Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Monday, 25 May 2015
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
This edition is about Sagbo Kodji Island, a riverine community that has existed for 100 years without been connected to any form of power supply. But something happened recently.
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Loretta Lynch is the first black woman to hold the post of US attorney general
On 23 April, after one of the longest confirmation processes in the history of the US, the Senate finally approved Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, the nation's highest law officer.
Two days later the city of Baltimore, in Maryland, erupted in rioting over the death of a young black man in police custody there. Madam attorney general, welcome to the job.
Freddie Gray died after suffering unexplained injuries and falling into a coma; six police officers have now been charged in connection with his death.
It follows a string of similar cases - in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, where police shot dead an unarmed black teenager in August last year, or, more recently, in South Carolina, where a white officer shot another unarmed black man five times as he was running away.
Each time something like this happens, it raises the same question with ever increasing urgency: can the law offer justice to black Americans?
A few days into the job, Loretta Lynch met Freddie Gray's family and community activists in Baltimore
Force for change
Ms Lynch seems peculiarly well-placed to provide the answer.
She was born in North Carolina in 1959, so into a world where law and justice were most certainly not the same thing.
In the early 1960s, life in the American South was still dominated by the so-called "Jim Crow" laws - legislation introduced after the American Civil War to segregate white people and black people.
Despite that, her father, the Reverend Lorenzo Lynch, a Protestant pastor like his father before him, believed the law could be a force for change. And when the future attorney general was a very young girl, he used to take her down to the local law courts.
"When I was growing up we were taught [to] stay away from the courthouse," he told me. "Don't be caught at the courthouse. [But] I thought it was a positive institution, and I wanted her to have a different view of it."
The Jim Crow laws finally went in the mid-1960s, but casual racism remained.
'Jim Crow' laws
The "Jim Crow" laws were used to segregate white people and black people in parts of the United States until the 1960s and covered all aspects of life including:
separate public ablution facilities for white people and black people in Alabama, and segregated public transportwhite people and black people were not allowed to marry each other in Wyomingwhite children and black children were not allowed to be taught together in Floridain Georgia, black people could not be buried alongside white people.
Ms Lynch's mother, Lorine, remembers that her daughter's teachers had trouble accepting how clever she was.
When she was in the second grade - so seven or eight years old - she had to retake a class test because she did so well the first time round.
"[The teachers] felt it was not accurate because she was African-American and all the white students scored lower," Mrs Lynch told me.
Her score was even higher second time round.
No 'play clothes'
None of this seems to have blunted her aspirations. Ms Lynch pursued a childhood dream of going to Harvard - America's oldest institution of higher education - where she completed a first degree in English literature before switching to law.
A student radical she was not. Karen Freeman-Wilson, now a mayor in Indiana, was a member of the same sorority (a student club for women) and remembers how smartly turned-out she always was.
"In college you tend to wear jeans, you tend to wear khakis, you tend to dress down," she says, "but I can't remember an occasion that Loretta dressed down. I used to tease her... 'Do you ever have any play clothes?'"
President Obama said the US would be "better off" with Ms Lynch as attorney general
The sharply dressed lawyer of the future was already in the making.
The big New York law firms were still very male and very white when she joined Cahill Gordon and Reindel in the mid-1980s.
Two other black American women were part of her cohort, and the three liked to refer to themselves as "the triplets".
One of them, Alysa Christmas Rollock, who is now a vice-president at Purdue University in Indiana, told me they used the nickname because the firm's receptionists, who knew the 250 male partners and associates by name, seemed to be "incapable of identifying us from each other, so we became the non-identical triplets".
The slight must have been - to put it at its mildest - irritating, but there seems no evidence Ms Lynch resented the racism she faced. Yet, she lacked any trace of bitterness.
We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them.
Loretta Lynch, US Attorney General
Her first really high-profile case - in 1999, not long after the then President, Bill Clinton, appointed her the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York - raised just the issues that are back in the spotlight as she takes on her new job.
Abner Louima, a Haitian, had been arrested after an altercation outside a nightclub and accused of hitting a police officer.
The police later admitted the charge was false, but Mr Louima was brutally beaten.
Calm under pressure
During the trial it emerged one of the police officers involved was in a long-term relationship with a black American woman, and it was put to the court he was therefore unlikely to have violated the rights of a black man.
Alan Vinegrad, who worked with Ms Lynch on the case, remembers the way she tackled this sensitive issue head on, accusing the officer concerned of "hiding behind the colour of his girlfriend's skin".
It was high-stakes stuff - the trial team had to be escorted out of the courtroom by US marshals that day - but it was done in a "calm and measured way".
Ms Lynch's ability to stay calm stood her in good stead when she faced rough questioning during her confirmation hearings.
"Many of us looked at the treatment she received… [and] we didn't feel good about it, we did not feel there was a sense of fairness," her old friend, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, said.
"But her reaction was, 'That's OK, let's just keep our heads and eyes on the prize.' That's who she really is."
