Five new laws that could affect your rights at work in 2020 – Somerset Live

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The year 2020 is set to see a range of new laws come into effect.

Here are five key employment law changes that could affect you at work, as explained by Abigail Hubert of Birketts LLP to The Gazette.

From how holiday pay is calculated – to the leave you can expect when you are grieving – these are worth knowing.

Improved rights for agency workers

‘Swedish Derogation,’ also known as ‘pay between assignments’ contracts would previously see agency workers agree a contract that would remove their rights to equal pay with permanent counterparts after 12 weeks working on the same assignment.

From April 6, these will no longer be permissible and agency workers who have been in their employment for 12 weeks will be entitled to the same pay as those on permanent contracts.

Agency workers will have more rights

As well as this, all agency workers will be entitled to a key information document that more clearly sets out their employment relationships and terms and conditions with their agency.

Agency workers who are considered to be employees will be protected from unfair dismissal or suffering a detriment if the reasons are related to asserting rights associated with The Agency Worker Regulations.

Holiday pay calculations changing

From April 6, the reference period to calculate a ‘week’s pay’ for holiday pay purposes will be extended from the previous 12 weeks of work to the previous 52 weeks.

This could affect employees who work variable hours seasonally.

New parental bereavement leave

In September 2018, a new workplace right for paid leave to be given to bereaved parents was officially enshrined in law.

The first of its kind in the UK, the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act 2018 is expected to come into force in April 2020 and will give employed parents the right to two weeks leave if they lost a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Employed parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

New right to a written statement of terms

Currently, employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month must be provided with a written statement of terms within two months of employment commencing.

From April 6, all new employees and workers will have the right to a statement of written particulars from their first day of employment. Additional information will have to be included as part of the extended right.

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Accountability for tax shifting

At present, the IR35 rules apply where an individual personally performs services for a client through an intermediary. If the services were provided under a direct contract, the worker would be regarded for tax purposes as being employed by the client.

Currently, it is the intermediary’s responsibility to determine whether IR35 applies.

From April 6, changes to IR35 rules will be implemented for medium and large businesses in the private sector and will largely mirror changes that took effect in the public sector in 2017.

Under the new regime, for all contracts entered into, or payments made on or after April 6, the onus will shift from the intermediary to the end user client to make a status determination.

Responsibility for accounting for tax and national insurance will shift to the party who pays for the individual’s services, known as the ‘fee-payer.’

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Familie review – Milo Rau’s soulful hymn to life on the brink of death | Stage | The Guardian

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It is a dark winter’s night in Belgium, a country where the suicide rate has been called “dismally high”. Suicide is an awkward subject, but director Milo Rau is not one to shy away from society’s ugly corners. Mesmerising and alarming, Familie completes a trilogy that began with Five Easy Pieces, in which children told the story of child molester Marc Dutroux, and La Reprise, which reconstructed the murder of Ihsane Jarfi in a random act of homophobic violence.

This play also takes its template from real life. In 2007, the four members of the Demeester family were found hanged in their Calais home. They had a meal ready to eat and left no sign of struggle. The only clue to the joint suicide of this comfortably off family was a terse note: “We messed up. Sorry.”

It’s not much to go on, but Rau turns the enigma into a strength. Working with a mix of professional and amateur actors in accordance with his 10-point Ghent Manifesto, he enlists a real family to imagine the fateful final night. Prominent Belgian actors An Miller and Filip Peeters are joined by their teenage daughters Leonce and Louisa Peeters, plus dogs Billy and Bobby, in an evening not of histrionics and grinding of teeth (for that, Rau would direct you to Romeo and Juliet), but of heartbreaking banality.




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The production it most closely resembles is Vanishing Point’s Interiors, a dark domestic comedy performed behind the windows of a single-storey house that turned the audience into unwitting voyeurs. Likewise, Anton Lukas’s realistic set for Familie allows dad to get on with the cooking, mum to call her parents and the kids to do their English homework as if, for the most part, we’re not there. Moritz von Dungern’s deftly integrated live video projections pull us closer to their everyday routines. One section is called “Killing Time”.

