Saturday, January 30, 2010

American Imam was Handcuffed and Shot 21 Times by FBI

Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah

30 Jan 2010 16:18 Africa/Lagos

CAIR: Autopsy Shows Mich. Imam Shot 21 Times, Handcuffed

Muslim civil rights group repeats call for independent probe of FBI shooting

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today reiterated its call for an independent investigation into the death of a Michigan imam, or Islamic religious leader, who a leaked autopsy report has revealed was shot 21 times and then handcuffed during an October FBI raid in Detroit.

Video: Shocking Details of Slain Imam's Autopsy (Fox)

CAIR, other civil liberties groups and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have all called for an investigation into the death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah. Earlier this month, Conyers sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to ask the Justice Department's civil rights division to investigate both the October shooting and whether the FBI violated the Constitution by using informants in mosques. A report detailing the imam's autopsy is scheduled for official release on Monday.

SEE: Autopsy in Imam Shooting to be Released Monday (Detroit News)
Conyers: Review FBI Case on Imam (Detroit Free Press)

"The shocking details of the imam's autopsy raise a number of disturbing questions that need to be answered," said Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR's Michigan chapter. "First of all, did the FBI agents follow established procedure when they shot the imam 21 times? How was the imam shot in the back? Was it proper procedure to handcuff either a dead body or a mortally-wounded suspect? If the agents found the imam alive following the shooting, did they call for medical assistance? All these questions need answers."

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, 248-842-1418, 248-559-2247, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787 or 202-341-4171, E-Mail:

Source: Council on American-Islamic Relations

CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, +1-248-842-1418,
+1-248-559-2247, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications
Director Ibrahim Hooper, +1-202-488-8787 or +1-202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, +1-202-488-8787
or +1-202-341-4171, E-Mail:

Web Site: Council on American-Islamic Relations

CAIR: Calif. Mayor Says He is 'Growing a Christian Community'

ABOVE magazine: 'Beauty Will Save the World'


ABOVE Magazine Winter Issue(PRNewsFoto/ABOVE magazine) NEW YORK, NY UNITED STATES

30 Jan 2010 15:00 Africa/Lagos

ABOVE magazine: 'Beauty Will Save the World'

NEW YORK, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Dedicated to raising awareness of the planet's endangered beauty and resources, the new issue of ABOVE magazine goes on shelf next week in the United States.

(Photo: )

This issue features cover and new artwork by the legendary American photographer and adventurer Peter Beard. This stunning and quintessentially personal portfolio features Beard's archival and iconic images of African wildlife juxtaposed with Hollywood star Eva Mendes, whom Beard shot in New York exclusively for ABOVE.

"Our goal is to become the destination publication for information and, I hope, inspiration about how to save beauty and preserve the environment on both collective and individual levels," said Nicolas Rachline, ABOVE's publisher and editor-in-chief.

As part of the issue, Tierney Gearon travelled to the San Juan Islands to capture magnificent images of fishermen using reef nets to catch wild salmon, one of the few sustainable and ethical kinds of fishing you can do. A companion piece by marine biologist Alexandra Morton shows the other side of the salmon story -- how these magnificent fish we all love to eat vanish from their wild habitat when they are imprudently "farmed" in sea pens. Claire Nouvian, ABOVE's marine conservation editor, closes the issue with her expert take on overfishing, looking at two new films about our endangered seas: Charles Clover's The End of the Line and Jacques Perrin's Oceans.

Ted Turner, the largest private landowner in North America and conservationist extraordinaire, shares his views on the environment, and sits still for photographer Gilles Bensimon, who travelled to Atlanta to photograph Turner (on the run, as always) in the company of his daughter Laura, who happens to be an active and ardent environmental activist.

And then we have an eco-conversation between designer Tom Dixon and novelist Stephanie Theobald, and eco-fashion with ultra-cool Italia Independent's Lapo Elkann, EDUN's Ali Hewson, and entomologist and "eco-model" Summer Raynes Oakes.

ABOVE magazine is published quarterly by Centoria Limited with a cover price of $10.00. It is distributed globally by Comag, a division of Conde Nast.

PRN Photo Desk,
Source: ABOVE magazine

CONTACT: Bryan Langston, +1-917-674-7042,, for ABOVE

Web Site:

Acquisition of 45% Stake in the Nigerian SEPLAT

29 Jan 2010 19:20 Africa/Lagos

Acquisition of 45% Stake in the Nigerian SEPLAT

PARIS, January 29/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ --

- SEPLAT Agrees to Acquire a 45% Stake in OMLs 4, 38 and 41 in Nigeria

SEPLAT PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LTD (SEPLAT), SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY of NIGERIA Ltd (SPDC), TOTAL E&P NIGERIA Ltd, and NIGERIA AGIP OIL COMPANY have signed an agreement concerning the acquisition by SEPLAT of a 45% stake in OML 4, 38 and 41 in Nigerian onshore operations. The outstanding 55% stake remains the property of the NIGERIAN NATIONAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION (NNPC).

This transaction, which requires the consent of the NNPC, the national oil company, and the approval of the Federal Government of Nigeria, is expected to be completed within the next six months.

MAUREL & PROM acquired a 45% stake in SEPLAT, a Nigerian-registered company. Subsequent to this deal, MAUREL & PROM would own 20.25% of the rights before royalties (20% for oil) in OML 4, 38 and 41. SEPLAT's other shareholders include the Nigerian operators PLATFORM PETROLEUM Ltd (22%) and SHEBAH PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY Ltd (33%). The two companies operate production and exploration assets in Nigeria, as well as a floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO). Given that SEPLAT's capital is mostly held by Nigerian operators, the company has the legal status of an "indigenous company".

MAUREL & PROM will make an initial investment of US$193 m in SEPLAT, and will undertake necessary measures to facilitate a similar amount to finance the share of the other SEPLAT shareholders. This investment does not require additional public fund raising for MAUREL & PROM. The operating company will receive technical support from MAUREL & PROM to facilitate further development of these assets.

According to Gaffney, Cline and Associates, SEPLAT's share of the transaction would involve 2P (P1+P2) reserves before royalties of 76 Mboe (Oil and condensates). In addition, other fields have been discovered which require further work to enable certification of additional reserves, and an exploration potential which is backed by a set of 2D and 3D seismic lines is yet to be quantified.

