New Economic Sabotage Case Indicts Several Ex-Officials

first_imgFormer Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LRPC) Managing Director, Mr. T. Nelson Williams and ex-Commence Minister Miatta Beysolow are among several individuals indicted in a fraud scheme that allegedly deprived government of millions of United States dollars during the sale and distribution of the Japanese oil grant valued at US$13,083, 350 (the equivalent of one billion, one hundred million Japanese Yen) donated by the Japanese Government.The scheme involved 15,000 metric tons of petroleum products that were intended to help government in its economic and social development efforts, which prosecution put the total amount collected from the sale as up to US$5,764, 110.84.The products were donated under oil grant arrangement with a provision which was conveyed in an exchange of notes dated March 8, 2011, between the governments of Japan and Liberia.Mr. Steve Fiahn, former Director, Division of Price Analysis and Marketing at the Ministry of Commence (MOC), as well as, Mr. Aaron J. Wheagar, Deputy Manager for Operations and implementing person for the Japanese oil grant at the LPRC, and the Aminata & Sons Incorporated through its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Siaka Turay, were others also charged in the indictment by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County.The nine counts against the five defendants include economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and facilitation, and violation of the required Public Procurement Concession and Commission (PPCC) procedures and processes.However, one of the defendants, Aaron J. Wheagar, has been arrested and detained at the Monrovia Central Prison for his failure to secure a bond, while the other defendants are still at large.Lawyers representing the defendants were seen yesterday at the Temple of Justice trying to secure a single bond for all of the defendants to prevent the others from being arrested and detained.The indictment alleges that in August 2011, the defendants approved and implemented the determination and set up a fraudulent concessionary price of US$687.40 per metric ton for the monetization of the Japanese oil grant.The actual quantity of metric tons of the grant petroleum products, the document claims, should have been 12,404,040, which the defendants should have used to determine and set up the concessionary price to be US$831,811.24 for the sale and distribution of the products.But the defendants set up a fraudulent concessionary price of US$687.41 per metric ton, which they allegedly used in the monetization of the oil grant.“The defendants deprived the government of the amount of US$1,806, 811.14, which is the difference between the amounts of US$10,300, 988.14 that should have been deposited in the grant at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL),” court records claim.The defendants reportedly deposited the actual amount of US$8, 504, 177.00, at the CBL. “The defendants in their criminal efforts and schemes exercised unauthorized control over the difference thereby converting same to their use and benefits,” the indictment added.The Ministry of Commence, the document said, being the custodian of the oil grant and with responsibility to ensure the distribution and sale of the products, executed a scheme between the LPRC, MOC and Aminata & Sons without due regard to the PPCC bidding process.“They created and provided the opportunity for individuals and or business entities to exploit and abuse the distribution and sale of the oil grant. They also acted as individuals with criminal motive through a conspiracy scheme,” the indictment claims, adding “they are abusive and unmindful of their functionary duties to the government.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Much Ado About Nothing

