20 dead, mostly children, in Nigeria building collapse
By SAM OLUKOYA and LEKAN OYEKANMI
Friday, March 15
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Twenty people are confirmed dead in the school building that collapsed in Nigeria on Wednesday, and most of them are children, an official said Friday.
Forty-three other people were rescued, Lagos State Health Commissioner Jide Idris told The Associated Press. The disaster occurred in the heart of Nigeria’s commercial capital.
Officials have said the three-story residential building had been marked for demolition and that the school was operating illegally on the top two floors. It is still not clear how many people were inside when it collapsed.
Rescue crews halted their search on Thursday, saying they had reached the building’s foundation without finding any other victims. Some anguished families protested and sifted through the rubble for any sign of their children.
Building collapses are all too common in the West African nation, where new construction often goes up without regulatory oversight. Official moved through the neighborhood on Thursday, marking other derelict buildings for demolition.
Adeyemo Sunday, the father of twins, mourned one of his sons. The other was pulled out alive, he said.
Sunday said his family lived on the building’s second floor and he sent his boys to school there so they wouldn’t have to travel far.
Another parent, Yewande Ogunsanwo, said her son remained in critical condition on Thursday.
“Let’s thank God for God, he’s getting better but his condition is so critical,” she said. “The pain is too much.”
The collapse came as President Muhammadu Buhari, newly elected to a second term, tries to improve the distressed infrastructure in Africa’s most populous nation.
Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
Russian doping officers accused of warning athletes
By JAMES ELLINGWORTH
AP Sports Writer
Friday, March 15
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian anti-doping inspectors have again been accused of giving athletes advanced warning of what are meant to be surprise drug tests.
Russian anti-doping agency deputy CEO Margarita Pakhnotskaya told The Associated Press on Friday there were “tens” of cases in the sport of powerlifting. The agency is now investigating whether the inspectors worked in other sports and tipped off athletes in those events too.
Pakhnotskaya was speaking hours after the International Paralympic Committee lifted its doping suspension of Russia , subject to extra drug-testing in future. There’s no evidence Russian Paralympians received any tipoffs.
Pakhnotskaya said powerlifters showed her agency, known as RUSADA, tipoffs from inspectors working for a private company and demands for payment.
“They know they’re breaking the rules,” she said. One giveaway that the tests weren’t above-board, Pakhnotskaya said, were forms claiming male inspectors had witnessed female athletes give urine samples — a clear breach of the rules.
The inspectors supposedly include former RUSADA staff now working for a private company contracted by the Russian Powerlifting Federation.
RUSADA is investigating whether the federation itself ordered unofficial pre-competition tests, which would breach anti-doping rules.
Tipoffs can allow athletes to wash banned substances out of their systems in time to appear clean, while under-the-table testing can be used to monitor doped athletes who it is hoped will appear clean in time to compete.
World Anti-Doping Agency investigators have said both practices formed part of a wider practice of deception and cover-ups in Russian sport before WADA suspended RUSADA in 2015. Since then, RUSADA has come under new management and replaced its inspectors.
WADA lifted RUSADA’s suspension last year on the condition that Russian authorities turn over computer data and drug-test samples which could reveal more past doping offenses.
The use of private companies for testing is a gray area in Russian law, Pakhnotskaya said. She wants the Sports Ministry to give RUSADA the authority to regulate them.
Otherwise “people will think nothing’s changed” in Russian sport, she said, adding “we’re grateful to the athletes who informed us” of the alleged tipoffs.
The powerlifting federation and the company which allegedly employed rogue inspectors did not immediately comment.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
There’s no way to stop human trafficking by treating it as an immigration enforcement problem
March 12, 2019
Author: Bob Spires, Assistant Professor of Education, University of Richmond
Disclosure statement: Bob Spires is affiliated with Love Without Boundaries, an international nonprofit serving disadvantaged children in China, Cambodia, India and Uganda. He has collaborated with Liberty Shared, an international nonprofit anti-trafficking and advocacy organization.
Partners: University of Richmond provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots’ billionaire owner, recently made headlines when he was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. The women involved were undocumented Chinese immigrants who were human trafficking victims at the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida.
Raids and sting operations like this one, which ensnared about 100 other far less prominent alleged perpetrators and a few other very rich men, have become commonplace across the U.S. and the world. They highlight the ongoing exploitation faced by large numbers of vulnerable people.
While conducting research about human trafficking in Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve observed that grassroots nonprofits are often effective in addressing its root causes.