By rights, a play shorn of everything we expect of a night out – drama, conflict, debate – should be excruciating, but such is the guilelessness of the four actors, the apparent spontaneity of their stage life and the excruciating tension of knowing their fate, that the mundane becomes riveting. In its opening and closing sequences, the cunningly crafted piece reels off lists of private pleasures: watching movies on a rainy day, doodling during a phone call, reading Harry Potter… On their own, they are whimsical and insignificant, but cumulatively, they are the reason we keep on keeping on, our way of defying existential despair.

We love this family in the way we love the talking heads on Gogglebox, not for their exceptionalism but the very reverse: their ordinariness and lack of pretence. That we are seeing enactments of real family relationships in parallel to the true-life tragic tale adds to our distress.




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Rau does not concern himself with fathoming a meaning behind the suicides; there is no “to be or not to be” dilemma. He accepts the Demeesters’ actions are unknowable. Even with more information, we would still find their deaths inexplicable. Where would guessing get us?

Instead, he offers us a kind of dark, secular mass, at once a celebration of all life has to offer in its smallest, most trivial moments, and a painful recognition that sometimes it can be too much. Performed at the stately pace of a slow piece of Bach, Familie is assured, soulful and unnerving.

At NTGent, Ghent, Belgium, until 22 May.

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic violence helpline is 0808 2000 247. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

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So much for saying you want a quiet life, Meghan Markle | Stuff.co.nz

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COMMENT: ​So Meghan Markle is reportedly attending the Met Gala in May. Because where better to celebrate your newfound privacy and “space” than at “the Oscars of the East Coast”, “the Super Bowl of red-carpet events”?

What could be more perfectly suited to anyone fleeing “intense scrutiny” and “commoditisation” than a mega-bash to which anti-commodification activist Kim Kardashian once turned up dressed in a nude-effect wet-look dress? A celebrity Pavlova, where the 225 photographers will take an estimated 50 shots a minute, before blasting millions of images out into the ether? Although why this is more appealing than a royal visit to the Mumbles Lifeboat station in South Wales is anyone’s guess.

Anthony Devlin
Has Meghan Markle lost the sympathy of the public?

According to sources at the weekend, Markle is to leave Prince Harry at home for the night, so “she can establish herself once more in Hollywood”, apparently attending the Met Gala with Vogue’s editor, Edward Enninful. This makes about as much sense as a woman who craves the quiet life asking her LA agent to find her a leading role in a superhero film, “something that pays big” – which is exactly what one Sunday paper claims Markle has done.

As the Sussexes fly back to Britain to complete their final engagements as working members of the Firm – and face the Royal family for the first time since The Statement, the petulant Instagram post from a fortnight ago in which they whined about being made to drop the “SussexRoyal” brand despite there being nothing legal to stop them using it – the pair may have no choice but to brazen it out.

I’m not sure the Sussexes will understand just how colossal a miscalculation that statement was. After all, you have a young man and his wife turning on a 93-year-old grandmother at one of the toughest moments of her life. You have them disregarding the pain and sadness prompted by Prince Philip’s ill health, Prince Andrew’s involvement with a paedophile and her beloved grandsons falling out – all because they have a brand to promote. Is there any way back from that?

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have said yes. Despite the acts of clumsiness and the missteps we’ve witnessed over the past two years, I would still have said yes. So they invited a bunch of A-listers that they’d only met once to their wedding. How many of us would do the same if we knew George and Amal would actually come? Was their dispensing of certain royal traditions really so bad? The insistence on Archie’s christening remaining private and the setting up of their own “breakaway” website?

Harry has always been his own person. At this point, one could still push a convincing narrative that these two were “breathing new life” into an outdated institution.

But the precise moment the couple began to lose the public’s sympathy wasn’t when they chose the hospitality of a billionaire in Vancouver Island over that of the Queen at Christmas, or indeed when they decided to make the desired “break from royal duties” permanent. No – that moment can be charted back to a lament the misty-eyed Duchess of Sussex made in the ITV documentary charting the couple’s African tour last year: “Not many people have asked if I’m OK.”

