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What Does the Bible Say About Easter?

In ESSAY on March 19, 2013 at 11:43 am

The Bible’s answer

The celebration of Easter is not based on the Bible. If you look into its history, though, you will see the true meaning of Easter—it is a tradition based on ancient fertility rites. Consider the following.

  1. Name: The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “The English name Easter is of uncertain origin; the Anglo-Saxon priest Venerable Bede in the 8th century derived it from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre.” Others link it to Astarte, the Phoenician fertility goddess who had the Babylonian counterpart Ishtar.

  2. Hares, rabbits: These are symbols of fertility “handed down from the ancient ceremonial and symbolism of European and Middle Eastern pagan spring festivals.—Encyclopædia Britannica.

  3. Eggs: According to Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, the hunt for Easter eggs, supposedly brought by the Easter rabbit, “is not mere child’s play, but the vestige of a fertility rite.” Some cultures believed that the decorated Easter egg “could magically bring happiness, prosperity, health, and protection.”—Traditional Festivals.

  4. New Easter outfit: It was considered discourteous and therefore bad luck to greet the Scandinavian goddess of Spring, or Eastre, in anything but fresh garb.”—The Giant Book of Superstitions.

  5. Sunrise services: These have been linked to rites of ancient sun worshippers “performed at the vernal equinox welcoming the sun and its great power to bring new life to all growing things.”—Celebrations—The Complete Book of American Holidays.

The American Book of Days well describes the origin of Easter: “There is no doubt that the Church in its early days adopted the old pagan customs and gave a Christian meaning to them.

The Bible warns against worshipping God by following traditions or customs that displease him. (Mark 7:6-8) Second Corinthians 6:17 states: “‘Separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’” Easter is a pagan holiday that those who want to please God will avoid.

culled from jw.org

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Google Journalism Fellowships – 2013

In ESSAY on December 17, 2012 at 8:08 am

In an effort to help develop the next crop of reporters working to keep the world informed, educated and entertained, we have created the Google Journalism Fellowship. As a company dedicated to making the world’s information easily accessible, Google recognizes that behind many blue links is a journalist and that quality journalism is a key ingredient of a vibrant and functioning society.

The program is aimed at undergraduate, graduate and journalism students interested in using technology to tell stories in new and dynamic ways. The Fellows will get the opportunity to spend the summer contributing to a variety of organizations — from those that are steeped in investigative journalism to those working for press freedom around the world and to those that are helping the industry figure out its future in the digital age.

There will be a focus on data driven journalism, online free expression and rethinking the business of journalism. The 10-week long Fellowship will open with a week at the Knight Foundation and end with a week at Google, split between Google News and YouTube.

  • Participating organizations are based in Berkeley, CA, Columbia, MO, Cambridge, MA, St. Petersburg/Miami, FL, New York, NY and Washington, DC.
  • They include the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Investigative Reporters & Editors, the Knight Foundation, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Poynter, Nieman Journalism Lab and ProPublica.

More information about the host organizations and the areas of focus for the Fellows are outlined on the Host Organizations page.

Fellows will be assigned a lead mentor at their host organizations, but will have the opportunity to work with several senior staff members over the course of the summer. Fellows will be expected to make substantive contributions to the work of their organization, including researching and writing stories, contributing to open source data programs, creating timely data to accurately frame public debates about media in the United States and the world as well as finding new and compelling ways to use data to tell stories.

Who should apply?

We’re looking for students who are passionate about journalism and the role that technology can play in the industry and the pursuit of their craft. Students from all majors and degree programs who possess the following qualities are encouraged to apply:

  • Demonstrated or stated commitment to journalism – especially in the fields of data driven journalism or freedom of expression online
  • An interest in exploring and creating business models to help the industry in the digital age
  • Excellent academic record, professional/extracurricular/volunteer activities, subject matter expertise
  • First-rate analytical, communications, research, and writing skills
  • Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and efficiently, and to work smartly and resourcefully in a fast-paced environment

Fellows will receive a stipend of $7,500 USD for 10 weeks during the summer of 2013 (June-August) and a travel budget of $1,000 USD.

The Fellowship will start on June 3, 2013 with the first week at the Knight Foundation in Florida. Fellows will join their host organization on June 10, 2013 and finish with a week at Google in California on August 5, 2013.

THE REAL REASON WHY MEN LOVE WOMEN’S BREASTS

In ESSAY on September 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

by Larry Young, Brian Alexander

Jokes about breasts, and men looking at breasts, are such a comedy staple they’ve become a kind of go-to cliché. How many times have we seen a man talking to a curvaceous woman only to have her point to her own eyes and say “Hey, buddy, up here!”?

It’s funny — or, at least, it was funny the first dozen times we saw it — because it’s true. The male eye does have a way of drifting south. But why? Why are heterosexual men so fascinated by women’s breasts that we sometimes act as if the breasts are the seat of the soul?

Well, we happen to be heterosexual men. We also happen to be men interested in biology — one of us, Larry, is one of the world’s leading experts in the neuroscience of social bonding. So we’ve been thinking about this, and, in our new book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, we propose an answer.

Biologically speaking, this human male breast obsession is pretty weird. Men are the only male mammals fascinated by breasts in a sexual context. Women are the only female mammals whose breasts become enlarged at puberty, independent of pregnancy. We are also the only species in which males caress, massage and even orally stimulate the female breasts during foreplay and sex.

Women do seem to enjoy the attention, at least at the right moments. When Roy Levin, of the University of Sheffield, and Cindy Meston, of the University of Texas, polled 301 people — including 153 women — they found that stimulating the breasts or nipples enhanced sexual arousal in about 82 percent of the women. Nearly 60 percent explicitly asked to have their nipples touched.

Men are generally pretty happy to oblige. As the success of Hooters, “men’s” magazines, a kajillion websites, and about 10,000 years of art tell us, men are extremely drawn to breasts, and not because boys learn on the playground that breasts are something that they should be interested in. It’s biological and deeply engrained in our brain. In fact, research indicates that when we’re confronted with breasts, or even breast-related stimuli, like bras, we’ll start making bad decisions (and not just to eat at Hooters).

For example, in one study, men were offered money payouts. They could have a few Euros right away, or, if they agreed to wait a few days, more Euros later. In this version of a classic “delayed gratification” (also called intertemporal choice by behavioral economists) experiment, some men watched videos of pastoral scenes while others watched videos of attractive women with lots of skin exposed running in slo-mo, “Baywatch” style. The men who watched the women’s breasts doing what women’s breasts do opted for the smaller-sooner payouts significantly more often then men who watched the pastoral scene.

This likely indicates that parts of their brains associated with “reward,” the pleasure centers, and the sites of goal-directed motivation, were shouting down the reasoning centers of their brains, primarily the pre-frontal cortex. Neurochemicals were activating those reward and motivational circuits to drive men toward taking the short money.

So breasts are mighty tempting. But what purpose could this possibly serve?

Some evolutionary biologists have suggested that full breasts store needed fat, which, in turn, signals to a man that a woman is in good health and therefore a top-notch prospect to bear and raise children. But men aren’t known for being particularly choosy about sex partners. After all, sperm is cheap. Since we don’t get pregnant, and bear children, it doesn’t cost us much to spread it around. If the main goal of sex — evolutionarily speaking — is to pass along one’s genes, it would make more sense to have sex with as many women as possible, regardless of whether or not they looked like last month’s Playmate.

Another hypothesis is based on the idea that most primates have sex with the male entering from behind. This may explain why some female monkeys display elaborate rear-end advertising. In humans, goes the argument, breasts became larger to mimic the contours of a woman’s rear.

We think both of these explanations are bunk! Rather, there’s only one neurological explanation, and it has to do with brain mechanisms that promote the powerful bond of a mother to her infant.

When a woman gives birth, her newborn will engage in some pretty elaborate manipulations of its mother’s breasts. This stimulation sends signals along nerves and into the brain. There, the signals trigger the release of a neurochemical called oxytocin from the brain’s hypothalamus. This oxytocin release eventually stimulates smooth muscles in a woman’s breasts to eject milk, making it available to her nursing baby.