first_imgHow much can you say about nothing?  Some people can say quite a lot.  One astrobiologist just wrote a large book about it: Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life by David Grinspoon (Harper Collins, 2003).    Larry R. Nittler reviewed this new book in the March 12 issue of Science.1  Nittler describes how interest in alien life fell into the “scientific sub-basements of ‘exobiology’ and radio searches for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)” after pictures of Mars in 1965 revealed disappointing deserts of lifelessness.  But thirty years later, three developments led to a resurgence of interest in alien life: (1) the discovery of extrasolar planets (see 07/21/2003 headline), (2) evidence for probable oceans under the ice of Europa (see 02/11/2002 headline), and (3) claims of fossil bacteria in a Martian meteorite (see 03/18/2002 and 05/15/2002 headlines).  NASA launched its Astrobiology Institute in 1998 (see 08/23/2001 headline), imbuing new respectability into the study of alien life.  Nittler explains, however, why astrobiology is essentially the science of nothing:Given the current surge in scientific attention to alien life, it is easy to think that recent developments constitute a revolution of sorts.  However, our actual knowledge of alien life remains the same as it has been for centuries and can be summarized by a single word: nothing.  Nonetheless, in Lonely Planets David Grinspoon provides a masterful synthesis of the history, science, philosophy, and even theological implications of extraterrestrial life.So what can be said about nothing to fill 460 pages?  Grinspoon divided the nothingness into three sections: history, science, and belief.  In the history section, he examined beliefs about alien life from Kepler to the present.  Nittler’s review points out that pessimism about alien life has been rare.  Up until the 1960s, for instance, most people believed the dark patches on Mars were signs of vegetation.  In the science section, Grinspoon “weaves a tale of cosmic evolution from the Big Bang through the formation of the solar system and the evolution of life on Earth,” Nittler says (see 07/15/2002 headline for more on Grinspoon’s beliefs).  The author “strenuously argues against” the Rare Earth hypothesis of Peter Ward and Robert Brownlee (see 12/19/2000 and 01/14/2003 headlines), preferring to trust in “the adaptability of life to different environments and especially the role life has played in shaping Earth’s unusual characteristics.”  As to this role, and its meaning for the definition of life,Grinspoon uses the Gaia hypothesis (that Earth can in some sense be considered a “super-organism” of interconnected biogeochemical feedback mechanisms) and complexity theory to argue for a more generous definition of habitable worlds.  He holds that a key characteristic of “living worlds” should be chemical disequilibrium, with large flows of energy and/or matter.  By these criteria , he suggests, we should also be searching for cloud creatures on Venus and sulfur-based critters on the volcanic Jovian moon Io.(For more on Gaia, see 12/18/2003 headline.)The third section of the book deals with beliefs about aliens, from UFOs to SETI to politics.  There is the ubiquitous Drake equation, speculation about the future of human evolution, and much more.  Given that most evolutionists dismiss claims of UFO abductions and conspiracy theories, Grinspoon is surprisingly open-minded about the nothing we know.  But the reviewer detects a little hypocrisy:His emphasis continues to be on keeping an open mind.  SETI assumes that aliens would continuously broadcast radio transmissions for thousands of years.  Anti-UFO skeptics argue that UFOs are not alien spacecraft, because “aliens just wouldn’t act that way.”  