During the transition period, the SPDC teams will exploit the fields together with the SEPLAT teams, to ensure a smooth transition and to provide for the full transfer of operations. According to SPDC, the current operator, the estimated production capacity is approximately 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (100%). This does not include development of new fields. Oil production is currently shut down awaiting completion of repairs to the export pipeline. Restart of production is currently expected by mid February 2010. Gas production is sold to the local market.

This document may contain forward-looking statements regarding the financial position, results, business, and industrial strategy of Maurel & Prom. By nature, forward-looking

statements contain risks and uncertainties to the extent that they are based on events or circumstances that may or may not happen in the future. These projections are based on assumptions we believe to be reasonable, but which may prove to be incorrect and which depend on a number of risk factors, such as fluctuations in crude oil prices, changes in exchange rates, uncertainties related to the valuation of our oil reserves, actual rates of oil production and the related costs, operational problems, political stability, legislative or regulatory reforms, or even wars, terrorism or sabotage.

Maurel & Prom is listed for trading on Euronext Paris -
Compartment A - CAC mid 100 Index

Isin FR0000051070 / Bloomberg MAU.FP / Reuters MAUP.PA

Prochains rendez-vous :
02/02/2010 2009 Sales
04/08/2010 2009 Results, analysts meeting
05/20/2010 Annual General meeting

For further information, visit


Source: Maurel & Prom

Contact: INFLUENCES, +33-1-42-72-46-76,

French: Acquisition de 45 % dans le nigérian SEPLAT

French Newspaper Issues Apology to Ukrainian Businessman and Political Leader Rinat Akhmetov

29 Jan 2010 01:05 Africa/Lagos

French Newspaper Issues Apology to Ukrainian Businessman and Political Leader Rinat Akhmetov

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was released today by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, counsel to Rinat Akhmetov:

The French daily newspaper Le Figaro today issued a retraction of previously published false allegations regarding Rinat Akhmetov, the Ukrainian businessman and political leader, and apologized to Mr. Akhmetov for the untrue information.

The retraction related to an article that was first published in the newspaper's print and electronic editions on January 18, 2010. In a formal statement that appeared in today's edition, Le Figaro acknowledged that "it has no evidence to support" the claims made about Mr. Akhmetov in the article.

Le Figaro further stated that the newspaper "regrets that these claims were made" and formally apologized to Mr. Akhmetov for any harm that he had suffered.

Speaking from Washington, D.C., Mr. Akhmetov's U.S. lawyer, Mark J. MacDougall, stated, "The editors and publisher of Le Figaro have acted responsibly in issuing a swift apology and correcting the false statements published about Mr. Akhmetov."

MacDougall added, "Mr. Akhmetov values his reputation throughout Europe, and today's action by Le Figaro recognizes that Mr. Akhmetov's good name was put at risk when false accusations were published."

Mr. Akhmetov is the principal shareholder of System Capital Management, one of the largest industrial companies in Ukraine.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading international law firm, numbers more than 800 lawyers and advisors in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Source: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

CONTACT: Lauren Kerwin of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP,

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Africans for Haiti

For Immediate Publication:

Africans For Haiti: Board Members and Patrons Needed For The "Microfinance For Haiti (MFH) "African Solidarity Project.

As you are rightly aware, once the TV cameras leave Haiti, most of those groups competing for headlines-grabbing photo opportunities with quake survivors will leave. This is not the first disaster for Haiti through promises where made and broken.

Respected Africans in persons of Madame Graca Mandela and Professor Chinua Achebe have called for an African Solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters.

To support the quake victims rebuild their lives bottom-up over the medium or long term (sustainability), I have initiated the Microfinance For Haiti (MFH) solidarity project of my NGO the African Council for Arts and Culture eV., Germany. It is part of my action for the Africans for Haiti call from the Diaspora point of view.

There are four (4) more seats available on the Board and you can occupy any of them as you dee fit.

The target beneficiaries of my Microfinance For Haiti (MFH) are primarily widows, petty traders,artisans and other enterprising survivors who need to rebuild their small businesses from scratch. You can sponsor a widow start a small business through MFH as an alternative to a seat on the Board.

I remain at your disposal for further details while looking forward to a lasting cooperation in other appropriate forms for Haiti.

Bubacarr Sankanu


Microfinance For Haiti (MFH)

Tel.: +49(0)177-484-2957


Friday, January 29, 2010

U.S. Two-Prong Strategy with Yemen Government to Provide Security and Thwart Terrorism on the Arabian Peninsula

26 Jan 2010 00:56 Africa/Lagos

U.S. Two-Prong Strategy with Yemen Government to Provide Security and Thwart Terrorism on the Arabian Peninsula

DATELINE CITY: 25 January, 2010/Washington, D.C.

FORMAT: (2) Soundbites

STORY SUMMARY: State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin comments on the U.S. - Yemen strategy for success against the terrorism in the Arabian Peninsula.

RESOURCES More available at ernment-to-provide-security-and-thwart-terrorism-on-the-arabian-peninsula

Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Soundbite (1)

Summary: Ambassador Benjamin says that the U.S. two-prong strategy with the Yemen government, aimed at security threats and very serious economic problems, will be fruitful for both countries.

IN: "It is very much a two prong strategy we have, first of all there's been a lot of attention paid to the work we're doing with the Yemeni Government to increase paid its ability to take care of its own Security threats and to take on in particular Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that is vitally important but we also know that if we're going to have a sustainable long-term engagement with Yemen if we're going to deal with the threat that it faces and we face as well. It's going to require a sustained engagement to deal with that country's very serious economic problems particularly the depletion of natural resources; it's got serious demographic challenges. Water, a depleting water table and also its governance problems and social issues and so our assistance is very much aimed at doing that very well." OUT TRT: 56

Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Soundbite (2)

Summary: Ambassador Benjamin says that the Obama Administration is very pleased by the strong stance Yemen has taken against Al-Qaeda.