But oxytocin release has other effects, too. When released at the baby’s instigation, the attention of the mother focuses on her baby. The infant becomes the most important thing in the world. Oxytocin, acting in concert with dopamine, also helps imprint the newborn’s face, smell and sounds in the mother’s reward circuitry, making nursing and nurturing a feel-good experience, motivating her to keep doing it and forging the mother-infant bond. This bond is not only the most beautiful of all social bonds, it can also be the most enduring, lasting a lifetime.

Another human oddity is that we’re among the very rare animals that have sex face-to-face, looking into each other’s eyes. We believe this quirk of human sexuality has evolved to exploit the ancient mother-infant bonding brain circuitry as a way to help form bonds between lovers.

When a partner touches, massages or nibbles a woman’s breasts, it sparks the same series of brain events as nursing. Oxytocin focuses the brain’s attention to the partner’s face, smell, and voice. The combination of oxytocin release from breast stimulation, and the surge of dopamine from the excitement of foreplay and face-to-face sex, help create an association of the lover’s face and eyes with the pleasurable feelings, building a bond in the women’s brain.

So joke all you want, but our fascination with your breasts, far from being creepy, is an unconscious evolutionary drive prompting us to activate powerful bonding circuits that help create a loving, nurturing bond.

For more, including the male side of this equation, see our book, “The Chemistry Between Us.”

PHILIP EMEAGWALI: THE FACE OF AN INTERNATIONAL LIAR AND CONMAN

In ESSAY on September 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

 A Citizen Investigative Essay On SaharaReporters, New York

Philip Emeagwali stirs up diverse emotions in Nigerians, Africans, and black people around the world. His claim of being a father of the Internet, of having invented the Connection Machine, of possessing 41patented inventions, of winning “the Nobel Prize of Computing” and of being a “doctor” and/or “professor” have been conclusively debunked with widely documented evidence.

Fraudulent claims help  Emeagwali get on the Nigerian N50 postal stamp

Yet, the figure of Emeagwali as a black scientific, engineering, and information technology genius and pioneer continues to loom large over discussions of black achievement. The legend of Philip Emeagwali’s purported inventions, widely proven to emanate from the perverse deceptive genius of the man himself, endures and proliferates among Nigerian and black groups around the world.

Only recently, the USAfricadialogue googlegroups listserv managed by Professor Toyin Falola of the University of Texas hosted a discussion on Philip Emeagwali’s vast fraud. Participants in the discussion included Nigerian and African intellectuals, scientists, engineers, and IT professionals. Overall, the discussion reinforced and reiterated one of the worst kept secrets in the Nigerian Diaspora, especially in its online community: that none of Emeagwali’s highfalutin claims, on whose strength he has curried and continues to curry favor and recognition from gullible and hero-hungry black people, is true.  Yet, just a few days ago, one of Nigeria’s more visible dailies, The Vanguard, included the academic and intellectual fraud in its list of 20 “most influential Nigerians.” Curiously, unlike previous Nigerian publications and profiles on Mr. Emeagwali, the biographical write-up accompanying the nomination does not repeat any of the well-known claims and “achievements” that Emeagwali has aggressively and fraudulently peddled about himself — claims that many of our people regard as truth. Apparently, the journalists at The Vanguard have become exposed to the widely available refutations of those claims and now know that they are false. But that, precisely, is the outrage. If they know that he is not a father of the internet, did not win “the Nobel Prize” of Computing as he claims, has no invention patents, did not invent the connection machine, does not have a single academic publication, and is neither a “doctor” nor a “professor” by any definition of those terms, why did they include him on the list? What makes Mr. Emeagwali “influential,” his ability to deceive Nigerians and line his pockets on the black speechmaking circuit?

Nigerians and black people deserve to know who the real Philip Emeagwali is. This will save them from the embarrassment of continuing to celebrate a fraud while real black scientific achievers and pioneers starve for attention and recognition. To correct Nigeria’s scientific and technological lag there is a need for investments — both financial and motivational — in the sciences, engineering, and IT fields. Nigerian youths need inspiration in the quantitative and scientific disciplines, but they should get it from actual, not pretending, black scientific, computing, and engineering heroes, not from phonies like Mr. Emeagwali. Patented Inventions Or The Invention Of Patents?

Debunking the many myths of Mr. Emeagwali’s “achievements” is one the easiest things to do on earth if you have a computer with Internet access. Let us start with his claim of possessing 41 (32 by some accounts on some hero-worshipping black websites) patents for various inventions. A simple search at the website of the US Patent and Trade Mark Office (here: http://tarr.uspto.gov/) reveals that Mr. Emeagwali has only one registered patent, for Emeagwali.com, his website. He has no other patent listed against his name. It is the same patent that most owners of independent websites apply for to legally protect their proprietary rights over the website and its contents. We can state conclusively then that Mr. Emeagwali has no patented invention of any kind, contrary to his and his supporters’ claim.

Specifically, Mr. Emeagwali claims to have invented the Connection Machine (CM-2). This false claim is displayed boldly and shamelessly on Emeagwali.com in the section on “inventions” and “discoveries.” Some black websites like this one http://inventors.about.com/od/blackinventors/a/black_historyE.htm credit Emeagwali with inventing the Hyberball Machine Networks (or the supercomputer). Both claims are demonstrably false. The connection Machine, which is capable of conducting simultaneous calculations using 65,000-processors, was conceived by Daniel Hills and built by Thinking Machine Corporation, which Mr. Hills, along with Sheryl Handler, founded in 1982. This information is widely available on the web. The so-called supercomputer is therefore clearly not the child of Mr. Emeagwali by even the most generous stretch of the imagination.

Internet Pioneer?

Mr. Emeagwali claims to have used the CM-2 Machine to carry out billions of calculations by connecting over 65,000 processors (computers) around the world. He claims that this was the rudimentary foundation of the Internet. It is on this ground that he has aggrandized to himself the title of “father of the internet.” But this is a barefaced lie at worst and an egregious exaggeration at best. And it is so absurd in its circular logic that it is hilarious. First, as stated earlier, Emeagwali did not invent the Connection Machine on which his “experiment” relied. Second, Emeagwali used more than 65,000 independent processors “around the world” (meaning on the Internet) to do his calculation. This means that the Internet already existed and that he RELIED ON it for his calculations. Unless the Internet he claims to have fathered is different from the Internet that already existed at the time of his experiment (and which we all know as the existing internet today), he COULD NOT have invented the Internet or fathered it. He could not have been using an internet that, by his claim, did not exist until he invented it. As this website http://www.boutell.com/newfaq/history/emeagwali.html makes very clear, Emeagwali’s research did not contribute to or help invent any of the known components of what we now know as the internet:

Philip Emeagwali did work in supercomputing in the [late] eighties……. But supercomputing and the Internet are very different areas. And Emeagwali did not contribute to even one of the hundreds of Internet standards, or RFCs (Requests For Comments), that were created in the early decades of the Internet—an open process that anyone could participate in. His supercomputing research was completely unrelated to the Internet.

Emeagwali’s research was thus irrelevant to the evolution of the internet. Emeagwali did his supercomputing experiment in the late 1980s. By then, the “core standards” and protocols for information and data flow on the Internet already existed. And although, improvements have been made to the template since then, Emeagwali did not make any of those improvements and cannot therefore claim credit for them.

Emeagwali’s tenuous—and fraudulent—claim to internet fatherhood rests on his assertion that “the Supercomputer is the father of the Internet,” “because both are networks of computers working together.” This, experts agree, is not true, as supercomputing is just one component of the Internet and in fact RELIES ON the rudiments of what we know as the internet to work. So, if anything, the internet concept is the father of supercomputing, not vice versa. But even if we accept Emeagwali’s wrong logic, the fact that he did not invent or pioneer supercomputing means that even on this flawed premise and logic he cannot be considered a father of the internet.

Authentic histories of the internet are accessible all over the web. One can be found here: http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.shtml#SC69. Many people played leading roles in inventing, improving, and constituting the vast technologies, protocols, and ideas that gave birth to and perfected the Internet. It is interesting that none of them is nearly as vocal in claiming that he is a father of the internet as Mr. Emeagwali, who did not contribute to the invention of the internet in any shape or form and in fact relied on the already existing internet to conduct his research. One of the most significant contributors to and pioneers of the internet is Vinton Cerf, who is today a Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google Inc. Other important figures in the development of the Internet include JCR Licklider, Bob Taylor, Paul Baran, Donald Davies, and Lawrence Roberts. If anyone deserves the title of father of the Internet, it is these people. Yet, none of them craves or has appropriated the title. When interviewed about their contribution to the Internet, they often humbly outline their actual contribution, crediting others with other components and shunning the title or insinuation of having fathered the Internet.