But both assumptions are based on preconceived notions of alien behavior , about which we actually know nothing.  (Grinspoon falls into his own trap as well, dismissing popular ideas about UFOs basically because they are so “B-movie.”)Grinspoon doesn’t think humans are intelligent yet.  He seems to measure intelligence in global terms, and so does Nittler.  Here is where politics enters the discussion about nothing, where it is difficult for either of them to know where rational discussion ends and wild speculation begins:The book becomes increasingly personal in the final chapters as Grinspoon delves deeper into more speculative ideas regarding spirituality and the nature of intelligence.  He muses that humans are not yet truly intelligent and that to become so will require much better collective behavior as a species.  He seems overly pessimistic in his assessment of our likelihood of becoming such a species, based on our propensity for perpetrating violence on one another.  I would argue that such developments as the global eradication of certain diseases and the advent of international courts to try war criminals paint a more optimistic picture than the examples he gives of SETI@home and world music.  The author closes with even wilder speculation regarding species immortality and machine civilizations.Nittler sees the author as a product of the 70s, considering Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan were “family friends” of the Grinspoons.  “This background clearly colors his thinking about his subject,” Nittler says, “and his optimism about the existence of alien life sometimes comes off as wishful thinking informed by too many Star Trek episodes.”  But overall, he compliments the book for its writing style, and the fact that Grinspoon tries to be clear about where the science leaves off and the “intellectually squishy natural philosophy” begins.  “In the end,” Nittler concludes on a happy note, “Lonely Planets is an entertaining and thought-provoking book about a great deal more than nothing.”1Narry R. Nittler, “Astrobiology: Looking for Life in Far Distant Places,” Science Volume 303, Number 5664, Issue of 12 Mar 2004, p. 1614.We didn’t say the book was about nothing: he did.  We didn’t say the book contained wild speculation: he did.  We didn’t say the author was selectively open-minded: he did.  We didn’t call it a “tale” of cosmic evolution: he did.  We didn’t use the phrases “intellectually squishy” and “wishful thinking” to describe Grinspoon’s ideas: he did.  Cloud creatures on Venus, sulfur critters on volcanic Io, machine civilizations, international courts as a measure of intelligence… good grief.  Yet Nittler calls this book a “masterful synthesis” of ideas on – well, nothing.    That makes Nittler a co-conspirator, an accessory to the crime of allowing stupid ideas to get good press in America’s premiere science journal.  If a creationist made claims on this level, they wouldn’t get past the National Enquirer.  The code of silence in the Darwin Party requires that none of the brethren are to be publicly humiliated.  Even if lightly tapped with padded gloves, they must be praised as defenders of the “tale of cosmic evolution.”    Don’t be fooled by the talk about “spirituality” and “theological implications” of finding alien life.  We know what they mean, and it’s not asking “what must I do to be saved?” (see 03/11/2004 headline).    Both men unfairly attack Kepler (see our online biography).  Nittler lets him get away with libel: “Grinspoon reminds us that Johannes Kepler was a “philosopher/freak who walked the fine line between genius and delusion.”  Speak for yourselves.  Both of you would do well to read the life and writings of the father of planetary science, and learn to respect his integrity and intelligence.  His wildest speculations were tame compared to these.(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

