Suicide blasts kill 10 in NE Nigeria: militia, resident

OKO
Ten people were killed and dozens injured on Wednesday in a double suicide-bomb attack in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a civilian militia leader and a resident told AFP.
The blasts happened in the Muna Garage area of the Borno state capital, in a market used mainly by internally displaced people (IDPs) from a nearby camp.
“I can confirm that 10 people have died in the attack,” said Ibrahim Liman, of the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), which assists the military with security against Boko Haram.
Liman initially gave the death toll as three but he added: “Seven more bodies were brought in from the UMTH (University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital).
“Now the number of injured is 52,” he said.
“Two under-aged girls, aged about 13, struck at the market at about 4:10 pm (1510 GMT) — a peak hour. The first bomber set off her explosives in a sparsely populated part of the market.
“Moments later, the second bomber set off her explosives in the crowded part of the market. That was where most of the casualties were recorded.”
Liman’s account was supported by local resident Dahiru Bulama, who said soldiers had cordoned off the area as the injured were evacuated to hospital for treatment.
“The attack was really bad. The casualty toll could be high. We were not allowed to go near,” he added.
“But I saw one car parked across the road that was splattered with blood and flesh.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Boko Haram has repeatedly used young girls and women as suicide bombers to attack civilian “soft targets”.
IDP camps, including the one at Muna Garage, markets and mosques have been hit. Army and CJTF security posts have also been targeted.
Twelve people were killed on November 15 when four suicide bombers — two men and two women — blew themselves up in the Muna area of Maiduguri.
Wednesday’s attacks comes after Boko Haram jihadists killed nine people on Monday in two separate attacks — one in the Ngala area of Borno and the second in neighbouring Adamawa.
The attack in Ngala saw six people shot dead as they collected firewood to sell to IDPs.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the casualties in the nearly conflict, with at least 20,000 killed and more than 2.6 million others made homeless since 2009.

Tech: Rap superstar Kendrick Lamar could reportedly make $20-40 million in a new deal...

Kendrick Lamar is in talks to sign a new publishing deal that could be worth between $20 million and $40 million, Billboard reports.
Kendrick Lamar is in talks to sign a new publishing deal for his songwriting catalog that could be worth between $20 million and $40 million, Billboard reports.
The rapper’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, has reportedly been shopping around for a new deal in that range, as Lamar’s current deal with Warner/Chappell Music is set to expire.
Kendrick Lamar is reportedly in talks to sign a new publishing deal that could net him well over $20 million for the rights to his music catalog, according to Billboard.
Sources told the outlet that Lamar’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, is shopping around for a publishing deal in the range of $20 million to $40 million. The 30-year-old rapper’s current deal with Warner/Chappell Music, which he signed in 2010 as a burgeoning independent artist, is set to expire soon.
According to Billboard’s sources, one bidder for the rights to Lamar’s songs has offered $28 million, while another firm offered a $23 million deal with an $11 million signing bonus. The deals would likely be for the rights to Lamar’s entire songwriting catalog.
Top Dawg Entertainment and Warner Music Group declined to comment on the matter to Billboard.
Lamar’s last album, “DAMN.,” was certified double platinum by the RIAA, for album sales and streaming-equivalent figures, following its release in April 2017.
“DAMN.” gave Lamar his first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the single “Humble,” as well as seven nominations for the upcoming 60th Grammy Awards.

