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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Merkel defends Ukraine arms stance in face of U.S. criticism

By Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin
MUNICH (Reuters) - Germany's Angela Merkel
said on Saturday that sending arms to help
Ukraine fight pro-Russian separatists would not
solve the crisis there, drawing sharp rebukes
from U.S. politicians who accused Berlin of
turning its back on an ally in distress.
The heated exchanges at a security conference
in Munich pointed to cracks in the transatlantic
consensus on how to confront Russian President
Vladimir Putin over a deepening conflict in
eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 5,000.
Ukraine's military said on Saturday that pro-
Russian separatists had stepped up shelling of
government forces and appeared to be
amassing troops for new offensives on the key
railway town of Debaltseve and the coastal city
of Mariupol.
The rebel offensive has triggered a flurry of
shuttle diplomacy, with Merkel and French
President Francois Hollande jetting to Moscow on
Friday to try to convince Putin to do a peace
But European officials acknowledge that the
Russian leader may have little incentive to
negotiate now, preferring to sit back and watch
as separatists seize more territory, undermining
a ceasefire agreement clinched last September
in the Belarus capital Minsk.
The German leader conceded in Munich, after
returning home from Moscow in the dead of
night, that it was uncertain whether a Franco-
German peace plan presented to Kiev and
Moscow this week would succeed.
But she flatly rejected the notion that sending
weapons to Kiev, an idea being considered by
U.S. President Barack Obama, would help
resolve the conflict.
"I understand the debate but I believe that
more weapons will not lead to the progress
Ukraine needs. I really doubt that," said the
conservative German leader, who has led
western efforts to try to resolve the crisis
through negotiations and will travel to
Washington on Sunday for talks with Obama.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the
same conference, tried to play down differences
with Europe, saying he and Obama agreed that
no efforts should be spared to resolve the
conflict peacefully.
But he made clear that Washington stood ready
to provide Ukraine with the means to defend
itself, saying: "Too many times President Putin
has promised peace and delivered tanks, troops
and weapons."
U.S. senators Lyndsey Graham and John McCain,
both Republican hawks, were withering in their
criticism of the German stance, which is
supported by other big European countries like
"At the end of the day, to our European friends,
this is not working," Graham said of Merkel's
diplomatic efforts. "You can go to Moscow until
you turn blue in the face. Stand up to what is
clearly a lie and a danger."
McCain added: "The Ukrainians are being
slaughtered and we're sending them blankets
and meals. Blankets don't do well against
Russian tanks."
Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in
March last year and evidence that it is
supporting separatist forces in the east of the
country, which the Kremlin denies, have driven
Moscow's relations with the West to a post-Cold
War low.
The EU and United States have imposed a series
of sanctions against Moscow that have
contributed to a sharp downturn in the Russian
Merkel and her allies in Europe want to continue
to punish Russia by tightening the economic
screws. Obama faces pressure from members of
Congress to do more.
In an emotional plea for support in Munich,
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko listed the
number of troops and civilians that had been
killed since the crisis started and held up red
passports of Russian soldiers he said had been
found fighting in Ukraine.
"We are an independent nation and we have a
right to defend our people," he said, calling for
political, economic and military support. Calling
himself a "president of peace", he made clear
that Kiev only wanted defensive weaponry.
He received strong backing from Lithuanian
President Dalia Grybauskaite, who said Ukraine
should be supported "with a

