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More Than 700 Stage Anti-government Protest in Nigerian Capital

More than 700 people took to the streets in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday to protest against the government’s economic policy in a sign of mounting public anger in the oil producer grappling with recession.

Africa’s largest economy is mired in its first recession for 25 years as low oil prices have hammered public finances and foreign reserves while driving up annual inflation to almost 20 percent.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on pledges to diversify the economy and fight corruption. But critics say he has made little progress, with Nigeria still heavily dependent on crude exports whose price has halved since 2014.

The 74-year-old former military ruler is currently on medical leave in Britain.

“The Buhari administration came to power on the promise of change,” said Ismail Bello, a labour union and protest leader.

“We are yet to feel the impact of change. We are rather feeling the pain of lack of good governance, we are feeling the pain of corruption, we are feeling the pain of joblessness,” he said.

The protesters marched to the presidential villa to see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who asked for patience.

“Every time you fight corruption the way we are trying to fight corruption, there is a major fight back, because corruption in this country is wealthy, powerful, influential and it is in every aspect of our lives,” Osinbajo said.

“Things might be difficult today, but I am completely sure if we stay the course this country will not only get out of recession but always go to the path of sustainable development,” he said.

There was also a smaller demonstration in the commercial capital Lagos.

Buhari has been in Britain since mid-January for treatment for an unspecified medical condition and, with no indication of when he might return, many Nigerians suspect his health is worse

than officials admit.

Hundreds of people had already staged a similar protest on Monday in Abuja and other cities.

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Aretha Franklin to Retire from Full-time Touring

Soul music legend Aretha Franklin says she plans to retire from full-time touring after she releases a new album in September.

“I am retiring this year,” the 74-year-old singer told a Detroit TV station in a telephone interview this week. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it.”

Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin said she planned about a six-month tour to support her upcoming album. She also plans to perform “some select things, many, one a month, for six months out of the year.”

“I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from, and where it is now,” Franklin, who lives in Detroit, told TV station WDIV. “I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.”

The album will feature all original songs, several of them produced by Stevie Wonder, Franklin said, but she did not give details.

Franklin began her music career in the late 1950s and has won 18 Grammy Awards.

Her last album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics,” was released in 2014.

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National Park Sites Preserve Artifacts of America’s Early Wars

National parks traveler Mikah Meyer spent the month of January immersed in American history as he visited a number of historic forts along the southeastern U.S. coastline.  

Reliving American history at war

One of his first stops was Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor, just off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.

The fort is famous for being the spot where the first shot of the Civil War was fired, and also where the first casualty of that war occurred.

After a decade of cultural and economic tension between the North and South, it was here, on April 12, 1861, that the southern army opened fire, marking it as the day the Civil War began. It is considered by many to be the bloodiest battle in U.S. history.

 

Standing inside the large, fortified walls of Fort Sumter National Monument, looking across the water to the port city of Charleston, Mikah imagined what it must have been like all those years ago.

“It was under siege at one point for 17 months,” he noted. “There were cannons that could fire from where I’m standing on the fort all the way to the old town. So imagine living there for 17 months and wondering if at any point that a cannon [shot] might come.”

Connecting with the past

At the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, also in South Carolina, Mikah had an opportunity to learn about a principal author and signer of the U.S. Constitution.

 

“Some people call him our forgotten founding father, but he was a political figure of early America who helped shape what our eventual Constitution ended up looking like,” Mikah explained.

The National Park Service helps preserve what remains of Pinckney’s former plantation, and exhibits help tell the stories of 18th century plantation life for free and enslaved people.

Serendipity

During his journey through the south, Mikah, who’s on a mission to visit all of the more than 400 sites within the National Park Service, had an unexpected surprise…

“My phone started lighting up,” he said, with people letting him know that just south of Charleston, in the city of Beaufort, President Obama had just designated the Reconstruction Era National Monument as a National Park site. It was just two hours from where Mikah was traveling.

The Reconstruction Era (1861-1898) which followed the Civil War, was a transformative period in American history, as the United States grappled with the question of how to integrate millions of newly-freed African Americans into its social, political, economic and labor systems.