Fayose: Governor convenes peace meeting over farmers/herdsmen clash ‎

Fayose also said recent measures put in place  by his administration  were to prevent violence  between farmers and herdsmen. Gov. Ayo Fayose of  Ekiti on Wednesday in Ado-Ekiti said there would be no unlawful killing in the state under his watch.The governor spoke during a peace meeting with Fulani herdsmen under the aegis of  the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, farmers, local hunters, security agencies and representatives of the Tiv community in the state.Fayose  also said  recent measures put in place  by his administration  were to prevent violence  between farmers and herdsmen.The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  reports that there  there had been tension between the herdsmen and farmers of Benue extraction in the state  over allegation of farm destruction and killings.NAN also reports that a  herdsman, Babuga Dengi, was on Monday  killed in a bush  between Irele and Oke Ako in Ikole Local Government Area of the state.But Fayose, who warned the herdsmen and farmers against turning Ekiti to a war zone,  ordered security agents to  fish out the killer of the victim.“I can’t accept anybody to be killed. If anybody killed anyone,  I will make sure you are killed by ensuring justice. I’m sad about the killing in Benue but we don’t want brutality in Ekiti“I won’t accept any killing here, the only thing acceptable here is peace. I therefore plead with everybody to cooperate with us“I want peace in my state and everybody living here is from Ekiti whether you are Fulani, Tiv, Yoruba or anybody.“ Cow matter can’t cause problems  between us. Oke Ako-Irele issue should not be allowed to fester. Cooperate with us and whoever kills would be fished out“When you are entering Ekiti, drop wherever you are coming from at the boundary. You can’t kill Yoruba, Fulani, Igbo or Tiv here.“  From the information so far, the deceased died as a result of  a clash between Fulani herders and some Tiv people, but at that,  we can’t condone lawlessness. We don’t want that type of Benue issue here, ” he said.ALSO READ: Ortom reveals location of killer Fulani Herdsmen in BenueNAN  reports that  a communique read by Fayose at the end of the meeting ordered an expanded  forum of  leaders of  herdsmen, farmers, hunters, council chairmen and traditional rulers from Oke Ako and Irele.The meeting,  while noting that the crisis  in Oke Ako was between Tivs and Fulani, resolved that the people must live in peace.The meeting also ordered security agencies to fish out the killers of the herdsman in the area.“We ask security agencies to do more in intelligence gathering, information and prevention, while we thank them for what they have done so far,” the communique added.

I respect Tiwa Savage, Omawumi, Yemi Alade and co — Niniola

By Rotimi Agbana
Currently one of the biggest acts in the Nigerian music industry, Ekiti State born Niniola Apata, better known by her stage name, ‘Niniola’, broke into limelight shortly after emerging 3rd runner-up in the 6th edition of MTN Project Fame. Renowned for her electrifying display of stage energy, musical dexterity and stage craft, she has been able to create a world of her own in the Nigerian music industry through hard, resilience and consistency. In this interview, she speaks of how she developed interest in music, career success so far and more. Excerpts. 
NiniolaYou were nominated for major awards in 2016 and 2017 but won in only very few category, how do you feel about this?
Well, a nomination itself is a win; nominations and actual winning is a big deal/recognition, but it won’t stop me from working harder, the fact that I was recognized did it for me. The awards will come my dear.
How do you feel to have won the Best African Collaboration award at Afrima 2016?
I feel so blessed and elated. Best African Collaboration, not Nigerian or West African. I’m thankful to God, my East African brother, Eddy Kenzo, Naijareview, and of course the fans that voted.
Do you feel threatened by the likes of Tiwa Savage, Omawumi, Yemi Alade, Seyi Shay and the likes?
Ah! (Laughs), Oh no, they are my seniors o! I met them in the industry, they paved the way for females like me, and I respect their craft. I can only admire them but will never ever feel threatened by sisters; there is enough space for everyone.
What is your take on the credibility of music awards in Nigeria?
Award bodies recognize artistes who have had outstanding performances in the year in review which is a great thing and it’s up to them to make it free, fair and transparent.
How did you develop interest in music and not something else?
My interest in music was as a result of boredom as a child (laughs), it’s funny but true. My parents didn’t take me out and I had to get busy, so music occupied my time.
What influenced your repertoire of songs during childhood?
As a child, I got my repertoire of music from my parent’s records and that of my older siblings; whatever records they played I listened to.
Which artistes have influenced your style of music?
Wow! I have an endless list of musical influences; to name a few there’s Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, The Beatles, Shakira, Toni Braxton, Brandy, Beyonce, The Cranberries, Angelique Kidjo, Funmi Aragbaye, King Sunny Ade, etc.
Many would say your emergence as 3rd  runner-up at MTN Project Fame season6 was what shot you to fame, do you agree?
In as much as it gave me a great platform (which I am forever grateful for), I won’t say it was a major reason, because I had to get a management team, release my debut single and the follow-up singles, learn a lot about the music business, etc. I had to work hard on my own to achieve my life-long dream as an entertainer; which is still an on-going process.
What gives you the kind of energy you usually exude whenever you perform on stage?
That’s the grace of God. The stage is my playground, so to say and I basically have fun. That is the time my inner “extrovertish” nature (permit me to use that word) comes out to play, laughs.
Within 4-years of breaking into the music industry you have been able to drop some hit singles currently enjoying massive airplay, featured on the remix of Eddy Kenzo’s  ‘Mbilo Mbilo’, and performed at major shows. How were you able to achieve all of these?
Well, I will say I’m barely 3-years in the industry because I dropped my debut single “Ibadi” in March 2014. It has just been the grace of God, hard work, supports from family and friends, the media, my management and of course the fans, whom I call family.
How were you able to get Sarz to produce your first official single ‘Ibadi’?
All I did was google up the “Best/Top Nigerian Music Producers” and his name popped up on all the lists. I checked out his work, loved it and contacted him to produce my debut single.
What is that one thing you hate about the Nigerian music industry?
Well, I do not hate anything about the industry. I just pray for steady growth/structure in the music industry.
What is the greatest price you have paid for love?
Time, because my love for music has taken all my time
Can you quit music for your relationship?
That’s not possible! Not for anything/anybody will I quit music. I won’t be in such an unsupportive relationship in the first place.
The post I respect Tiwa Savage, Omawumi, Yemi Alade and co — Niniola appeared first on Vanguard News.