IN: "We are very pleased by the strong stance that President Salih and his government have taken in terms of confronting Al-Qaeda, particularly since the December 17th engagements, operations that have continued through until this month. But I should also note that this is not - it may appear on the surface to be a suddenly new involvement in things Yemeni for the United States. But in fact, this Administration has been engaged on Yemen really since the very beginning. The new Administration came in and recognized early on that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was gaining strength and was going to pose a significant terrorist threat and ordered up a comprehensive policy review to ensure that we were using all the tools at our power to deal with the terrorist threat there. That review was completed in the fall. OUT TRT: 1:10

Total TRT: 2:19

VIDEO PROVIDED BY: U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State


Media Contact: Ken Richards, +1-202-647-6251,

/PRNewswire -- Jan. 25/

Source: U.S. Department of State

Web Site:

Former Willbros International Executives Sentenced to Prison for Their Roles in $6 Million Nigerian Bribery Scandal

29 Jan 2010 00:46 Africa/Lagos

Former Willbros International Executives Sentenced to Prison for Their Roles in $6 Million Foreign Bribery Scheme

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two former executives of Willbros International Inc. (WII), a subsidiary of Houston-based Willbros Group Inc. (Willbros), were sentenced today for their roles in a conspiracy to pay more than $6 million in bribes to government officials of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and officials from a Nigerian political party, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Acting Assistant Director in Charge John G. Perren of the FBI's Washington Field Office.

Jason Edward Steph, 40, was sentenced today to 15 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Simeon T. Lake III in Houston. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Lake ordered Steph to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term and to pay a $2,000 fine. The court acknowledged at the sentencing hearing the assistance Steph provided in ongoing investigations.

Jim Bob Brown, 48, was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in prison by Judge Lake. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Lake ordered Brown to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term and to pay a fine of $1,000 per month while Brown is on supervised release. The court acknowledged at the sentencing hearing the assistance Brown provided in ongoing investigations.

Steph and Brown both had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) before Judge Lake in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In pleading guilty, Steph and Brown admitted that Willbros, a publicly traded company that provides construction, engineering and other services in the oil and gas industry, conducted its international operations through WII and that they were both employees of WII. Steph admitted that beginning in approximately late 2003, he conspired with others to make a series of corrupt payments totaling more than $6 million to various Nigerian officials and officials from a Nigerian political party to assist Willbros in obtaining and retaining the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS) Project, which was valued at approximately $387 million.

Steph also admitted that in early 2005, he, along with former WII executive Brown and others, arranged for the payment of approximately $1.8 million in cash to government officials in Nigeria to further the conspiracy. Steph admitted that in order to make these payments, he obtained $550,000 in cash from another co-conspirator for the purpose of paying that money to Nigerian government officials. He also admitted that he obtained approximately $350,000 from a petty cash account, which was raised over several weeks by falsely inflating petty cash funding requests transmitted to Willbros and by covering the inflated amounts with invoices from fictitious vendors representing purportedly legitimate business expenses.

Brown admitted that in early 2005, he conspired with others to pay bribes to government officials in Nigeria for the purpose of retaining the EGGS Project. Brown admitted that to further this conspiracy, he, with the assistance of others, obtained a suitcase filled with $1 million in cash from WII's German construction company partner, which Brown then paid to another co-conspirator for the purpose of forwarding that money to Nigerian government officials.

Brown also admitted that in at least 1996 and continuing through at least 2004, he conspired with others to negotiate lower federal and state tax obligations in exchange for corrupt, "under the table" payments to Nigerian revenue officials, including officials responsible for auditing and enforcing taxes, for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business and for securing an improper advantage. Brown admitted he also conspired with others to make corrupt payments to officials of the Nigerian judicial system in exchange for favorable action on pending cases, for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business and for securing an improper advantage.

Additionally, Brown admitted to making at least $300,000 in corrupt payments to Ecuadorian government officials affiliated with PetroEcuador and PetroCommercial, for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business for Willbros, WII and others, including the Proyecto Santo Domingo project. In connection with the Ecuador transaction, Brown and others agreed to pay $150,000 to the Ecuadorian officials up front and $150,000 at the project's conclusion.

To date, in addition to Steph and Brown, the prosecution in this matter also includes:

On Nov. 12, 2009, former WII consultant Paul Novak pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA, in connection with his role in paying bribes to Nigerian government officials. Novak's sentencing is currently scheduled for July 9, 2010.

On Dec. 19, 2008, an indictment was unsealed against former Willbros executive Kenneth Tillery, charging him with conspiring to make more than $6.3 million in bribe payments to Nigerian and Ecuadoran officials; two individual counts of violating the FCPA in connection with the authorization of specific corrupt payments to officials in those countries; and one count of conspiring to launder the bribe payments through purported consulting companies. He remains a fugitive.

On May 14, 2008, Willbros entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a $22 million criminal penalty, in connection with the company's payment of bribes to government officials in Nigeria and Ecuador.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief Hank Bond Walther and Trial Attorney Laura N. Perkins of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and investigated by the FBI's Washington Field Office squad that specializes in investigations of FCPA violations.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

CONTACT: U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs,
+1-202-514-2007, TDD +1-202-514-1888

Web Site:

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Essence Celebrates 40th Anniversary in 2010: Where Black Women Come First

28 Jan 2010 15:15 Africa/Lagos

Essence Celebrates 40th Anniversary in 2010: Where Black Women Come First

Year Long Tribute Kicks Off During Black History Month ESSENCE Magazine Commemorative 40th Anniversary Issue in September

NEW YORK, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- ESSENCE will mark its 40th anniversary in 2010; beginning a year long celebration in honor of African-American women during Black History Month. Specifically, ESSENCE will commemorate its 40th anniversary with initiatives aimed at helping Black women put themselves first, including new ESSENCE magazine features, content and a series of special "ESSENCE Presents" events.

"ESSENCE will celebrate its 40th anniversary all year long by touting what Black women have accomplished, and, more importantly, helping her to shape her perspective on the future. With three generations of Black women now represented in the White House, and African-American women making enormous strides both professionally and personally - studies show that African-American women feel more optimistic and powerful than ever before," said Essence Communications Inc. President Michelle Ebanks. "Because ESSENCE empowers her to put herself first, Black women are poised to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled - as she strives to reach her full potential."

Throughout the year, ESSENCE magazine will debut new features, profiles and celebrity columns each month, and will unveil new video programs, flashbacks and exclusive interviews daily. In addition, ESSENCE is presenting several special events throughout the year to commemorate its 40th anniversary - including ESSENCE Presents Black Women in Music during Grammy week, ESSENCE Presents Black Women in Hollywood during Oscar week, and the signature 16th annual Essence Music Festival during 4th of July weekend in New Orleans.

