Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Victory for Mitt Romney in Illinois Republican primary

Mitt Romney has won the Republican primary in Illinois, his latest win on the road to decide who will contest November's poll against Barack Obama.

Mr Romney has won 47% of the votes, compared with 35% for Rick Santorum, with nearly all votes counted.

Sending a message to President Obama at a victory party in a suburb of Chicago, Mr Romney said: "We've had enough."

Ron Paul polled 9% in Illinois and Newt Gingrich was on 8%; neither candidate campaigned extensively in the state.

"I'm running for president because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess," said Mr Romney, as his victory became evident.

Illinois sends 54 delegates to the Republican convention, and Mr Romney hopes to maintain his momentum.

However, Illinois's delegates are not determined by the statewide vote.

Individual delegates are listed on the ballot in each of the state's 18 congressional districts and are identified by the candidate they support.

Mr Santorum's campaign did not successfully file for the primary ballot in parts of Illinois, meaning he automatically cedes of those 10 delegates.

However, addressing supporters on Tuesday evening, Mr Santorum said he had polled well in Illinois in areas "that conservatives and Republicans populate".

"We're very happy about that and we're happy about the delegates we're going to get, too," he said.

The candidates had clashed in Illinois over the economy.

On Monday Mr Santorum had said he "didn't care about the unemployment rate", and told supporters the presidential campaign was about smaller government and winning back individual and social freedom.

Mr Romney jumped on those remarks later in the day, telling students in Peoria, Illinois "one of the people who is running also for the Republican nomination today said that he doesn't care about the unemployment rate".

"It does bother me. I want to get people back to work," Mr Romney said.

Later Mr Santorum told supporters: "The economy is a big issue. Unemployment is a big issue."

'Magic number'

Mr Romney won a convincing victory in Puerto Rico's primary over the weekend, amassing 83% of the votes, but lost to Mr Santorum in recent contests in the South.

A candidate needs to accumulate 1,144 delegates to the August convention in order to secure the nomination.

Analysts say the current figures make that an almost impossible task for Mr Santorum, who has spoken openly in recent weeks about winning enough delegates to stop Mr Romney taking the crown.

Such an outcome would lead to a competitive vote at the Tampa convention, in which Mr Santorum feels he could overcome Mr Romney.

After the Puerto Rico result, Mr Romney has 521 delegates. Mr Santorum has 253 delegates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 136 and Ron Paul had 50, according to an Associated Press tally.

Mr Romney's well-financed campaign and its allies have already spent $2.5m in adverts in the state, and insists that Mr Santorum cannot hope to win the delegate race and should drop out.

Mr Santorum has vowed to continue, "competing in every state", citing tepid support for Mr Romney even in states the former Massachusetts governor has won.

On Monday, Mr Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, said he would "go out and compete in every state".

"I think it's going to be very difficult as this goes on for anybody to get that magic number," Mr Santorum said in an interview with CBS News, adding that chances were increasing of the nomination being decided at the convention.

After his Puerto Rico win, Mr Romney described the result as an "extraordinary victory".

"Those people who don't think Latinos will vote for a Republican need to take a look at Puerto Rico," he said.

Some observers thought Mr Santorum, a devout Catholic and opponent of abortion and gay marriage, might do well in the predominantly Roman Catholic territory.

But he angered many last week when he suggested Puerto Rico needed to make English its official language if it wanted to become the 51st US state.

The 3.7 million inhabitants of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island - which is currently a self-governing US commonwealth territory - will vote in November in a statehood referendum.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

South African Jacob Zuma corruption case to be reviewed

South African Jacob Zuma corruption case to be reviewed
Jacob Zuma has been accused of not doing enough to relieve poverty
A South African court has ruled that the decision to drop corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma can be reviewed.

The charges were dropped just weeks before the 2009 election which led to Mr Zuma becoming president.

The court agreed with a request from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) to challenge the decision.

The judges said judicial reviews were the "best guarantee against tyranny, now and in the future".

Mr Zuma is facing increased criticism from some members of the governing African National Congress (ANC) ahead of its decision in December on whether to retain him as its leader for the next election, scheduled for 2014.

The ANC candidate would be the strong favourite to become president.

The corruption charges relate to a controversial $5bn (£3.4bn) 1999 arms deal, which led to Mr Zuma's financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, being convicted of soliciting a bribe in 2005.