The only “history of the internet” source to even recognize Emeagwali as a legitimate computer scientist to be mentioned when chronicling the history of the internet is the book History of the Internet: A Chronology, 1843 to the Present by Christos J. P. Moschovitis, Hilary Poole, Tami Schuyler, Theresa M. Senft. The book was published in 2001. Although Mr. Emeagwali proudly displays the book’s reference to him on his website and claims that the “father of the internet” moniker (which has since been lazily picked up by several media platforms) originated in the book, there is absolutely no such reference in the book. The book’s reference to Emeagwali only states how Emeagwali’s research “effectively stimulate[d] petroleum reserves” by “harnessing the power of parallel computing.” And it is clear from a cursory analysis of the linguistic properties of this specific reference to Emeagwali that Emeagwali himself supplied the material and the claims articulated in it. It is also clear from the reference that it has nothing to do with the internet but is about improving the modeling of oilfields or oil reservoirs. The content and prose are eerily identical to the autobiographical write-ups and claims on Emeagwali.com and on black websites that simply lift and republish Emeagwali’s claims and self-written biography.

The Nobel Prize Of Computing?

Emeagwali’s other claim is that of winning the “Nobel Prize of Computing.” He is, of course, referring to the Gordon Bell Prize, which he won in 1989. Many uninformed observers have since picked up this fraudulent reference, which emanated from Emeagwali.com, and given it wings. The truth is that the Gordon Bell Prize does not come close to the Nobel in status, recognition or prize money and to compare the two prizes is to insult the prestige of the Nobel and grossly exaggerate the Gordon Bell’s importance. The Gordon Bell Prize is, properly speaking, an annual competition that young, driven, engineering upstarts — mostly graduate students — enter. Winners are usually those whose research are innovative and on the cutting edge of new processes in the field. So, on that score, winning the Gordon Bell Prize is a reward for doing research work that is important and solves an application problem at the time that the award is given.  But let us put the award in perspective and recognize that it is actually a very minor award in the narrow field of supercomputing and in the larger computing and scientific community. Here is why the Gordon Bell Prize, Emeagwali’s only legitimate achievement, is much less than what he has portrayed it as:

•    The cash award for the prize is a mere $1000.  Often, the amount of an award is a good guide to its prestige and significance in the field.
•    Consider the fact that the most prestigious prize in the field of computing (and yet it cannot even be called the Nobel of Computing without insulting the real Nobel) is the Turing Prize, which carries a cash prize of $100,000. •    The Gordon Bell is awarded in the narrow subfield of supercomputing, thereby further thinning the applicant pool and reducing the intensity of the competition. •    The prize is further subdivided into several categories. Emeagwali won in one of those categories, the price/performance category. The more prestigious overall Peak Performance category was won by the entry submitted by a team from Mobil and TMC. •    It is interesting that apart from Emeagwali no other winner(s) of the Gordon Bell annual prize makes noise about winning it or claims to have won “the Nobel Prize of Computing.” They usually go on to do bigger and better research in the field, the Gordon Bell being just a launch pad for future significant work. The public does not even know the other winners because it is a minor prize even in the field of computing. •    Finally, and most importantly, Philip Emeagwali only won the prize in the price/performance category by default. His calculation of 3.1 Gflops was the second fastest speed. The fastest speed belonged to the Mobil/TMC team’s entry, whose calculation, according to the official record of the IEEE, which administers the prize (IEEE Software, May 1990, p. 101), bested Emeagwali’s speed. The speed of the Mobil/TMC Team’s solution to the seismic data processing problem was almost twice that of Emeagwali’s at almost 6Gflops. Similarly, and of more relevance for our purpose here, the Mobil/TMC team’s entry achieved the best speed/cost ratio (price-performance) at 500 Mflops per $1 Million, beating out Emeagwali’s entry, whose speed/cost ration was less than 400 Mflops per $1 Million. In fact the prize in the price/performance category was actually awarded to the Mobil/TMC initially. However, because the Mobil TMC team won also won in the overall Peak Performance category and the IEEE’s prize rule does not allow more than one prize per entry, the Mobil/TMC team forfeited their prize in the price/performance category, sticking with the prize for overall Peak Performance, a more significant category. As a result, Emeagwali’s entry, the second placed entry with the second highest speed/cost ratio, was automatically bumped to first place.

For all these reasons, it is the height of self-promotion and delusional exaggeration for Mr. Emeagwali to claim that he won the Nobel Prize of Computing or that the Gordon Bell is regarded as the Nobel of Computing. Nobody except Mr. Emeagwali regards the prize as such.

It is noteworthy that both Emeagwali and the Mobile/TMC Team relied on the CM-2 Machine (the Connection Machine) for their calculations, the same machine that Emeagwali falsely claims to have invented!

A final point to note here is that the research for which he won the Gordon Bell Prize (by default) has application and relevance only in the narrow area of oil flow reservoir modeling and oil prospecting. His entry for the competition utilized and optimized the capacity of parallel computing, that is, relied on an already existing Internet. Emeagwali’s own website states that he “accessed the supercomputers over the Internet from local workstations.” Neither the research nor the prize had anything to do with the Internet. The Internet was already invented and fairly perfected by then; otherwise he would not be, in his own words, “accessing the supercomputers over the Internet.” This clarification is necessary and important because some of Emeagwali’s supporters and victims tend to assume wrongly that his purported fatherhood of the internet derives from the research for which he won the Gordon Bell Prize. All these facts can be easily accessed here: http://www33.brinkster.com/iiiii/inventions/emeag.html “Dr.” Emeagwali Or Doctored Emeagwali?

Emeagwali’s final fraudulent claim is that of being a “doctor” and “professor.” Several years ago, before eagle-eyed Nigerians and Africans decided to scrutinize his eye-popping claims, his website audaciously referred to him as “doctor” and “Professor.” Because of recent exposures of his scam, he no longer refers to himself on his website as “Dr. Emeagwali” or “Professor Emeagwali.” However, in what is typical of the Emeagwali scam, his website is still littered with many media references to “Dr Emeagwali” and “Professor Emeagwali.” These stealthily promoted references then get picked up by unsuspecting black media people who are eager to promote black achievement and excellence. Sometimes, he approaches black websites and organizations, asking them to link to or publish his false claims. In the course of the discussion on the USAfricadialogue forum, Ms. Funmi Okelola , the owner and webmaster of cafeafricana.com, revealed that Mr. Emeagwali approached her a few years ago, asking her to help propagate the lie that he is “a father of the internet.” Ms. Okelola, herself an Adjunct Professor of IT, flatly turned down his request, refusing to participate vicariously in his fraud. For good measure, she advised him to seek help for his delusions of grandeur.

But many proprietors of black websites and publications have not been as alert to Emeagwali’s antics as Ms. Okelola and have been falling for his scam. In their eagerness to embrace what they believe to be the proud achievements of a “brother,” they have inadvertently donated space and platform to Emeagwali to consolidate and spread his false claims. Because of the virility of the internet, even some non-black websites have picked up these ubiquitous references that are patently false. Here, on this website http://www.answers.com/topic/philip-emeagwali for instance you will find a clear reference not only to “Dr Emeagwali” but also the following reference in their documentation of his education: “Ph.D., Scientific Computing, University of Michigan, 1993.”

He will not correct what is clearly a false reference, preferring to take cover in the deniability of being able to say that it is others, not him, who use these false, unearned titles to refer to him. The reason he will not correct this falsehood is that it emanated from him in the first place; most of the references were picked up from his website in the days before scrutiny spooked him into avoiding such direct self-referencing. The clearest evidence yet of his complicity and culpability in this misrepresentation is that he sits through interviews where the clueless, awed interviewers refer to him as “Doctor Emeagwali” and “Professor Emeagwali” and he does not correct them. There is a particularly revolting video on youtube <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMFy9sBLFQQ&feature=related>(http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8244498418903739405#) in which the female interview repeatedly calls him Dr. Emeagwali, obviously assuming and/or reading from her script that he has a PhD. He sits there and nods and smiles through those references without correcting her. Having planted the false biographical information about himself in the first instance, he understandably makes no effort to discourage people from using it or to correct them.