The new national monument will help tell that story.

“So all within the Charleston, South Carolina, area, you have these three sites now that are really related to either America becoming America, or America figuring out who America is,” Mikah noted.

Built like a castle

Driving south into the state of Georgia, Mikah stopped at Fort Pulaski National Monument. Built in 1847, the fort is considered one of the most technologically advanced fortifications of its time.

 

“This one was interesting solely just upon appearance,” Mikah said. “It had a moat, with water that circled the whole fort, which after seeing a number of forts that don’t have moats, just that one little feature it’s amazing how much more exciting that can make it!”

Just an hour south of Fort Pulaski, the scene couldn’t have been more different. At Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, Mikah walked among the ruins of this once flourishing 18th century settlement.

“They’re an interesting combination because Fort Pulaski, when it was built, it was one of the most technologically advanced forts of the time, and so perhaps because of that it’s still standing today… So it was an interesting one-two punch going from one extreme to the other,” he said.

Oyster heaven

Continuing on his journey south, Mikah stopped by the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida, where he learned that an abundance of oysters in the area provided a steady supply of protein for the Native Americans who lived there.

“In fact there are so many oyster shells now that much of the land that is walkable in these swampy, marshy areas is actually just piled-up oyster shells that have turned into earth,” he explained.

That would explain why oyster shells were used as building materials for lodgings, which are still intact today.

“It’s all of these little huts that were built out of a kind of paste of oyster shells and other minerals that when mixed together form sort of a brick-like substance,” Mikah said, adding that the Kingsley Plantation, where the lodgings are located, has the largest number of intact slave dwellings anywhere in North America.

Continuing down the Florida coast, Mikah squeezed in a quick visit to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a well-preserved site in the popular city of Saint Augustine on the ocean.

Followed by a brief visit a little farther south to the much smaller Fort Matanzas, “which was kind of a Castillo de San Marcos maybe on a one-eighth scale,” Mikah said. “It’s just a very small fort with one turret.”

The young traveler said visiting these historic sites – both large and small – made him appreciate the efforts of the National Park Service in preserving these national treasures for all to enjoy – and learn from.

Mikah invites you to follow him on his website, Facebook and Instagram.

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Lobstering Teaches Economic Lessons to Small Factory With Global Reach

A small U.S. manufacturing company is growing and hiring more people, in part because of lessons it learned from discovering revolutionary processes for making lobster traps and applying those skills to other projects, such as security fencing for the U.S. border with Mexico.

Riverdale Mills has expanded from 60 people to 185 employees during the past few years, and Chief Executive Officer Jim Knott says he is trying to hire another 35 workers. The expansion comes at a time when about one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs nationwide have disappeared because of trade problems and a rising tide of automation.

The Northbridge, Massachusetts, firm says its wire mesh products are used in most of the lobster traps in the United States and Europe, replacing traditional wooden devices. Riverdale uses proprietary processes to improve its rustproofing and preserve the rust protection in harsh environments. A government report says commercial landings of American lobsters totaled 67 million kilograms and were valued at $567 million in 2014.

 

Lessons from lobstering inform other designs, including security fences that protect nuclear facilities, U.S. embassies and borders. Knott would like to sell more security fence as part of President Donald Trump’s plan to put a wall along the Mexican border, but says the government’s plans and specifications are not yet clear.  

Riverdale’s products are also used in the aquaculture industry to help grow oysters and fish in environments that pose a challenge for many materials. That could also lead to more sales and jobs, because a report from Grand View Research, a business consulting firm in San Francisco, says aquaculture is expanding as demand for healthy protein grows and stocks of some wild caught fish falter.

 

Riverdale can make thousands of different kinds of mesh out of steel and other materials. It draws steel rods through ever smaller openings until it gets wire of just the right thickness. The wires are then arranged in a crisscross pattern on huge, highly automated, noisy machines that can apply hundreds of welds at a time.  

The completed mesh is then run through a vat that holds many tons of molten, glowing zinc, a process that yields a rust-resistant product that can survive in saltwater. For lobster traps and other marine applications, the mesh may also be coated with a plant-based plastic powder that offers further protection.