As Baghdad lifts curfew, bombs are reminder of country at war

By Saif Hameed and Stephen Kalin
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five blasts across Baghdad
on Saturday tempered Iraqis' anticipation of a
more relaxed and accessible capital as the
government prepared to lift a night-time curfew
that has kept the city on a war-time footing for
more than a decade.
At least 37 people, mostly civilians, were killed in
the explosions, security and medical sources
said, and dozens of others were wounded.
The attacks included a suicide bombing at a
restaurant in a Shi'ite neighborhood and
improvised explosives devices planted in a
bustling central market district, underscoring the
peril ordinary people still face from militant
violence in Baghdad.
Bombings have waned and waxed for nearly 12
years, but they have not ceased since the U.S.-
led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Ending the curfew and "demilitarizing" several
neighborhoods is part of a campaign to
normalize life in Iraq's war-blighted capital.
Officials hope to demonstrate that Baghdad no
longer faces a threat from Islamic State, the
militant group which seized large areas of
northern and western Iraq last year.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate
Shi'ite Islamist who took office in September,
has struggled to develop a broad support base.
Improving quality of life in Baghdad could
represent a small but tangible achievement as
he seeks to turn back the tide against Islamic
State while mending rifts between polarized
sectarian communities that have stoked
"This will benefit us greatly, because we have
felt imprisoned for the past 11 years," a shopper
in the central Karrada district said hours before
the curfew was set to end.
"This is the bravest decision that Haider al-Abadi
has taken. This shows that the country is
somewhat safe."
Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General
Saad Maan said he did not believe Saturday's
explosions were linked to the government's
decision this week to lift the midnight (1600 ET)
to 5 a.m. curfew on Saturday at midnight.
Security forces pressed ahead with plans to end
the curfew, setting up mobile checkpoints to
forestall bombings and criminal acts like
kidnapping, which has became more common
since last summer.
The curfew has become a fact of life in Baghdad,
as have the towering gray blast walls around
many buildings and checkpoints that have
curtailed commercial and civilian movement.
Residents often complain of having to wait in
long lines of traffic at checkpoints on major
roads and at the entrances to many
neighborhoods, while politicians' convoys speed
through the city with armed guards.
Last week's decisions mean heavy weapons will
be banned from specified districts and some
checkpoints closed.
Residents awaited the end of the curfew on
Saturday evening with a mixture of anticipation
and fear.
The bombings earlier in the day and in recent
weeks reinforced fears among some that the
end of the curfew would spark more attacks.
"You can see that things are not as good as
before. Bombings are coming back," said Anwar,
25, a shop owner in Shourja, near the site of
Saturday's market blast.
A former soldier in the eastern Adhamiya district
criticized the decision to lift the curfew, saying it
would give criminal gangs more freedom to
"They couldn't control them at day, what about
night-time?" he said, declining to be named.
Others, though still cautious, were taking
advantage of having one of Baghdad's many
restraints eliminated.
"Removing the curfew is bad because it strains
the security forces and we have to be more
alert now," said a volunteer paramilitary fighter
outside a night club on the banks of the Tigris
"I'm taking my leave now so I come here for a
few hours of relief and to forget that I have to
go to work again."
(Additional reporting by Ned Parker; Editing by
Gareth Jones and David Gregorio)

