Nigeria's Dawanau Grains Market

A trip to Northern Nigeria's Dawanau grains market, the largest of its kind in West Africa.

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Sarah Palin Aides Try to Stop CNN’s Jim Acosta

Sarah Palin’s aides opted to use force to end an otherwise polite conversation with a CNN news crew, who dared to ask Palin if she were running for President in 2012.
CNN’s Jim Acosta and his camera crew were invited to attend a Palin book signing in a Spirit Lake, Louisiana Wal-Mart. But one of Palin’s handlers put a hand in front of the camera before Acosta could finish his questions.
“They brought the media in three by three if you can believe this, and led us into a room where Sarah Palin was signing those books,” Acosta explained to CNN host Wolf Blitzer Thursday.
“They had the music playing loudly presumably to discourage us from asking questions. At the end of our time with the governor, observing her during the book signing, we decided to ask her the question which is often asked of presidential contenders in Iowa, ‘When are you going to make your announcement on running for president?’” Acosta said.
At that moment, the music stopped.
“Are we doing interviews?” Palin asked. “I thought we were talking to the nice people. Where’s the music and where’s our good enthusiasm?”
“Well, we’re nice too,” Acosta told Palin.
“Not always, but maybe you are,” Palin replied.
Not surprisingly, the former Alaska governor said that she was not any closer to announcing her run for president.
The British newspaper Guardian reported that Palin aides were searching for office space in Iowa, a crucial primary state.
Acosta asked Palin for a reply to Mitt Romney’s comment on the Tonight Show that he wouldn’t have quit his job as governor of Massachusetts like Palin did in Alaska.
“It’s hard to imagine a circumstance where I’d have quit,” Romney had told Jay Leno. “It’s a great job. I loved it. But [Palin] had her reasons.”
As the loud music returned to the book signing, an unhappy Palin answered the question about Romney’s comments. “He probably had some different conditions,” she said.
Before Acosta could get out another question, one of Palin’s handlers put a hand in front of the camera and the CNN crew was forced to leave.
“Who stuck his or her hand in front of that camera lens at then end of that little clip?” Blitzer wanted to know.
“That was one of her handlers and at that moment we were asked to leave,” Acosta answered. “Asking the question obviously did not go over well.”
“They should not put their hands in front of the camera lens like that,” Blitzer said.

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Chile Frees First of 33 Miners in World's Longest Mine Rescue

Chilean rescue workers pulled the first of 33 trapped miners to the surface in the world’s longest underground mine rescue.
Florencio Avalos emerged from the San Jose copper mine at 11:12 p.m. New York time after spending two months trapped in a tunnel more than 600 meters (1,970 feet) underground. is streaming live from beginning to end HERE

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The Sucidal Austin Crash Pilot is Joseph Andrew Stack

Joseph Andrew Stack who reportedly set his house on fire earlier today crashed his Piper Cherokee PA-28 plane into a seven-story building located in the 9400 block of Research Boulevard of Austin, Texas.

Two people were injured and one person was missing, local officials said. There were no reported deaths.

Excerpts in a message on a Web site registered to Stack appears to be a suicide note stating:

"If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?' The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time."

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different," the online message says. "I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

The building into which the airplane crashed is a federal IRS center with 199 employees. Two people were transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge, said hospital spokeswoman Matilda Sanchez. She could not provide additional information. However, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said one person remained unaccounted for Thursday afternoon.

The crash which occurred around 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET), resulted in an infernal scene that shook nearby buildings and sent fire and smoke bellowing into the sky.

The flames seemed mostly extinguished about 75 minutes later by Firefighters who used two ladder trucks and other equipment to hose down the blaze at the Echelon office building in the 9400 block of Research Boulevard.

The FAA said preliminary information indicated the plane departed Georgetown Municipal Airport north of Austin about 9:40 a.m. CT.

Jack Lillis, an attendant at Georgetown airport, said initial indications are that the flight originated there but there were conflicting reports and he could not verify that information.

The pilot evidently did not file a flight plan, the FAA said. No flight plan was required because flights Thursday morning were under visual flight rules, or VFR, because of clear weather.

Leffingwell downplayed any possible terrorism links to the crash.

"It is an isolated incident," the mayor said. "The people of Austin, the people of the nation, are in no danger whatsoever."

He added that "there is evidence that the gas tank was just about full. ... That amount of gasoline ... can do a lot of damage."

Two F-16 fighter jets were sent from Houston as a precaution, but federal authorities said preliminary information did not indicate any terrorist connection to the crash.

Official release from the  Department of Homeland Security said: "We do not yet know the cause of the plane crash, at this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity. We continue to gather more information, and are aware there is additional information about the pilot's history."

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Indian newspaper's 'Ku Klux Klan' cartoon Offensive

A Catoon depicting a Victorian police officer as a member of the Ku Klux Klan is ''deeply offensive'', the acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said.

The cartoon appeared in the newspaper Mail Today in Delhi on Tuesday and was created in response to police statements that it was unclear whether the fatal attack on Nitin Garg, 21, an Indian graduate, in a Yarraville park was racially motivated.

Ms Gillard, in Brisbane yesterday, condemned the content and intent of the cartoon.

The secretary of the Police Association Victoria, Greg Davies, said members of the homicide squad investigating the murder of Mr Garg were ''personally offended'', but it would not detract from their determination to find the killer.

The Victorian Police Minister, Bob Cameron, told Fairfax Radio that ''this business about racism is just wrong''.

Amid the media frenzy the incident has caused in the subcontinent, Australia's high commissioner in India, Peter Varghese, whose parents are Indian, sought to defend Australia from the charge of racism in a news conference on Wednesday that was screened live on four television channels.