She is also - and everyone seems to agree on this - a formidably good lawyer, a "consummate professional" in the judgement of one of those who worked with her.
She will need all of those qualities if she is to restore faith in US justice.
Saturday, 9 May 2015
On Friday May 8 we humans observed V-E Day, the end to one part of a global catastrophe that cost the planet at least 60 million lives. But if we were fish, we would have marked the day differently — as the beginning of a campaign of violence against our taxonomic classes, one that has resulted in trillions of casualties.
Oddly, the war itself was a great reprieve for many marine species. Just as Axis and Allied submarines and mines made the transportation of war matériel a highly perilous endeavor, they similarly interfered with fishing. The ability to catch staple seafoods, like cod, declined markedly. Freed from human pursuit, overexploited species multiplied in abundance.
But World War II also brought a leap in human ingenuity, power and technical ability that led to an unprecedented assault on our oceans. Not only did ships themselves become larger, faster and more numerous, but the war-derived technologies they carried exponentially increased their fishing power.
Take sonar. Before the 1930s, electronic echolocation was a barely functioning concept. It allowed operators to trace the vague contours of the seafloor topography and crudely track the pathway of a large moving object. But the war pushed forward dramatic advances in sonar technology; by its end, sophisticated devices, developed for hunting submarines, had grown infinitely more precise, and could now be repurposed to hunt fish.
Schools of fish could soon be pinpointed to within a few yards, and clearly differentiated from the sea’s bottom. Coupled with high-powered diesel engines that had been developed during the global conflict, the modern fishing vessel became a kind of war machine with a completely new arsenal: lightweight polymer-based nets, monofilament long lines that could extend for miles and onboard freezers capable of storing a day’s catch for months at a time.
Even human resources developed during the war were later redirected toward fishing: Japanese fighter pilots adept at spotting subsurface Allied submarines were later retrained to look for whales. Likewise, more than a few former Allied pilots found postwar employment hunting bluefin tuna and Atlantic menhaden.
In some ways, the “war machine” wasn’t a metaphor. Across South Asia, leftover explosives were “recycled” for “bomb fishing,” an obscenely destructive way of killing coastal fish, which turned many coral reefs into rubble fields. And the technological overkill continued into the Cold War era: Satellite imagery and GPS technology originally intended to track the movements of the Soviet nuclear arsenal eventually allowed well-populated fish habitats to be clearly identified from space.
Because the war incentivized the creation of ships with much longer oceangoing ranges, it also meant that fishing was transformed from a local endeavor into a global one. “Industrial fishing,” maybe the first globalized economic enterprise, meant the wholesale, permanent occupation of marine ecosystems, instead of the local raids practiced by previous generations.
In addition, emerging economies of scale meant that it wasn’t just the target fish that suffered. With the invention of postwar super trawlers that scooped up everything in their path, a sort of scorched-earth approach to fishing became commonplace.
Taken collectively, the rise of postwar fishing technology meant that the global reported catch rose from some 15 million metric tons at war’s end to 85 million metric tons today — the equivalent, in weight, of the entire human population at the turn of the 20th century, removed from the sea each and every year.
Only the turn of the third millennium saw a new kind of reprieve, this time not caused by human adversity, but by the insight that we need to make peace with other species as well. Growing signs of exhaustion and failure in global fisheries made humans reconsider the totality of their assault.
Marine protected areas, an environmental version of a demilitarized zone, started to spring up, and now cover some 3.5 percent of the ocean. Countries formerly at war began to work together to hammer out new deals for fish, exemplified by both the recent revision of the Common Fisheries Policy in Europe and new efforts underway at the United Nations to better regulate fishing on the high seas, the 60 percent of the oceans outside national control.
Collateral damage to sharks, turtles, whales and sea birds is increasingly becoming unacceptable. And some of those same technologies once used to kill fish with precision are now being used to save them: War-inspired satellite technology is being deployed to identify and pursue rogue vessels fishing illegally.
But in remembering the end of World War II and the deliberate steps that led to a lasting peace, we might contemplate a broader Marshall Plan, which would further restrain our destructive tendencies and technological powers elsewhere, not just in fishing the oceans, but in mining, drilling and otherwise exploiting them.
To be sure, the postwar assault on fish mostly sprang from an honorable intention to feed a growing human population that boomed in a prosperous postwar world. But as in war, everybody loses when there is nothing left to fight for. Only when we fully embrace that simple fact, and act accordingly, will our celebrations resonate among what the author Henry Beston called those “other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”
Tuberculosis is by far one of the deadliest form of communicable diseases known to Man. In 2014, it Was estimated that 60,000 deaths have occured in Nigeria and more are likely to occur if serious preventable measures are not taken. Adekoya Busayo writes about concerned stakeholders decidicated in treating Tuberculosis victims with the aim of reducing the rising scourge.
Mustapha Zainab, 28, a housewife was rushed to the General hospital in Kaduna by relatives. She had been ill for some weeks without any sign of improvement. She managed to explain some of the symptoms she has to the doctor which were persistent heavy coughs, chest pain and night sweats.