NFF reveals World Cup program

To several applauses and commendation for good planning and focus, the Nigeria Football Federation on Wednesday in Lagos made public its 2018 FIFA World Cup program for the Super Eagles, revealing venues and dates for six pre-World Cup friendly matches, kit launch, camping programmes and venues, the team base camp, sponsors’ event and how the team will travel during the World Cup finals proper.
Super EaglesNFF President Amaju Pinnick unfurled the entire program at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, immediately after the contract signing with Coca-Cola.
The program explained that the Eagles will play Poland, Serbia, Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Czech Republic an a yet-to-be-named South American team on the way to the World Cup finals in Russia.
On 7th February in London, kit sponsors NIKE will unveil the official kit the Eagles will use at the World Cup finals, while a Sponsors/Partners event will hold also in London hours after the friendly with England’s Three Lions at Wembley on 2nd June.
The team’s first phase camping will hold in Abuja or Uyo between 22nd and 30th May, while the second phase camping will hold at a health resort in Austria 3rd – 11th June.
The close camp at the Eagles’ official World Cup team base camp is at Yessentuki, Stavropol Territory in Russia’s southern region, starting 11th June.
KEY DATES
7th February: NIKE to launch official kit in London
23rd March: Friendly Vs Poland in Warsaw
27th March: Friendly Vs Serbia in London
22nd May – 30th May: First Phase Camping in Abuja/Uyo
28th May: Friendly Vs DR Congo in Abuja/Uyo
2nd June: Friendly Vs England in London. (Same night, Sponsors/Partners event in London)
3rd – 11th June: Second Phase camping in Austria
6th June: Friendly Vs Czech Republic in Austria
9th June: Friendly Vs TBC in Austria
From 11th June: Close camp at team base camp in Yessentuki
The post NFF reveals World Cup program appeared first on Vanguard News.

Tech: The flu epidemic has hit a milestone that hasn’t happened in over a...