While no one knows how big the problem is, human trafficking is getting more attention today. This higher profile has given rise to what the criminology researchers Sanja Milivojevic and Sharon Pickering call a “global trafficking complex,” which they describe as a “tangled web of agendas, priorities, policies and ideological underpinnings.”
In turn, cases like Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman who was praised by celebrities before resigning from her organization in scandal, show that some exaggerate the scale of human trafficking and misrepresent it to the public for their own financial gain. Fighting human trafficking has become a high-stakes endeavor across the world, with a dozen countries spending more than US$1.2 billion on anti-trafficking efforts between 2003 and 2012.
But many grassroots nonprofits witness this exploitation firsthand with the people they serve directly and do make a difference.
One excellent nonprofit model is the Coalition of Imokalee Workers, a Florida human rights organization that fights for decent farm worker compensation. Its anti-trafficking and advocacy work has led to effective and much-needed preventive measures. Most notably, the group has collaboratively developed a Fair Food program to ensure that corporations, farm owners and businesses pay farm workers adequately and treat them more ethically.
Another exemplary model is the Anti Human Trafficking and Anti Child Abuse Center in Thailand. The nonprofit aids children who have been sexually and physically abused and trafficked, many of whom are from Burma, Laos and Cambodia.
Realizing that the issue of child exploitation coincides with issues of poverty and vulnerability, the organization also helps law enforcement authorities stage sting operations to hold perpetrators accountable. They also participate in joint task forces together with local, national and international leaders to address the root causes of trafficking.
Here in the U.S., the Trump administration’s efforts to slow the pace of immigration are making conditions more precarious for undocumented workers and causing an uptick in human trafficking. As migrants lose rights and protections, they tend to become more vulnerable to exploitation, not less.
This is not unique, however. Many other countries, including Thailand, are using trafficking as a rationale for more restrictive immigration policies. Their leaders often try to achieve political ends by demonizing migrants forced to do work they do not wish to do.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that one benefit of the border wall he wants built would be curbing human trafficking. I do not believe that rationale for his harsh immigration policies adds up.
Like many experts, I see no statistical evidence supporting the claim the wall will stop trafficking. Although other complex humanitarian crises exist on both sides of the border, any policy that punishes the people that it is intended to help won’t resolve the issues that jeopardized them in the first place.
In addition, he has maligned immigrants, calling alleged undocumented gang members “animals” or “an infestation.” This kind of disparaging of newcomers can increase human trafficking, two psychologists have found.
To be sure, Trump has signed several important laws, including one that designates US $430 million to fight trafficking. The White House continues, however, to pressure legislators to tie stronger border security to human trafficking, which distracts from the real issue of the exploitation of migrants.
It is also troubling that Trump is a longtime friend of men accused and convicted of crimes involving human trafficking, including Jeffrey Epstein and Kraft. The Miami Herald has unearthed selfies of him posing with Li “Cindy” Yang, a political donor and the founder of the Florida spa chain embroiled in the prostitution bust. The photos were taken weeks earlier, at a Mar-a-Lago Super Bowl viewing party, and Yang no longer owns the spas and has not been charged.
The types of policies I think would help would discourage this exploitation and support survivors, while at the same time not restricting migration in ways that make already vulnerable groups even more vulnerable.
In Southeast Asia, I’ve seen that laborers and sex workers from Cambodia, Burma and Laos are more easily exploited in Thailand, not because of a weak border, but because those on the wrong side of it have no recourse if mistreated.
I believe the same dynamic holds true here in North America and in all areas where the world’s estimated 40 million human trafficking victims are being forced to work for little or no pay.
The new law calls for spending $430 million to fight trafficking, and many major organizations like UNICEF, International Justice Mission and World Vision support the law. Yet Trump immediately undercut its effectiveness by spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric, saying, “This really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers.” In my view, his words undermined at least some of the potential positive impact of this new funding.
I recommend continuing collaborative efforts without sensationalizing with misinformed rhetoric. I also believe that Trump should focus anti-trafficking messages on the abuse of power and the exploitation of the vulnerable instead of taking advantage of trafficking to push for a border wall.
Peter Mulholland: Florida pretending to go after Human trafficking while surveilling massage parlor for months is funny, if not sad. Following suspects from site and getting their licences under false traffic stops , pretending to care about the women for months? Who believes this? Florida runs 80% of their states budget from corrections. Illegals have no money, so lets watch these woman get abused for months, then pretend we care about the victims.