China-Australia travel boom: bonanza for AirAsia X

first_imgFrom its Malaysian hub, AirAsia X – the long-haul version of the short-haul carrier of the same name – has quietly developed a big so-called “transfer market” in the past three years to carry travel-hungry Chinese to Australia and New Zealand via Kuala Lumpur.Hub-and-spoke national carriers like Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines have been doing that for decades and now AirAsia X, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017, is starting to cash in on the unmet demand for travel from China to the south-west Pacific.That’s one of the major reasons AAX is asking for more capacity entitlements in the next Air Services Agreement between the Australian and Malaysian governments, which determines the number of weekly seats carriers from both countries may operate.Australia has been a gold mine for airlines from the USA to the Middle East cashing in on unmet demand for outbound travel from Down Under to the rest of the world.That’s working in reverse for AAX, which is tapping into the foreign travel boom emanating from China.In the past five years, AAX’s total number of seats to and from Australia has grown from around 30 per cent to 45 per cent of its total operations.At the same time, servicing the China boom now accounts for around 25 per cent of its seats in and out of Kuala Lumpur.Together those two markets are nearly three quarters of AirAsia X’s flying, presenting new travel possibilities for customers at both ends of the network.Importantly for Australia, China is about to overtake New Zealand as the country’s biggest source of foreign visitors. Already more than a million Chinese are heading to Australia each year.After cutting back on Australian services about two years ago, AAX is now pressing the Australian government for new capacity entitlements so it can increase services to its Australian destinations Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast.It also wants to use the Gold Coast, currently served 11 times week from Kuala Lumpur, to expand its services to New Zealand, following the introduction of Kuala Lumpur-Gold Coast-Auckland services in March this year.And it is looking to take advantage of an incentive scheme the Australian government introduced about 20 years ago, under which capacity restrictions are removed for any foreign airline flying to regional destinations outside of the four major cities, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.The airline’s chief commercial (marketing) officer, Arik De, told a recent aviation industry conference AAX was actively considering Canberra, Townsville and Cairns as new destinations and may return to Adelaide, which it abandoned in 2014.Singapore Airlines recently became the first foreign carrier to launch flights to the Australian and New Zealand national capitals, with four services a week from Singapore to Canberra and Wellington, beginning on September 20. Canberra has revamped its terminal facilities to encourage more foreign carriers to begin services.As well, AAX is keen to begin flights to the Queensland capital, Brisbane, which it has so far shunned in favour of the Gold Coast, 80 kilometres to the south-east.And the airline is examining the viability of a non-stop service between Kuala Lumpur and Auckland, after axing its first New Zealand destination, Christchurch, in 2012.”Just recently we did announce Melbourne back to double daily flights, Sydney back to double daily, Perth back to double daily, AirAsia X chief executive Ben Ismail told AirlineRatings.com.”And the biggest thing was the Gold Coast moving from daily to 11 times a week. “We may look at some routes where we will go to three a day. We’re not sure yet. That’s something that we’re analysing.”One of the problems outlined by Arik Do is that AAX can’t increase Melbourne, Sydney and Perth to triple-daily flights from Kuala Lumpur without exceeding the current government capacity limit.Ismail says Chinese demand for Australian holidays is one of the key considerations behind the need for more flights. “China is our second-biggest market in capacity and revenue to Australia and if we can connect those two it would be great,” he says. “And that’s what we’re doing. We fly to 18 Chinese destinations and that’s something we want to build on to connect. “We’ve seen a lot of (Chinese ) connections coming through. Predominantly, a lot of that traffic is going to Sydney, Gold Coast and Perth and there’s a lot of connections to Melbourne from the Chinese.” Even though flying via an intermediate stop increases the fare, Chinese heading Down Under are lapping up the cheaper prices a low-cost carrier can offer compared with full-service carriers. “I think the good thing is the price,” Ismail says. “There’s a lot of price sensitivity of what we offer in the market. It gives (Chinese heading for Australia) a lot of encouragement to go on us even with the one stop in Kuala Lumpur.”last_img read more