The flu this season is deadly and rampant. But the epidemic is not unprecedented, and CDC experts say we could be in the worst of it.
Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they’re seeing “widespread” instances of the flu in 49 states.
It’s the first time that many states have been slammed by the flu at the same time in over a decade.
Some evidence suggests that the worst of the flu season is upon us, and that the flu shot will be better at protecting more late-season cases this year.
Flu season arrived early in the US this year, and it’s been deadly. To make matters worse, the current vaccine isn’t working very well against one of the most common strains of the virus.
“This year’s influenza season is proving particularly difficult” CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said during a briefing on Tuesday.
Perhaps most the most unusual thing about this year’s flu, experts say, is that it’s hitting almost everyone at the same time.
The flu is “widespread” in 49 states right now, according to the CDC (Hawaii is the only state without that distinction). Doctors at the CDC say they haven’t seen in that kind of across-the-board flu circulation in the last 13 years of tracking the flu, or maybe ever.
A quick and deadly spread
The prevalence of the flu has led to shortages of anti-viral drugs that doctors prescribe in the first 48 hours of illness to make the bug shorter and milder. Pharmacies in San Francisco and Atlanta have reportedly been running out of the drugs, and Roche Holding AG, the maker of one of the most popular anti-virals, called Tamiflu, told Reuters that the company is having trouble getting shipments of the liquid version for kids to distributors and wholesalers on schedule.
At least 21 children have died from the flu so far this season, and Dan Jernigan, who directs the CDC’s influenza division says it’s likely that the actual number of kids who’ve been killed across the country could be double what’s been reported.
On Tuesday, NBC reported that a fourth-grader from Connecticut died suddenly due to complications from the flu while away at a hockey event. It is not known whether the boy had been vaccinated, but a 2017 study showed that getting a shot can significantly reduce a child’s likelihood of dying from the flu.
In California alone, 43 people under the age of 65 have died, most of whom were un-vaccinated adults, the California Department of Health told Business Insider. One victim in the state was a 40-year-old marathon-running mother whose flu led to pneumonia and sepsis, according to CBS.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey declared a public health emergency last week, saying hospitals and health care workers were “overwhelmed” with sick patients, and “taxed to such an extent that care of patients may now no longer be provided in the traditional, normal, and customary manner.”
You can see how quickly the flu has spread across the US in this dramatic week-by-week map:
Part of the problem this season has been the prevalence of a deadly strain of influenza ‘A’ called H3N2. So far, nearly eight of every 10 lab-confirmed flu cases have been that aggressive strain, which is also being called the “Aussie flu” since Australia’s flu season preceded the US’ and was unusually severe as well.
H3N2 is not well served by vaccines because it rapidly evolves and is difficult to grow successfully in eggs, which is how most flu shots get made.
But this season’s deadly flu is not without precedent. Severe flu seasons can kill upwards of 56,000 people every year in the US, and lead to up to $10.4 billion in direct medical costs. The flu reaches “epidemic” levels at some point every year — officially, that’s when the number of people killed by the flu passes 6.8% of all US deaths (as happened earlier this month).
The worst may be over
Some new evidence suggests the H3N2 strain of the virus may be peaking this month.
Flu watchers at the CDC say they’re starting to see more influenza ‘B’ popping up in their tests, and those ‘B’ viruses are better served by this year’s vaccine. (In one study, the flu shot worked against 54% of influenza B cases, while its effectiveness against H3N2 strains was closer to 33%.)
Despite years of modeling, the fate of the flu season is still near impossible for experts to predict. The virus moves quickly, changes rapidly, and mutates drastically from year to year. That’s why a universal flu vaccine that could protect patients for life has so far been impossible for drugmakers to produce.
As CDC deputy science director Phoebe Thorpe put it, “if you’ve seen one flu season… you’ve seen one flu season.”
Officials say influenza will continue to circulate in the US for weeks to come, however, which means it’s not too late to get the shot.

Super Eagles: NFF, Nike to unveil new 2018 FIFA World Cup jersey in London

Since the NFF and Nike partnership in 2015, three different jerseys have been used so far. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and their official kit sponsor Nike will unveil the new Super Eagles jersey for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Wednesday, January 7 in London.The NFF in April 2015 first signed a kit sponsorship deal with Nike which began on May 2, 2015, after ending their contract with Adidas. Ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, the NFF at a press conference at the Eko Hotels and Suites on Wednesday, January 17 announced that they will unveil the Super Eagles World Cup jersey in February.Revealing the Super Eagles 2018 FIFA World Cup program, NFF president Amaju Pinnick announced that the unveiling will hold in Nike.It was it was in London at the Soho Hotel in Richmond Mews that the NFF first signed their kit sponsorship deal with the Nike.Nike Super Eagles jerseysSince the NFF and Nike partnership in 2015,  three different jerseys have been used so far. NFF and Nike first launched one for the Flying Eagles in May 2015 and another for the Nigeria U-23 team ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games which was made available for the Super Eagles for their 3-1 win over Algeria in a FIFA World Cup qualifiers in November 2016.The Super Eagles of Nigeria however used a new jersey for their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Algeria on Friday, November 10 and the friendly game against Argentina on Tuesday, November 14.It was to the surprise of many that the Super Eagles were in a new strip different from the one they had used in the last 12 months. The new kit is green, the national colours as usual but this time with a touch of greenish grey on both arms, sides and the neck.The Nike logo is on the right chest area while the NFF badge is on the left.The NFF didn’t make any statement on the new kit and have remained quiet on it.Although very likely, it’s still unknown if the new kit will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup jersey of the Super Eagles.