After Shaik's conviction, Mr Zuma was sacked as deputy president before being charged himself - he has always denied any wrongdoing.

Backing the DA's request for a judicial review into the National Prosecuting Authority decision to drop the charges against Mr Zuma, the judges wrote that the concept "means that none of us is above the law".

"It is a concept that we, as a nation, must cherish, nurture and protect. We must be intent on ensuring that it is ingrained in the national psyche. It is our best guarantee against tyranny, now and in the future."

The DA also wants the prosecutors to reveal why the charges were dropped.

Yahoo sues Facebook for patent infringement

Yahoo sues Facebook for patent infringement
Facebook's upcoming share sale could value the company to be worth as much as $100bn (£64bn)

Yahoo filed a lawsuit against Facebook Monday, alleging that the social media giant infringed on 10 of its patents related to advertising, privacy, customization, messaging and social networking.

The launch of the full-on patent battle follows last month's media reports of Yahoo's attempt to force Facebook to pay licensing fees for 10-20 patents.

"Yahoo has invested substantial resources in research and development through the years, which has resulted in numerous patented innovations of technology that other companies have licensed," said Yahoo in an e-mailed statement Monday. "Unfortunately, the matter with Facebook remains unresolved and we are compelled to seek redress in federal court. We are confident that we will prevail."

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., Yahoo is hoping that Facebook will be ordered to pay "all damages caused to Yahoo by reason of Facebook's infringement."

Facebook, which said it learned of Yahoo's lawsuit at the same time as the media, said it will defend itself "vigorously against these puzzling actions."

"We're disappointed [in] Yahoo, a longtime business partner of Facebook and a company that has substantially benefited from its association with Facebook, has decided to resort to litigation," a Facebook spokesperson added.

Judge grants FBI warrant to get Google to unlock pimp's cellphone

The FBI can't get into a pimp's Android phone—so it wants Google to hand over the keys.

In addition to accessing the phone, agents also want Google to turn over e-mail searches, Web searches, GPS tracking data, websites visited, and text messages. A federal judge has agreed. Hopefully, digital devices can make life hard out there for a pimp—but the case also reminds us just how much data smartphones generate on even innocuous users.

Pimpin' Hoes Daily

In 2005, San Diego's Dante Dears was sentenced to state prison for founding and running a group called "Pimpin' Hoes Daily" (PHD). The name wasn't braggadocio; it was mere description. Before Dears pled guilty in the middle of his 2005 trial, one minor female testified how Dears had recruited her out of a homeless shelter.

"He told me he was going to help take care of me and be there for me," she told the court. "He told me what to do and how to do it and said we would make money that way... I was tired of living on the streets."

Her $500 a night went straight to Dears, though, who "took care of her" in his own special way. As San Diego's Union Tribune reported, Dears found out the woman had spoken to a man who wanted to help her get off the streets. So Dears "beat her up in the back seat of his Cadillac and then forced her to get into the car's trunk, she testified. While in the trunk, she was driven from East Main Street in El Cajon to Hotel Circle in Mission Valley, she testified."

A local TV channel noted that the girl, only 15 at the time, was released in Hotel Circle, "bleeding and bruised." She left prostitution after the experience and went back to her mother.

Dears went to prison. When he got out in 2009, he quickly violated his parole on three separate occasions and went back to jail for a year and half. Upon his release in May 2011, an FBI informant says he saw Dears return to his old activities. Shackled with a GPS monitor, Dears had to stay off the streets, but he was allegedly able to continue his "telephone pimping" with the help of a Samsung Android phone.

On June 10, 2011, the FBI source met with Dears in his apartment in Chula Vista for nearly three hours. During that time, he watched Dears "taking several telephone calls where he discussed the night's prostitution activities. He also sent multiple text messages throughout the evening. Shortly after sending a message, a woman would arrive at the apartment and give Dears money.”

The FBI put the target under physical surveillance and observed him one night using the phone “frequently for a period of nearly 6 hours”—despite the fact that he had denied even owning a cell phone for months to his parole agent.

Confronted with the evidence, Dears said the phone belonged to his sister. He eventually turned it over to the state parole agent, but the FBI says Dears refused to unlock the device. (Dears had signed a waiver to his Fourth Amendment right search rights, so his home and property could be legally searched at any time without a court order. His parole conditions prevented him from doing anything to hide or lock digital files.)