"Beginning our celebration during Black History Month provides the perfect context for us to note the significant achievements of Black women, as well as renew our commitment to the ESSENCE legacy of offering information, inspiration and unconditional affirmation," said Angela Burt-Murray, Editor-in-Chief, ESSENCE. "As the place 'Where Black Women Come First', ESSENCE is dedicated to strengthening African-American women, and by extension African-American families and African-American communities."

The celebration culminates with the ESSENCE magazine commemorative 40th anniversary collector's edition issue in September 2010.

About Essence Communications Inc.:

Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) is the leading media and communications company dedicated to African-American women. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events, and online, the Essence brand is "Where Black Women Come First". The company's flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the Essence Music Festival, the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Window on Our Women (WOW I & II) and Smart Beauty I, II & III consumer insights, the Essence Book Club,, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 40 years, ESSENCE magazine, which has a readership of 8.1 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information relating to every area of African-American women's lives. Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at


CONTACT: Dana Baxter, +1-212-522-1634,; or Sheila
Harris, +1-212-522-1089,, both of ESSENCE

Web Site:

From Essence with Love
alicia keys barack obama beyonce beyonce knowles black love black women bridal bliss chanel iman chris brown chris henry ciara diddy earthquake fashion first lady michelle obama hair haiti haiti earthquake halle berry health holiday iman janet jackson jay-z jennifer hudson joy bryant kelly rowland keri hilson love mariah carey marriage mary j blige mary j. blige michael jackson michelle obama mo'nique music obama oprah oprah winfrey paula patton poll precious president barack obama president obama princess and the frog real housewives of atlanta relationships rihanna sex solange star gazing steve harvey tiger woods tyra banks usher wedding white house will you marry me zoe saldana

President Barack Obama: I Don't Quit

President Barack Obama

Michael Chima --

I just finished delivering my first State of the Union, and I wanted to send you a quick note.

We face big and difficult challenges. Change on the scale we seek does not come easily. But I will never accept second place for the United States of America.

That is why I called for a robust jobs bill without delay. It's why I proposed a small businesses tax credit, new investments in infrastructure, and pushed for climate legislation to create a clean energy economy.

It's why we're taking on big banks, reforming Wall Street, revitalizing our education system, increasing transparency -- and finishing the job on health insurance reform.

It's why I need your help -- because I am determined to fight to defend the middle class, and special interest lobbyists will go all out to fight us.

Help me show that the American people are ready to join this fight for the middle class -- add your name to a letter to Congress today:

We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But we don't quit. I don't quit.

Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

President Barack Obama

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Clinton: Nigeria faces threat from Radicalization

Hillary Clinton

United States Department of State (Washington, DC)

Nigeria: Excerpt of Secretary Clinton's Remarks at Town Hall Meeting
Hillary Clinton
27 January 2010

The following remarks on Nigeria were made by the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, at a town hall meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC to mark the first anniversary of her appointment to the post:

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary. My name is Todd Woodard and I’m a contractor supporting the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

Given the recent alleged attempted attack by the young Nigerian on Christmas Day and also the purported audio message from Usama bin Ladin heralding that attack and assuming responsibility for it, I’m curious to hear your thoughts regarding the connection between Islamist organizations and young Muslims in Western Africa, specifically Nigeria. I’m curious to hear what your opinion is regarding the driving factors for the youth accepting and embracing the Islamist ideology.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s an excellent question, and volumes have been written to try to answer that. But let me just briefly say that there is a connection between young people and the efforts to radicalize them that are promoted, sponsored, financed by al-Qaida and other extreme organizations with a very narrow definition of Islam. And they have been quite effective on the internet, as you know. We can track connections between not just the Christmas Day bomber but the Fort Hood shooter, the shooter at the Little Rock military recruitment station, and can see that they were at least listening to and interacting with very extreme voices on the side of Islamist ideology.

In Nigeria, which is, as you know, evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, about 75 million of each – Christians predominantly in the south, Muslims predominantly in the north – there has been an accommodation that has enabled Nigeria to survive politically. But the failure of the Nigerian leadership over many years to respond to the legitimate needs of their own young people, to have a government that promoted a meritocracy, that really understood that democracy can’t just be given lip service, it has to be delivering services to the people, has meant there is a lot of alienation in that country and others.

Young people in the world today, they see other options. They’re all interconnected through the internet. And the information we have on the Christmas Day bomber so far seems to suggest that he was disturbed by his father’s wealth and the kind of living conditions that he viewed as being not Islamic enough and just the kinds of attitudes young people often portray toward their families as they go through their maturing. But in this case, and in so many others, such young people are targets for recruiters to extremism.

So I do think that Nigeria faces a threat from increasing radicalization that needs to be addressed, and not just by military means. There has to be a recognition that in the last 10 years, a lot of the indicators about quality of life in Nigeria have gone the wrong direction. The rate of illiteracy is growing, not falling, in a country that used to have a very high rate of literacy in Africa. The health statistics are going the wrong direction. The corruption is unbelievable. And when I did a town hall in Abuja, people were just literally standing and shouting about what it was like to live in a country where the elite was so dominant, where corruption was so rampant, where criminality was so pervasive.

And that is an opening for extremism that offers an alternative world view. You want to live in peace and safety and feel good about yourself and be part of a community that you can be proud of, then turn away from your society and your family and come with us. And that can be a powerful message, whether it’s a gang in America or an extremist organization in Nigeria. And part of what I’ve been trying to tell leaders in all of my travels is that we’re not just lecturing about human rights or good governance or anticorruption measures because they’re our values; we think they are absolutely essential to the long-term survival of a lot of these governments and the societies and the political systems.

So this is – there are individual reasons why people get recruited and radicalized, but your question about Nigeria really raises all of the elements that make the circumstances ripe for people being targeted as they are, and they have to be addressed.

Nollywood Noisemakers and the Rest of Us

Nollywood Noisemakers and the Rest of Us

~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima

It was in the book Nollywood: The Video Phenomenon in Nigeria written by Monsieur Pierre Barrot that he called one of the top players in the contemporary Nigerian film industry a Nollywood Noisemaker. Of course M. Barrot knew what he was talking about when he made that derogatory jest, because he was the French Audio-visual Attaché in Nigeria where he was involved in the development of the local film industry and he could separate the sheep from the goats in Idumota and Onitsha.