SERAP: Group seeks establishment of trust fund for victims of herdsmen attacks

SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr Timothy Adewale said that the trust fund would be an important first step towards justice for victims and their families. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to establish a Trust Fund for victims of attacks by herdsmen across the country.A statement signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr Timothy Adewale, in Abuja said that the trust fund would be an important first step towards justice for victims and their families.Adewale said that it was also necessary for the government to ensure that efforts to combat attacks by herdsmen was grounded in the rights of victims of unlawful killings and their families.He said that so far government’s attempt to address the persistent attacks had overlooked the plight of the victims.“It is important to ensure that any policy to tackle the problem is not used as a ploy to undercut the possibilities of justice and reparation for victims and their families.“It has to be made clear that victims of attacks by herdsmen are entitled to effective remedies regardless of whether they bring their claims against the government in an individual or collective capacity.’’Adewale said that it was an imperative demand of justice that the responsibility of the perpetrators of the unlawful killings and destruction of property be clearly established.He added that the rights of the victims and their families should be sustained to the fullest possible extent.He said that victims’ right to an effective remedy and reparation was a legally enforceable human right and not a matter of charity.ALSO READ: Senate orders IGP to arrest those involved in Benue attacks“It is no coincidence that the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and human rights instruments refer to victims’ right to effective remedies, including access to justice, reparation and guarantee of non-repetition.“As the President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, SERAP believes that Buhari is in a powerful position to end the unlawful killings and destruction of property apparently by herdsmen.“Buhari needs to speak directly to Nigerians and particularly to the countless victims and their families,” he said.

Tech: Mark Zuckerberg has been calling Congressmen about DACA: ‘This is a basic question...

Facebook’s CEO and COO are urging people to Congress about DACA. COO Sheryl Sandberg writes, “what we’re considering doing to Dreamers is cruel.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a vocal advocate for US immigration reform for years and on Wednesday he weighed in urging Congress to pass legislation to protect DACA Dreamers.
Zuckerberg has been personally calling members of Congress.
He said he’s ‘optimistic’ but feels this DACA legislation is testing “if our government works.”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has also weighed in saying, “The United States is not a cruel country. But what we’re considering doing to Dreamers is cruel.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been working the phones, calling members of Congress and urging them to pass a law that protects DACA “Dreamers,” the 800,000 immigrants brought to the US illegally as children who were granted work visas under an Obama-era program.
That program allowed them to get jobs, pay their taxes, enter the military, and generally come out of the shadows.
President Trump ended the program. It no longer allows new DACA registrations or existing DACA recipients to renew their status (which they must do every two years). Trump told Congress to pass a law by March 5 that would a be permanent fix or the Dreamers would be subject to exportation.
However, in practical terms, the deadline for fixing DACA has now become January 19, which is the deadline for passing a budget to keep the government funded and avoiding the shutdown.
Although Congress drafted a bipartisan bill that had something in it for both sides – a DACA fix for Democrats and border security funding that could be applied to building a wall on Southern border for Republicans – during a meeting with the President on the bill members of Congress on each side began posturing to their own bases, threatening to scuttle the entire bill.
During the meeting, Trump also reportedly made a profanity-laced comment about immigrants from certain countries that derailed the conversation and increased tensions on both sides.
Congress has a bill in the works that could pass if all sides opt to work together instead of digging in and opposing each other.
In his post urging everyone to call their Congressmen, Zuckerberg explained, “This is a basic question of whether our government works. Can Congress come together and find a path forward, or will we default to forcing almost one million people out of their jobs and country? I’m optimistic this will get solved.”
Zuckerberg also said that he’s been having direct conversations with members of Congress and believes “they want to fix this but we need to keep the pressure on so they know we’ll hold them accountable.”
Zuckerberg has been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform since 2013 when he founded an organization called FWD.us. Zuckerberg, like many CEOs in the tech industry, wants to make it easier to hire immigrants who attend college in the US, to hire from a global workforce and to support entrepreneurs who want to come to the US to create companies and jobs.
Meanwhile, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also weighed in on the DACA issue on Wednesday, pointing out the stakes for people raised in the US since they were children without proper immigration status. “The average DACA recipient came to this country at age six and has lived here for 20 years,” she wrote. “The United States is not a cruel country. But what we’re considering doing to Dreamers is cruel.”
She, too, is urging everyone to call their Congressman and tell them to act on this.
Facebook is not alone. IBM has been on this issue like glue since Trump first ended the DACA program, bringing Dreamers employed by IBM to DC to speak with lawmakers.
Last week, over 100 business leaders, most of them tech CEOs, signed a letter urging Congress to protect Dreamers. Business leaders have been publicly urging Congress for a fix that protects Dreamers for months, as well, since Trump ended the program.
Here’s Zuckerberg’s full post.
Every day that Congress doesn’t act more DACA recipients are losing their status.
Dreamers are members of our communities, and there are 800,000 living in fear with no ability to plan for the future. Teachers with DACA don’t know if they’ll be allowed to teach in a few months — but somehow we expect them to take care of our children. First responders with DACA don’t know if they’ll get to stay here — yet they worked around the clock to save lives after the hurricanes in Texas and Florida.
This is a basic question of whether our government works. Can Congress come together and find a path forward, or will we default to forcing almost one million people out of their jobs and country?
I’m optimistic this will get solved. There’s been some good bipartisan momentum on legislation recently. From my conversations with leaders in Congress, I believe they want to fix this, but we need to keep the pressure on so they know we’ll hold them accountable. I’ve been calling members of Congress and you can help by calling your Congressman or Congresswoman too right now.
To learn more and get connected today, go to http://dreamers.fwd.us.
Here’s Sandberg’s full post.
Immigrants helped build this country – and continue to build it every day. They lend their hands, heads, and hearts to make us stronger. That includes Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought here as children. They are Americans in every sense of the word, except on paper.
The average DACA recipient came to this country at age six and has lived here for 20 years. They’ve gone to American elementary and high schools. They work and live in every state. Some serve in our military. And now they face the very real possibility of being sent away from the country they call home.
The United States is not a cruel country. But what we’re considering doing to Dreamers is cruel. They deserve the chance to earn citizenship and legal protection to keep them safe and keep their families together. And they deserve it now.
I stand with them and urge Congress to pass legislation before the January 19 funding deadline. Learn more about how you can help#ProtectDreamers here: http://Dreamers.FWD.

