40 Students, Faculty Members In US Declare Igbo Ancestry

<SUNBIGHT>~USA~Orie~1st July,2022 @ 10:16 WAT~Leadership

Global, US – No fewer than 40 students and faculty members from Morehouse College Glee Club in Atlanta, United States of America, USA, have taken Igbo names.

They took the names on Wednesday and also declared their ancestry to the Igbos of Southeastern Nigeria.

During the event, the students narrated how they traced their Igbo ancestral roots through DNA tests.

Performing the ceremony, the traditional ruler of Ibagwa-Aka community in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State, HRH, Igwe Hyacinth Eze, in conjunction with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, commended the reunion of the Igbo-Americans with their ancestral brothers.

The traditional ruler stated that he was also happy because of the spiritual, cultural and economic exchanges which would happen as a result of the reunion.

He pledged that he was willing to provide lands for those that are willing to live in his community.

Also, the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State chapter, Prof. Fredrick Eze, said the reunion would help in the development of Igbo communities.

In a remark, the public affairs officer, United States Consulate General, Lagos, Stephen Ibelli, explained that the club came to Nigeria to mark the 50th anniversary of its first visit to Nigeria in 1972.

He said the club would tour Abuja, Enugu and Lagos States to strengthen US-Nigeria cultural ties through music, arts and film.

Some of the students of the Morehouse College Glee Club described their visit as an opportunity to connect with their African roots.■

US cancels license of China-owned telecom company

<SUNBIGHT>~US~Eke~18th March,2022 @ 00:42 WAT

REGULATORS in the US on Wednesday stripped the telecommunications license of Chinese state-owned Pacific Networks. This is the latest blow to Chinese businesses in a simmering confrontation between the US and China.

Washington had previously revoked the permits of China Telecom and China Unicom, and the Federal Communications Commission has now given 60 days to Pacific and its subsidiary ComNet to cut service.

“The companies’ ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks,” the FCC said in a statement, adding Beijing could monitor or disrupt US communications.

ComNet did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The revocation of Pacific’s operating authority comes as US President Joe Biden has pressed ahead with a strategy of confronting China broadly in line with that of his predecessor Donald Trump, whose approach sent tensions soaring.

Relations have been fraught between the world’s two biggest economies on multiple fronts, including trade, human rights, Taiwan and the Covid-19 pandemic.

China Telecom is China’s largest fixed-line operator, but it had faced trouble in the United States for years, particularly during Trump’s presidency, as his administration repeatedly clashed with Beijing over trade.

The telecoms companies have fought back against the restrictions, with China Unicom saying in a statement in January that the FCC’s decision was “without any justifiable grounds and without affording required due process.”■

[Courtesy: WION]

Russia-Ukraine: Biden closes US airspace to Russian flights

<SUNBIGHT>~Europe~Eke~2nd March,2022 @ 20:47 WAT

IN his first State of the Union address, United States President Joe Biden announced closing US airspace to all Russian flights, saying that Moscow will be weaker by the end of its war against Ukraine.

Addressing a joint session of Congress late on Tuesday, Biden said the US is imposing “powerful sanctions” on Russia that are cutting off its banks from the international financial system and “choking” its access to technological imports.

The US president also hit out repeatedly at Russia’s Vladimir Putin, saying that he alone is to blame for the war.

“Tonight, I’m announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy,” Biden said. “He has no idea what’s coming.”

Biden also pledged to penalise wealthy elites in the Russian president’s inner circle.

“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who built billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more,” the US president said.

“I mean it. The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We’re joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets.”

Despite the deep partisan divisions in Congress, legislators – many of whom sported blue and yellow outfits, the colours of Ukraine’s flag, in support of the country – applauded and cheered for Biden as he spoke of confronting Russia.

“While he [Putin] may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run,” Biden said.

The US president also expressed support for the Ukrainian people and paid a nod to Kyiv’s ambassador to Washington, Oksana Markarova, who was in attendance at the invitation of First Lady Jill Biden.

Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine last week, drawing condemnation and sanctions from major world powers. The invasion came after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass as many as 200,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.

In less than a week, the violence has prompted 660,000 Ukrainians to flee neighbouring countries as Russia continues to bombard cities across Ukraine.