Islamic State 'sentenced' U.S. hostage to death last year: activist

By Alistair Bell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The young American
hostage who Islamic State says was killed in a
Jordanian air strike was condemned to death by
the militant group last year, according to an
American Muslim activist.
Islamic State seized aid worker Kayla Mueller in
2013 in northern Syria and initially gave her a
"life sentence" in retaliation for the jailing in
Texas of a Pakistani woman whose case is a
well-known cause among Islamist militants, said
activist Mauri Saalakhan, who leads a U.S.
campaign to free the Pakistani.
The militant group said on Friday that Mueller, a
26-year-old from Prescott, Arizona, was killed
when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building
where she was being held. Jordan expressed
doubt about the claim and U.S. authorities said
they could not confirm it.
Mueller's family had long asked U.S. officials,
aid groups and media outlets, including Reuters,
not to use her name for fear the publicity could
induce Islamic State to harm her.
After Islamic State's claim on Friday, Mueller's
parents issued a public statement on Friday
night, identifying their daughter by name and
saying they remained hopeful she was still alive.
Mueller's family has not given details of any
communication with the militant group and
Saalakhan's information could not be verified by
Saalakhan said that last summer, as Islamic
State extended its control over parts of Iraq and
Syria, the group threatened to kill Mueller.
Saalakhan first mentioned the "sentencing" of
Mueller in an open letter to the group he
released last year.
On July 12, militants told Mueller's family she
would be executed in 30 days if Pakistani
neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui were not released
or the American's family did not pay a ransom
of 5 million euros ($6.6 million), he said.
The information about the threats came from a
representative of Mueller's family, Saalakhan
Islamic State apparently did not carry out its
death sentence after Saalakhan and an Arizona
pastor wrote open letters to the group.
Siddiqui's family rejected Islamic State's attempt
to link the two cases and said it did not want
Mueller to suffer.
"I believe that the messages that went out after
that threat was conveyed, both from Aafia's
family and from us, I do believe those messages
made their way to ISIS," said Saalakhan.
Mueller's family had a communications pipeline
to the militant group, Saalakhan said, without
Siddiqui is serving 86 years in a prison medical
center in Texas. A jury convicted her in 2010 of
attempting to shoot and kill a group of FBI
agents, U.S. soldiers and interpreters who were
about to interrogate her in Afghanistan for
alleged links to al Qaeda.
The White House has refused to negotiate for
the release of hostages or pay ransoms
demanded by Islamic State.
Mueller was seized while leaving a Doctors
Without Borders hospital in the northern Syrian
city of Aleppo in August 2013. She had a record
of volunteering abroad and was moved by the
plight of civilians in Syria's civil war.
She had worked for a Turkish aid organization
on the Syrian border and volunteered for
schools and aid organizations abroad including
in both in the West Bank and Israel as well as in
Dharamsala, India, where she taught English to
Tibetan refugees.
(Reporting by Alistair Bell; Editing by Doina
Chiacu and Frances Kerry)

Jordan army planes bomb IS targets for third day

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan carried out a third
straight day of air strikes on Islamic State targets
on Saturday, it said, in response to the group's
killing of a captive Jordanian pilot.
“Sorties of air force fighters today bombed bases
of the Daesh terror gang,” state television said
in a bulletin, using a derogatory Arabic name for
the militants. It said some of the targets were in
the Syrian city of Raqqa but gave no other
Jordan began on Thursday what it called an
"earthshaking" response to the death of the
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by
Robin Pomeroy)

John Whitehead, former leader of Goldman Sachs, dies at 92

By Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - John Whitehead, a
former senior partner and co-chairman of
Goldman Sachs who helped make it a top-tier
Wall Street firm and led its international
expansion, has died, the investment bank said
on Saturday. He was 92.
Whitehead joined Goldman Sachs in 1947 and
worked his way to the highest rung of its
corporate ladder before leaving after 38 years to
become a deputy secretary of state under U.S.
President Ronald Reagan.
He was a chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank
of New York and a member of the board of the
New York Stock Exchange. Active in political and
philanthropic circles, he also served as chairman
of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp after
the World Trade Center was destroyed during
the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"We grieve the loss of John Whitehead and
honor his achievements and contributions in
service to his country and Goldman Sachs,"
Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein said in
a statement.
"He was a man of enormous grace and integrity
and his legacy will endure in the institutions he
led and in the lives of those he cared for and
Whitehead joined Goldman with a starting salary
of $3,600 a year when it had fewer than 300
employees and its service offerings were almost
exclusively in commercial paper. The firm today
has 34,000 workers and $869 billion in assets.
Over time he identified new business lines
including such things as mergers and
acquisitions and initial public offerings, according
to a biographical account provided to Harvard
Business School.
"I remember assigning one young fellow, who
later became an important partner, to keep
records about companies that might want to
merge with a larger company or might be
interested in acquisitions," he said.
"And then we tried to match them up. We were
doing this before anybody thought that there
might be business for investment bankers in the
merger field."
Goldman pioneered two other innovation in
investment banking: the idea of soliciting
business and the handling of public offerings,
Whitehead said in the Harvard biography.
He was born in Evanston, Illinois on April 2,
1922 and grew up in Montclair, New Jersey,
during the Great Depression, when he
remembered "scrimping and saving" and eating
a lot of macaroni and cheese, fish cakes, but
not much meat, he said in the Harvard account.
He attended Haverford College outside
Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Navy during
World War Two before going to business school.
(Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances

Jega: why we postponed the Feb 2015 elections

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said
that there were `new developments’ that
needed to be addressed before the conduct of
the 2015 general elections.
Jega made the remark on Saturday in Abuja
when he and other officials of the commission
met with representatives of the registered
political parties at the commission’s
He said that the inputs of the leaders of the
political parties were important in addressing
the new developments.
Meanwhile there are strong indications that the
presidential and National Assembly elections
originally scheduled for 14 February may have
been rescheduled to March 28 while the
governorship and state houses of assembly
elections earlier fixed for 28 February may now
hold on 11 April, all of these subject to final
ratification of the meeting between INEC
National Commissioners and State Resident
Electoral Commissioners currently ongoing.
The decision to reschedule the elections may
have come out of the meeting of the electoral
commission, political parties and civil society
Sixteen political parties favoured the
rescheduling of the elections while nine were
Jega said that though the commission had its
regular meeting with the political parties last
week; it now became necessary to hold another
meeting before the commencement of the 2015
“The main purpose of this meeting is to update
you on the commission’s preparation for the
2015 elections, draw your attention to some new
developments and get your inputs as to how the
commission should address them.
“This meeting will raise the new developments
and get your inputs as to how the commission
should address the challenges,’’ he said.
In his remark, Dr Yunusa Tanko, the Chairman,
Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said the
council had been advocating that it should be
considered whenever the commission was taking
any decision.
“The council has right from onset been making
tremendous contributions to our democracy.
“But unfortunately, the issues that all of us
have been raising long before now have never
been considered or put into perspective,’’ Tanko
He urged the leaders of the political parties who
attended the meeting to put Nigeria first in their
responses to the new developments mentioned
by Jega.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that
officials of the commission and the
representatives of the registered political parties
later went into a closed door meeting.
Meanwhile the Chairman of the Independent
National Electoral Commission, also met with 25
civil society groups in Abuja Saturday informing
them that all security agencies in the country
have indicated to him, in writing, that they are
not available to support the elections planned
for February 14
Mr. Jega who had an earlier meeting with
political parties also rounded up another
meeting with his 36 resident commissioners now
on what amounted to an INEC position on
whether to postpone or go ahead with the
Insiders at the meeting said “its pretty much a
done deal at this point that the lections will be
postponed” and many of the attendees said they
were shocked and depressed at what they
characterize as “a clear case of political
blackmail of the state against civil society.”
Jibrin Ibrahim, a leading African election expert
and senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy
and Development, CDD, in Abuja, who was at
the meeting, said Mr. Jega told the meeting that
security operatives from all the agencies told
INEC that they were commencing a six weeks
special operations against Boko Haram
insurgents in the north eastern corridors of the
country and would rather not be distracted by
the elections.
Mr. Jega announced that the security forces also
said the operations are due to commence on
February 14, the date INEC had planned for the
presidential and other federal elections.
This decision, by the security forces, successfully
renders INEC’s hitherto insistence to go ahead

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

PDP urges voters to reject Buhari for shunning debate

Abuja - The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
has called on Nigerians not to vote for the
presidential candidate of the All
Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu
Buhari, for refusing to participate in the live
radio and television debates organised for
presidential candidates, reports Tribune.
The party described Buhari’s contempt for
debates and their organisers as despicable

Femi Fani-Kayode, the Director of Publicity
of the party’s Presidential Campaign
Organization, said Buhari;s refusal to
participate in the debates clearly shows that
he is incapable of engaging in rigorous live
television debates on the issues of
He said Buhari’s refusal speaks of his
intellectual laziness and loss of touch with
contemporary issues of development and
He urged the electorates to vote against
Buhari as a recompense for his action.