The false references to him as “doctor” and “professor” are not the only falsehoods that Emeagwali coyly and deftly promotes; he routinely lets interlocutors repeat the many false claims that are based on his own prolific misrepresentations. On this website http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa111097a.htm, for instance, the misinformed interviewer, a black woman who is proudly interviewing “a black inventor” for a book she was writing on black inventors, asks him the following question: “You have submitted 41 inventions to the U.S Patent and Trademark Office concerning seven technologies. Can you give us expanded details?” Clearly, the interviewer was repeatedly the false claim on Emeagwali’s website and in his self-written biographical profiles, without realizing that, as we showed at the beginning of this essay, he has no patent for any technology or invention.

Here is Mr. Emeagwali’s response to her question: “Inventors are reluctant to provide expanded details of their inventions until they receive full patent protection. The reason is that the Patent and Trademark Office can deny patents to inventors that publicly provide details of their invention.” But the truth is that he has neither registered patents for his non-existent inventions nor a patent-pending status. He has no inventions or technologies to patent! The response itself contains a lie. Contrary to Emeagwali’s insinuation that inventors cannot publicly discuss their work until they are patented or that doing so would jeopardize their patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), inventions and products with “Patent Pending” status are routinely discussed, advertized, and marketed on American television. In fact these public discussions of unpatented inventions always carry the disclaimer that patents are pending, meaning that applications have been made. If public discussion of inventions and technologies were detrimental to patent applications, none of these unpatented and “patent pending” technologies and inventions would be on the American market or be advertized on television. This was Emeagwali seeking to perpetuate the myth that he has several technological inventions that are patented or awaiting patents but avoiding having to mention or discussion the specific fictitious inventions for which he claims to have patents in order to have deniability when checks are made at the USPTO and he is confronted with the truth of his falsehood. Racism Or Laziness?

The case of Philip Emeagwali is a cautionary tale on the pitfalls of self-delusion, laziness, and a sense of entitlement. Mr. Emeagwali enrolled in a doctoral program in Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan in 1987. His coursework over, he took the comprehensive examination that qualifies one for candidacy. He failed the exam twice and did not take it a third time. In the meantime, he conducted the research that would later win him the Gordon Bell Prize, a research he began as a class project for one of his graduate courses. In 1991, two years after winning the Gordon Bell by default, he petitioned the Dean of the School of Engineering to be allowed to submit a dissertation (despite not having passed his candidacy exam and therefore not being a doctoral candidate) in a different department — the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. His request was curiously granted in what was clearly a sidestepping of standard procedure. Emeagwali submitted the dissertation, basically a rework of his entry for the Gordon Bell competition, on July 24, 1992. A team of internal and external evaluators examined it and found it unworthy of a doctorate and turned it down.

Emeagwali then sued the University of Michigan for racial discrimination. The lawsuit was dismissed for lacking merit and also failed on appeal in 1999. The details of Emeagwali’s graduate school records and of the dueling contentions in the lawsuit are all documented here http://www.michbar.org/opinions/appeals/1999/102999/5473.html in the court record of the Michigan Court of Appeals.

A dispassionate analysis of the details, affidavits, and arguments submitted in the lawsuit and in the appeals process reveals the following:

•    Emeagwali was a fairly brilliant student but he was lazy and would not put in the work necessary to earn his degree.

•    He had a sense of entitlement, feeling that since he was black and had made it into the University of Michigan, he was entitled to a special treatment and academic favors.

•    This sense of entitlement escalated after he won the Gordon Bell Prize. He thought that he was entitled to a PhD on the strength of the Gordon Bell competition entry when in fact he was not even a doctoral candidate, having failed his comprehensive examination twice.

•    Emeagwali was more concerned with parlaying his newfound default Gordon Bell fame into profitable self-promotion than with the serious academic effort required to complete the PhD.

•    He petitioned to be allowed to submit a dissertation only after he realized that he would not be taken seriously as a researcher and may not be able to find a secure job in research or teaching if he did not possess a PhD.

This is a story of how a promising, modestly brilliant graduate student was destroyed by his own hubris, entitlement mentality, and laziness. What Emeagwali failed to earn through hard work and diligence, he has since appropriated to himself by calling himself and getting others to call him “doctor” and “professor.”

Emeagwali is not a doctor of whatever kind. He is not a professor. He has not held any research or teaching job in any educational or research institution since he failed to get a doctorate degree at Michigan. He has also not done any new research. Emeagwali has no single publication in any scientific journal. A search of the most comprehensive scientific publication database (which can be done online) yields only a reference to his Masters Degree dissertation.

Here we have a man who is unemployed, has no serious standing in the scientific, engineering, or computing communities. Yet he is widely referred to as “a father of the internet,” “an internet pioneer,” “the greatest black scientist that ever lived,” “Bill Gates of Africa,” among other over-the-top and unearned titles. The question to pose is: how did the world get so deceived and why did many reputable people and organizations buy into Emeagwali’s con job? Emeagwali is a very industrious, persistent, and successful scam artist; you have to give him that. Very few intellectual frauds have successfully mainstreamed their false claims as Emeagwali has done. Intellectual Fraud And Its Unwitting Validators

Even former president Bill Clinton was suckered by the fraud, famously referring to Emeagwali as “one of the great minds of the information age” in his speech to the Nigerian National Assembly in 2000. The Clinton reference has provided cover and alibi for Emeagwali to perfect and spread his false claims. Predictably, Emeagwali’s defenders point to the Clinton reference and to CNN’s and TIME Magazine’s references to him as “a father of the internet” and “the unsung hero” of the internet age respectively. These references are boldly displayed on Emeagali.com for the obvious purpose of convincing the uninformed that his claims have been vetted and endorsed by these entities. The problem is that these media organizations sadly endorsed the claims without vetting them. Part of it is sloppiness, but much of it is the result of what black intellectuals who live in the West understand and experience as white liberal pandering, which is itself borne out of white liberal guilt and the fear of the “r” word (racism).

Obviously Clinton was pandering to his Nigerian hosts who believed Emeagwali to be a scientific genius and national hero. Clinton, the savvy politician that he is, and a man who perfected white liberal outreach and pandering to black/African peoples, was relying on the image and descriptions of Emeagwali that was already in the black and mainstream press —descriptions that are traceable to Emeagwali’s own misrepresentations on his websites. What Emeagwali does is so clever as to ensnare even a skeptical and vigilant observer, especially one that is already inclined to believe or seek out claims of black scientific achievement for whatever reason. As indicated earlier, Emeagwali plants these autobiographical write-ups that are ridden with falsehoods and misrepresentations in unsuspecting black publications. He does this by aggressively pitching these claims to their editors as he tried to do unsuccessfully with Ms. Okelola. Then, fired by liberal guilt and a desire to seem welcoming to black achievement and excellence, the mainstream media like TIME and CNN, lazily pick up these references and descriptions. Emeagwali then links to, disseminates, and publicizes these mainstream press references and descriptions (which are actually based on his own descriptions of himself and his “achievements”), thus perfecting and furthering the fraud. This way, he creates deniability for himself. The deception comes full circle but the cycle continues to repeat itself, populating and repopulating the Internet with Emeagwali’s falsehoods.

The sophistication and complexity of the fraud notwithstanding, there is no excuse for reputable organizations like CNN and TIME not to have done a simple due diligence on the false claims of Emeagwali. It is true that at the time that TIME and CNN made the glowing references to Emeagwali, the now widely available refutations of his claims were probably not yet available on the internet. Even so, a basic inquiry from the appropriate quarters would have revealed the truth about the claims on which the references to Emeagwali were based. The two reputable organizations failed to carry out this basic fact checking, an elemental reportorial and investigative duty of journalists. Instead, they relied on Emeagwali’s widely disseminated falsehoods for their stories. The case of TIME is particularly scandalous. The story in which it extols Emeagwali is clearly directly based on Emeagwali’s own autobiographical claims on Emeagwali.com. In fact it is a faithful, almost verbatim reproduction of Emeagwali’s self-written profile. It is lazy, sloppy journalism at its worst.