Nollywood noisemakers are legion and they are well known for their street brawls over bragging rights for the titular positions in their various guilds and making home videos. Then they went over the moon when UNESCO reported that Nigeria has overtaken Hollywood as the second largest film producer in the world after India’s Bollywood. But the last French Audio-visual Attaché in Nigeria, Monsieur Robert Minangoy laughed at the report and waved it off in dismissal.

How can you compare 485 major films produced by the United States to Nollywood’s 872 home videos? Moreover, the figures were based on a survey done by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in 2006. Bollywood made 1,091 feature-length films in 2006 and if you know the stuff and the format of these Indian films, you would be an ignorant fool to compare them to the cheap home videos in Nollywood.

99% of Nollywood videos cannot be screened at any major film festival, cinema and on TV in America or Europe, because the quality is amateurish and Nollywood movie makers have pirated American and European songs and music in their home videos. In fact, it is common to hear complete tracks of Céline Dion or Beyoncé Knowles in many Nollywood movies and they violated these copyrights with impunity.

Nollywood has crashed since the UNESCO report was published and the current statistics will send that report into the waste bin, because majority of the prolific Nollywood producers are broke and in fact, many of them complained of hunger on TV when they were protesting against piracy on the streets of Lagos. They were pointing accusing fingers at the famous Alaba International Market in Lagos where traders are duplicating copies of both Nigerian and foreign movies and hawking them on the streets like cheap peanuts..
Only the well-fed producers are still active and in fact, they are not making up to half of the 872 home videos recorded in 2006.

Nollywood noisemakers can even claim that Nigeria is the largest producer of home video movies in the world, but they must tackle the problem of the poor quality of their productions. If Nigerians want to celebrate a UNESCO Report on being the second largest producer of B movies in the world, they can do so shamelessly, but they are only celebrating their mediocrity and continue to be the laughing stock of Hollywood and Bollywood. It is ridiculous for Nigeria to boast of making over 872 movies annually, but not a single one has even qualified for screening at the Cannes Film Festival and most of them cannot make the box office in America!
How many Nollywood movies have been shown in cinemas?

What we should be proud of is quality and not quantity.

You must improve and perfect your craft and art, no matter the format of the Media you are using.

Quality has no substitute.


Nollywood: The Video Phenomenon in Nigeria

Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-First Century: Art Films and the Nollywood Video Revolution


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nneka's 'The Uncomfortable Truth' Named iTunes Single Of The Week


26 Jan 2010 15:00 Africa/Lagos

Nneka's 'The Uncomfortable Truth' Named iTunes Single Of The Week

US Debut Album Concrete Jungle Available Exclusively on iTunes January 26th - February 1st Concrete Jungle Available Everywhere on February 2nd Nneka to perform on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on February 3rd

NEW YORK, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Nneka's timely and poignant song, "The Uncomfortable Truth" has been named as iTunes' Single Of The Week offering the track as a free download starting today through February 1st. The song is the lead single from the singer/songwriter's US album debut Concrete Jungle, which will be offered exclusively on the iTunes Store during that same time period for just $6.99.

Having released three previous albums in Europe and beyond, Nneka's music has been heard and loved by hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe. Admirers within press and music circles continue to grow, and she has been embraced by the likes of Garth Trinidad, Gilles Peterson, The Roots & Perez Hilton alike. In a recent blog entry, Hilton introduced Nneka to his readers explaining that her music "is a gift to the world."

Having been declared by both Spin and Rolling Stone as one of the best new artists in 2010, Nneka is set to bring her message of hope and truth to the United States while embarking on her upcoming Concrete Jungle Tour on January 27th. Her first US release stands as an offering of love, hope and optimism dedicated to the people of Warri & the Niger Delta of Nigeria, and the US is ready to embrace that message and it's messenger with open arms.

"The Uncomfortable Truth" will be available for free download on iTunes starting today, Tuesday, January 26th.

Nneka's first US album, Concrete Jungle will also be available on iTunes exclusively this week for $6.99.

Concrete Jungle Tour Dates

Jan 27 San Francisco, CA @ Red Devil Lounge
Jan 29 Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe
Feb 2 New York, NY @ S.O.B's (Official Release Party)
Feb 3 Performance on David Letterman
Feb 4 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East
Feb 5 Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
Feb 6 Baltimore, MD @ Sonar Club Stage
Feb 8 Birmingham, AL @ WorkPlay Theatre
Feb 9 Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl
Feb 11 Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley
Feb 13 St. Louis, MO @ The Gramophone
Feb 14 Chicago, IL @ Double Door

Source: Epic Records

CONTACT: Pam Nashel Leto, +1-212-989-2222 x 111,, Kabeer
Malhotra, +1-212-989-2222 x 123,, Vickie Starr,
+1-212-989-2222,, or Alexandra Dunne, +1-212-833-5429,

Web Site:

Navmii: The First Mobile Navigation Application for Nigeria

26 Jan 2010 13:41 Africa/Lagos

Navmii: The First Mobile Navigation Application for Nigeria

LONDON, January 26/PRNewswire/ --

- Turn by Turn Personal Navigation Made Simple for Nigerian iPhone Users

- Available Now From Apple iTunes for $84.99, no Data Plan or Cellular Signal required

Telecgsm Ltd and Geolife UK Ltd today announced the availability of the first turn-by-turn mobile navigation application, Navmii, for the iPhone 3G & 3GS in Nigeria.

Navmii transforms the Apple iPhone into a voice and visual guided navigation system with detailed maps of Nigeria, covering over 30 cities. The first turn-by-turn satellite navigation software available for Nigeria, Navmii makes navigation on the iPhone incredibly simple. Users can search for an address by city, street or junction with Navmii's address input, or select a point on a map. Navmii then calculates the best route to the destination, and automatically reroutes if you miss a turning.

Peter Atalla, CEO of Navmii said: "This is the first mobile navigation solution specifically created for the Nigerian market. Nigeria is a country that has fully embraced mobile phones and Navmii for the iPhone is a great opportunity to expand the capability of the mobile handset into navigation and location services. Navmii is available on other mobile phones too, including Nokia and Windows Mobile. Nigeria and Africa is a hugely exciting market, we are proud to be at the forefront of this market."

Foluke Oyeleye, the CEO of Telecgsm, said "Navmii raises the bar in value added services to the customers in Nigeria's telecoms industry and expands the use of navigation features on phones, as more people are bound to use this exciting service." Speaking further, Foluke noted "Telecgsm is best positioned for this pioneering project as we have the required experience, knowledge and distribution network to make Navmii succeed in the Nigerian and African markets where Telecgsm plays a key role in the telecommunications industry."

