Sunday, February 28, 2010

CNN: Japan gets first tsunami waves from Chile quake

Tsunami waves from the deadly 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile rippled across the Japanese coast on Sunday, but the initial ones did not appear large enough to cause damage.

Authorities urged residents to stay away because a second and third round of waves could gain strength. The first one, a 4-inch wave, hit Minami Torishima, according to the Japanese meteorological agency.

Minami Torishima is a small island in the Pacific Ocean.

An 11-inch wave was later recorded in the port of Nemuro, Hokkaido. It hit the port at 1:57 p.m. local time. Another 8-inch wave hit Hamanaka-cho, Hokkaido, at 2:05 p.m. local time.

Tens of thousands of residents evacuated Sunday morning from coastal Japan in anticipation of a possible tsunami after the earthquake.

Video: Fear and Panic
Video: Time-lapse video shows tsunami
Video: Skyping, waiting for tsunami
Video: 'They want people out'
Video: Hawaii Gov: It's Over
Video: Hawaii prepares for tsunami
Video: How does the Chile quake compare?

The northern part of the main island could be hit by a tsunami at least 9 feet high, according to the meteorological agency.

Sunday's alert was Japan's first major tsunami warning in more than 15 years, the agency reported. In 1960, a tsunami spawned by Chile's 1960 earthquake killed 140 people in Japan.

Check out the world's biggest earthquakes since 1900

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Saturday canceled warnings that initially covered the entire Pacific region.

Only Russia and Japan were under a widespread tsunami warning, the center said Sunday.

In the U.S. state of Hawaii, the cancellation occurred nearly two hours after the first waves came ashore. Coast Guard crews said they had found no significant damage to ports or waterways as a result of the tsunami.

But the tsunami center said some coastal areas may see small sea-level changes or unusual currents for the next few hours.

The cancellation "does not mean it is now safe to resume normal activities or re-enter evacuated shoreline areas," the tsunami center said. It said that county's civil defense agencies and local police departments would make those determinations.

"There was no assessment of any damage in any county, which is quite remarkable," said Gov. Linda Lingle. "It's just a wonderful day that nothing happened and no one was hurt or injured."

The warning was issued early Saturday after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile, killing more than 300 people. Government officials are expected to announce an updated death toll Sunday at 12 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET).

In Chile, tsunami waves came ashore along the coast shortly after the earthquake, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Victor Sardina said.

The largest was 9 feet near the quake's epicenter, Sardina said.

Another 7.7-foot wave hit the Chilean town of Talcahuano, according to Eric Lau of the tsunami center.

On the island of Juan Fernandez -- 400 miles (643 km) off Chile's coast -- a large wave killed three people, Provincial Governor Ivan De La Maza said. At least 10 people are missing.

Navigational buoys in Ventura County, California, got minor damage as a result of a 2-foot surge and waves, according to the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. The Ventura County Fire Department had a report of damage to a resident's dock from the surge.