North And South Korea To March Together At Winter Olympics Opening

 
This handout photo provided by South Korean Unification Ministry on January 17, 2018 shows South Korean chief delegate Chun Hae-Sung (L) and North Korean chief delegate Jon Jong-Su (R) leaving a meeting room after their working-level talks at the South side of the border truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitaraed zone dividing the two Koreas. AFP PHOTO / SOUTH KOREAN UNIFICATION MINISTRY 
The two Koreas agreed Wednesday to march together under a single flag at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and field a united women’s ice hockey team at the Games in a further sign of easing tensions on the peninsula.
North Korea also said it would send a 550-member delegation to the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the South, Seoul said, as the two sides met to discuss athlete numbers in the latest in a flurry of cross-border talks.
Nuclear-armed Pyongyang agreed last week to take part in next month’s Pyeongchang Games which are taking place just 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula.
Seoul has long sought to proclaim the event a “peace Olympics” in the face of tensions over the North’s weapons programmes — which have seen it subjected to multiple UN Security Council sanctions — and the discussions represent a marked improvement.
South Korean delegation members (R) shaking hands with North Korean delegation members during the working-level talks. AFP PHOTO / SOUTH KOREAN UNIFICATION MINISTRY 
The two Koreas will march together under a unification flag — a pale blue silhouette of the whole Korean peninsula — at the opening ceremony for the February 9-25 Games, according to a press statement issued by the South.
They also agreed to form a unified women’s ice hockey team.
North Korea, however, declined to discuss plans to send a high-level delegation to the Games when the issue was raised by Seoul, the South’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-Sung said.
The statement additionally said that the South will send skiers to the Masikryong ski resort in the North for joint training with North Korean skiers. Chun clarified these would be non-Olympic skiers.
IOC meeting
“The South and North must continue working on remaining issues on the basis of today’s agreements,” Chun told reporters following the meeting at the southern side of the border truce village of Panmunjom.
“We hope the South and North will be able to make the Pyeongchang Olympics a peace Olympics,” he added.
Three officials from each side took part in the talks and the results will be discussed by both Koreas with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday.
“This will then enable the IOC to carefully evaluate the consequences and the potential impact on the Olympic Games and the Olympic competitions,” an IOC spokesperson said.
“There are many considerations with regard to the impact of these proposals on the other participating (nations) and athletes,” with final decisions to be made on Saturday.
This file photo taken on April 06, 2017 shows South Korean fans waving “unification flags” as they cheer for North Korean players during the IIHF women’s world ice hockey championships division II group A competition match between South Korea and North Korea in Gangneung. Photo: JUNG Yeon-Je / AFP 
The IOC must approve extra Olympic slots for the North’s athletes after they failed to qualify or missed deadlines to register.
The North agreed to send 230 cheerleaders to support athletes from the two Koreas during the Olympics and to form a joint cheering squad with the South.
A 30-strong North Korean taekwondo delegation will also visit the South next month for demonstrations in Pyeongchang and Seoul.
Pyongyang also said it will send a separate 150-member delegation of supporters, athletes, performers, journalists and delegates to the Paralympics in March.
The statement said Seoul will “guarantee the safety and convenience of North Korea’s delegation”, which Chun said referred to transportation, accommodation and other necessary facilities.
South Korea will need to find ways to accommodate the North Korean delegation without violating UN Security Council sanctions, which block cash transfers to Pyongyang.
Any blacklisted officials in the North’s high-level delegation could be another potential stumbling block.
A North Korean delegation will visit the South next Thursday to inspect the facilities at Pyeongchang.
In another meeting on Monday, the two reached an agreement over a trip by a 140-member North Korean orchestra to the South to hold concerts in the capital and in Gangneung, one of the Games’ venues.
Frosty reception
The talks come after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un abruptly announced his willingness to take part in the Games in his New Year speech.
The move was seen as a bid to ease searing tensions on the peninsula and was rapidly welcomed by Seoul.
Last year, the nuclear-armed North tested missiles it said are capable of reaching the US — its “enemy” — and Kim traded threats of war with President Donald Trump.
Seoul’s proposal for a unified team in women’s ice hockey has met a frosty reception in South Korea, where critics accused the government of robbing some of its own players of the opportunity to compete at the Olympics for the sake of politics.
Tens of thousands have signed dozens of online petitions on the presidency’s website urging President Moon Jae-In to scrap the plan.
Chun emphasised the need for IOC approval but added: “I think it is quite meaningful to show the South and North in harmony.”
South Korea only qualified for the ice hockey tournament as hosts, rather than on merit, and are not seen as medal contenders.
sh/eb/qan
© Agence France-Presse
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DPR: Agency begins investigation into Lagos gas plant fire incident