There is similarly no excuse for President Clinton’s speech writers not to have done basic checks or asked some of the president’s own appointees and advisers who are engineers and scientists about the true value of Emeagwali’s work. Had they done this relatively simply investigation, they would have realized that being a default winner in one category of a minor supercomputing competition for work that has a specific, limited application in the narrow field of oil reservoir modeling does not qualify one to be called “one of the greatest minds of the information age.”

A Self-Replicating Fraud

When challenged, Emeagwali and his supporters can say he is merely repeating and linking to what others call him and say about him and that he does not call himself a father of the internet or a doctor or a professor. But the fraud is a self-replicating one, perpetuating and proliferating itself across both the print and virtual media worlds. Other publications that are searching for black scientific achievers do an internet search and then rely on the previous press descriptions of Emeagwali, which ultimately lead back to the man’s fraudulent biographical claims on his own website. The lazy journalists and Pan-African activists lift these published claims and references (which emanated from the man himself), concluding that they must be established facts if other media outlets had already published them. And on and on it goes. It is a very sophisticated fraud that is aided by the virility of the Internet. This is precisely how even the prestigious Law School Admission Test (LSAT) ended up including a passage about Emeagwali in their test, a passage that is exactly the same as what Emeagwali published on Emeagwali.com about himself!! The examiners at the LSAT did not even bother to rewrite the passage. Nor did they bother to check the veracity of the claims therein.  It is clear that they were simply interested including a passage about a “black achiever” to fulfill the need for diversity of content and to deflect or avoid accusations from black test takers and other minority groups that the test does not represent or reflect the experiences of black people and is thus biased against them.

White liberal patronage of black people can be that shallow and sloppy — and insulting to the very people it purports to promote. It is political correctness and pandering marinated in a political agenda–that of ingratiating white liberal politicians and figures to blacks for political support and multicultural validation. The peak of this phenomenon is Black History Month in February when white liberal organizations and black institutions alike pull out all the stops to have self-promoting “black achievers” like Emeagwali speak to them. That’s when they get invited by white liberal and African American organizations to showcase black achievement and innovation! White liberal patronage is a big industry in America. It takes many forms; one of them is what Pius Adesanmi calls the Mercy Industrial Complex (MIC). But the MIC is not as offensive as the false flattery and the silly excuses and defenses that white liberals advance for cuddling black failures and frauds. Hero-seeking black organizations have not helped matters with their patronage of people like Emeagwali. Emeagwali’s deception succeeds so well because of a multiracial coalition of consumers and enablers.

Emeagwali is a very clever, self-conscious scam artist. That is however no excuse for the black community to allow itself to be used to actively promote a fraud.

Testimonies To Fraud And Deception

A participant in the USAfricadialogue discussion, Professor Pablo Idahosa of York University, Toronto told of how, as the institution’s Director of African Studies, he summarily dismissed the request of black students in the institution who came to him seeking sponsorship for their proposal to bring Mr. Emeagwali to the campus to speak to them. Professor Idahosa told of how a cursory scrutiny of the biography that Emeagwali had supplied to the student group convinced him that the man was a fraud and his claims false. Subsequently, he declined to fund the proposed event, refusing to use the institutions name and funds to validate a deception.

Another member of the forum, Dr. Ola Kassim revealed how he had been taken by Emeagwali’s claims when he stumbled on them and how he, as the leader of a Nigerian group in Canada, had decided to invite the self-proclaimed “computer genius” to speak to the group.  In a demand that fleshes out the pecuniary motivations for Emeagwali’s persistence in perpetuating his fraud, he requested for an honorarium of $10,000, round the clock limousine service, a five-star hotel accommodation, and first class plane tickets for him and an assistant. Dr. Kassim promptly discontinued correspondence with Mr. Emeagwali, seeing his demands as grossly unreasonable. A few years later, he was glad that he did, as he became exposed to the mountain of evidence proving that Emeagwali is not what — and who — he claims to be. Other African organizations with deeper pockets have been paying up Emeagwali’s ridiculous and undeserved fees, believing that they are paying an African “internet pioneer” and “inventor” to inspire them. It is a classic case of obtaining financial gratification through misrepresentations and false pretenses, what is called 419 in Nigerian parlance. Some white liberal groups also pay Emeagwali to talk about his “achievements” as a way to satisfy their Afrophilic sensibilities and assuage their consciences. These gullible and not-so-gullible deep-pocketed groups keep Emeagwali in business, enabling the jobless Emeagwali to make a living off his deception. They have unwittingly helped him solidify his fraud as he routinely posts videos and audios from these events on his website to further cement his self-created legend. The irony of paying Emeagwali to inspire and motivate black (and white liberal) audiences is that, as one commentator remarked, in addition to being an intellectual fraud, Mr. Emeagwali has no personal charisma, lacks the oratorical skills of a motivational speaker, and, for a man who is fairly well educated with two Masters degrees, has terrible English speaking skills as evident in his online videos.

Yet another member of the forum, Wassa Fatti, a Gambian resident in London, narrated how he had been a fanatical believer in Emeagwali as an African scientific hero and thanked members for providing the overwhelming evidence that convinced him of Emeagwali’s monumental, sophisticated fraud. He was so enamored of Emeagwali’s legend that he, along with like-minded Africans, wanted to write a children’s inspiration book on the fraudulent self-promoter. In his own words, the project was abandoned when even those who were most vocal in touting Emeagwali’s claims and “achievements” could not find independent corroborations for any of the claims and after they realized that every single claim about his accomplishment, except the Gordon Bell Prize, led right back to Emeagwali.com. Fatti writes: “I abandoned [the] project….when others raised concerns that we need evidence to support Emeagwali’s claim. Those who were loudest among us to produce such a booklet were also the least to provide evidence beyond Philip Emeagwali’s verbal claim.”

Why Emeagwali Is Bad For Nigeria/Africa

Some people acknowledge Emeagwali’s deception but suggest that it should be understood in the context of America’s broader culture of self-promotion, deceptive enterprise, profit-motivated lies, and self-misrepresentation. It is true that this culture makes it easier for people like Emeagwali to thrive and inflict their fraud on society. But ultimately, Emeagwali, like everyone else, has to be held personally responsible for his transgressions.

Other Nigerians argue that Emeagwali’s scam has not hurt anyone personally, that it is a victimless fraud. By this logic, exposing Emeagwali’s fraud hurts the image of Nigerians and black people more than it helps it. There is some technical veracity in that argument. But the cost of non-exposure to Nigeria is much greater. There are now as many web postings and videos clearly exposing the intellectual con artistry of Mr. Emeagwali as there are websites and web postings celebrating him. Every time his scam is highlighted, his Nigerian nationality is mentioned to reinforce the stereotypical notion that Nigerians are shifty, lying frauds. His Africanness and blackness also become factors that are invoked to explain his fraudulent ways.  So, image-wise, every hard working, honest, achieving Nigerian (intellectual or otherwise, scientist or not) is sullied by Emeagwali’s scam. Every discussion of Emeagwali’s fraudulent self-promotion casts a dark shadow on Nigerians with hard-earned reputations; their genuine achievements are put on trial with every discussion of Emeagwali’s serial dishonesty. They are victims of Emeagwali’s fraudulent activities. His fraud taints Nigeria and Nigerians.

Emeagwali’s quest for a short cut to fame and recognition and his subsequent refusal to take responsibility for his misguided actions and inactions has hurt black people everywhere. Experts on racism believe that every false, frivolous racism allegation or lawsuit actually harms the struggle for racial equality and justice because it makes future, genuine allegations of racism less believable and less credible in the eyes of the dominant white power and judicial structure. This is the damage that Emeagwali’s frivolous recourse to the racism card in his Michigan travails has inflicted on the struggle of black people for equality in America and elsewhere.