Riverdale has expanded the proportion of its products that are exported, recently rising to 45 percent. Knott says exports are one key reason the firm has been able to grow.

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Lobbyist: Trump Supports Privatizing Air Traffic Control

President Donald Trump told airline and airport executives Thursday that he supports privatizing America’s air traffic control system, according to a top airline industry lobbyist who was in the meeting.

 

Nick Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America, the trade association that represents the major airlines, said after the White House meeting that Trump was “extraordinarily positive” when airline executives urged him to spin off air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration and place them under the control of a private, nonprofit corporation.  

 

That corporation would most likely be dominated by the major airlines.

 

Asked if Trump committed to back a bill to do that, Calio said: “I think he’s on track to do that.”

 

Airlines have complained the FAA is taking too long to modernize the air traffic system. Republican congressman Bill Shuster, chairman of the House transportation committee, introduced legislation to privatize the system last year, but the bill stalled after opposition from other top lawmakers and from business aircraft operators.

 

Business aircraft operators fear the corporation’s board would be dominated by airlines, and that they would lose access to larger airports to make more room for airlines.

WATCH:  Trump’s remarks to airline CEOs

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, told Trump during the meeting the top priority for helping airlines would be to “modernize the air traffic control system.” He complained that money spent on the system has not helped improve it in the past.

 

“I hear we’re spending billions and billions of dollars, it’s a system that’s totally out of whack,” Trump said. The president asked why airline corporations had allowed the government to invest in a faulty system. Kelly said airlines are not “in control” of those decisions.

 

Trump said he believes the system could potentially work better if FAA was run by a pilot. The current administrator, Michael Huerta, a holdover from the Obama administration, isn’t a pilot.

 

FAA officials maintain that they have made significant progress over the past 10 years of the modernization effort, and that airlines have begun to reap the benefits of those changes.

 

Besides Southwest, Trump met with the chief executives of Delta, United, and JetBlue, executives from air cargo companies, and officials from several airports.

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Trump vs. Nordstrom: The Latest Bout Raising Ethical Concerns

The White House is rushing to the defense of Ivanka Trump’s company _ the latest sign the president can’t seem to separate the presidency from his family’s businesses.

President Donald Trump added to a string of presidential firsts on Wednesday, and drew fire from ethics lawyers, with a Twitter attack on Nordstrom. The Seattle-based retailer stoked Trump’s rage by dropping his daughter Ivanka’s clothing and accessory line.

 

The implication, intended or not: Hurt my daughter’s business, and the Oval Office will come after you.

 

“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom,” the president tweeted. “She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”

 

The government-led cheerleading for Ivanka Trump’s private enterprise didn’t end there.

 

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, in an interview Thursday with Fox News from the White House briefing room, encouraged people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” She boasted that she was giving the brand  “a free commercial here.”

While Trump himself is not subject to the standards of ethical conduct for federal employees, Conway is. Among the rules: An employee shall not use his or her office “for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.”

Ivanka Trump does not have a specific role in the White House but moved to Washington with her husband, who is one of Trump’s closest advisers. She followed her father’s approach on business ties by handing over operating control of her fashion company but retaining ownership of it.

 

Though Trump has tweeted about companies such as Boeing, Carrier and General Motors, ethics experts say this time was different. It involved his daughter’s business, which raises conflict-of-interest concerns.

 

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was responding to an “attack on his daughter” when he posted the tweet and that “he has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.”

 

WATCH: Spicer on Trump’s Nordstrom tweet

The Ivanka Trump flare-up follows revelations that first lady Melania Trump expected to develop “multi-million dollar business relationships” tied to her presence in the White House, according to a lawsuit she filed on Monday.

 

Ethics experts have criticized Trump’s plan to separate himself from his sprawling real estate business by handing managerial control to his two adult sons. The experts want him to sell his company. Most modern presidents have sold their financial holdings and put the cash raised in a blind trust whose investments remained unknown to them.

 

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert, said the Nordstrom tweet is problematic because other retailers may think twice now about dropping the Ivanka Trump brand for fear of getting criticized publicly by the president. She said it was especially disturbing that Trump retweeted his message on the official White House account.