Friday, February 26, 2010


The much-awaited meeting on Wednesday night between Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua at which he (Jonathan) had expected to be fully briefed about the President’s health condition did not hold.
The meeting was at the instance of the President’s aides, who, after announcing to the Acting President the return of their boss, requested him to meet the First Lady for a full briefing on the health of the President and other necessary information bordering on governance.
Jonathan had personally told the ministers on Wednesday of the planned meeting with the First Lady when he had expressed the hope he would be briefed on the state of the President’s health since he had not seen him.
Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, disclosed this when she briefed State House Correspondents on the outcome of the ministers’ scheduled meeting with Jonathan on Wednesday.
“He invited us for a meeting in his meeting room at 2 p.m. and when we came, he told us that the President had returned. He had been briefed by the aides of Mr. President and that he hoped to see the wife of the President this evening and that when we meet next week, we will be briefed on the outcome of the Saudi trip by the members of council. And that when he is eventually briefed by our President, he will call us again,” she stated.
But Daily Sun gathered that the First Lady was unavailable for the meeting, forcing the Acting President to call it off. When Jonathan’s aides went to find out if she was ready for the meeting so their boss could come down, they were told the First Lady had gone upstairs and might not come down for the rest of the day.
“Around 7.00 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday), when the team went to the President’s residence, the First Lady was not ready to come down for any meeting, so Jonathan’s aides went back to their boss to report the situation. It was then that the meeting was put off,” a highly dependable source told Daily Sun.
Unable to meet the First Lady, Acting President Jonathan remains in the dark as to the actual condition of the President since it has also not been possible for him or anyone else to see the President since his arrival Wednesday morning.
Even if he can still not be allowed to see the president, the understanding among top government functionaries was that the meeting between the wife of the president and the Acting President would have addressed the present confusion in the seat of power and guided the next line of action.
“As it is, you can see that we have not made any progress on the leadership crisis, which we thought had been resolved. But I know that the authorities are working out something, and I am optimistic the matter will be settled very soon. There is no cause for alarm but there is cause for alarm

AP sources: NY Gov. Paterson won't seek new term

FILE - In this June 19, 2008 file photo, New York Gov. David Paterson, left, and AP – FILE - In this June 19, 2008 file photo, New York Gov. David Paterson, left, and aide David Johnson walk …

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. David Paterson, who repeatedly and defiantly said he would let voters decide if he should run the state, abruptly quit his nascent election bid Friday amid a stalled agenda, faltering popularity and criticism of his handling of a domestic abuse case involving one of his most trusted aides.

Democratic officials in Washington and a person briefed by Paterson in New York were informed of his plans early Friday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because Paterson had not publicly disclosed his decision.

Paterson, who had publicly prided himself on beating the odds, including overcoming blindness to rise through treacherous New York politics, formally announced his campaign last weekend but faced mounting calls to drop out of the race in the midst of controversy. A top aide is ensnared in a domestic-violence scandal, the governor was finding dwindling support in his own party and his campaign bank account paled in size to those of his rivals.

Paterson became governor in 2008, when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal. Paterson's decision paves the way for Andrew Cuomo to make an unimpeded run for the Democratic nomination.

"The governor isn't feeling pushed out," said a person who talked with the governor about his decision and who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because Paterson hadn't yet announced why he was ending the campaign. "He certainly realizes it's very difficult to do a campaign and govern, and the focus now is on governing and the best interests of the state."

Paterson was the scion of a Harlem political power base that included his father, former state Secretary of State Basil Paterson; the late Percy Sutton, who was Manhattan borough president; Rep. Adam Clayton Powell; former Mayor David Dinkins; and embattled U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel.

Now, Paterson's gubernatorial campaign will end amid a domestic violence scandal involving a trusted aide from Harlem, David Johnson. More than a decade ago, Paterson took Johnson on as an intern as part of his efforts to bring youths snared in Harlem's crack epidemic to give them a second chance.

On Wednesday, the most alarming call for Paterson to end his campaign came from state Sen. Bill Perkins, the Democrat in Paterson's old Harlem seat, who told the AP that Paterson's cabinet is "falling apart" and his campaign was crippled.

"The crisis we are suffering in this state and in the community is being distracted by these reports and very, very serious allegations," Perkins said. "What we are learning is unacceptable, and the viability of his candidacy is obviously crippling."

It has been widely expected — and among some Democrats, eagerly awaited — that the more popular Cuomo would run for governor and help prop up the state's reeling Democratic party. Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, has already built a campaign fund five times larger than Paterson and consistently outpolls Paterson among New York Democrats, who hold a 2-to-1 edge over Republicans statewide.

Paterson's campaign "was going nowhere very quickly and the numbers couldn't have been any more bleak for him before this," said Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll. "Regardless of the legalities involved and this specific controversy, the odds of him taking the oath of office next January were very remote."

Paterson's decision lets Cuomo avoid an expensive and divisive primary, Miringoff said.