Gallery: South African rhythm in Soweto

first_imgCompiled and photographed by Bongani Nkosi The hearty rhythm of South African music and dance is best experienced on the streets of Soweto, the country’s largest and most famous township. The skilled, lithe movements of pantsula dancers, traditional tribal displays and impeccably timed brass band parades are just some of the attractions that are delighting streams of tourists and local spectators alike.Click on a thumbnail for a larger low-resolution image, or right-click on the link below each thumbnail to download a high-resolution image.   • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image  • Download high-resolution image MORE GALLERIESlast_img read more

South Africa’s national orders

first_imgNational orders are the highest awards that the country, through its president, can bestow on its citizens or eminent foreigners. They are usually presented on Freedom Day, 27 April.Evolution of the orders With the advent of democracy in South Africa, the country reviewed its national orders to better reflect the the spirit of a non-racial, non-sexist democracy where a culture of human rights prevails. In 1998, the Presidential Advisory Council on National Orders was tasked with revising the orders. Intensive consultations with academics and specialists were held, design proposals were invited, and – for the first set of three new national orders – those of Gold Mametja (see on the right below) were finally chosen.Recognition Six new orders have been created. The first set of three, established in 2002, are: the Order of Mapungubwe for exceptional achievement, the Order of the Baobab for distinguished service, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, for friendship shown to South Africa by foreign dignitaries or heads of state. The second set of three, first awarded in 2003, were created to recognise some of the extraordinary things done by ordinary South Africans, and include an order for achievement in democracy and nation building; an order for achievement in the creative and performing arts, journalism and sport; and a decoration for bravery. Order of the Companions of OR Tambo This Order is awarded to foreign heads of state and other eminent foreign persons for friendship to South Africa. The Order is awarded in three classes: gold, silver and bronze. The awards in the first two classes include four elements – a walking stick, a neck badge, a miniature and a lapel rosette – and in the third class, three elements: a neck badge, a miniature and a lapel rosette. Former African National Congress leader OR Tambo played a pivotal role in building the international anti-apartheid movement. He set up the first missions of the then- banned ANC in Egypt, Morocco, Ghana and the United Kingdom. Symbols reflected in this order include the Majola or mole snake (symbolic in African mythology for friendship, protection and active support; the walking stick (symbolic of support and commitment); and the universal yin and yang symbol (connoting a meeting point for diverse spiritual energies). SAinfo reporter, incorporating material from the South African Yearbook Reviewed: April 2014 Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material Read more: Orders for ‘ordinary’ peoplecenter_img Order of Mapungubwe The Order of Mapungubwe represents ingenuity and excellence, and is awarded to South African citizens for excellence and exceptional achievement, in three classes: platinum, gold and bronze. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe existed a millennium ago in the northern part of what is now South Africa. The kingdom had a developed mining, metallurgy and agricultural industry, and traded with countries as far afield as China. Various elements in the Order’s design symbolise new horizons, creativity and excellence, and human resourcefulness. Order of the Baobab The Order of the Baobab represents exceptional contribution, and is awarded to South African citizens for distinguished service that goes beyond the call of duty in the following categories: struggle for democracy; building democracy and human rights; nation-building; peace and security; journalism, literature, arts, culture, sports and music; business and the economy; science, medicine and technological innovation; and community service. The Order of the Baobab is awarded in three classes: gold, silver and bronze. The Baobab, a tropical African tree, is symbolic of endurance, tolerance, community and longevity. It has long been a valued symbol of vitality, a tree endowed with both magical and functional properties: it provides bark for cloth and rope, fruit, fuel and other useful products. The distinctive Baobab, characterised by its stature and appearance as an “upside down” tree, has for centuries been used as a meeting place for communities. Various elements in the Order’s design symbolise longevity, community support, contribution, and prosperity in organic unity.last_img read more