The keys to the kingdom

The FBI, which didn't have the right to search the phone without a warrant, obtained one on February 13, 2012. They took the phone from the parole agent and sent it off to an FBI Regional Computer Forensics Lab in Southern California. There, technicians “attempted to gain access to the contents of the memory of the cellular telephone in question, but were unable to do so,” said the FBI. They were defeated by, of all things, Android's “pattern lock”—not always notable for its high security.

Technicians apparently mis-entered the pattern enough times to lock the phone, which could only be unlocked using the phone owner's Google account credentials. But Dears wasn't cooperating, and the FBI didn't have his credentials. So it was back to a judge with a new warrant application, filed on March 9, 2012. That application, which was apparently supposed to be sealed, was instead made public and was located today by security researcher Chris Soghoian.

In it, the FBI asks for a warrant to be served on Google. It wants to know:

  • The subscriber's name, address, Social Security number, account login and password

  • “All e-mail and personal contact list information on file for cellular telephone”

  • The times and duration of every webpage visited

  • All text messages sent and received from the phone, including photo and video messages

  • Any e-mail addresses or instant messenger accounts used on the phone

  • “Verbal and/or written instructions for overriding the ‘pattern lock’ installed on the” phone

  • All search terms, Internet history, and GPS data that Google has stored for the phone

  • Soghoian wonders about the legality of accessing a still-operational cell phone. "Given that an unlocked smartphone will continue to receive text messages and new emails (transmitted after the device was first seized), one could reasonably argue that the government should have to obtain a wiretap order in order to unlock the phone," he argues.

    But a US Magistrate Judge disagreed and granted the warrant the same day it was filed. Google has not yet responded to our questions about whether it routinely supplies law enforcement with the information necessary to unlock Android phones.

    Update: Google has provided us a general statement: "Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal process. Whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it."

    Monday, 19 March 2012

    Bin Laden's final days -- big plans, deep fears

    Bin Laden's final days -- big plans, deep fears
    Osama Bin Laden
    Washington (CNN) -- Tapping away at his computer in the study of the suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that he called home for the last years of his life, Osama bin Laden wrote memos urging his followers to continue to try to attack the United States, suggesting, for instance, they mount assassination attempts against President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus.

    While he urged his organization on to attack America, bin Laden was also keenly aware that al Qaeda was in deep trouble because of the campaign of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and also because the brutal tactics of his followers had alienated many Muslims.

    According to senior Obama administration officials who have reviewed the "treasure trove" of the thousands of documents that were picked up by the U.S. Navy SEALs from bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, the leaders of al Qaeda understood that the group they led was "beleaguered." CNN was given a briefing this week by senior administration officials who have been analyzing the documents.

    Bin Laden wrote a 48-page memo to a deputy in October 2010 that surveyed the state of his organization. He was particularly concerned that al Qaeda's longtime sanctuary in Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal areas was now too dangerous because of the campaign of American drone strikes there that had picked off many of his key lieutenants.

    According to a count by the New America Foundation, the CIA launched a record number of 118 strikes into the tribal regions during 2010, the year bin Laden wrote this memo.

    Bin Laden advised his followers not to move around the tribal regions except on overcast days when America's all-seeing satellites and drones would not have as good coverage of the area.

    He also urged his followers to depart the tribal regions for the remote Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Zabul and, in particular, Kunar, pointing out that the high mountains and dense forests of Kunar provided especially good protection from prying American eyes.

    Bin Laden fretted about his 20-year-old son, Hamza, who had recently been released from house arrest in Iran, instructing his deputy to tell his son to move out of Waziristan. He also provided elaborate instructions about how Hamza might evade the surveillance of the American drones in the tribal regions by meeting members of al Qaeda inside a particular tunnel on the road between the western Pakistani town of Kohat and the city of Peshawar.

    During his final days, bin Laden's world was filled with paranoia. He instructed that Hamza should throw out anything he had taken with him from Iran as it might contain some kind of tracking device, and that he should avoid the company of a man who might have ties to the Pakistani intelligence services.

    Bin Laden also reminded his deputies that all internal communications should be made by letter rather than by phone or the Internet.

    As a result, according to administration officials, bin Laden had to wait for responses to his queries to his deputies that could sometimes take up to two or three months to be delivered -- surely not an efficient way to run any organization.

    Bin Laden also advised his lieutenants that when they kidnapped someone they should take many precautions during the negotiating process and also throw away any bags that contained ransom money because they might also contain a tracking device.

