From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has faulted the proposed appointment of another interim administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Besides, HURIWA said it will not hesitate to head to court within 72 hours, if the Commission is controlled by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
While seeking direct control of the NDDC, by the President, the advocacy group equally faulted the illegal transfer of the supervisory purview of the NDDC illegally to the minister of Niger Delta Affairs which directly violates the enabling Act that set up the commission.
This is contained in a statement issued by the National Coordinator of the group, Emmanuel Onwubiko.
Meanwhile, HURIWA has expresssed consternation that the Forensic Audit Report on NDDC and the White Paper on that Report are yet to see the light of the day underlying how so disregarded the NDDC has become within the current administration.
In the statement released on Friday, the group is asking Mr. President thus-: “Why the delay in the implementation of the Recommendations of the Report?
This whole negligence is as a result of the underhand suppression by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. This negligence and administrative bottlenecks must be dismantled.
It stated that the proposed appointment of another interim administrator is a nullity and there is a need to arrest the illegality with immediate alacrity.
It is therefore the position of the group that all the actions relating to the NDDC made by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is null and void because the law states clearly that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the direct supervisor of the Niger Delta Development Commission hence all letters authored by the minister remain absolute and irredeemable illegality.
The group maintained that the President is fundamentally the direct supervisor and no one else but the President or Presidency, adding that the concept of interim administratorship has been a means to siphon money and a corruption funnel.
According to reports, stakeholders in the Niger Delta region raised the alarm over alleged plot by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, to appoint another interim administrator to oversee the affairs of the NDDC.
The stakeholder, under the umbrella of the Centre for Fairness and Accountability (CEFA), claimed the minister, in conjunction with enemies of the region, is spearheading the move to undermine the relative peaceful coexistence in the region.
Reacting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “Section 7 subsection 3 of the NDDC Act is specifically unambiguous and certain that the President, commander in chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to have direct supervision of NDDC. But since 2016, this President abdicated that statutory duty and left it in the hands of minister of Niger Delta affairs which is unknown to the extant NDDC Act. HURIWA said it is serving a strong notice to Mr.President to stop this statutory breach with immediate effect or be challenged legally in the competent court of law to obtain a mandates to compel total compliance to the law.
“We want to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to adhere to that law or be sued within stipulated pre-litigation notice period to get the Federal High Court to grant us a mandamus to compel compliance. Already our team of legal practitioners are putting finishing touches to our litigation should the illegality be left unchecked with immediate effect.
“The abandonment of NDDC by President Muhammadu Buhari is the reason for the cacophony of corruption in NDDC and he may have done it because it is an institution that ought to benefit the Niger Delta oil producing zone so he is treating that key interventionist agency anyhow by allowing a minister unknown to the extant NDDC ACT to handpick interim administrators when the law said supervision must be by the President.
“One is curious to ask why the North-East Development Commission that came up just two years back is not under the supervisory purview of any minister and so why is NDDC that is far older been treated like an abandon project in clear breach of an extant law.
“The President must sit up to his responsibility and oversee the NDDC correctly and provide leadership as he ought to.”
By this notice, HURIWA hereby ask President Muhammadu Buhari to seize and desist from violating the NDDC ACT within 74 hours or we file an application to the Federal High Court to compel compliance once the statutory pre-litigation notice is observed.
From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
As the Ekiti State Governor-elect, Biodun Oyebanji, takes over the mantle of leadership from Governor Kayode Fayemi, he has revealed the key areas his administration will pay attention to.
Identifying security, infrastructure development and providing solution to the perennial epileptic power supply as areas of concentration, the incoming governor said focusing on the three particular areas would help to increase investment drives that would create wealth, and ignite human capital development, through job provision and revenue earnings.
Oyebanji said his administration will recruit “competent, committed, courageous, transparent, and God-fearing people” to make him successful as governor.
The governor-elect, who spoke in Ado Ekiti, yesterday, during an interactive session with newsmen announcing his swearing in, coming up October 16, acknowledged that though Ekiti is confronted with paucity of funds, still he doesn’t see the situation as affecting good leadership as his government is ready to sustain the strong partnerships the state has built with local and international development partners.