Because that single sentence managed to eclipse everything the couple were in southern Africa to highlight – from the 1,000 minefields that have yet to be cleared in Angola, to the abject poverty in Malawi and HIV-hit children in Botswana – and make it all about Markle.

Prince Harry Meghan Markle met with crowds when they visited Auckland.

It may be unfair to blame Meghan any more than Harry for these recent missteps. But one thing is certain: neither the words nor the sentiments in The Statement appear to be those of a happy young couple, revelling in the joy of each other and their nine-month-old baby.

And I worry that something is unravelling behind the scenes. Because if their intention were really to enjoy a quiet life, why would they care about a title that can only ever be used for professional profit and status?

Why would the team of LA-based agents, lawyers and publicists be necessary and the showbusiness parties and blockbuster film roles so appealing?

You don’t need those things or grand branding to live a serene and peaceful life. But solid family relationships? They’re essential.

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Kenyan Mum, Connie Muuru, Advises Women As She Marks 4 Years Since Her Daughter Was Battered To Death By Boyfriend – Motherhood In-Style Magazine

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Yesterday, January 14, marked the fourth anniversary of the death of a young Kenyan woman, Sharon Muuru who was killed by her boyfriend, Salim Kipruto Seem. The deceased’s mother, Mrs Connie Muuru, a Nairobi businesswoman took to Facebook to mourn and warn victims of domestic violence as she always does since the untimely loss of her daughter, who was a single mum.

Connie, who has started a project that would empower victims of domestic violence, says her daughter’s experience has made her cognizant of the morbid experiences people in violent relationships go through. She narrated that Salim made a habit of getting violent with the deceased even though he was jobless, lived in her daughter’s house and was fended for by Sharon.

The deceased was also not married to her killer and her only child was from a previous relationship according to Connie, who only got to know of how serious her child’s travails had been, only after the young mum had passed.

She narrated to eDaily what transpired until her daughter died.

”If someone shows you little elements of violence, walk out. Don?t wait to be beaten to death ? this applies to members of both genders.

Let the wrangling couple, whose relationship is marred by violence, to separate and solve their differences when not living under the same roof.

They can come back together later after their problems are solved amicably. For instance, my daughter knew her partner Serem was not a good person because she was beaten severally. She shouldn?t have waited until she was killed.

I am not against families, I am not against marriages. But when it comes to death, nothing can be compared.

My daughter thought since she was the one providing and paying the rent, then the man was the one to leave.

But that shouldn?t be the case. If you are the one providing and your partner becomes violent, please leave him or her. You can get another house and other properties, but not another life.”

Read Connie’s Facebook post from yesterday below:

Baby girl I wish there’s anything I can do to bring you back… It’s exactly 4 years today, since you left us.
January 14th will remain dark and sad day all my life!

It’s more painful to remember the man you cared and loved, decided to kill you.
Sadly you allowed him to continue staying in your house, even after many nights of violence.

You were kind… brilliant…considerate and selfless… maybe that’s why he took advantage of you.

But it’s doesn’t matter now though…I only hope that you made to heaven child

Continue resting with Angels, because you are one of them!

Your beautiful memories are with me daily and have consciously, refused to forget you.
IN MEMORY OF MY DAUGHTER SHARON MUURU, I CONTINUE SAYING NO TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

If your spouse can’t solve problems without a fight just part ways, while you are alive.Remember you have only one life… once you lose it, it’s forever!

MAY THE BEAUTIFUL SOUL OF MY DAUGHTER SHARON MUURU REST IN PEACE

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Nollywood Actress Dayo Amusa Admits She Enjoys Good Sex ⋆

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Popular nollywood actress Dayo Amusa has admitted she enjoys having good sex with her man.

While addressing stereotypes of how women ought to be embarrassed to talk about their sexual needs, the nollywood actress minced no words in owning up to her love for great sex.

However, she has gotten a lot of backlash from internet users mostly women who felt Ms. Amusa was not living up her good role model image.

She made this known in a long post via her verified Instagram account.