    The spectacular set of self-inflicted mistakes made by al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq weighed heavily on the minds of bin Laden and his top advisers. Privately, they criticized the brutal tactics of al Qaeda in Iraq, which had provoked a tribal uprising against al Qaeda that had dealt a large blow to the group's position in Iraq from 2006 onward.

    Until the end, bin Laden remained fixated on attacking the United States, prodding his deputy to "nominate one of the qualified brothers to be responsible for a large operation in the U.S."

    According to administration officials, bin Laden's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, pushed back, telling bin Laden it was much more realistic to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan than American civilians in the United States.

    Bin Laden did urge his followers to scope out opportunities to attack President Obama or Petraeus while they were in Afghanistan. At the time, Petraeus was the commanding general of NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden noted snidely that killing Obama would pave the way for Vice President Joe Biden to assume the presidency. The al Qaeda leader said Biden was "totally unprepared" for the job.

    Above all, bin Laden constantly fretted about his media image, pointing out to his deputies that "a huge part of the battle is in the media."

    For the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden wanted his media team to emphasize particularly that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were one of the main reasons for the financial crisis in the United States. (Bin Laden bought his compound in Abbottabad with cash, so presumably he didn't quite understand the dimensions of the subprime mortgage debacle.)

    One of his media advisers, who U.S. officials believe to be the American al Qaeda recruit Adam Gadahn, suggested bin Laden take advantage of the 9/11 anniversary in 2011 to record a 'high definition' videotape message that could be given to all the major American news networks, except to Fox News, which Gadahn said "lacks neutrality." It doesn't appear that bin Laden made such a tape.

    Administration officials say it is strange that in all the documents recovered at the bin Laden compound there is no mention at all of al Qaeda's plot to use liquid explosives to bring down as many as seven American, British and Canadian passenger planes flying from Heathrow Airport in 2006. If this plot had succeeded it might have rivaled 9/11 as a spectacular attack.

    Bin Laden moved into his Abbottabad compound either at the end of 2005 or sometime in 2006 and an administration official says that, perhaps, information about the Heathrow plot "got lost in the move." 

    Boko Haram: FG moves to appease North with 13% derivation

    Boko Haram: FG moves to appease North with 13% derivation

    As violence continues to rock parts of the North, the Federal Government may have opted to appease some northern states with the payment of 13 per cent derivation on solid minerals with immediate effect.

    Vanguard reported that government was worried about rising insecurity in the northern part of the Nigeria with vociferous leaders of the north blaming the situation on poverty and inequality arising from alleged lopsided revenue allocation against them.

    The new portal reported its sources said President Goodluck Jonathan was considering various measures, which include the immediate payment of the 13 per cent derivation to solid mineral-bearing states, a preserve hitherto enjoyed by the nine oil producing states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Rivers, Delta, Imo, Abia and Ondo since the inception of democratic rule in 1999.

    It said that government’s decision to pay the money was an indirect way of stemming the growing discontent and violence in that part of the country.

    The Federal Government has been paying the derivation fund, which runs into trillions of Naira to only the nine oil-bearing states.

    Payment to commence next month

    But Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMFAC, Mr. Elias Mbam, claimed in an exclusive interview that the payment, which is to commence next month, has no political motive.

    Mbam, an engineer, made it clear that the decision to extend the payment to solid mineral states was in obedience to the relevant section of the Nigerian constitution.

    The chairman said: “The payment is a constitutional matter, which states that derivation should not be less than 13 per cent and derivation is not limited to oil and gas. This also includes all other mineral resources.

    “If you have minerals in your state and it is developed and it generates revenue into the federation account, you are entitled to 13 per cent of what is paid into the federation account.”

    The chairman, who did not list the benefiting states and how much would be shared to them, however, said the commission would also not be drawn into agitation by some states for a review of the revenue allocation formula to give them more money.

    Section 162 (2) of the Constitution of Nigeria states: “The principles of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than 13 per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resource.”

    Non-oil GDP

    N90.4 billion is expected as non-oil Gross Domestic Product by the Federal Government in the next three years as contained in the revised Medium Term Financial Framework between 2012 and 2014. The solid mineral states are expected to earn 13 per cent of the amount.

    On the other hand, the nine oil producing states will share at least N1.9 trillion as their share of 13 per cent derivation within the period.