For Republican candidate Rick Lazio, it means he can no longer try to split the Democrats and now must confront the far better funded and more popular Cuomo.

"The fundamental issue is not who is going to be nominated for governor, at this point the fundamental issue is governing," said Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist and former dean at SUNY New Paltz. "You have a lame duck governor, a governor that has been ineffective already."

Paterson has been weighed down by low approval numbers for months. His problems intensified in recent weeks with a series of critical articles in The New York Times. The last, published Thursday, raised questions about how Paterson and state police officials responded to a domestic abuse complaint lodged against Johnson.

Court papers said state police may have pressured the woman to not level criminal charges against Johnson. The newspaper also said Paterson spoke with the woman personally, although the governor's office said it was the woman who placed the call.

Renewed calls for Paterson's exit were made hours after the story's publication, including one from a longtime ally, Rep. Steve Israel. The Long Island Democrat said he felt compelled to tell his friend that he should not seek election to a full term.

Paterson, an affable, slightly built politician, was never really seen as gubernatorial in the eyes of legislators, lobbyists or voters. Until he recently insisted on more formality, his staff and even rank-and-file lawmakers referred to him as "David."

He had been forced to confront allegations of sexual affairs and drug use since the day he rose to office on March 17, 2008, some of which were true. He held an extraordinary news conference detailing past affairs he and his wife were involved in during an 18-month period when it appeared their marriage would end. He also recounted past drug use from his youth.

He said he made the extraordinary admissions so that he couldn't be compromised as governor and to avoid further fracturing of a government rocked by Spitzer's resignation.

"We in public service and in life have all these great plans," Paterson said in a press event in Queens in the fall. "There's an old Jewish expression, I can't quote it, that man plans and plans and plans and God laughs. Because things change in a moment ... 24 hours in politics is a lifetime."


AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti in Washington and AP Writer Valerie Bauman in Albany contributed to this report.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

President Yaradua's Profile: BBC

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua became the first civilian leader in Nigeria to take over from another after winning controversial polls in 2007.

The former chemistry teacher is also the first Nigerian leader for 40 years to be university educated.

But his academic background appears to have done little to help him on the political stage and mid-way through his first term in office, he was saddled with the nickname "Baba-go-slow".

A reclusive Muslim ex-governor from the northern state of Katsina, he promised a long list of reforms at his inauguration - tackling corruption, reforming the inadequate power sector and the flawed electoral system.

The only point on the to-do list on which he has made some progress is tackling the unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

He met militant leaders and convinced them and thousands of their fighters to give up their weapons during a three-month amnesty in 2009, giving hope of peace at last for the poverty-stricken region.

'In the hands of God'

Yet the issue that has occupied more column inches than anything else during his time in office is his health.

The 58-year-old has suffered from a chronic kidney condition for at least 10 years.

In the past three years he has twice been flown to Germany for emergency treatment and visited hospitals in Saudi Arabia.

In November 2009 he went to a clinic in Jeddah for three months, leaving a power vacuum and intense speculation about the state of his health.

Niger Delta militant
The Niger Delta is the one area Mr Yar'Adua is making progress

His spokesman said he had pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining around the heart.

In his absence, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan became acting leader in February 2010.

Later that month, Mr Yar'Adua was thought to have returned home from Saudi Arabia to Abuja, although there was still no word on his medical condition.

In previous interviews, the president has refused to say what he suffers from and has repeatedly said that his life is "in the hands of God".

Although he has not yet proved himself a political mover and shaker, he boasts a political pedigree that dates back to the 1960s when his father was appointed as a minister in the post-independence administration.

His late elder brother - an army general - served as deputy leader when Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria's military ruler during the 1970s.

The pair were later imprisoned together after they were accused of plotting a coup against late military strongman Gen Sani Abacha.

Self-confessed Marxist

Mr Yar'Adua's emergence as the ruling People's Democratic Party's (PDP) candidate in the presidential election in April 2007 rests almost exclusively on the support of Mr Obasanjo - then the elected civilian president.