US defence officials have said they believe the Russian offensive has slowed down because of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Earlier this year, Russia repeatedly denied US and European allegations that it was planning to invade Ukraine, insisting that it had legitimate security concerns about Kyiv’s deepening alliance with the West – and demanding guarantees that Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO.

On Tuesday, Biden said while the US will not send troops to fight Russia in Ukraine, it is prepared to defend its NATO allies.

“Let me be clear, our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine,” Biden said.

“Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO Allies – in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west. Every single inch.”

Biden tried to allay fears about rising fuel prices amid the Ukraine crisis, saying that the US is set to release 30 million barrels of oil from its strategic reserve to stabilise the energy market. Russia is one of the world’s top oil and gas producers.

“These steps will help blunt gas prices here at home. But I know news about what’s happening can seem alarming to all Americans,” the US president said.

“But I want you to know: We’re going to be OK. We’re going to be OK. When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war in Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.”■

[Courtesy: Aljazeera]

Biden announces new Russia sanctions

<SUNBIGHT>~US/Russia~Orie~23rd February,2022 @ 18:10 WAT

US President Joe Biden has announced what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of financing, saying Moscow had started an invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re implementing sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Biden said, adding that the measures also would target financial institutions, and Russian “elites”.

The US earlier said Russia’s deployment of troops into two Moscow-backed, self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine amounts to the “beginning of an invasion”.

The move came after the United Kingdom slapped sanctions on Russian banks and high net worth individuals while Germany, another of Kyiv’s Western allies, halted the approval process for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Moscow has brushed aside the threat of retaliatory measures from the West, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying Russia was accustomed to sanctions.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a previously planned meeting with Lavrov that was set to take place in Geneva on Thursday, accusing Moscow of rejecting diplomacy.

‘The time for sanctions is now,’ says Ukraine foreign minister

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the US sanctions against Russian banks on Tuesday, calling on the world to use “all its economic might to punish Russia”.

Speaking alongside the US’s Blinken, Kuleba accused Putin of killing the Minsk Agreement that aimed to restore peace in eastern Ukraine by recognising the independence of two breakaway Ukrainian regions.

“Russia’s move is a grave breach of international law and a new act of aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Therefore, Ukraine strongly believes that the time for sanctions is now,” he said■

[Courtesy: Aljazeera]

Leave Ukraine now! President Biden orders US citizens

<SUNBIGHT>~USA~Eke~11th February,2022 @ 10:55 WAT

US President Joe Biden has called on all American citizens remaining in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, citing increased threats of Russian military action.

Mr Biden said he would not send troops to rescue Americans if Moscow invades Ukraine.

He warned that “things could go crazy quickly” in the region.

Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine despite massing more than 100,000 troops near the border.

But it has just begun massive military drills with neighbouring Belarus, and Ukraine has accused Russia of blocking its access to the sea.

The Kremlin says it wants to enforce “red lines” to make sure that its former Soviet neighbour does not join Nato.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that Europe faced its biggest security crisis in decades amid the tensions.

The US State Department urged Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately.

“American citizens should leave now,” Mr Biden told NBC News.

“We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly.”

Asked whether there was a scenario that could prompt him to send troops to rescue fleeing Americans, Mr Biden replied: “There’s not. That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another. We’re in a very different world than we’ve ever been.”

World leaders, meanwhile, continued their frenzied diplomacy to defuse the current crisis over Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine announced late on Thursday that they had failed to reach any breakthrough after nine hours of talks with French and German officials aimed at ending the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian envoy Andriy Yermak said while there were disagreements “there is a will to continue and there is a will to negotiate”.

The current tensions come eight years after Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula. Since then, Ukraine’s military has been locked in a war with Russian-backed rebels in eastern areas near Russia’s borders.

Earlier, the UK prime minister said he hoped “strong deterrence” and “patient diplomacy” could find a way through the crisis but the stakes were “very high”.

In a joint news conference in Brussels with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Johnson said he did not believe Russia had yet taken a decision on whether to invade Ukraine but the UK’s intelligence “remains grim”.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was due to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Friday, a day after a frosty encounter between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Britain’s Liz Truss.

Mr Lavrov said relations between the UK and Russia “leave much to be desired” and are at the “lowest point over the past few years”. Ms Truss accused Russia of “Cold War rhetoric”.