Some people argue that Emeagwali should not be denigrated because of his failure to finish his PhD and that many of the giants of the information revolution do not have PhDs. This is true. Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Danny Hills, Vint Cerf, and the founders of Google all do not have PhDs. Yet they have gone on to do great things that have transformed the world, as we know it. But the difference between these people and Philip Emeagwali is like night and day. Unlike Emeagwali, these are actual pioneers of various technologies and protocols with documented patents to truly pioneering and innovative technologies. These people celebrate the fact that they do not have doctorate degrees, wearing it as a badge of honor, thereby intensifying the inspirational effect of their life stories and accomplishments. They don’t go around calling themselves “Dr.” and “Professor” like Mr. Emeagwali. In fact, the most well known of these information age pioneers, Bill Gates, proudly proclaims the fact that he dropped out of college to pursue his dream. Unlike Emeagwali, these people do not go around claiming to have patents that they do not have.

The fact is that one does not need a PhD to contribute to scientific knowledge or to invent technologies and techniques that improve human life. That is precisely why Emeagwali’s false claim of being a PhD holder and a professor is so galling. He has a Masters Degree in Engineering from a respected university and does not need a PhD to pursue his intellectual or scientific dreams. He could get a job with his qualification and earn a respectable, honest, decent living. Yet he felt the need to misrepresent himself as a “doctor” and “Professor.” This shows that his fraud is clearly not motivated by necessity, self-preservation, or survival, but by greed and a desire to secure unearned gratifications.

Some people say: “why expose Emeagwali when he is inspiring our people to embrace computers?” The answer to that is that a fraudster should not be the one inspiring “our” people, especially impressionable young black people, who will eventually realize that Emeagwali is a fraud and be devastated. Others argue that Emeagwali is a harmless, self-promoting charlatan who poses much less threat to Nigeria than the thieving politicians in Abuja. There is some truth to that, but the intellectual, activist, progressive, and media constituencies of Nigeria have no moral right to rail against Salisu Buhari and Bola Tinubu’s certificate and biographical deceptions if they cannot hold one of their own to account for his multiple deceptions.

Ignoring Genuine Nigerian Scientific Achievers

The most important reason why celebrating the likes of Mr. Emeagwali is ultimately detrimental to Nigeria (and by extension Africa) is that it takes attention away from the genuine black/Nigerian achievers that deserve to be celebrated and projected as models of black/Nigerian ingenuity. It is an outrage that, as African intellectuals were discussing Mr. Emeagwali’s multi-layered fraud on the USAfricadialogue forum, the exploit of Professor John Dabiri, who recently won a McArthur Genius Award, received barely a blip in the Nigerian and black press. Professor Dabiri is a fluid dynamics expert at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and was among a select few who received the highly prestigious prize that carries a $500,000 cash award.

Another Nigerian, Dr. Joseph Igietseme, led a team of scientists at the prestigious, Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) to win this year’s award for outstanding research. Yet another Nigerian, Professor Sam Adeloju beat out 14 finalists to win the James Dyson International Design Award with a device he calls Buoyancy Bazooka that can be shot to a drowning person to save their life at sea. This innovative Nigerian scientist and designer barely got any attention among Nigerians and black people.

In literature, Professor Pius Adesanmi recently won the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing, the latest in a long line of young Nigerian writers to win prestigious awards in the last 15 years. One does not even have to mention the Nobel-winning Wole Soyinka, or the multiple award winning Chinua Achebe, whose Things Fall Apart is the most translated work of fiction in Africa and perhaps the world. These two giants are not on Nigeria postage stamps, but intellectual frauds like Emeagwali and Gabriel Oyibo (of GAGUT infamy) are!

Inviting And Enabling Intellectual Fraud

The degree to which Nigeria and Nigeria celebrate people of fraudulent and inflated reputations lends credence to the contention of Professor Pablo Idahosa that Philip Emeagwali was created by “the embarrassing Pan-“Afrikan” infantile, therapeutic achievism that afflicts so many black people [the] world over — the need to find heroes that result in a cathartic sycophancy of anything achieved by black folks.” Professor Mobolaji Aluko, who teaches Chemical Engineering at Howard University, echoed a similar sentiment, describing the tragedy of Emeagwali as an indictment of black people’s gullibility and their unquestioning and naïve commitment to racial solidarity on whatever premise. His words ring compellingly true:

The tragedy is not just Emeagwali’s – who may truly believe what he peddles on his website and his world-wide motivational speeches within the Black circuit that clutches for heroes, particularly in the technical fields apart from sports and the humanities – but those spectators who insist of being conned, or else indicate that Emeagwali serves a harmless, motivational purpose. Racial therapy is a dangerous enterprise because it emotionalizes what should belong to the realm of reasoned skepticism and intense interrogation. It leads to the celebration of mediocre and phony members of a racial community. Consequently, real black scientific heroes and achievers are ignored. Conclusion

Mr. Philip Emeagwali is entrenched in his fraud. Being jobless, he earns a living off it. He will not come clean on his own, for that would be economic suicide. It is therefore the duty of everyone invested in black scientific achievement to educate himself on Mr. Emeagwali’s pyramid of intellectual fraud. Mr. Emeagwali knows that there will always be gullible black people and guilt-ridden white liberals to swindle with his false claims. We recognize that there will always be Nigerians and black people who will not get off the self-comforting bandwagon of Emeagwali’s fraud regardless of how much evidence one puts out. Some of it is ego. Some of it is a naïve, misplaced desire to find black heroism where none exists. This essay may not sway those people. But there are many Nigerians, Africans, and black people the world over who are honest, humble, and open-minded enough to recognize and accept that the man they have been led to adore and lionize is a compulsive liar, intellectual fraudster, and a shameless, self-promoting exaggerator. Those people deserve the truth about Mr. Philip Emeagwali.

 

Naija Clashes Leave 80 Dead This Week

In ESSAY on June 6, 2012 at 8:25 am

At least 80 people have been killed since Monday in clashes in northern Nigeria triggered by Islamists waging an insurgency against the government, figures from police and the Red Cross showed on Wednesday.

The violence – some of which was sparked by church bombings over the last three Sundays – has heightened sectarian tensions in Africa‘s most populous country, which is evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

Boko Haram insurgents waged gun battles with security forces in the remote northeastern city of Damaturu, near the radical sect’s heartland, throughout Tuesday, police chief for the surrounding Yobe state Patrick Egbuniwe told Reuters.

He said 40 people were killed, 34 insurgents and six security personnel.

In separate clashes between Muslim and Christian residents of the northern city of Kaduna on Tuesday, at least 40 people were killed and 62 wounded, according to local Red Cross official Awwal Sani.

His organisation was helping collect bodies and treat the wounded, following riots in which Muslim youths fired AK-47 rifles, burned tyres and destroyed a church in Kaduna.

The riots came two days after after Christian youths went on the rampage, killing 52 people in the city, itself retaliation for the bombing of three churches by suspected Islamists on Sundat that killed 19 people.

Residents said the violence in both cities, hundreds of kilometres (miles) apart, had died down on Wednesday.

“Damaturu is calm this morning. Four policemen are receiving treatment for gun shot (wounds),” police chief Egbuniwe said. “We made seven arrests and they are with the criminal investigation department.”

Pope Benedict repeated his concerns about the sectarian killings, using his weekly general audience on Wednesday to appeal for an immediate end to “terrorist attacks” against Christians and urging all sides to avoid reprisals.

Boko Haram says it is fighting to reinstate an ancient Islamic caliphate in the north of Africa’s top oil producer that would impose strict sharia or Islamic law. The insurgents have killed hundreds since they launched an uprising in 2009.

They mostly target security forces or authority figures but in the past year have turned their sites on Christian worshippers, attacking churches in an apparent attempt to stoke a wider sectarian conflict.

In November, 65 people were killed in attacks claimed by Boko Haram on churches, mosques and police stations in Damaturu, where security forces often clash with Islamists in gun battles.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for church attacks on the first two Sundays of this month but has yet to do so for the most recent.

Muslims and Christians that make up most of Nigeria’s 160-million population mostly live side by side in peace, but there have been occasional bouts of sectarian violence since independence from Britain in 1960.

NIGERIA: A PLANE’S PLUNGE…more than 150 perish

In ESSAY on June 6, 2012 at 8:12 am

The white jet grew closer, buzzing the top of a building and chopping a coconut tree as it descended, before finally smashing into a compound and causing the neighbourhood to erupt with a violent shake.

“We saw the plane just coming toward us like this,” said Emeka Okafor, a 41-year-old father of two who lived on the middle floor of a two-storey residential building badly damaged in the crash.