The ish am about to raise here now might probably offend some of you, even if it result to an unfollown, Iyen gan tun nice. Proceed with caution

I enjoy having sex. I mean good sexual intercourse. You know the thing that people do that is acceptable in society if you’re married, or if you’ve been in a partnership with somebody for sometime but most definitely not acceptable if you have sex with somebody on the first date or if you have sex somebody that you don’t know all that well.  Why can’t people just have sex for the sake of having sex? Why can’t people just have sex for the sake of havings ex?

Why the actual fuck does a woman that enjoys having sexual relationships with a partner or partners automatically make people jump to conclusion that the woman doesn’t respect herself? Why does a woman have to justify herself? I don’t give a fuck if you sleep with 200 people or you’ve only ever been with 1 or none. I don’t a fuck if you’re sleeping with two, three or twenty partners. I don’t give a fuck if  you have sex on the first date or wait until the 30th date. Want to know why I do’t give a fuck? Because it’s none of fucking business.

You know your body, and at the end of the day it’s your body therefor you make the rules. Why are women being shamed for having sexual relationships? The sad part is majority of it is women shaming other women. SUPPORT EACH OTHER FOR FUCK SAKES. SEX IS A NATURAL HUMAN INTERACTION. Fuck who you want, when you want, where you want.

You don’t owe an explanation to anybody. And you surely are not ‘disrepectin yourself’ because you enjoy having sex. Be transparent,  and educate yourself before expressing such stupidity. But make sure you are playing safe o. Make safe choices

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Join Millions Of Christians In Asking Netflix To Cancel Film Depicting Jesus As Homosexual

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This is an absolutely unacceptable provocation. No one has the right to attack the faith of millions of people around the world.

'Porta dos Fondos' - Netflix evil movie

The Brazilian group ‘Porta dos Fondos’ (Translates to “Back door”) has produced a film titled “The First Temptation of Christ” which depicts Jesus Christ as a homosexual in a clear attack to Christianity as Christmas approaches.

Over 1.5 million people have signed a petition asking streamer Netflix to take down the film that portrays Jesus in a gay relationship.

The 46-minute film premiered on Netflix Brazil on Dec. 3 and has since sparked a ton of controversy online for its politically incorrect satire that paints Jesus as a closeted homosexual on Christmas.

Using humor and art as an excuse, this group has attacked Christianity in an unprecedented manner. They supposedly produced this film as a “Christmas” film for their viewers!

In this film they present Christ as having relationships with a homosexual while the disciples are alcoholics and unruly . The Virgin Mary is presented as an adulterous woman who has sex with God the Father ..

“The First Temptation of Christ” sees Jesus and a friend named Orlando arrive at Mary and Joseph’s house where they’ve thrown a birthday party for their son, according to the New York Daily News. Jesus attempts to downplay his relationship with Orlando, who constantly hints that they’re more than just friends.

The outlet reports that the comedy group Porta dos Fundos is responsible for the special, which actually marks their second religious satire following “The Last Hangover,” which depicts Jesus’ disciples looking for him on the morning after the Last Supper. They recently earned an International Emmy Award for best comedy web television special for “The Last Hangover.”

The petition quickly formed and people continue to sign it in a push for the streaming service to take action against the group’s latest special for its alleged insensitivity toward Christians.

The petition which started on Change.org, has so far collected 1,529,504 signatures. It calls upon Netflix to remove the movie, made by comedy sketch group Porta dos Fundos (Backdoor in English).

This is an absolutely unacceptable provocation. No one has the right to attack the faith of millions of people around the world. This type of supposed ‘shows’ only cause one thing: numbing the population to attacks against Christians, according to .

That is why we are asking Netflix to remove this brutal attack on religious freedom.

By signing this campaign, you will be sending an email to the following Netflix executives expressing your disagreement with their film :

  • Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix
  • Jeff Hensien, Head of the Netflix Consumer Service Department
  • Ted Sarandos, Netflix Content Manager

The post Join Millions Of Christians In Asking Netflix To Cancel Film Depicting Jesus As Homosexual appeared first on Believers Portal.

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10 Nollywood Actresses Who Married Another’s Husband | P.M. News

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Mercy Johnson and husband Odi Okojie

By Funmilola Olukomaiya

Any relationship can work given the right people, but then, with the advent of scandals plaguing our society, even celebrities are not spared of name-calling or online bullying.