According to Ladan, all parties involved will be invited for interrogation to know the cause of the fire incident and what to do next. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) says it has commenced an investigation into the fire incident that claimed two lives at a gas plant in Magodo area of Lagos.Mr Mordecai Ladan, a Director in the Department, made this known during inspection of the gas plant, Second Coming Gas Plant in Magodo area of Lagos.According to Ladan, all parties involved will be invited for interrogation to know the cause of the fire incident and what to do next.He said that the investigation, which would commence immediately after the inspection, would last for three weeks.The director said that after the inquest the department would determine the fate of the gas plant.“Most times, gas plant fire incident used to be as a result of poor management attitude or lack of safety measures.“The inquest will determine the cause of the incident and what next to do.“The department always holds quarterly interactive forum with the association of cooking gas plants owners to warn them of fire incident, especially during harmattan period.“The fire incident here was very devastating,” he said.Ladan said that the premises of the Second Coming Gas Plant was licenced in 1996 when there was no structure in the area.“There was no structure here when the plant was given licence for operation in 1996.“We are saying this to let people know that the facility had been located here before the residents started building their houses.“The whole place was bushy when they started operation, it wasn’t like this before,” he explained.On the cause of the incident, Mr Ifenna Okeke, a Director in the gas plant, said that the incident was as a result of gas leakages from one of the company’s trucks.“On Monday morning around 7.00a.m, we discovered a gas leakage from one of the company’s trucks.“The operations manager immediately turned on all the company’s fire resistant mechanism and alerted the fire service of the leakage.“The firemen came, put their firefighters motor at alert and started stopping motors plying the road because the gas leakage had circulated by that time.“Suddenly, a Golf car driver who had been warned not to start his car started the engine and everywhere exploded.ALSO READ: DPR team punishes filling stations selling fuel above N145“The two persons that were burnt due to the incident were unknown.“Everybody was aware of the leakage; we shouted so that people could leave their premises, and none of our staff and customers were around.“Maybe they were sleeping when they got burnt due to the explosion, but it is very unfortunate,” he said.The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on Jan.15, two persons were burnt to death and seven others suffered varying degrees of burns in an early morning explosion at a gas plant in Magodo, Lagos.

In Gombe: NSCDC arrest 34, secure conviction of 9 rapists

The Commandant of the corps in the state, Hajiya Altine Sani, disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Gombe on Wednesday. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Gombe State Command, on Wednesday said it had arrested 34 suspected rapists and secured conviction of nine in 2017.The Commandant of the corps in the state, Hajiya Altine Sani, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Gombe on Wednesday.Sani said of the 34, nine were established rapists, convicted and currently serving various jail terms.She said that after thorough investigations, the remaining 25 were actually cases related to sexual assault, saying no traces of rape was established against them and were released on bail.According to her, out of the nine cases, two victims were tested and found HIV positive, while others were infected with different Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).ALSO READ: NSCDC uncovers prostitution ring among students”What we normally do, whenever we make such arrest we have network called Refferal Pathway which includes Security personnel, Medical personnel and Legal practitioners, among others.”They are saddled with the responsibility of establishing rape,” Sani explained.She noted that most of the perpetrators were in their 30s while their victims were between five and 11 years.The commandant, however, regretted that parents often tended to withdraw cases due to fear of stigma.”We usually tell them that the case is between the state and the perpetrators.”The government has the interest of the child at heart, therefore, perpetrators must face the wrath of the law,” Sani insisted.