“Blaaaaw! Like a bomb,” Okafor said. “Fire immediately.”

The crash on Sunday afternoon of a Dana Air MD83 passenger plane on the northern outskirts of Nigeria’s largest city of Lagos killed at least 159 people, making it one of the worst air disasters in a country that has had more than its share.

Nigeria has grounded domestic airline Dana while an investigation continues, with questions swirling over what caused the crash of the 22-year-old plane.

The country’s civil aviation chief has said the flight reported both of its engines having failed before crashing.

Residents of the neighbourhood where it plunged described a surreal set of events in the city of around 15 million, with some saying they had no idea what had hit, but knew they had to run, seeing flames, smoke and destruction as they did.

The plane with 153 people on board ploughed into a church, a house, a textbook warehouse and a two-storey apartment block that was home to 40 people, including Okafor, who made it out with his family.

Six people from the now demolished apartment block – four residents and two visitors – have so far been confirmed dead.

Some in the neighbourhood speculated that the pilot may have been aiming for a small, overgrown lot just beyond the chopped coconut tree and across from where he crashed. They wondered if he hoped crash-landing there would save lives.

The crash happened as Nigeria’s national football team was set to play a World Cup qualifying match against Namibia in the southeastern city of Calabar, and many residents were readying to watch it on television.

Chinyere Peace Eweh, a 37-year-old mother of three, lived on the top floor of the building, but was at Bible study with her children and husband at the time of the crash. A friend called her to say that her flat was on fire.

“This is the only thing I have – and my Bible,” she said, pointing to her clothes.

As residents were still trying to piece together what happened, chaos broke out at the crash site as thousands rushed into the area.

Some helped by directing fire hoses into the site, with masses of arms holding the lines above their heads, but others simply added to the confusion, while some even looted.

Authorities responded with whips to clear the crowd and rocks flew through the air. A helicopter tried to land and provoked pandemonium, while rescue workers faced difficulties accessing the scene.

By Tuesday, at least 150 bodies had been recovered, including a woman clutching her daughter.

Many of the human remains were unrecognisable, and rescue officials say DNA testing will be used with the help of international partners.

© 2012 AFP

GAMBLING IN NAIJA: LOTTERY OR ROBBERY?

In ESSAY on May 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

The Wretched Game

As a habit and an escape from poverty, a large numbers of Nigerian youths have sought solace in gambling and mother luck  

TAYO OLANIPEKUN

The taxi driver almost caused an upset as the passenger alighted from the cab just at his destination. Wale, the driver was lost in thoughts and of course, so hard on himself because of an omission the day before. He had failed to stake at least N200 on a ‘2-sure’ lotto game he played a day before. And thus, the hope of treating his entire family to a feast during the 2012 New Year celebration from the N48000 largesse he would have won was dashed.

A few weeks later in Lagos, were he to be there, the unlucky cab operator would definitely envy a posse of gamblers in Lagos who were in a frenzy mood, throwing fire crackers after cashing millions of naira from Baba’Jebu, the way he did of his friends in the ancient city of Ibadan after that grave miss. That December in Ibadan, over N200 million was paid in winning with some defaulting agents allegedly on the run, for either having failed to remit players’ entries, thinking the winning numbers wouldn’t come out or considering the enormity of their indebtedness.

In February of this year alone, players around Mushin are said to have won billions of Naira in the National Lotto, a lottery firm  based in Ghana as well as Premier Lotto, with Adebutu Kessington, popularly known as Baba’jebu as its Nigerian founder. Hailed from Iperu, a rural town in Ijebu dialect speaking part of Ogun State, Adebutu’s appellation, Baba’Jebu is now emblematic of everything gambling in the country.

However, the calibre of people playing the games transcends all social strata. Apart from the market women and those in pariah who also stake as little as N50 on the game from time to time, there are also those who play by proxy, trying to save their faces and conceal their source of fortune. Interestingly too, personalities like Oba of Mushin, the Oloto and the DPO of Daleko police station were said to have won several millions of naira in the much talked about Mushin boom. It is this name-dropping, appeal and fantasy of winning that make millions of Nigerians spend significant percentage of their earnings on lotto with majority nevertheless, going home with their tails between their legs after every draw. But the enticement is so powerful that even secondary school pupils have also joined the fray of players with money meant for their schooling.

The Game Plan

The practice that had its origin in Malta in 1923 has metamorphosed over the years and the Nigerian variant has a lot of aspects to it. To win in any of the lotto games ubiquitous in the country, a player has to predict correctly a set of numbers that will pop up from the gambling machines of the operator during the draws held after each game, -as quickly as two hours in some games. The winning numbers comprising the first few digits on the machine, grouped into five, each made up of one or two numbers. The remaining five groups are known as machine numbers -waste products. The player has the choice of a “2-sure” play in which four numbers paired in twos are predicted, e.g. 83, 45. In this case, if he plays with N1, 000, he earns a whooping N240, 000 if he wins (i.e. select 2 numbers drawn) N1000 X 240. A player can opt for a “three” direct game, a rare occurrence whereby a measly sum of N500 turns to N1.05million in winning (i.e. select 3 numbers drawn) N500 X 2100.

It increases geometrically depending on the amount of money betted with. A caveat to this is that, considering its potential of running the lotto company aground, a player has to break his stakes into smaller sums played from various agents otherwise, a single agent will decline such huge payment on one voucher upon winning and he is so empowered by some internal regulations. A game can be perming too – that is, disintegration of numbers into one digit from 1-99 with a two digit, for example, 16, used as the anchor. This anchor must come out in order to win. The chances of winning are high here but the amount that could be won is pocket-sized.

And for an experience, National Standard also played two “two-sure” games of N50 each and a perming of N60.It all returned non-winning though—more appropriately, the magazine lost.

Choosing a number to stake is a bit of rocket science too. Antecedents are the rule. Lotto chat, a weekly publication of all the past winning entries with dates, serves same way as do past questions for exams. Taking into cognizance the nine digits of numbers on each of the columns of the machine and how they tend to behave over a specific time, a player will permutate when 23 will turn to 32 and 78 to 87 at the same time, to win a 2-sure game as it did in December of 2011 around Alagbado, a suburb of Lagos. Players won over N20 million with numbers 32, 87. These same numbers were set as 23, 78 some months back as the winning. Also, lunatics are a good source of gambling numbers as they are thought to have a link to the extra-terrestrial realm. If the number volunteered by a madcap wins, he may be given a stipend to help himself. But if it doesn’t-as is often the case-he may get the beating of his life as if it’s not a mishap enough for him to be mentally deranged.

Just about any numerical inscriptions can pass for a Baba’Jebu betting number- foreign phone numbers on Tokunboh automobiles, house addresses, among many. In fact, a conductor retrieved a N100 note balance he gave a passenger few minutes earlier and replaced with another because he suddenly remembered the note had a set of numbers scribbled on it, suitable for his gambling trade.

 

Intrigues and Tricks

All sorts of means are devised by the lotto companies with their numerous agents to outwit the players. On the parts of the operators, they sometimes rely on their principal agents who serve as informants, advising them on the particular numbers majority of betters have played by collaboration among themselves. The operators, especially those outside the country, during their draws will be wary not to announce such numbers so as not to be drained out with the resultant multiple winnings.

On the part of the agents, they resort to Banker to Banker, a process in which a person’s entry is yanked out from the terminal, thus not reflecting in the office data base. As a result the person will not be able to claim any money in the event of winning. In addition, this ploy involves writing misleading winning numbers on the notice board, making players–mostly illiterates–conclude that their numbers did not come out, and will be encouraged to shred their vouchers thereby foreclosing any outburst of anger. This no doubt is possible because of agents’ defiance of section 13 of the commission’s code of conduct which says that names off all the winners should be documented i.e. published in at least one newspaper of wide circulation.

These methods are employed when the agent has not remitted the money to the office with the hope that the numbers will not set. This has always been greeted with violence anytime the stakers find out they have been short-changed, resulting in knocking down of the agent’s kiosk and beating him black and blue if he is ever found.