 

“The implicit threat was that he will use whatever authority he has to retaliate against Nordstrom, or anyone who crosses his interest,” said Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Clark defended the president’s right to use his personal Twitter account to express his views, however. She noted that government workers recently set up alt-EPA accounts to criticize the president’s policies.

“A government employee, even a president, is allowed to tweet in his personal capacity,” she said.

 

One of the president’s fiercest ethics critics, Norman Eisen, described the tweet differently – a “bullying” tactic beneath the dignity of the president’s office.

 

“This is a shot across the bow to everybody who is doing business with Trump or his family,” said Eisen, who was President Barack Obama’s chief ethics counselor. “It’s warning them: Don’t withdraw their business.”

 

Eisen joined with other legal scholars and lawyers to sue the president last month for allegedly violating a clause in the Constitution that prohibits government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. Though other legal scholars disagree, Eisen said such payments include foreign diplomats staying at Trump’s new Washington D.C. hotel and holding events there and at the other Trump venues.

 

Trump and his top aides have repeatedly said that Americans do not care about what Eisen and other ethics critics say. “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter Nov. 21.

 

Two surveys released in January show that’s not entirely the case. A Quinnipiac University poll found that about 60 percent of registered voters were at least somewhat concerned that the president would “veto a law that would be good for the country because it would hurt his business interests.” And a Pew Research Center poll found that 57 percent of American adults were at least somewhat concerned that Trump’s businesses could  “conflict with his ability to serve the country’s best interests.”

 

Yet Trump seems to have calculated that his base of supporters forgives – and maybe even encourages – his protective bluster about his family businesses.

 

Nordstrom reiterated Wednesday that its decision was based on the brand’s performance, not politics. The company said sales of Ivanka Trump items had steadily declined over the past year, particularly in the last half of 2016, “to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now.”

 

Retailers drop brands all the time because of poor performance, said brand consultant Allen Adamson. But given a highly charged political environment, perception is reality for loyal Trump fans.

 

“It is clearly hard for Nordstrom to tell the story that it is dropping [the brand] for business reasons,” said Adamson, founder of the firm Brand Simple.

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Twitter Fourth-Quarter Losses Double

Twitter, Incorporated reported its fourth-quarter losses nearly doubled from the same period in 2015.

The online messaging company reported a quarterly loss of $167 million at the end of 2016. In 2015, the company reported a loss of $90 million over the same period.

The business said revenues in the fourth quarter were up 1 percent from $710 million in 2015 to $717 million in 2016. It was the the slowest revenue growth since the company went public in November of 2013.

There was one bright spot: The average number of active users rose 4 percent compared to a year earlier to 319 million.

Twitter has been failing to keep up with other social media platforms such as Facebook. Twitter recently reduced staff and an attempt to sell the company failed.

The 10-year-old Twitter has never made a profit, and despite tweaks to the format, has only seen modest growth in users.

Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, called 2016 a “transformative year.”

“We reset and focused on why people use Twitter: It’s the fastest way to see what’s happening and what everyone’s talking about,” he said. “We overcame the toughest challenge for any consumer service at scale by reversing declining audience trends and re-accelerating usage.”

He advised patience, saying revenue growth “will take time, but we’re moving fast to show results.”

Investors may not be as patient, as Twitter shares were down about 10 percent in Thursday pre-market trading.

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Beyonce Faces $20M Copyright Suit from YouTube Star’s Estate

The estate of a late New Orleans YouTube star has filed a $20 million copyright infringement lawsuit against Beyonce over the use of his voice in her song “Formation.”

The estate of Anthony Barre, who went by the name Messy Mya on YouTube, claims in the lawsuit filed in New Orleans federal court Monday that Barre’s voice is featured in the introduction to “Formation.” The complaint alleges Barre’s estate has received no payment or acknowledgment.

 

Barre was fatally shot in 2010.

 

Barre’s estate is demanding at least $20 million in damages, royalties.