With maps of Nigeria all stored on the iPhone, Navmii is able to locate and then navigate to thousands of included Points of Interest (POI). Users can browse the map by dragging or scrolling the screen, see a clear overview of the route, and obtain accurate travel information including Time of Arrival and Distance to Destination. The new Detour feature even allows Navmii to recalculate a route around road blocks or traffic congestion; ensuring travelers safely get to where they are going every time. Future versions of Navmii will include family and car tracking capabilities direct from the handset

Notes for Editors

- Option of viewing the map in either 2D, 3D or a safety screen.

- Day & Night maps - Automatic switch to low glare maps for safer night

- Compatible with iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or

- Price:$US: 84.99

- User Manual, and more information, is available at

About GeoLife

GeoLife Limited is a leading satellite navigation software and location-based services company. GeoLife designs, develops and supplies advanced GPS navigation and location based systems including the popular Navmii software for mobile phones. GeoLife Limited is incorporated in the United Kingdom and has offices in London & Manchester, in the UK, as well as Hong Kong and a software development centre in St Petersburg, Russia.

About Telecgsm:

Telecgsm is a leading mobile phone distributor in Nigeria with several years of experience in the distribution of Nokia and Samsung phones alongside other IT related hardware and products.

Source: GeoLife Ltd

Media contacts: GeoLife Ltd., Chris Bignell, XL Communications, Tel: +44(0)7834-020460, Email:; Telecgsm Ltd, Alex Oyebamiji, 13 Amodu Ojikutu Street, Victoria Island Lagos., Tel: +234-708-999-7311, Email:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The President’s Cabinet Reporting to You

The President’s Cabinet Reporting to You

When President Obama and his Cabinet took office a year ago, they faced an array of historic challenges: an economy in freefall, job losses averaging almost 700,000 a month, a middle class under assault, two wars and badly frayed global alliances, and a staggering $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

Faced with these unparalleled challenges, the President and his Cabinet got to work. The Administration took bold steps to rescue the country from a potential second Great Depression; to rebuild the economy for the long-term -- so businesses can thrive, the middle class can grow and all our families can be more secure; and to restore America’s leadership in the world, as we wrestle with the global challenges of the 21st Century.

In short videos, members of the President’s Cabinet report back to you on their progress this first year and outline what lies ahead for their departments and agencies to keep America moving forward.

Watching the Cabinet’s video reports is easy. Just click on the Cabinet members group photograph above to follow the link on how to play their video.

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Mixed Messages in the Data According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices
GM Reaches Agreement to Sell Saab to Spyker
Borders Group Announces Departure of CEO Ron Marshall; Chief Merchandising Officer Mike Edwards Named Interim CEO
U.S. Preventive Medicine Offers Free Employee Wellness Guide
Target Eliminates Farmed Salmon From All Target Stores
Trust in U.S. Business Rebounds Significantly at Home and Around the World
GM to Be First Major U.S. Automaker to Manufacture Electric Motors
PBS's FRONTLINE Explores What It Means to Be Human in a World Immersed in Technology

Monday, January 25, 2010

What is Government's Role in Supporting the News Business?

25 Jan 2010 15:40 Africa/Lagos

What is Government's Role in Supporting the News Business?

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report on the role of government in supporting newspapers and other news organizations will be released by the University of Southern California's Center on Communication Leadership & Policy on Thursday, January 28, 2010.

The report, Public Policy and Funding the News, is co-authored by Geoffrey Cowan, USC Annenberg School dean emeritus and director of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP), and David Westphal, former Washington Editor for McClatchy Newspapers and current CCLP senior fellow and USC Annenberg executive-in-residence.

The report examines a common myth: that the commercial press in the United States is independent of governmental funding support. According to the authors, "There has never been a time in U.S. history when government dollars were not propping up the news business. This year, federal, state and local governments will spend well over $1 billion to support commercial news publishers through tax breaks, postal subsidies and the printing of public notices."

Issues to be discussed include:
-- The impact of falling government subsidies on the news business today
-- A framework to consider various legislative and regulatory proposals
to support news and information
-- Public broadcasting support, including international broadcasting
-- Antitrust regulations and intellectual property statutes
-- Publication requirements for public notices
-- Tax policies
-- Postal rates and regulations
-- Subsidies to expand broadband service

EVENT: Briefing on Government's role in supporting news organizations. Release of report "Public Policy and Funding the News"

LOCATION: National Press Club

DATE: Thursday, January 28, 2010

TIME: 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Briefing and continental breakfast


Geoffrey Cowan, director, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

David Westphal, senior fellow, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

About the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy

Based in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy conducts research and organizes courses, programs, seminars and symposia for scholars, students, policymakers and working professionals to prepare future leaders in journalism, communication and other related fields. Current projects include: Public Policy and the Future of News; The Constitution and the Press; Media and Political Discourse; Photographic Empowerment; Children's Media; and Women and Communication Leadership.

Contact: Carrie Collins, 301-664-9000

Source: USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

CONTACT: Carrie Collins of CCLP, +1-301-664-9000

Haiti's rural agriculture, rural poverty reduction, and the potential of small holder agriculture

25 Jan 2010 13:03 Africa/Lagos

Haiti's rural agriculture, rural poverty reduction, and the potential of small holder agriculture / IFAD / List of accredited media and organization for the press videoconference

LAUSANNE, January 25, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- List of accredited media and organization for the press videoconference on Haiti's rural agriculture, rural poverty reduction, and the potential of small holder agriculture held on January, 25 – 11:00 (Paris Time) :

Agridev-CTT - Tunisia

Columbia University - United States

Daily nawaiwaqt & Aaj tv - Pakistan

Ethiopan News Agency - Ethiopia

Frequence Teranga FM - Senegal

Ministry of Agriculture of Cameroon - Cameroon

Radio France Internationale (RFI) - France

Radio Rural - East Timor

The Nationa - Nigeria

Thomson Reuters - United Kingdom

Tickertxt - Germany

TOF Radio - Kenya

Trinity Broadcasting Namibia - Namibia

Voice of America - United States

Xinmin Weekly - China

Yossif Ayoub (Freelance) – Egypt

More information :

Prior to the World Economic Forum annual meeting (Davos), the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an International Financial Institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations, will hold a press videoconference regarding Haiti’s rural agriculture, rural poverty reduction, and the potential of small holder agriculture.