The x-ray undeniably pointed to the source of her problems, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis — a deadly lung infection transmitted through the air.
This was not the first time Zainab had to deal with such a threatening diagnosis. Two years ago, she and her late husband both tested positive to HIV. Against the doctor’s advice, he refused any form of drugs and treatments that could guide against any further infectious diseases. Shortly after, he was diagnosed of tuberculosis that later led to his demise.
According to the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. In 2013, 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died from the disease. Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and it is among the top 5 causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis and HIV form a deadly combination, claiming 600,000 lives a year in Nigeria, despite the fact that tuberculosis can both be prevented and treated.
For a long time, Zainab decided to keep her HIV status to herself for fear of being stigmatized. One of the hardest things for HIV and tuberculosis patients to deal with is the loneliness and isolation that this social stigma brings which is why most victims present themselves in late stages.
“I couldn’t tell anyone the cause of my husband’s death. Everyone thinks he died of malaria and typhoid” says Zainab as she narrates her ordeal. “ When we were both diagnosed of HIV, he refused to register for free treatments but later I went back to try and register for the free drugs but was told that there was shortage of supply of HIV treatment drugs and it will take awhile before they get. After going to the hospital twice for the drugs and none was yet available, I left the hospital disappointed and I never returned until now,” she said amidst tears.
Women play a central role in maintaining and improving the health of their children and families. Mothers are known to be caregivers, and when they become affected by disease, their illness leads to time off work, loss of income, and even death.
Many children have been orphaned because of tuberculosis and as a result of this deadly infectious disease, families fall into a vicious downward spiral that may be carried forward to the next generation, pushing people deeper into disease and poverty.
“I cannot afford the treatment of tuberculosis and I don’t want to die now and leave my children orphaned. What will become of them if I die like their father? Who will cater for them and bring them up properly?” asked Zaniab in despair.
Recently, the National TB and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) has said that over 600,000 new cases of tuberculosis have occurred in Nigeria, according to the survey conducted in 2014, with 91,354 cases placed on treatment.
National Coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, Dr. Gabriel Akang who made this statement during the 2015 World TB Day with the theme ‘Nigeria Unites Against Tuberculosis, in Abuja, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked Nigeria to be 3rd among the 22 highest prevalence of TB burden countries in the world, adding that DOTS services are currently provided in about 6000 health facilities in the country and diagnosis in 1,515 microscopy laboratories.
In curbing these growing numbers of tuberculosis victims in Nigeria, organisations such as the Star Deepwater Petroleum Nigeria Limited, a Chevron Company with its Agbami Co-venturers recently donated fully equipped Chest Clinics and Science Laboratory complex to the Rimi General Hospital, Katsina State, Government Science College, Izom, Niger State, SMOH General Hospital, Kafanchan, Kaduna State and TB and Leprosy Referral Centre Tuberculosis and Infectious Disease Hospital, Chanchagi, Minna, Niger State.
Speaking at Protea Hotel, Asokoro, Abuja, During the handover ceremonies, the Director, Deepwater & Production Sharing Contracts, Mr. Jeffrey Ewing, who was represented by Senator Daniel Olugbenga Aluko, Director, Government Affairs of Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) said the Chest Clinic comes fully equipped with a standard X-Ray Machine, male and female wards, treatment rooms, laboratories and Gene Xpert machine while the Science laboratory complex is made of laboratories for physics, biology and chemistry and fully equipped with modern apparatus and regents to ensure the complex is conducive for teaching and learning.
He expressed gratitude to the management of Rimi General Hospital and the Project Manager for their efforts in making the building and equipping of the Chest Clinic a reality.
He said “From December 2004 when the Agbami Project contract was awarded, Star Deepwater Petroleum Limited with its Co-ventures in the Agbami Field has consistently made it a point of duty to enhance the development of Nigerian capacities and capabilities in the oil and gas industry for maximum positive impact on Nigeria’s economy. These deliberate efforts have resulted in employment generation, higher local contractors’ participation in the design and fabrication of facilities for the project and training.”
“The Agbami Field is located approximately 70 miles (113 Kilometers) offshore Nigeria. However, in line with the Deep Offshore Community Affairs Group (DOCAG) engagement principles, we view the entire country as the Agbami Community. Consequently, the intervention by the group in the areas of education and health is distributed throughout the Nigeria and is adding value to Nigerians,” he said.
In addition to the Chest Clinics, he said “We have implemented awareness programmes on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases in several communities across the six geo-political zones in the country. Medications were also made available to the people of such communities.”
Katsina State Commissioner for Health, Mannir Ibrahim Talba who was represented by Dr. Muhamed Qabashiru, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Katsina State, said that the Chest Clinic is one of the most needed projects in the state.
He said, “The centre will enable the state handle patients who hitherto were referred to TB clinics far from Katsina State for treatment – especially those who have developed resistant to regular TB medications. We can now efficiently and adequately treat them. I want to assure that the centre will be a good example; it is going to be a center of excellence not only in the state but the world in general.