grateful to the party stalwarts for the fact that despite the crisis no member of the party defected because they believed in the struggle and they have understood that it is the test of time,” he added.

He said vigorous electioneering campaign would commence on Monday as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari who will be visiting the state on campaign tour leaves the state on Sunday.


He said they know that some of the defendants might appeal the case and if they did that they would follow the case up to whatever level of jurisdiction urging the party faithful to remain calm as they would emerge victorious at the polls.

“There is no court order directing, the party or INEC to do one thing or the other apart from the one issued by the states’ high court and we are highly grateful for that,” he said.
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 The All Progressives Congress, APC and names of its candidates are missing in the list of political parties and candidates participating in the 2019 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers state.

APC is missing in the list published at the INEC Secretariat on Aba road.

This is in line with the Judgement of Justice James Omotosho who issued a restraining order on INEC to drop the APC from participating in the elections in Rivers state.


Two weeks ago, INEC also failed to publish the names of APC candidates for the National Assembly elections in Rivers state.

Details shortly…
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