Oyebanji added that he has a template and roadmap he would deploy to increase the internally generated revenue (IGR) through effective and affordable tax regime that won’t put pressure or burden on the citizens.
He said he will always rub minds with all the strata of Ekiti to usher in development.
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Republicans are criticizing the Mills administration for a video on a state educational website that lists former President Donald Trump’s MAGA slogan as an example of what it describes as covert racism.
Other examples include “calling police on Black people,” “not challenging racist jokes” and the statement “all lives matter.”
“Students should be taught reading, writing and math, not a woke curriculum from the Mills administration that teaches kids that they are inherently racist for the beliefs they or their parents support,” Republican Governors Association spokesman Will Reinert said in a written statement.
Maine Department of Education spokesperson Marcus Mrowka stood by the video and said in a written statement Friday that it has been mischaracterized by critics.
He said the video was created by the nonprofit Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, and linked to a digital lesson about diversity and race that was created by a teacher for other high school-level educators who choose to watch it or share it with students. The DOE hosts educator-created learning “modules” on its public website, but does not require teachers to use them. Mrowka also noted that each module contains a disclaimer that the lessons should be completed “with an educator or adult supervision, feedback and guidance.”
“The Maine Department of Education does not tell teachers or parents what to teach in the classrooms,” Mrowka said. “Decisions about what is taught in a classroom are made by – and always will be made by – teachers, parents, community members and local elected school boards, consistent with the Maine Learning Results and Maine’s longstanding tradition of local control.”
He added, “The Department of Education will continue to support teachers, parents, and elected school boards as they make their own decisions about public education in Maine, despite attacks like these.”
BACKLASH AGAINST ‘WOKE’ EDUCATION
The criticism by Republicans ahead of the November election is the latest backlash against what they call a “woke” public education system.
It comes two days after former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, released a proposed parents bill of rights that he framed as fighting back against “extreme woke agendas” of public educators. And earlier this month, LePage campaigned in Lewiston with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and praised Virginia’s new law that allows parents to review, remove and replace sexually explicit material from school curriculum.
National and state Republicans criticized the racism lesson after the conservative online news outlet Breitbart published a story Wednesday highlighting one slide in the hourlong YouTube video, which was created two years ago by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine. It wasn’t clear when the learning module linking to the video was first posted on the state website.
Before the video was called out by Breitbart, relatively few people had seen it. The video has been available since June 2, 2020, and had been viewed about 300 times as of Friday. It wasn’t clear how many of those viewers found the video through the learning module.
The video uses an iceberg as a metaphor for racism. Panelists who speak in the video compare explicit forms of racism – lynching, racial slurs and burning crosses – to the exposed portion of the iceberg, and say implicit forms of racism make up the much larger hidden portion.
The slide that sparked the criticism is shown for about 75 seconds. It lists examples of what the nonprofit calls overt and covert forms of racism and white supremacy.
The roughly 50 examples of covert racism include Trump’s MAGA slogan, which stands for Make American Great Again, along with “calling police on Black people,” “not challenging racist jokes,” “mass incarceration” and the statement “all lives matter.”
None of the panelists appearing on the nonprofit’s video discussed or highlighted MAGA as an example of implicit racism.
Before showing the slide, panelist Marpheen Chann notes that biases can form a lens through which a person sees the world, whether the person is aware of them or not.
BIASES FORM A LENS
“Having bias doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, but it can and does cause harm,” Chann said. “But we each have the moral responsibility to speak up when we see bias, especially explicit bias. And we also have the moral responsibility to learn and grow and address our own implicit biases – the bias we don’t necessarily see.”
Such lessons on implicit bias exploded in popularity as part of diversity, equity and inclusion discussions within private companies, nonprofits, trade associations and educational institutes following George Floyd’s murder by Minnesota police in 2020. Floyd, who was Black, was killed by a white police officer responding to a call about an allegedly counterfeit $20 bill.