Anita Sarkeesian, I Love You. But Please Show Us The Money

first_imgSo the haters are wrong. But how much could Sarkeesian’s production upgrades have possibly cost?A good midrange light kit should set you back between $400 and $1,800, while a crazy good desktop that can edit video can go for as much as $5,000. A high-end professional video camera would be another five grand. (A Hollywood-style camera, which she was apparently not going for, would go for $20,000 to $50,000.) The most expensive editing program around, Adobe Premiere, is $400, as is a good microphone. Tally all that up, and it’s still less than $15,000.Show Us The MoneyWhat happened to the rest of the $160,000?Answering this question would certainly knock down the only legitimate point made by Sarkeesian’s online stalkers. Much more important, though, a good financial breakdown of Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter project would also help women video bloggers, who struggle with sexism every day on YouTube, better understand the financial costs of creating a successful video series. (Actually, it would be helpful for anybody dreaming of a career on YouTube).Disclosing her finances should, in theory, be easy, especially now that Sarkeesian hired a producer. As a popular media figure, she has the power to bring some transparency to what can otherwise be an awfully murky business.Kickstarter in general is a hard nut to crack. According to Kickstarter’s own data, more than half of all projects — or 56% — fail to get funded at all. Only about one project in nine raises twice its funding goal. YouTube is also difficult to master. Sarkeesian is skilled at both, having raised a sum in the low six figures on Kickstarter and netted more than a million YouTube views for her first video in 11 days.When popular viral video maker Freddie Wong — who also ran a successful Kickstarter campaign last year — released an infographic outlining the cost of his first web series, Video Game High School, he was lauded by the DIY video community. Wong wrote on his company’s blog:We believe that the future for content-creators such as ourselves lies in being able to source project money from an audience and deliver on those projects in a timely and cost-effective manner. However, we realized to do this effectively, we must be completely open and honest about the money we spend and how much things cost. Simply put, we cannot expect our fans to support us financially if they have no idea how much things actually cost.So show us how it was done, Anita Sarkeesian. Not because I don’t believe you did it, but so that others can follow in your footsteps. And if you had to spend that money on flights to give TED Talks, doing research or licensing fees for game footage — or even to pay for therapy  as a result of the harassment you endured — I want to know that, too.Sarkeesian did not respond to a request for comment for this article.Updated on March 19, 11:57 a.m. PT:Revised figures on Kickstarter projects that failed to fund using Kickstarter data and an academic paper (both linked in the text).Lead screencap from Sarkeesian’s YouTube video Damsel in Distress: Part 1 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games Related Posts Feminist media critic and video blogger Anita Sarkeesian raised $160,000 in Kickstarter funds last summer after she publicized the online bullying she endured upon announcing the project. Earlier this month, to much fanfare, Sarkeesian finally delivered the first installment of her controversial Tropes Vs Women in Video Games video series.But Sarkeesian hasn’t yet explained why that video still fell more than six months behind schedule — it presumably wasn’t because of a budget shortfall — nor offered any accounting of how she’s spent the funds she raised. Is it sexist of me to ask about the money?The Story Thus FarFor those unfamiliar with the online drama to date, Sarkeesian’s feminist video essays critiquing pop culture — sometimes scathing, sometimes lighthearted — regularly disturb the darker side of the Internet. Her Kickstarter project, which focused almost exclusively on sexism in video games, so perturbed a large group of male gamers that they organized and harassed her relentlessly online.These charming fellows didn’t stop at social media harassment, death threats or comments about how happy they would be if Sarkeesian died. They took the time to put up their own crowdfunded Indiegogo project devoted to mocking Sarkeesian’s own, even though it later disappeared without a trace. (The group insists the project is still on, despite acknowledging that its page was pulled while Indiegogo reviews it.)Even more damning, they made a video game about punching Sarkeesian in the face. The angrified dudes who thought they were defending their favorite digital pastime openly referred to their online harassment campaign as “a game.” Sarkeesian, in her TED Talk about their hate campaign, dubbed them “a cybermob.” fruzsina eordogh Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… Tags:#Kickstarter center_img Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification It was this cybermob that caught the attention of the press, which shared Sarkeesian’s project beyond the gamer community. Sympathy money poured in, much as it did with that bullied Michigan bus monitor, and Sarkeesian reached her fundraising goal in days. She received more than 25 times her proposed $6,000 goal from people like this self-identified radical feminist who wrote on Tumblr recently:I like and play video games, but they’re not a particular passion of mine, and I never would have donated to that project. However, I donated $20 after the vicious backlash that involved creating a video game where you can beat the shit out of Anita Sarkeesian.Is Transparency Too Much To Ask?Which brings me to Sarkeesian’s finances. I raise this subject with some trepidation, because Sarkeesian’s critics have twisted it into photoshopped tweets about Sarkeesian spending $1000 on new shoes, complaints that she’d donate to charity if she were really a good person and blog entries wondering if Sarkeesian got a nose job. (Her nose looks the same, men. I checked her older videos.)When you get past the vitriol, their main criticism is that the production quality of Sarkeesian’s videos hasn’t increased.In a Kickstarter update issued days into the original campaign, Sarkeesian herself raised this issue, writing that she’d like to use the extra money “to really bump up the quality and the professionalism as much as I can,” possibly by buying a light kit, a better computer, a microphone, editing software and other pricey gear.Sorry, angry male gamers. Sarkeenian has apparently been as good as her word. The quality of her videos has increased, particularly in terms of sound quality and, evidently, via use of a light kit. The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Auditlast_img read more

Yamuna flowing near warning level agencies on alert

first_imgNew Delhi: With the Yamuna flowing near the warning level, Delhi agencies are closely monitoring the situation to deal with any possible flooding, an official said on Saturday.According to the official, at around 4 pm on Saturday, Yamuna’s water level reached 203.27 metres, slightly below the warning level of 204.5 metres. The official said that at 10 am, over 21,000 cusecs water was released from Hathani Kund Barrage in Haryana. Besides, around 17,000 cusecs water was also released from the barrage. “We have been closely monitoring the water level of Yamuna. Preparations are being made to deal with flood-like situation,” the official said. In July last year, traffic movement on Old Yamuna Bridge in Delhi had been closed for a few days after the water level breached the danger mark. Last year, river Yamuna’s water level had reached 205.5 metres.last_img read more