Schools to remain open during election season

Abuja - The federal government has
directed that all schools from the primary
to the tertiary level should remain open
during the general elections,

The decision was reached at a meeting
between the federal government and the 36
states Commissioners for Education,
including the F.C.T. Education Secretary.
The meeting presided over by the Minister
of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, agreed
that no holiday should be declared for the
elections considering the fact that schools
have lost much ground following their
closure to prevent the spread of the Ebola
Virus Disease (EVD).

Shekarau promised write the state
governments to ensure that adequate
security are provided for boarding
institutions marked as polling units for the

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Relationship Advice: 10 Traits of Miserable Couples

If you’ve been trying to figure out the
components of a winning relationship, you
aren’t alone! Researchers, philosophers, and
lovers throughout time have been seeking the
secret formula.
In an effort to help you identify what to look
for in a relationship, we’ve compiled 10
problems that often pop up and cause major
problems. Also included are a number of
recent studies that you can read for more
On a mobile device? Feel free to flip through
the slideshow and then scroll down the page
for more details:
You’re Bored
The journal Psychological Science published a
study that revealed couples who engaged in
interesting activities (both together and apart)
were much happier than those who were
You Fight a Lot, But Never Did in the
Beginning of Your Relationship
If you find yourself fighting a lot, you may
want to examine the history of your
relationships. A Florida State study discovered
that those who fought during the first year or
two, yet were able to work out their
differences, tend to be happy as the years
Your Relationship Is Full of Jealousy
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but where
jealous or indifference reins so does
relationship failure. A study published in The
Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology found that celebrating your
partner’s achievements leads to much higher
levels of relationship satisfaction.
You Never Have Sex
Statistics show that if you can increase your
sexual activity from once per month to once
per week, your enjoyment of life and your
relationship will increase exponentially.
You’re Straight
A 5,000 person study at the Open University
of Britain found that gay couples tend to be
happier and more connected.This doesn’t
mean your relationship is doomed if you’re
straight, but it does point to the importance
of shared interests and open communication.
Have Lots of Divorced or Unhappily Married
According to a Brown University study, you
are 75 percent more likely to divorce if you
have a friend who is divorced.
You’re Both Sleep Deficient
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may
be setting yourself up for failure. A University
of Arizona study , conducted in 2009,
discovered that men feel much better about
their relationships when they get enough
sleep. Women also reported a correlations
between lack of sleep and problems.
Beautiful Woman with Hot Man
Have you ever wondered why so many hot
women marry less-attractive men?
Interestingly enough, a recent study revealed
good looking women do better with men who
are considered less attractive. However, the
statistics didn’t look so hot when a good
looking man considered himself to be better
looking than his spouse.
Rushed into Sex and the Relationship
A Cornell University study suggests that
rushing into a relationship doesn’t do most
couples many favors. Researchers found a
positive correlation between waiting a month
to have sex and long-term relationship

Craig Lewis: The World’s First Heartless Human

Heart Stop Beating is the story of two
visionary Texas Heart Institute doctors, Dr.
Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier. Frustrated by
the often short lifespans and mulitple
complications of usual heart replacement
devices, the two  invented a two centrifugal
pump machine. Cohn and Frazier tested the
machine by removing the hearts of several
calf’s and replacing them with the device.
After much success it was time for human
The first patient would be Craig Lewis, was
55-year-old dying from amyloidosis, a disease
which causes a buildup of abnormal proteins.
The proteins clog the organs so much that
they stop working. Lewis’ heart was so
damaged, he only had 12 hours to live.
So, in March of 2011, the doctors successfully
replaced Lewis’ heart with the ‘continuous
flow’ device they developed, proving that life
was possible without a pulse or a heart beat–
essentially without a human heart.
Although Lewis died due to complications
from his disease, the heart pumps have yet
to wear out like traditional devices, the trade
off  is the loss of the familiar and elemental
sound of a beating human heart — a small
price for a working heart.