Before flying to Moscow, Mr Wallace confirmed the UK was providing more defensive equipment – including body armour, helmets and combat boots – to the Ukrainian government. He also said it was important to show that Nato countries “won’t let threats push us around”.

Meanwhile, Ukraine accused Russia of blocking its access to the sea as Russia prepares for naval exercises.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Sea of Azov was completely blocked and the Black Sea almost fully cut off by Russian forces.

Russia’s naval exercises will take place next week in the two seas to the south of Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Russia has issued coastal warnings citing missile and gunnery firing exercises.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the “unprecedentedly vast area where the manoeuvres will be conducted makes navigation in both seas practically impossible”, and Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted that the international waters of the two seas had been blocked by Russia.

The naval exercises off Ukraine’s southern flank are in addition to the 10 days of military exercises currently under way in Belarus, to the north of Ukraine.

There are fears that if Russia tries to invade Ukraine, the exercises put the Russian military close to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, making an attack on the city easier. Russia says its troops will return to their permanent bases after the drills end.

Ukraine has launched its own 10-day military exercises, though officials have given few details.

Moscow says it cannot accept that Ukraine – a former Soviet republic with deep social and cultural ties with Russia – could one day join the Western defence alliance Nato and has demanded that this be ruled out.

Russia has been backing a bloody armed rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since 2014. Some 14,000 people – including many civilians – have died in fighting since then.

There is some suggestion that a renewed focus on the so-called Minsk agreements – which sought to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine – could be used as a basis to defuse the current crisis.

Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany backed the accords in 2014-2015.■

[Courtesy: BBC]

Maya Angelou becomes first black woman on US currency

<SUNBIGHT>~USA~Eke~13th January, 2022.

ACTIVISTS and legendary poet Maya Angelou has become not only the first woman but also the first black person to grace the American currency.

According to the US Mint, the new Maya Angelou quarter began circulation on January 10.

CNN reports that the coins are the first in the American Women Quarters Program and several prominent women in US history are set to be featured.

But the coin still features George Washington’s visage on the ‘heads’ side while the ‘tails’ side honours Maya.

On the tails side, it features one of Maya’s most famous works,’ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ autobiography.

According to CNN, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said each time they redesign their currency, they have the chance to say something about their country.

“I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou,” Yellen said as reported by CNN.

Lawmakers cheered the release of the new coin and credited Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, with the achievement.

Lee introduced the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020, which passed in January 2021.”The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long, especially women of colour,” Lee said in a tweet. “Proud to have led this bill to honour their legacies.”

The American Mint said other coins in the series would be rolled out later in the year, all through to 2025. They encouraged the public to submit names of women they viewed as American icons.

The bureau is welcoming entries of women known for their work in civil rights, science, arts, among other areas, with an emphasis on women from ethnically, racially and geographically diverse backgrounds.

The main requirement being for the women to appear on the coins, they must be deceased.■

[Courtesy: Global Village]

Iran vows revenge unless Donald Trump not put on trial for general Qassem Soleimani killing

<SUNBIGHT>~Iran~Eke~13th January,2022.

IRANIAN President Ebrahim Raisi said that former United States President Donald Trump must face trial for his alleged role in the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani two years ago, otherwise, Iran will have revenge. 

While speaking on the second anniversary of the assassination of Soleimani, Raisi said that Trump must be “tried and judged” under the (Islamic) law of retribution.

Iran and its allies held emotional commemorations for General Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant who were assassinated in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020. 

A convicted murderer can be executed unless the family of the victim agree to take “blood money” through reconciliation, as per Iran’s Islamic laws. 

“If Trump and (former secretary of state Mike) Pompeo are not tried in a fair court for the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani, Muslims will take our martyr’s revenge,” Raisi said in a speech on Monday (January 3) as quoted by Reuters. 

“The aggressor, murderer and main culprit – the then president of the United States – must be tried and judged under the (Islamic) law of retribution, and God’s ruling must be carried out against him,” Raisi added.

On Sunday, Iran urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in a letter to hold the United States and Israel to account, according to Iranian media. Tehran says that Israel was also involved in the killing. 