This is the second time the DOE has faced Republican criticism for its online learning modules, which were created during the pandemic using $2.8 million in federal funding. The MOOSE program, or Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education, contains about 200 voluntary lessons that are available to teachers to use. They are not required as part of a school’s curriculum, which is set at the local level.
In the spring, the DOE removed a video intended for kindergarten teachers who wanted to explain gender identity and same sex relationships to their students. The department took the video off the site after being criticized by Republicans, who used the video in an attack ad against Mills. The Maine Republican Party has re-aired that ad this fall.
Mrowka, the DOE spokesperson, did not respond to a follow-up question about why the DOE removed the LGBTQ video and not the implicit bias video.
Neither the Maine Republican Party nor the Republican Governors Association would say whether it would use the anti-racism lesson in any upcoming campaign ads.
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Boostrix for immunization during the third trimester of pregnancy to prevent pertussis in infants younger than 2 months of age.
The Boostrix vaccine (Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid, and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine, Adsorbed [Tdap]) was initially approved by the FDA in 2005 as a single dose for booster immunization against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis in individuals 10 through 18 years of age and then was subsequently expanded to include individuals older than 19 years of age and to include use of an additional dose nine years or more after the initial dose of a Tdap vaccine.
The approval was based on a reanalysis of data from an observational case-control study of Tdap vaccine effectiveness of Boostrix administered during the third trimester. The analysis revealed 108 cases of pertussis in infants younger than 2 months of age (four cases whose mothers received Boostrix during the third trimester) and 183 control infants who did not have pertussis (18 cases whose mothers received Boostrix during the third trimester), resulting in an estimated 78 percent effectiveness in preventing pertussis among infants younger than 2 months of age when administered during the third trimester of pregnancy.
"While vaccination is the best method for providing protection, infants younger than 2 months of age are too young to be protected by the childhood pertussis vaccine series," Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. "This is the first vaccine approved specifically for use during pregnancy to prevent a disease in young infants whose mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy."
Approval of Boostrix was granted to GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.
The decision comes as the pandemic has faded from the forefront of many people's minds. Daily deaths and infections are dropping and people — many of them maskless — are returning to schools, work and grocery stores as normal.
The public health emergency, first declared in January 2020 and renewed every 90 days since, has dramatically changed how health services are delivered.
The declaration enabled the emergency authorization of COVID vaccines, testing and treatments for free. It expanded Medicaid coverage to millions of people, many of whom who will risk losing that coverage once the emergency ends. It temporarily opened up telehealth access for Medicare recipients, enabling doctors to collect the same rates for those visits and encouraging health networks to adopt telehealth technology.
Since the beginning of this year, Republicans have pressed the administration to end the public health emergency. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has urged Congress to provide billions more in aid to pay for COVID-19 vaccines and testing. The federal government ceased sending free COVID-19 tests in the mail last month, saying it had run out of money.
Public health officials are urging people age 5 and older to get an updated COVID-19 booster alongside a flu vaccine this fall before a predicted winter coronavirus surge and a nasty flu season. As of last weekend, about 13 million people had gotten the updated booster, which targets the omicron variant, according to White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.
The administration has said it would provide 60 days notice before it ends the public health emergency.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are announcing on Friday $1 billion worth of federal grants for manufacturing, clean energy, farming, biotech and other sectors that will go to 21 regional partnerships.
The winners were chosen from 529 initial applicants vying for grants that were part of last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The Biden administration has repeatedly laid out a vision for the economy that is more self-sufficient and driven by high-tech manufacturing and the development of renewable energy.
“The whole point of this is we’re not going to let you get left behind as we transition to a more digital economy, to a more technical economy, to a green economy,” Raimondo told The Associated Press. “People want to work where they live. People want to know there is a place for them in the changing economy.”
Unlike much of the pandemic aid that was meant to address immediate needs, the $1 billion in grants is part of a longer-term effort to revitalize parts of the country that have needed an economic jolt for existing industries and capital for new ventures. The mission is personal for Raimondo, whose father lost his job at a watch factory in Rhode Island. She said the grants are the largest ever for local economic development provided by the Commerce Department.