Mr Varghese said: "There is an unfortunate tendency in the tabloid media to equate anything bad happening to a person of Indian origin to racism. Then they focus on why you won't admit it is racism, because they take it as a given that any attack has to be a racist attack.''

Mr Varghese said the media were not ''particularly anti-Australian'' but some self-proclaimed Indian community spokesmen in Australia had helped to inflame the hysteria.

''It is partly the success of Indian spokesmen in Australia jumping onto the media bandwagon and providing quotable quotes to the Indian media.''

Within weeks of arriving in India last August Mr Varghese was doing the media rounds and drawing on his own experiences - he was born in Kenya and arrived in Australia when he was eight - to present a picture of tolerance in modern Australia.

"Did I ever encounter a hostile reaction or an incidence of racism? Sure,'' he told NDTV's Walk the Talk chat show.

''But I could probably count on one hand in the 40-plus years that I have been in Australia when that has happened.''

It is a fact Indians living in Victoria are 2½ times more likely to be assaulted than non-Indians.

So far, Victoria Police confirmed that assault and robbery victims of Indian appearance had increased 5.4 per cent in the past year: 1525, up from 1449 in 2007-2008. In the 2006-7 financial year there were 1082 attacks on Indians in Victoria.

The assault rate for Indians in the state was about 1700 in every 100,000, against about 700 in every 100,000 for non-Indians

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Nigeria's Almajiri, Child Abuse in the Guise of Religion

Christian Purefoy

A forlorn murmur of young voices echoes from a shack pieced together from rusted corrugated iron.

Inside, more than 50 children with torn clothes and unwashed faces hunch over small wooden tablets or torn scraps of paper with sections of the Quran.

Above them stands a 20-year-old with a small whip -- the children are here to memorize the Quran.

They are the Almajiri.

On the walls hang small bags with their few belongings. In these dark, cramped conditions, the children must study, sleep and eat.

It's an ancient tradition. Poor families from rural areas across West Africa send their children to a network of Islamic boarding schools in the cities of northern Nigeria.

Once here, often hundreds of kilometers from their families, they receive little education and no money.

The Almajiri must beg to survive. Across the north, an afternoon break in classes sends the children flooding into the streets with small bowls to search for any scraps.

Over the past few decades, the system has been overwhelmed and neglected.

And abused.

One young man sent by his family from neighboring Niger told CNN how the schools use him and other children as foot soldiers in religious clashes.

Fearing for his life, he spoke on condition of anonymity, telling how he lost his arm in 2000 in religious violence that killed about 1,000 people in the northern city of Kaduna.

"I blame my Quranic teacher, who sent me to fight during the riots," he said.

"He has ruined my life."

In 2000, about 1,000 people died in religious violence, and hundreds more two years later, after the Miss World competition was to be held in Kaduna. Many of the perpetrators came from the Almajiri.

The Nigeria-based Almajiri Education Foundation says on its Web site: " 'Almajiri' is a word borrowed from Arabic for someone who leaves his home in search of knowledge in Islamic religion. In the ideal situation, the communities should support these children as they leave their families to become a servant of Allah.

"Unfortunately this has not been the case," the foundation's site continues, "and many young boys are leaving their homes only to end up in the streets begging. They have no one to turn to."

Though there are no exact figures on the Almajiri, they are estimated to number in the millions.

The only census ever taken was in Kano state, which found in 2006 that there were 1.2 million Almajiri in Kano alone. One researcher working with UNICEF estimates that 60 percent of the children never return home.

"We can see the manifestations in child begging, child destitution, child trafficking," said Muhamed Laden, a professor of law at Ahmadu Bello University.

"And then they're easily instigated for them to be involved as children in such conflicts that have largely been violent and very bloody in this part of the world."

The government is looking into monitoring and licensing the schools, but the National Council for the Welfare of the Destitute, which is piloting such a program, complains of too little funding.

Council officials warn that the consequences of ignoring the children could be dire.

"They're a real threat -- a real problem -- to the society, unless you address this issue now," said Usman Jibrin, the council's president.

"Otherwise, these children will one day take over control of this country -- in a very unpleasant way."

The children are a violent threat to Nigeria, but also its first victims.

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New airport rules target passengers via Nigeria and 13 other countries

The Feds issued the toughest airport security rules ever for U.S.-bound passengers Sunday, ordering patdowns, body scans and other new screenings for most fliers.

The TSA directive targets people flying from or through 10 countries of interest -- Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen -- and four countries that the State Department says sponsor terrorism -- Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

The new directive will be in place indefinitely and replaces the order the TSA imposed after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria was accused of trying to blow up a plane landing in Detroit on Dec. 25.

Every passenger holding a passport from these countries, or flying through these countries en route to the United States, will undergo enhanced scrutiny, the official said.
The "majority" of all other passengers, including U.S. citizens, will also be subjected to the stricter security, the official said. These passengers will be selected at random.

The enhanced screening measures will include some combination of a full-body patdown, a full-body scan, a thorough hand inspection of all carry-on luggage and the use of explosives-detection technology, such as swabbing a passenger's hands, clothing and luggage.

"The bottom line is they are going to do enhanced screening measures, which would either be a full-body patdown, or if they have the [full-body scan], they can use that instead," the official said.
The official declined to say whether the full-body patdowns will include passengers' private areas in an attempt to detect explosives hidden in underwear, as was the case with the botched Christmas Day attack.
The TSA has the authority to mandate security screening levels for air carriers that are flying into U.S. air space. Security officials at airports around the globe will be responsible for carrying out the U.S. government's new security directive.

A White House spokesman said it approved the new rules.

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