Why North Korean prosperity would be the ruin of Kim Jong Un
March 13, 2019
Author: Thomas Adam, Professor of Transnational History, University of Texas Arlington
Disclosure statement: Thomas Adam does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Vietnam seemed like the perfect place for Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to meet in late February for their latest summit on denuclearization. At Hanoi’s posh Metropole Hotel, Trump hoped to convince Kim to abandon nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions against North Korea, which would spur needed economic development in that country.
North Korea’s economy has been in dire straits since the Soviet Union – which had propped up its communist regime – collapsed in the early 1990s. Starvation remains common in North Korea, where 10.5 of its 25 million people are undernourished.
Meanwhile, Vietnam – once one of the world’s poorest countries – has prospered. Its communist government introduced free-market reforms in the late 1980s after the failure of its Soviet-style planned economy, permitting the private ownership of businesses and farms after years of controlling all markets.
Referencing Vietnam’s economic success story, President Trump wrote on Twitter on February 8: “With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse” too.
The communist divide
As a historian, I disagree with Trump’s view that Vietnam is the blueprint for North Korea.
I am currently writing a college textbook on the history of Germany, my country of birth. The Vietnam summit came while I was focused on the chapter about East Germany’s transition, in the 1990s, from a Soviet-style socialist economy to a more free-market economy.
In my assessment, North Korea is much more similar to Cold War-era East Germany than it is to modern Vietnam.
Both North Korea and East Germany were separated by communism from the other half of their once-unified nation. They are countries founded entirely on the rejection of their capitalist brothers.
The Korean peninsula has been split in two since 1945, when Soviet and American troops liberated it from Japan at the end of World War II. The Allies divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel, with the Soviets occupying the North and the Americans occupying the South.
This split deepened in June 1950, when the communist North tried to unify the country under its rule, invading the South. Korea’s civil war turned into a proxy Cold War as communist China aided North Korea and the U.S. sent troops to defend the South Koreans. A 1953 armistice has divided the Korean peninsula ever since.
Like Korea, Germany was also split into two competing states. Capitalist West Germany and communist East Germany existed side by side, divided by the Berlin Wall, from 1945 to 1990.
Initially, East Germany’s centralized, planned economy was quite successful in rebuilding the country after the war. But by the mid-1960s, economic growth had slowed, resulting in a shortage of consumer and industrial products.
To reinvigorate the economy, East German leader Walter Ulbricht began relaxing the government’s grip on the economy. Managers of state-run enterprises were given decision-making power over what goods to produce, a role previously retained by the government, and allowed to keep some of their profits. Banks got permission to extend loans to the businesses of their choice, helping them grow and invest.
Even though productivity, wages and availability of consumer goods all increased, East Germany abruptly abandoned these reforms in the early 1970s.
It was not because they did not work. Rather, according to my research and the historian Joerg Roesler, East Germany began to fear that its liberal economy was starting to make it look dangerously similar to West Germany.
In 1968, the Soviets had invaded neighboring Czechoslovakia, terminating its experimentation with both economic and political liberalization. The East German government worried that its economy had become a little too liberal, too.
East Germany’s attempt to preserve communist rule by maintaining authority over its faltering economy proved futile. On Oct. 3, 1990, Germany was reunified under West German control.
The economy has always been at the heart of communism. A planned economy is what set countries like the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Vietnam apart from capitalist democracies. For communist leaders like Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro, it’s what made them superior.
Plenty of communist governments have managed to mix some free-market capitalism into their socialist economies without endangering the Communist Party’s monopoly on power – Vietnam, Cuba and China top among them.
The transition toward capitalism in those countries has come at the cost of social inequalities. Freer markets have created a growing class of wealthy entrepreneurs, while some more marginal populations have remained excluded from these new riches.
Still, vastly improved living conditions have actually boosted the legitimacy of communist governments in Vietnam, Cuba and China.
East Germany and North Korea differ from these examples. They are halves of a whole.
The planned economy doesn’t just inform their political system – it is the sole reason for their existence. East Germany and North Korea were born to offer an economic alternative from their capitalist compatriots.
If these countries cease to present a clear economic alternative that distinguishes them from their capitalist brother-country, history shows, they are absorbed by them.
My research suggests that denuclearization, the lifting of U.S. sanctions and a transition into market socialism would trigger an East Germany-style existential crisis for North Korea. That’s because a prospering economy would eliminate the very reason for North Korean existence, obviating the rationale for Kim’s totalitarian policies, anti-American rhetoric and isolation.