The grants include $65.1 million in California to Strengthen farm production and $25 million for a robotics cluster in Nebraska. Georgia gets $65 million for artificial intelligence. There is $63.7 million for lithium-based battery development in New York. Coal counties in West Virginia would receive $62.8 million to help with the shift to solar power and find new uses for abandoned mines.
Start your day with the top stories in South Florida.
Raimondo said the winners were chosen based on merit rather than politics. She estimated that the investments, which will be provided over five years as reimbursements, will result in at least 100,000 jobs.
Solidly Republican states such as Oklahoma and South Dakota received funding, and money also is going ahead of November’s midterm elections toward political battlegrounds that could decide control of Congress. There is $44 million for regenerative medicine in New Hampshire, where Democrat Maggie Hassan is defending her U.S. Senate seat. Pennsylvania, which has an open Senate seat, is set to receive $62.7 million for robotics and artificial intelligence.
The massive amount of coronavirus aid at the start of President Joe Biden’s tenure helped to accelerate job growth as the U.S. recovered from the pandemic. But accompanying the hiring was a burst of inflation that hit a 40-year peak this summer, crushing consumer sentiment and putting the administration on the defensive to show how its policies are helping the economy.
Even as much of the coronavirus money has been disbursed, the administration has said it still needs more money to contain the disease and its variations. Biden unsuccessfully sought to get $22.5 billion from Congress to address and prevent outbreaks, a figure that lawmakers reduced to $10 billion in negotiations. But additional funding was never passed by Congress despite confirmed cases that are now averaging about 90,000 daily.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tried to minimize the lack of funding after the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved modified booster shots of the vaccines. Jean-Pierre said booster shots would be available after the Labor Day holiday as the administration has worked with local partners.
Still, the grants for economic development indicate that the relief package could have a multi-decade impact that goes beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Orleans area will receive $50 million to use hydrogen produced by wind power that does not cause carbon emissions, a meaningful change in Louisiana, a state that has long depended on fossil fuels.
“With clean hydrogen, we can remain an energy state — but become an energy state of the future that has less impact on the environment,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development nonprofit. “When money and morality come together, you get stuff done.”
WELLESLEY, Mass., Oct. 6, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Sun Life U.S. has been recognized by Ragan Communications' Video, Visual & Virtual Awards for its 2021 Sunny Summer Games program as the "best virtual employee engagement event." Now in its second year, the Sunny Summer Games are a virtual competition that allows colleagues to team up – either in chosen groups or randomly assigned teams – and compete in a series of contests. Employees of all levels of the organization, no matter where they are located, are able to take part in this event at Sun Life.
The games were created by a group of Sun Life employees in the summer of 2021, with the pandemic wearing on, as a fun way to engage employees in a virtual setting and take a break to socialize with colleagues. The event aligns with Sun Life's commitment early in the pandemic to prioritize employee flexibility, support, well-being and engagement. That culture of support has remained strong as offices reopen and employees embrace the new Future of Work approach, which gives employees the choice to work at an office or from home each day.
"We believe that a little fun in the workplace improves creativity, communication and collaboration," said Tammi Wortham, senior vice president, Human Resources, Sun Life U.S. "Happy employees are healthier, and we love bringing some fun into the summer work weeks with the Sunny Summer Games. Everyone can participate together regardless of where they are, and it gives our hardworking employees some time to connect, have fun, and get to know their colleagues."
This year's Sunny Summer Games produced an added bonus – bringing together employees new to the Sun Life family through exact acquisitions, and building comraderie across businesses and geographies in a way that the regular workday cannot.
The Sunny Summer Games consist of six to seven weeks of various games, such as trivia, tune challenges, or virtual escape rooms. The weeks of play culminate in a championship event to determine gold, silver, and bronze winning teams, who win great prizes and of course, bragging rights. Other prizes and incentives are given out throughout the games for bonus rounds and through random drawings.
The Sunny Summer Games are an original virtual employee engagement event at Sun Life, using external tech platforms to hold competitions with live hosts who facilitate each round. Approximately 1,000 employees have participated each year.