 

In addition to Beyonce, the suit names several songwriters, the video’s director and companies owned by Warner Music Group. Representatives for Beyonce and WMG didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Instead of Oscars Party, Hollywood Talent Agency Supporting Rights, Refugee Groups

A top Hollywood talent agency has scrapped plans for a party celebrating the Oscar awards and is instead planning a rally to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee.

United Talent Agency announced the move Wednesday, saying it will give $250,000 to the groups that promote civil rights and aid refugees. Its charitable arm has also organized an online crowd-funding effort to allow people to add their donations.

The IRC thanked UTA for its support in a Twitter message.

The February 24 rally will be in Los Angeles two days before the Oscar awards. UTA said the “United Voices” rally welcomes anyone who wants to express support for artistic freedom and “their concern with growing anti-immigrant sentiment in our country and its potential chilling effect around the world.”

“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” said Jeremy Zimmer, the chief executive of UTA, in a memo to his staff. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

One of the agency’s clients is Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated in the Best Foreign Language category for his film The Salesman. He won a 2012 Oscar in the same category, but will not be attending this year’s awards.

Iran is one of the seven countries listed in an executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump banning entry for 90 days.

“I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations,” Farhadi said in a statement.

He further criticized hardliners, including those in Iran, who he said work to foster an “us and them” mentality.

“For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hardliners have tried to present to their people unrealistic and fearful images of various nations and cultures in order to turn their differences into disagreements, their disagreements into enmities and their enmities into fears,” he said. “Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.”

UTA said Farhadi felt “honored and in tears” when he heard about the agency’s announcement.

Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in The Salesman, has also said she will not attend the awards ceremony in protest of the executive order.

“Trump’s visa ban for Iranians is racist,” she said on Twitter.

Trump says the ban is necessary to uphold his duty to protect American citizens. During his campaign for president, he frequently cited the need to better investigate those who come to the U.S. to ensure they do not post a terrorist threat. The administration of President Barack Obama defended the existing policies as extensive, and said refugees seeking to come to the U.S. often needed two years to make it through the screening process.

Another top talent agency, WME-IMG also announced plans this week to form a Political Action Committee, which raises money to support or oppose political candidates, ballot measures or legislation.

“This company’s greatest asset is the diversity of our backgrounds and beliefs,” the agency’s heads said in an email to their staff. “Please know that we will do everything in our power to support and protect this diversity now and in the months and years ahead.”

WME-IMG’s co-CEO is Ari Emanuel, who formerly represented Trump. He is also the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the current Democratic mayor of Chicago and Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

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Art Rosenfeld, Physicist Who Invented Energy Efficiency, Dies at 90

Physicist Arthur Rosenfeld, who spearheaded breakthroughs in energy efficiency for lighting, refrigerators, televisions and other electronics while working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has died. He was 90. 

 

Rosenfeld died January 27 at his home in Berkeley, said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab spokeswoman Julie Chao.

 

Rosenfeld was known to his colleagues as California’s “godfather” of energy efficiency, a field he is credited with creating.

Worked with Nobel Prize winner 

A native of Alabama, he was known for his detailed calculations, but also for his talent in translating the results into terms that could be easily understood.

 

A particle physicist, he moved to Berkeley in the 1950s to work in the particle physics group of Luis Alvarez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1968.

 

A turning point in his career came in 1973 when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo. Knowing he would have to wait in a long line the next day to buy gas, he decided to calculate how much energy could be saved by turning off unused lights. 

 

“After 20 minutes of uncovering light switches (and saving 100 gallons for the weekend), I decided that UC Berkeley and its Radiation Laboratory should do something about conservation,” he wrote in a 1999 autobiography of his career, The Art of Energy Efficiency.

Many honors

He received numerous awards and honors, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, for the development of energy efficient building technologies.

 

Gov. Jerry Brown said that during his first term as governor in 1975, Rosenfeld told him that simply by requiring more efficient refrigerators, California could save as much energy as would be produced by the then-proposed Sundesert Nuclear Power plant.

 

“We adopted Art’s refrigerator standards and many others, did not build the power plant and moved the country to greater energy efficiency,” Brown said in a statement after Rosenfeld’s death was announced. 

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