How to rebuild Haiti’s rural agriculture?

What’s the role of the private sector in rural poverty reduction?

How to draw the attention of Davos business leaders to the potential of small holder agriculture?


WHO : Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

WHEN : January, 25 – 10:50 (Paris Time)


HOW DOES IT WORK : This service is FREE and requires only the use of a computer connected to Internet.


This press videoconference is organized by the African Press Organization (

- African Press Organization : +41 22 534 96 97 / +33 661 797 718 /

Source: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

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Nigeria: Fears of Reprisal Attacks Loom in Northern Nigeria

Nigeria: Fears of Reprisal Attacks Loom in Northern Nigeria

The fears of reprisal attacks are rife in northern Nigeria after the gruesome religious mayhem in Jos and other parts of Plateau state left hundreds dead, with scores of corpses dumped in wells and toilet pits. Intolerant religious fanatics are using cell phones and other means of private communication to instigate members of their sects to mobilize for reprisal attacks to avenge the deaths of those they lost. The law enforcement agencies have been alerted and warning everyone in the middle belt and northern states to beware of Islamists who are already planning to launch widespread attacks on non-Muslims.

Unidentified men armed with guns and other weapons were arrested and detained Saturday night in Kaduna by the Nigeria Air Force.
Police officers of the Operation Yaki in Kaduna state are patrolling towns and villages to ensure the security of lives and properties.

Many indigenes of Abia, Bayelsa, Edo and other Southern states are already leaving the northern states for the safe havens of their hometowns. Some private schools in Borno and Yobe states turned back pupils, because they cannot guarantee their safety in the tensed atmosphere of insecurity.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two U.S. 'YOUR BIG BREAK' Finalists to Travel to New Zealand to Make Films with Barrie Osborne, Judged by Peter Jackson

100% Pure New Zealand's Filmmaking Competition will Premiere Winning Film on IFC leading into 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 5, 2010

Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand (January 21, 2010) /PRNewswire/ — Academy Award®-winning producer Barrie Osborne (The Lord of the Rings) and a panel of judges named the five finalists in the 100% Pure New Zealand Presents Your Big Break short film competition today. American finalists Kristi Simkins from Auburn, Wash., and Aya Tanimora from Santa Monica, Calif., will now travel to Queenstown, New Zealand, where they will work with Osborne and world class post-production facility Park Road Post Production to shoot and direct their own short films capturing the essence of the world's youngest country. Academy Award®-winning director Sir Peter Jackson will select the winning entry.

Barrie Osborne

After Jackson personally views and judges the five finalists' films, he will select one overall winner whose film will air on IFC just prior to the Spirit Awards live broadcast on March 5 at 8 p.m. Pacific/11 p.m. Eastern.

As if the opportunity to travel to Queenstown and work with the Academy Award-winning team responsible for The Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn't enough, all finalists' films will premiere in front of hundreds of the entertainment industry's brightest at the 100% Pure New Zealand lounge at the 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards, of which 100% Pure New Zealand is a Principal Sponsor, and on the Your Big Break Web site,

"The diversity of excellent entries demonstrates the passion people have for New Zealand," says Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler. "Many of the screenplays capture the spirit of New Zealand including the country's extraordinary landscapes, people and culture; the judges had their work cut out for them selecting just four."

While Osborne and a panel selected four of the finalists, Your Big Break site visitors voted for Aya Tanimura's film as the "People's Choice" finalist.

The other three finalists include Andrés Borghi from Buenos Aires, and Tim McLachlan and Rajneel Singh from Auckland, New Zealand.

"Putting the spotlight on emerging filmmakers is the essence of the Spirit Awards, and giving the "Your Big Break' finalists the opportunity to present their work on IFC is a fantastic way to cultivate new filmmaking talent," said Jennifer Caserta, Executive Vice President and General Manager of IFC.

All of the finalists are aspiring filmmakers who've dabbled in multiple aspects of the entertainment industry. The protagonist in Simkins's film "Something Special" seeks to fulfill a promise with his trip to New Zealand, while the main character in fellow American Tanimura's script "Sweet As," uses her imagery of the world's youngest country to impress. New Zealand native Singh's submission "Blank Spaces," plays off New Zealand's pure, untouched and unmapped image, while his fellow Kiwi McLachlan's entry "Mr. Whippy and the BMX Kid," focuses on a young Maori boy's conversation with an old man searching for renewal. Borghi's screenplay for "Working Day" centers on New Zealand's creation and aims to take advantage of his post production prowess.

"Many of the entries were stellar, but our five finalists' films displayed a combination of humor, imagination and passion that brought New Zealand's spirit to life," says Osborne. "I'm looking forward to working with all of these talented individuals."

The submission and voting period ran from December 9, 2009 until January 15, 2010 on More than 1,000 aspiring directors from around the globe entered a screenplay for a three-minute short film that captured the spirit of New Zealand and any supporting content they thought would aid their selection. The five finalists will produce their films in New Zealand in early February.

Useful Links:
Your Big Break website:
On Facebook:
On Twitter:
For inspiration:

For information about New Zealand's extensive vacation options, log onto the 100% Pure New Zealand website at

For other media information, log on to For high-resolution images, visit

ABOUT THE FILM INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS The Film Independent Spirit Awards is a celebration honoring films made by filmmakers who embody independence and originality. Televised in millions of homes and covered internationally by the press, the Spirit Awards has become the vanguard event in independent film, recognizing the achievements of independent filmmakers and promoting independent film to a wider audience.

Media Contact:
Andrew Reynolds
Hill & Knowlton for Tourism New Zealand

Friday, January 22, 2010

So, Can We Still Say "Yes, We Can!"?

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
~ Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America

Search: Inauguration
One year ago, Barack Obama became president. Here's a look back at the Obama family's historic year, including the inaugural ball, a trillion-dollar deficit, a Nobel Peace Prize, the first lady's fashions and hug with the queen, the girls, the dog and more.
- The speech: The president delivered his historic inauguration speech in front of a record crowd. - Their walk: The Obamas surprised parade watchers when they jumped out of the car and started walking. - The balls: The couple attended several inaugural balls (watch their first dance), while daughters Sasha and Malia were getting a big surprise.- The move: They moved into the White House, which they have since redecorated. - The school: Everyone was talking about where the girls would go to school, and they ended up here.
Next Search: The promise of hope and change


How would you rate President Barack Obama in his first year of leading the United States of America?