About Sun Life
Sun Life is a leading international financial services organization providing asset management, wealth, insurance and health solutions to individual and institutional Clients. Sun Life has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda. As of June 30, 2022, Sun Life had total assets under management of C$1.26 trillion. For more information, please visit www.sunlife.com.
Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.
In the United States, Sun Life is one of the largest group benefits providers, serving more than 55,000 employers in small, medium and large workplaces across the country. Sun Life's broad portfolio of insurance products and services in the U.S. includes disability, absence management, life, dental, vision, voluntary and medical stop-loss. Sun Life and its affiliates in asset management businesses in the U.S. employ approximately 8,000 people. Group insurance policies are issued by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, Mass.), except in New York, where policies are issued by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, Mich.). For more information, please visit www.sunlife.com/us.
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WASHINGTON — Six Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration in an effort to halt its plan to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, accusing it of overstepping its executive powers.
It’s at least the second legal challenge this week to the sweeping proposal laid out by President Joe Biden in late August, when he said his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in education debt for huge numbers of borrowers. The announcement, after months of internal deliberations and pressure from liberal activists, became immediate political fodder ahead of the November midterms while fueling arguments from conservatives about legality.
In the lawsuit, being filed Thursday in a federal court in Missouri, the Republican states argue that Biden’s cancellation plan is “not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers,” as required by the 2003 federal law that the administration is using as legal justification. They point out that Biden, in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” this month, declared the Covid-19 pandemic over, yet is still using the ongoing health emergency to justify the wide-scale debt relief.
“It’s patently unfair to saddle hard-working Americans with the loan debt of those who chose to go to college,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is leading the group, said in an interview.
She added: “The Department of Education is required, under the law, to collect the balance due on loans. And President Biden does not have the authority to override that.”
The states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina joined Arkansas in filing the lawsuit. Iowa has a Democratic attorney general, but the state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, signed on the state’s behalf. The states argue that Missouri’s loan servicer is facing a “number of ongoing financial harms” because of Biden’s decision to cancel loans. Other states that joined the lawsuit argue that Biden’s forgiveness plan will ultimately disrupt revenue to state coffers.
Biden’s forgiveness program will cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, will get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.
The administration also said it would extend the current pause on federal student loan repayments – put on hold near the start of the pandemic more than two years ago – once more through the end of the year.
The administration faced threats of legal challenges to its plans almost immediately, with conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers and business-oriented groups asserting that Biden was overstepping his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress.
Democratic lawmakers battling in tough reelection contests also distanced themselves from the student loan plan, as Republican officials called it an unfair government giveaway for relatively affluent people at the expense of those who didn’t pursue higher education.
In their lawsuit, the Republican attorneys general also contend that the forgiveness program violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which lays out how federal agencies should make regulations in order to ensure executive branch policies are well-reasoned and explained.
“The president does not have the authority to put himself in the place of Congress,” Rutledge said in the interview. “These actions must be taken by Congress and he can’t override that.”
To justify the plan’s legality, the Biden administration is relying on a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law meant to help members of the military that the Justice Department says allows Biden to reduce or erase student loan debt during a national emergency. But Republicans argue the administration is misinterpreting the law because, in part, the pandemic no longer qualifies as a national emergency.
Another lawsuit against Biden’s student loan program was filed this week in an Indiana federal court by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian legal advocacy group that employs a lawyer who says he would be harmed by the forgiveness plan. The lawyer, Frank Garrison, says erasing his current debt load will trigger a tax liability from the state of Indiana, which is among at least a half dozen states where the forgiven loan amounts will be subject to state taxes.
The White House dismissed the lawsuit as baseless because any borrower who does not want the debt relief can opt out. The Education Department is still on track to unveil the application for the forgiveness plan in early October, and it sent an email to borrowers Thursday explaining how to prepare to apply. The email noted that applicants do not have to submit any supporting documents.
Republicans have also seized on the Biden plan’s price tag and its impact on the nation’s budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office said this week that the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades. The White House countered that the CBO’s estimate of how much the plan will cost just in its first year, $21 billion, is lower than what the administration initially believed.
Associated Press writer Collin Binkley contributed to this report.