It is usually believed that as an individual venturing into the marriage institution, while in a relationship with your other half, there are usually clear ‘signs’ that some relationships will work, and others will only lead to preventable disasters and heartbreaks, but then, it is left to you to decide whether or not you want to continue with such relationships.

Below are some of Nollywood’s finest actresses believed to have gotten involved with or married at some time to some other women’s men; some of such relationships are still thriving while others have hit the rocks.

1. Ini Edo

Ini Edo

Ini Edo in 2008 wedded her American-based hubby, Phillips Ehiagwina. A year earlier, one Ruth Okoro, who was said to be Phillips’ wife (as at that time) allegedly wrote an open letter to the actress, warning her to steer clear of her husband. In 2014, the actress and her husband split, incidentally, Ini Edo had no children in her marriage with Phillip Ehiagwina, which made their divorce process easier.

2. Mercy Johnson

Mercy Johnson Okojie

Mercy has been married to Prince Odianosen Okojie since 2011 and they have three children. In 2011, one Mrs. Lovely Okojie sent out an open letter to Mercy Johnson to please release her husband and find a single man to marry. Lovely Okojie claimed that prince Odi Okojie is the father of her two children and he was still legally married to her at the time.

3. Nuella Njubigbo

Nuella Njubigbo

Nuella Njubigbo on 29 March 2014, got married to film director Tchidi Chikere who was previously married to actress Sophia Chikere for six years, a union which produced 3 kids in her family compound in Anambra State. Their union was the subject to a lot of public criticisms as she was accused of putting asunder Tchidi Chikere’s initial marriage in order to have him to herself.

4. Stella Damasus

Stella Damasus

Stella Damasus sure has a record when it comes to men. She married her first husband, Jaiye Aboderin, at 21 in 1999. The couple had two daughters before Jaiye died suddenly in 2005. In 2007, Damasus gave love a chance and got remarried, this time to Emeka Nzeribe. The marriage lasted for seven months before a mutual agreement to divorce. Then in 2011, the news had it that she was involved with Nollywood producer and director Daniel Ademinokan, who was married to Doris Simeon; a relationship that sparked a lot of controversies all over Nigeria and Africa because both parties never publicly admitted to be dating, engaged or even married until 2014.

5. Mercy Aigbe

Mercy Aigbe

Mercy Aigbe and her estranged hubby, Lanre Gentry got married in 2013 and has two children (Juwon Gentry and Michelle Aigbe) and three stepdaughters. In 2017, she shared photos of herself after allegedly being assaulted by her husband. She consequently separated from her husband due to claims of domestic violence. Lanre Gentry was previously married to Temitayo Lewis who is said to live in the US with her kids.

6. Foluke Daramola

Foluke Daramola

Foluke Daramola and Babatunde Sobowale, son of former Lagos State Commissioner of Education, Professor Idowu Sobowale got married in 2005, and in 2008, their union came crashing on allegations that the actress was been battered by her husband over accusations of infidelity. Their union produced two children. Foluke later got married to Kayode Salako who is an activist and the owner of a private school on February 15, 2013. Reports have it that prior to her marriage to Mr Salako, he was happily married to a pastor with RCCG and they were married for 13 years before the woman left with her three children.

7. Ronke-Odusanya

Ronke Odusanya

Famous Yoruba actress, Ronke Odusanya, who is popularly known as Flakky Ididowo, according to reports secretly got married to Femi Anibaba in the US in 2014. Femi Anibaba was previously married to Folape Sokoya who claimed she had been married to him for over 12 years and that they have three children together before Ronke came into the picture. Meanwhile, the actress with her beau, Olanrewaju Saheed, welcomed their baby girl, Fifehanmi on Monday, August 19, 2019.

8. Tiwa Savage

Tiwa Savage

Tiwa married Tunji “Tee Billz” Balogun on 23 November 2013. The couple held their traditional marriage at the Ark in Lekki, and their white wedding was held on 26 April 2014 at the Armani Hotel in Dubai. Before getting married to Tiwa, Tee Billz was said to have two children from a previous marriage.