A Nigerian at Microsoft Brings Hope to African Orphans


For African orphans, sure mercies come as LittleDrops

Charles Duze, A Nigerian at Microsoft cares for orphans in Africa.

Charles Duze (pronounced dóo•zay) could not believe his eyes: Children just like him--some even younger--rifling through trashcans behind his high school cafeteria, lucky-dipping for food! Charles was enrolled at Federal Government College, Enugu, in Eastern Nigeria. Long after Nigeria’s Civil War ended, early in the ‘70s, ‘Coal City’ still bore scars of the internecine feud that left many families in tatters. A generation later, their inheritors were yet to recover lost grounds.

“Seeing this, day after day, unlocked something in me,” Charles recalls. It triggered an epiphany. “That was when I developed a real understanding and grew a passion for the plight of orphans.” There had been previous encounters pointing him to his calling. It’s all coming back as memories of his parents taking him on visits to orphanages and motherless babies’ homes in Benin City, tucked away in Nigeria’s Midwest, where he spent part of his childhood. On his own, he continued the pilgrimages to orphanages in Enugu.

After leaving Nigeria for the United States, Charles completed both first and second degrees against all odds and landed a job with Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. He thought of waiting to become wealthy to start a non-profit, but reckoned, “unless I win the lottery, becoming wealthy is way in the future for me!”

But his calling couldn’t wait. In 2005, with very little money and still lots of school loans to pay off, Charles Duze started LittleDrops Orphanage Fund. His philosophy: “Little drops of help add up. To start, you don’t need a million dollars.” Certainly not his boss Bill Gates’ billions either!

Lucky Charles, he met and married Nkiru who’s keen on the selfsame vision. She stands right by him in the trenches, saving orphaned lives from the ravages of time. Before then Charles had reached out to friends and co-workers to join his cause: Ensuring all orphans and vulnerable children on the African continent have access to food, shelter, clean water, clothes, education, healthcare and other basic necessities of life; taking care of their present needs for a healthy childhood. Charles Duze envisioned a second component to the intervention: Working to ensure that these children have a fair chance at a successful future so that they can one day stand on their own and contribute to society.

His passion was infectious; a good number pitched in with support immediately. Volunteer Ikenna Ekeh joined in early 2006, “to make an impact in my own little way.” After a couple of outings, Ikenna got hooked with a determination to not “just lend a hand once every now and then... I could go further and use my God-given talents more to support the cause.”

The vanguard volunteer, Ikenna took up driving LittleDrops’ online fundraising campaigns with vehicles such as their growing Facebook group; developing and updating, their various blogs; creating promotional materials such as flyers, brochures, wristbands and t-shirts and as promoting events in such as way that they turn out successful.

LittleDrops is an all-volunteer non-profit organisation. Hence one major issue Charles Duze has had to deal with is identifying and keeping open lines of communication with legitimate orphanages in Africa. This was a big challenge because of difficulties with information infrastructure there. Many of the homes had little or no access to telephones or the internet. He soon hit on a home-grown solution: ask his parents in Nigeria to liaise with the orphanages there.

The same idea worked for other places. Volunteers who had family or friends in those countries got them liaising with the orphanages. And whenever they travel to these countries, the volunteers visit the homes. That way LittleDrops gets extensive onsite verification without attendant expenses. And soon little drops of help trickling in begin to coalesce into ocean-spanning bailout for vulnerable children.

Back in 1845 Julia Carney captured what Charles Duze is doing today, in her classic poem “Little Drops of Water.” On the strength of Charles Duze’s vision, over two thousand orphans sheltered in 24 homes scattered on six African countries know indeed that,
Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above.

To date, volunteers remain critical to LittleDrops. For instance, their wow Website was built entirely from the time, ideas and generosity of volunteers. “It is part of fiscal responsibility for us,” Charles explains, “to ensure that at least 90% of all donations make it to the children who need it so much. Volunteers are so important to our work.”

At Hopeful Grandmothers Orphanage, Nyahururu, Kenya

This no-frills model of doing non-profit, popularised by Microsoft alumnus John Wood (Room to Read), is now the toast of the corporate world. The business community is eager to see excellent results as turnover, with goodwill showing up on the bottom line as visible impact. For potential sponsors, it’s more than a mantra that doing good is good for business.

John Wood’s widely celebrated intervention in the education sub-sector is what Charles Duze is taking on in cheerful strides on this critical social front, with his many innovative orphan empowerment programs and lines of action.

Wearing a gentle, sunny smile Charles points to the similarity in operating system of LittleDrops and Room to Read as “something that runs in the Microsoft family!”

Indeed. From the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington, LittleDrops has leapt onto the front page as an outstanding example of doing non-profit right. It made a big impression at the company’s Non-profit Fair recently held to take stock of the abundant volunteer spirit resident in Microsoft’s employees.

St. Mary

It is Charles Duze’s concrete conviction that orphans are people, too – with voices that deserve to be heard. This is why LittleDrops does fund-raising enthusiastically around innovative ideas like “Express Your Dreams” contest. LittleDrops’ objects of attention can bank on such opportunities to showcase their aspirations creatively in art and writing, to open a window into their lives through which present and prospective supporters can get to appreciate them and their views of the world.

It’s a great way to connect to the world of the children of Africa. For LittleDrops, it is a way to help correct the perception of the adult population about vulnerable children. An orphan is way beyond a statistic; she exists on a very personal and individual level.

A different kind of fundraiser – LittleDrops 5Km Run For Their Lives – shook select streets of Seattle, Washington on Sunday, October 11th 2009. Before then, Laughs For Hope comedy shows set Atlanta, Georgia and Seattle, WA, agog with LittleDrops buzz: If you laugh, they won’t cry.

On the LittleDrops Website two hundred orphans, so far, have submitted essays and artworks on their dreams, passions and role models; they “now invite YOU to journey into their world to READ, VIEW, VOTE and HELP give breath to their dreams.”

The invitation had a democratic imperative. Although voting is now closed, enlistment into the cause continues: “Your vote could help some orphans and/or their homes win prizes,” the LittleDrops Web site invites. “We believe we can find 25,000 people who will care enough to listen to their stories.”

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