    The Minna meeting

    But it is not clear whether the leaders of the North would be pacified as they had only a few days ago called for an urgent review of the revenue formula.

    In a well publicised communiqué, the North rejected the current revenue allocation law and called for its immediate review, saying it was lopsided, unfair and detrimental to the interest of all Nigerians, including the real people of the oil-producing states it appears to favour superficially.

    They argued that oil-producing states were equally victims because the revenue accruing to their states on the basis of derivation over-weighted formula was far beyond their executive capacity to manage, thereby promoting corruption and hyper-inflation in those states, their neighbours and the country at large.

    The communiqué said: “This revenue allocation law also stands in violation of the international law with particular reference to the International Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC). The LOSC treaty, which has since come into force (1982), is the principal governing law for all maritime resource issues.”

    Thursday, 15 March 2012

    Nigeria Killers paraded.....

    ABUJA — Eight suspected members of the Boko Haram sect accused of complicity in the kidnap and killing of a Briton, Christopher McManus and his Italian counterpart, Franco Lamolinara, in Sokoto on March 7, were yesterday paraded in Abuja by the State Security Service, SSS.

    Three of the paraded suspects, Bashir Ibrahim (aka Adda’u), Ibrahim A. Habibu and Gambo Maiborodi, were aged between 19 and 20 years.

    Other suspects were Mohammed Rabiu Adam (aka Dan Hajiya), Abubakar Abdulrahman Habibu, Shitu Salihu, Abubakar Umar and Ahmed Samaila.

    SSS said its investigations revealed that the plot to abduct the foreigners who were staff of Stabilini Visinoni Construction Company, from their residence in Birnin Kebbi on May 12, 2011, was masterminded by the Abu Mohammed-led faction of the Boko Haram Islamic sect.

    It added that the said Abu Mohammed died on March 9, 2012 following severe bullet wounds he sustained during a raid at his hideout at Layin Hanwa area of Zaria on March 7.

    A statement by the SSS, yesterday, said: “After a painstaking investigation process, the Service made a number of arrests in Adamawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kebbi states. The following youths aged between 19 and 20 years, who were discovered to have conducted surveillance on the victims before their abduction, were subsequently arrested.

    “Further investigations revealed that the plot was masterminded by the Abu Mohammed-led faction of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Following a raid on Abu Mohammed’s hideout at Layin Hanwa area of Zaria on March 7, 2012, Abu Mohammed and five others were arrested while holding a Shura Council (the sect’s highest decision making body) meeting.

    “In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, a soldier was killed and his throat slashed while one service personnel was seriously injured by members of the Boko Haram sect. Abu Mohammed and the other suspects sustained various degrees of bullet wounds.

    Order to kill captives

    “Preliminary interrogation of the arrested suspects revealed that the guards protecting the two foreign hostages in Sokoto had been directed to kill them in the event of any envisaged threat. The arrested suspects, therefore, advised that a rescue operation be immediately initiated more so as one of them had escaped during the Zaria raid.

    “Consequently, a joint security operation was launched. One of the arrested suspects, Mohammed Rabiu Adam (aka Dan Hajiya) who killed the soldier during the Zaria raid, led the security team from Zaria at about 11pm on Wednesday,March 7, 2012 to Sokoto and arrived their destination about 0430 hours on March 8, 2012.

    “Prior to their arrival, security operatives had mounted a street cordon and search operation along all routes around Mabera Estate, Sokoto to prevent any attempt by the guards to smuggle out the hostages.

    “Apparently acting on the directive of the members of the sect who escaped from Zaria, the guards murdered the hostages before the arrival of security forces. However, the guards could not leave the building because of the presence of security men in the area.

    xchange of gunfire
    Nigeria security parade suspected killers of expats
    A set of the alleged killers: Bashir Ibrahim (aka Adda’u), Ibrahim A. Habibu and Gambo Maiborodi.

    “Upon arrival of security forces at the building where the hostages were being held, there was a prolonged exchange of gunfire during which three of the guards were killed while the wife of one of them sustained bullet wounds and was rushed to the hospital. No life was lost on the part of security forces though some service personnel sustained gunshot injuries.”

    “While the service commiserates with the families of the murdered expatriates, it wishes to reiterate that the long arm of the law will surely catch up with terrorists and perpetrators of evil wherever they are.

    “Once more, we wish to appeal to Nigerians to remain sensitive to their environment and report suspicious activities to security agencies.”