Nigerian presidency sources at the time said Mr Obasanjo used a mixture of inducements and threats of investigation by the anti-graft agency to persuade 10 influential state governors to withdraw from the race and back Mr Yar'Adua.

Analysts said that by backing Mr Yar'Adua to succeed him, Mr Obasanjo had hoped to continue pulling the strings after leaving office.

But it has not turned out this way and Mr Yar'Adua has proved to be his own man.

Within months of taking over, he reversed some dubious privatisations of state companies approved by Mr Obasanjo when president - and he also got rid of some key Obasanjo allies in the PDP.

As an undergraduate student in Nigeria's Ahmadu Bello University, Mr Yar'Adua was a self-confessed Marxist and criticised his elder brother's "capitalist" leanings.

During his seven years as Katsina State governor, critics said contracts had gone to companies with links to his family's vast businesses.

Yet he is one of only a few Nigerian politicians to publicly declare their assets - twice before being sworn in as governor and then again when he became president.

He is a father of nine children - five daughters and two sons with his first wife Turai, the first lady, whom he married in 1975 - and two sons with Hajiya Hauwa, whom he married in the 1990s.

He divorced Ms Hauwa in 1997 before first running for governor.

As a governor he was known to have ignored the advice of aides and bodyguards and walked alone to tobacco kiosks to buy a single cigarette.

Described by his critics as taciturn and not known for his tolerance of opposition, Mr Yar'Adua has sometimes been underestimated.

As one commentator put it at the time of his election "because he's quiet, people mistake him for a weakling. But he's someone who knows his own mind".

If he has returned home, Mr Yar'Adua could need every ounce of that will to prove he is fit enough to take centre stage once more on Nigeria's political scene.

Nigerian Senate gives deadline for Sick Presidents.

Nigeria's Senate has voted to amend the constitution, setting a time limit for presidents to formally announce their inability to carry out their role.

If passed, the head of state would have 14 days to declare their absence in writing - then MPs would vote for the deputy to become acting president.

The move came after President Umaru Yar'Adua returned home after spending three months in a Saudi hospital.

His return has sparked a row over the vice-president's official role.

The amendment will need the approval of the legislatures in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states before becoming law.

On Mr Yar'Adua's return, the presidency said Goodluck Jonathan would continue to run state affairs while the president recuperated.

But Mr Jonathan's appointment by parliament as acting president during Mr Yar'Adua's absence was controversial and enters unchartered territory.

23 Nov 2009: Goes to hospital in Saudi Arabia
26 Nov: Doctors say he has pericarditis, a heart problem
23 Dec: First court case filed urging him to step down
12 Jan: President gives telephone interview from Saudi Arabia
27 Jan: Cabinet declares president fit
9 Feb: Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan made acting president
24 Feb: Yar'Adua returns

When the president's allies formally announced Mr Yar'Adua's arrival home - they pointedly referred to Mr Jonathan as the "vice-president", appearing to strip him of this acting president role.

Then a group claiming to speak for Mr Jonathan hit back with a statement calling him "acting president" three times.

The BBC's Caroline Duffield in the capital, Abuja, says Nigerian politics is always murky - but that difference in title clearly matters.

And there are now few rules to guide what happens next, she says.

Mr Yar'Adua's condition is unknown and he has not been seen in public since 23 November.

"We do not think he has the capacity today. We are appealing to him, and his handlers, that he should honourably resign his appointment," Osita Okechukwu of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, a group representing opposition parties, told the BBC.

But our reporter says the president's tight-knit circle have bought him home for a reason.

Analysts say that the struggle for the leadership is really about money.

Whoever holds power also has access to a patronage machine - oiled by billions of dollars from the Niger Delta.