The head office also has a measure of its own under-handed dealings. When forecast has come to a point that the numbers cannot but set on the screen during the next draw, it sometimes comes under anxieties. Sources claim the same machine, that has been used for the draws over time, remaining to drop the numbers that forecast gurus have predicted and would have distributed among players for a fee, will not be used this time around, even though the draws will be held in the full glare of everybody, in compliance with section 11 of the Code of Conduct of National Lottery Commission. The trick is that the sticker bearing the name of the game awaited would have been fix on a different machine and in the end players will be led to conclude that their numbers are not out again.

Conspiracy and Fetish Means

The lotto game has another stratagem to it. There are forecasters who have a way of predicting numbers and selling them to a wide array of players. A notable example is a young man simply identified as Ibukun in Mushin. He was the brain behind the much talked about Mushin winning spree. His name is now an advert buzzword on notice boards describing him as Water Boy, Wonder Boy etc. He sold out to players, the forecast numbers he was sure of, and he is said to have gone into hiding because he is now wanted for “questioning” by Adebutu Kessington. Desperate lotto players have also employed the services of juju priests to boost their winning chances, even so, as they are always warned that no efficacious voodoo can outwit that of Baba’Jebu’s and according to a source, their efforts are usually to no avail.

For those who win, they hardly stay a few months before going broke again. Apart from a habit that is hard to break which makes them plow back-hence the catch phrase: Da pada, Owo Baba’Jebu (meaning: return to the source, it’s Baba’Jebu’s money), reckless spending and lack of good investment are their lots. Even when they invest, you don’t call Jack before it starts to ebb. No thanks to the allegedly cursed baskets with which the claims are paid. The same quandary can befall a sub-agent; despite his regular commission of 25%. Many a sub-agent is given to excessive gambling and extravagant lifestyle. Hakeem who lives around Mushin that was able to set up a daily-needs shop for his wife from Baba’Jebu swag has also succeeded in draining the store, supporting his gambling lifestyle. Motorcycle, commercial buses, electronics and many other articles have been acquired from gambling proceeds but ironically, they are usually sold to play lotto in an unending cycle.

Thus, money has been made and it has also been lost. Only time will tell if the players in this current fad will ever realize how much of their money is given to Baba’jebu, to receive little or nothing in turn. And of course, it’s uncertain if we will ever have a generation of moneybags with Lotto as the source of their wealth.

The Best Car Money Can Buy?

In ESSAY on May 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

The Best Car Money Can Buy?

With a 40-mpg gas mileage rating, a sleek look and tremendous value for money the 2012 Hyundai Elantra apparently has left the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla behind.

Bayo Akinloye

“If it’s possible, a single car shows exactly how far Korean automakers have come, and how much trouble they’re causing for Japanese car companies. That car is the Hyundai Elantra, one of the best compact sedans available today, and one of the strongest new-car values in recent memory,” said Marty Padgett, a juror for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

With the influx of Korean cars in Nigeria, the 2012 Hyundai Elantra strolls in with all the bragging rights. With its redesign in 2011, Hyundai cut back on the Elantra’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to 1.8 litres, though still as strong. With 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque, the car performs well. According to a review “quality is excellent, though, and the Elantra soaks up road noise as well as, or better than its competitors, with noise levels about as low as some mid-size sedans”.

The 2012 Elantra has changed “the order that held true for most of the past 25 years”. According to an automobile specialist, the default recommendations of Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla no longer hold true. The Elantra is much improved in gas mileage, roomier, and better refined.

As Padgett reviewed: “From some angles, the Elantra looks like it’s about to leap ahead; the rear door cuts in particular seem to keep the body in constant visual motion. The interior could be even a little more successful, as it tames some of the swoopy lines that could look overdone in the Sonata. In particular, the hourglass shape of the center console is fresh and distinctive, a purely Hyundai design cue from a brand that’s had few visuals all to itself in the past. It’s a look that brims with confidence”.

The car’s inside has plenty of handy cubbies and storage bins, plus a covered one that sits ahead of the shift lever: it also contains the aux jack, a power point, and the USB port in an easy to reach module, perfect for connecting smartphones.

“All Elantras come with those features, and others that make it one of the best-equipped base vehicles in the segment. Even the base GLS has power windows, locks, and mirrors; keyless entry; and (on automatic models) air conditioning; cruise control; and telescopic steering. Options can turn the Elantra into a luxurious sedan; the navigation system has one of the largest LCD touchscreens in the class, and it’s beautiful to look at and to use, with voice recognition for phone, audio, and destinations, plus real-time traffic and weather. Bluetooth and audio streaming are standard, too; a rearview camera comes with the navigation system, and to top it all off, the Elantra earns the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick designation,” Marty Padgett concluded in his review.

SEX AND POLITICS: Oiling the Promiscuity Industry

In ESSAY on May 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

Politicians and promiscuity

Iain Dale thinks politicians tend to be more promiscuous than most individuals but he’s not sure why. He should read (or re-read) Matthew Parris.

In Chance Witness, his autobiography, Parris claims that MPs have a higher than average chance of being philanderers – and he has two explanations.

First, he thinks that the people who end up getting into parliament are people with a higher-than-average appetite for risk.

Nobody without a gambling streak, a taste for uncertainty and a belief in his own luck would embark on a Commons career. Statistically most must ‘fail’ within their own terms, which are (usually these days) the achievement of high ministerial office.

The hours and conditions are arduous and the salary no more than what the majority of politicians could have hoped to attract in a career outside. For many it is less …. However regular a guy a candidate may present himself to his electors as being, no unadventurous family man in search of security is likely to want a career in politics.

Second, he thinks that once people become MPs then the sheer powerlessness that most of them experience encourages them to do something reckless, out of frustration.

You know you are there only because your party association chose you and few have ever voted for you as an individual, or ever will. You know, too, that your power at Westminster is almost zero, the whips humiliate you privately and your influence in the constituency derives not from your skill or the real respect you command, but from the portcullis on your notepaper …. It is not surprising that [MPs] sometimes try to escape this, sometimes in a manner that to the rest of us looks desperate.

When I first read this a few years ago, I thought Parris was spot on. Reading it again, I think he’s definitely on to something, although I don’t think his theory is complete.

Regarding Parris’s first explanation, it may be true that the people who become MPs have a higher-than-average appetite for risk. But if they are willing to spend 10 years or more hunting for a seat and struggling to get elected they also have higher-than-average willingness to tolerate rejection.

Is there a link here with promiscuity? If a man makes a pass at one woman, she’ll probably say no. But if he makes a pass at 20, someone’s likely to say yes. What MPs and philanderers may have in common is the capacity to cope with rejection.

And regarding Parris’s second explanation, I’m just not convinced. For every MP driven to promiscuity by the pointlessness of their job, there may be just as many who are cowed into good behaviour by the fear of exposure.

A more obvious explanation, if Dale and Parris are right about politicians and promiscuity, may just be the old one about the aphrodisiac effect of power. Alan Clark, I seem to remember, referred to the central lobby of the House of Commons as the best pick-up spot in England and I think that’s why.

Incidentally, if you haven’t read the Parris book, you should. He never held high political office, but he writes brilliantly about political psychology, and particularly what it’s like to “fail” as an MP.

One of Mckinsey’s Top Dog

In ESSAY on May 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Dr. James Manyika is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), McKinsey’s business and economics research arm, and a director (senior partner) at McKinsey. He is one of the leaders of McKinsey’s High Tech, Media, and Telecom practices where he serves many of the leading companies.

At MGI, James has led research on areas including, growth, productivity, competitiveness, labor markets, and technology and its impact on business and the economy. Much of this work has appeared in journals, books and the op-ed pages of leading news papers and business publications. He has also published a book on distributed networks and decentralized decision theory and numerous academic papers.

James has spoken at various global technology, business and policy forums and on radio and television. He serves on the firm’s global committee that reviews and elects McKinsey directors (senior partners).

In 2011, James was appointed by the US Secretary of Commerce to serve on a 15-member innovation advisory board to advise the Secretary and report to Congress on US economic competitiveness and innovation. James is a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, and a trustee of the Aspen Institute, the World Affairs Council of California, and SFJazz.

He is on the advisory boards of the Oxford Internet Institute and UC Berkeley’s School of Information, and an advisor to the Global Philanthropy Forum and a member of the research council of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. A Rhodes scholar and a Smith-Rippon senior scholar, James has served on the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee for California. A native of Harare, James lives in San Francisco.

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