For North Korea’s all-powerful leader, a failing centralized economy and a grip on power that’s guaranteed by the threat of nuclear warfare is better than a vibrant capitalist economy.
Kim promised North Koreans better living conditions after succeeding his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, in 2011. But what he really needs are economic reforms that boost the economy without threatening the communist character of North Korea’s economy.
No post-Cold War country has managed it yet.
Nominee to lead FAA will face challenge on Boeing oversight
By DAVID KOENIG and TOM KRISHER
Wednesday, March 20
President Donald Trump has tapped a former Delta Air Lines executive to lead the Federal Aviation Administration as the regulator deals with questions about its approval of a Boeing airliner involved in two deadly crashes within five months.
The White House said Tuesday that Trump will nominate Stephen Dickson to head the FAA. The agency has been led by an acting administrator since January 2018.
Separately, the Transportation Department confirmed that its watchdog agency will examine how the FAA certified the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, the now-grounded plane involved in two fatal accidents within five months.
The FAA had stood by the safety of the plane up until last Wednesday, despite other countries grounding it.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao formally requested the audit in a letter sent to Inspector General Calvin Scovel III on Tuesday.
Chao, whose agency oversees the FAA, said the audit will improve the department’s decision-making. Her letter confirmed that she had previously requested an audit. It did not mention that the inspector general and federal prosecutors have already started looking into the development and regulatory approval of the jet, as reported by news outlets, including The Associated Press.
The letter requests “an audit to compile an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft.” It also says the audit will help the FAA “in ensuring that its safety procedures are implemented effectively.”
Boeing said Tuesday that it will fully cooperate with the audit.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called Chao’s three-paragraph request for an audit “inadequate and incomplete.”
In his own letter to the inspector general, Blumenthal said the watchdog should examine whether problems with the plane were missed because Boeing employees did some safety-certification work on FAA’s behalf. He also questioned whether the FAA should have done more after the first 737 Max accident, and why the FAA didn’t ground the plane as quickly as other regulators around the world.
Questions about the FAA’s handling of the issue extend beyond U.S. borders and will pose an immediate challenge for Dickson if he is confirmed to lead the agency.
Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said this week that even if FAA certifies Boeing’s fix for the software on the 737 Max jet, “we will do our own certification.”
Dickson was Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations until retiring on Oct. 1 after 27 years with the airline, including time flying the 737 and other Boeing jets. Before that, he was an Air Force pilot. He emerged in recent weeks as the likely choice to lead FAA.
For the past 14 months, the agency has been under an acting administrator, Daniel Elwell, a former Air Force and American Airlines pilot.
A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed off the coast of Indonesia last October, and an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed this month near Addis Ababa.
Investigators suspect that incorrect sensor readings feeding into a new automated flight-control system may have played a role in the Indonesian crash, and the Ethiopian plane had a similar, erratic flight path.
Boeing began working on an upgrade to software behind the flight-control system shortly after the Lion Air crash. CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in recent days that the company is close to finishing the update and changes in pilot training to help crews respond to faulty sensor readings.
Elwell told House Transportation Committee members that Boeing expects the software update to be finished by Monday, according to a person familiar with the briefing who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the timing publicly. The FAA earlier required design changes to the flight-control system “no later than April.”
After Boeing finishes the software, the FAA still must approve it.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the Justice Department is probing the development of the Max, according to a person briefed on the matter. It is unclear when that inquiry began.
Critics have questioned the FAA’s practice of using employees of aircraft manufacturers to handle some safety inspections. FAA inspectors review the work of the manufacturers’ employees, who are on the company payroll and could face a conflict of interest.
A federal grand jury in Washington sent a subpoena to someone involved in the plane’s development seeking emails, messages and other communications, the person told The Associated Press.
The Oct. 29 Lion Air crash killed 189 people, and 157 died in the March 10 accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines jet. Both accidents happened shortly after takeoff.
Other nations banned the Max 8 and a slightly larger model, the Max 9, in the days after the Ethiopian crash. The FAA and U.S. airlines that use the planes stood by the plane’s safety until last week.
There are about 370 Max jets of various models at airlines around the world. American, Southwest and United have said the grounding of their Max jets have led to some canceled flights.
The plane is an important part of Chicago-based Boeing’s future. The company has taken more than 5,000 orders and delivered more than 250 Max jets last year. Boeing still makes an older version of the popular 737, but it expected the Max to account for 90 percent of all 737 deliveries this year.
Koenig reported from Dallas and Krisher reported from Detroit. AP staff writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.