During Trump’s tenure, tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme escalated, leading to a new and painful sanctions regime.■

[Courtesy: WION]

The second coming of Donald Trump

THE usual routine for former presidents is to sink into the background, graciously refuse to criticise their successor and plan a library. But Donald Trump does not do background or graciousness or books.

In rallies, interviews and impromptu speeches to wedding parties at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, Mr Trump has lambasted President Joe Biden, the media and the handful of Republicans who have dared acknowledge that he suffered electoral defeat in 2020. He has repeatedly teased the possibility of a comeback. In 2022 that will look increasingly inevitable.

It already seems that only a health crisis could deny Mr Trump the second tilt at the presidency he clearly craves. Most Republican voters want him to run again. He has raised well over $100m just by hinting that he will. And if the Republican establishment did not roll over for him that could only be because it was too prone already to effect the contortion.

Trump cheerleaders such as Lindsey Graham began exhorting him to retain command of their party the day he left office. Mr Trump’s only serious rivals for the nomination, such as Governor Ron deSantis of Florida and Mike Pompeo, his former secretary of state, are his imitators. Every indication is that Republicans would prefer the real thing.

At least 18 Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed election laws that will make it harder to vote, many of which appear to target African-Americans and other traditionally Democratic groups. Probably worse, many of those Trumpified legislatures have also seized control of their states’ handling of elections.

This is especially troubling given how concerted Mr Trump’s effort to steal the election in 2020 turned out to be. Had a handful of state officials buckled, he might have produced more chaos; or conceivably succeeded in his attempted heist. And that handful has already been reduced. Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state for Georgia whom Mr Trump importuned to “find 11,780 votes” could not reprise his role in defending democracy, for example. The state’s Republican legislature has stripped his office of the power to do so.

The Republican congressional primaries, mostly due in the first half of 2022, will indicate how far the party has succumbed to this extremism. Of the 212 Republican House members, ten voted to impeach Mr Trump over the insurrection, of whom one, citing death threats, has already announced his intention to quit politics. The other nine, including Ms Cheney, will face Trump-backed primary challengers. If most lose, as appears likely, Mr Trump’s grip on his party will be tighter and its adoption of election scepticism as a strategy more advanced. (And if they win, the Trumpists will cry foul, which could have much the same effect.)

The mid-term elections in November 2022 will be a more important weather-vane. They will represent the first opportunity for Trump Republicans to air their election conspiracies to the electorate at large. The leading role that Mr Trump will take in their campaign will encourage them to do so. The big question, then, is whether enough centre-right voters will find this sufficiently off-putting to make it a losing strategy.

It would be a heavy blow to Mr Trump’s prospects of recapturing the presidency if they did. But there appears to be little reason to hope for that. Remarkably few of the nearly 75m voters who chose Mr Trump in 2020 appear to have been repelled by his election denialism or the violence on Capitol Hill. If they do not share his authoritarian instincts, they appear not to take them terribly seriously. America may come to rue that.■

[Courtesy: James Astill / The Economist]

US military equipment approaching our borders, says Russia while admitting own troop buildup

Ukraine flag

<SUNBIGHT> – As fresh tensions build up between the US and Russia over reported military build-up near Ukraine border, Moscow on Saturday clarified that President Vladimir Putin has no plans to launch an offensive against the neighbouring country, news agency ANI reported.

Speaking to Greek TV channel ANT1, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that purported military build-up near its borders was in response to US military’s presence in Ukraine.

When asked whether Putin was planning to carry out an attack on Ukraine Peskov was quoted as saying, “No, the problem is very simple”.

He added, “Russia is moving its forces within its territory, and we can move our forces in any direction we want and closer to the areas that could pose a threat [and currently] we see US warplanes landing in Ukraine and US military equipment approaching our borders.” 

Peskov’s response came a week after US intelligence officials claimed that Russia was planning for a possible military offensive against Ukraine “that could begin as soon as early 2022 and would include an estimated 1,75,000 personnel”.

The new intelligence finding estimates that half of the Russian personnel are already deployed along various points near Ukraine’s border, news agency AP quoted a Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier on Friday, US President Joe Biden said that he would make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to launch any invasion of Ukraine, which warned that a large-scale attack could be planned for next month.

The US president told reporters he was putting together “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do”.

Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has since backed separatists fighting Kyiv in the east of the country. The conflict has left more than 13,000 dead.■

[Courtesy: WION]