Petrol subsidy payment: Reps summons Kachikwu, others

The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to invite the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, to explain the payment of N300 billion subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as petrol, without approval from the National Assembly.
The House also asked the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Maikanti Baru, and the Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr Abdulkadir Umar, to appear before its Committees on Finance and Petroleum Resources.
Adopting a motion moved under matters of urgent public importance by Rep. Sunday Karimi (Kogi), the members urged the Federal Government to make provision for subsidy payment in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, if it is interested in continuing with the payment of subsidy on petrol.
Leading the debate on the motion, Karimi pointed out that between January and December the federal government through the NNPC claimed to have spent over N300 billion on payment of subsidy for petrol.
He described the payment made without the approval of the parliament as a breach of Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution which provided that no money should be withdrawn from the federation account except as prescribed by the National Assembly.
“In December 2017, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Ibe Kachikwu, have both admitted that the current landing cost of petrol is N171 per litre despite the fact that the Federal Government has pegged official rate at N145 per litre.
“At the moment, it is the NNPC that is paying for the cost or deferential of N26 per litre despite the fact that government has posited that it has removed petroleum subsidy in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
“NNPC conceded that fuel subsidy has returned because between January and March 2017, the corporation recorded an `under recovery’ of N46.86 billion and this trend continued at an increasing rate all through 2017.
“Under Recovery implies that expected open market price of PMS, which includes cost of importation and distribution of the commodity such as marketers margin, landing costs and freight cost is below the approved retail price.
“As a result, NNPC has been absorbing the extra cost and paying subsidy by itself.
“The 1999 Constitution (as amended) prescribes that no monies shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund or any other public fund of the federation, except in a manner prescribed by the National Assembly.
“As such, the payment of subsidy by the NNPC without appropriation or consent by National Assembly is illegal and unconstitutional,” Karimi said.
Contributing to the motion, Rep. Ahman Pategi faulted NNPC for paying subsidy to tune of 300 billion in 2017 without recourse to the parliament.
He said “probably NNPC is paying the subsidy to itself.“This problem cannot be resolved so long as the price of crude is increasing’’.
On his part, the Deputy Chief Whip, Pally Iriase called for the full deregulation of the downstream sector to curb the corruption currently associated with it and open it up for private investment.
However, the Chairman House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Rep. Joseph Akinlaja said that the N300 billion paid to marketers are areas of subsidy owed them by the federal government.
He, however, said that the marketers were agitating that they were still owed by the federal government.
Rep. Johnson Agbonayima said that the resuscitation of the country’s refineries can address the crises in the petroleum industry.
“Today, no refinery is working and I believe that something needs to be done,’’ he added.

Tech: Sorry, but the iPhone’s hideous notch probably won’t get smaller until 2019

Apple is reportedly designing a smaller notch for the 2019 iPhones.
Apple may be designing a smaller notch for future iPhones, according to a report from Korean news site ET News.
The notch currently houses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system, but Apple may combine the front-facing camera and the facial recognition module on future devices.
If you’re not a fan of the “notch” at the top of the iPhone X, you may not see its design change until 2019.
According to a report from Korean IT site ET News, Apple is currently looking into combining the facial-recognition module with the camera module on future iPhones, which would shrink the overall size of the “notch” that houses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system.
The report was first spotted by MacRumors.
The iPhone X was Apple’s first iPhone with a full edge-to-edge display and no home button, but to accommodate that design, Apple needed a small area to house the cameras and sensors to power Face ID, which replaces Touch ID as the main way to get into your phone and authenticate purchases. The “notch” is was the result.
But the design was widely criticized when the phone came out, and many consider it a blemish on the phone’s stunning OLED display.
While it’s encouraging that Apple may be pursuing a smaller notch for future iPhones, these changes will likely not affect the 2018 iPhone lineup — the design of those iPhones are likely already finalized. ET News reports the changes will affect products to be released in 2019 or later.

BREAKING: Theo Walcott joins Everton

England international Theo Walcott has joined Everton from Arsenal on a three and half year deal.
| | We’re delighted to confirm the signing of @TheoWalcott on on a three-and-a-half year deal. #WelcomeTheo 
— Everton (@Everton) January 17, 2018
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