That is a prize that many people are willing to fight for, our correspondent says.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

EFCC Probes Babatunde Fashola

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has launched an investigation into the issues raised in the corruption allegations against the Lagos State governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola. EFCC’s spokesperson, Mr. Femi Babafemi, told the Nigerian Tribune that the petition detailing alleged corrupt practices by the governor in the handling of the state’s finances was receiving the attention of the agency, just like any other petition.

“I am aware that the petition against the governor is being handled by the commission, just like any other petition,” Babafemi said.

Nigerian Tribune further gathered from sources within the commission that the anti-corruption agency boss, Mrs. Farida Waziri, ordered the commencement of the probe last Monday, following the perusal of the petition against the governor. The petition was filed by a group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL).

A five-man probe team was also said to have been raised by Waziri, with members drawn from both Abuja and Lagos offices of the commission. The investigators from Abuja have reportedly arrived in Lagos in readiness for the gathering of evidence on the corruption allegations levelled against the governor.

The Lagos House of Assembly had also set up a six-man panel to investigate the governor of the alleged fraudulent acts in the handling of the state’s finances. The move by the lawmakers is now a subject of litigation in a Lagos high court, which had halted the probe in the interim.

While inaugurating the panel, Speaker of the Lagos Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, had stated that “the committee was charged with the responsibility of looking into the allegations of financial impropriety, abuse of due process and the rule of law, as well as violation of several sections of the 1999 Constitution against the governor.”

Relying on the issues of corrupt practices raised against the governor by another group, the ‘True Face of Lagos,’ the petitioner accused the governor of plundering the state in the name of delivering democracy dividends.

Among other allegations, the governor was accused of giving N250 million to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to organise last year’s NBA conference that was held in the state. He was also accused of spending N420 million in six months to hire private security through the State Security Trust Fund, while N2 billion was allegedly spent on infrastructure, on roads and drainage in Ikorodu General Hospital.

Fashola was equally said to have spent huge sums of money on the planting of trees and flowers in a state where they claimed there was no water, adding that a certain Tunji Olowolafe executed up to 70 per cent of all Lagos government contracts. The governor was alleged to have awarded a 2km portion of Western Avenue for N7.7 billion to Julius Berger, while N135 million was alleged to have been used in fuelling 225 vehicles in the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, True Face of Lagos, on Tuesday, withdrew its allegation against members of the Assembly. The group, in a letter delivered to the state Assembly and signed by Messrs Kasali Martins, Adebayo Adesina and Dr Tunde George, said they had discovered that the money alleged to have been given to members of the House to cover up the allegation of financial mismanagement against the state governor was not correct, and that the money was not given to the lawmakers as alleged.

The group said it had discovered that the money was only collected from the governor to deceive him that the House had been bribed to cover up his financial mismanagement. According to the group, “for the avoidance of doubt, we would like to state categorically that, we are dropping the allegations against Mr Speaker and the Assembly that they collected money. We would like to place it on record that we regret all the inconvenience and discomfort this must have caused individual members, but it is important to stress that the Assembly must now use her position of high moral authority to hold the executive arm of government accountable.”

Speaking with journalists after submitting the letter a member of the group, Mr Adebayo, who claimed to be human rights activist, said his group had decided to exonerate the members of the House because there was no evidence that members of the House received the bribe, but there was evidence that a certain amount of money was released to bribe the lawmakers.

Deliberating on the letter submitted by the group, the lawmakers expressed happiness that they had been vindicated. Speaking on the matter, Honourable Jimoh Adewale (Apapa I), suggested that the group should go back and make another advertorial retracting the allegation against members of the House, so that they could be saved from embarrassment which the group had caused the House through its previous advertorial.

Speaking in the same vein, Honourable Alawiye King (Lagos Island I), urged his colleague to be careful because they were giving the group unnecessary and undue attention, just as he said their publication had distracted the House. In the submission of the Speaker, he urged other groups with similar allegations to feel free and approach the House with their facts.

By Lanre Adewole, Adewale Ajayi and Sarah Ogburogho
As culled from Tribune.