9. Funke Akindele

Funke’s first marriage was to Mr. Kehinde Oloyede in a very glamorous wedding and it can be said to be one of the shortest marriages in the history of Nollywood. The actress became divorced no sooner than she got married to Mr Oloyede who already had about six children from three women. Funke married Nigerian rapper Abdul Rasheed Bello, known as JJC Skillz, in London in May 2016 and they are parents to twin boys.

10. Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

This dashing actress with the signature gap-toothed was one of the most sought after Nollywood actresses in the early ’90s. She was alleged to have snatched another woman’s hubby while a student at Lagos State University (LASU). She quit Nollywood to face her family thereafter.

Did we miss anyone on the list? Do well to drop your thoughts in the comment section.

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Proponents of death penalty for Hate Speech are real harbinger of hate speech -Gani Adams — Daily Times Nigeria

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The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Adams, has described those behind the controversial hate speech bill as pretenders.

Speaking during the 2019 edition of Ajagunmale Festival in Lekki, Lagos, Adams said though the National Assembly had bowed to pressures from Nigerians to remove the death clause for violators of hate speech, there is need for public enlightenment and education in order to change the narrative on the issue.

The Aareonakakanfo admitted also that many Nigerians are ignorant of issues relating to media information gathering and literacy, insisting that the law must be flexible to accommodate other people’s interests.

“It is a cheering news that the National Assembly and proponents of death penalty for violators of hate speech has bowed to pressures from Nigerians, but in a gathering like this, it is not out of place to raise and discuss issues that affect us holistically.

“The political game that had been playing out on the issue of hate speech and a death penalty for violators needed to be considered with utmost importance.

“I must confess truly, that I have been monitoring the reactions of eminent Nigerians on the issue, and I think those reactions are commendable. Those that spoke said death penalty for a violator of hate speech was barbaric and unacceptable.

“Actually hate speech can incite violence and damage relationships in a society, but we need to understand and protect the individuals’ rights to express their opinions freely and peacefully. It is also a fact that freedom of speech is an integral component of a free society. Therefore, imposing death penalty on violators is uncultured, barbaric, and not acceptable in our society,” he explained.

The Yoruba generalissimo flayed those behind the bill, saying politicians that are also the chief promoters of this bill are the harbinger of hate speech, describing them as products of hate speech, especially, during campaigns.

“Many of our politicians today are pretenders. During their campaigns, they promised you heaven on earth, and shortly after they are elected, you hear a different story entirely. I feel sad sometimes whenever I look back and see how Nigeria has drifted from its original ideals of our forefathers, but I always take solace in the belief that  one day, whether now or in the nearest future, we shall find our feet and get back on the right track”

In his remarks, Executive Chairman, Lekki Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Hon. Ogidan Mukadasi, said his administration will continue to support the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) and the Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF) on  ideas and projects that can launch the community positively to the world, adding that the huge attendance of guests at this year’s edition of Ajagunmale festival has really helped in boosting the tourism potentials of the community.

“It is our duty and responsibility to sustain this laudable programme, therefore, as a government, we will continue to play our role. We will continue to support the Olokun Festival Foundation to ensure that this festival becomes one of the most celebrated festivals in the state,” he said.

The Guest lecturer, Associate Professor Adams Kolade, from the Lagos state University (LASU) Ojo, spoke on the need to embrace the core values, culture and tradition of the Yoruba race.

He noted that Yoruba race is a gifted race with potentials to be the best, declaring that efforts should be made to sustain and promote the Yoruba cultural identity through festivals like this. He applauded the Aareonakakanfo of Yoruba land for the courage to sustain the laudable ideal of the organisation.

 “Language is an integral part of our culture. All over the world, the Yoruba tradition and heritage are next to none. As a race that have been so blessed with all these potentials, there is need for us to sustain all these and one of the best ways to sustain our cultural identities is to cultivate a new habit which will be directed at promoting what is truly ours,” he said.

The Onilekki of Lekki, Oba Olumuyiwa Ogunbekun, expressed delight at the success of the event, saying Ajagunmale Festival has come to stay in the area.

 He charged all members of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress not to relent in their efforts, declaring that the traditional institution across the South West will continue to support the foundation.

Meanwhile, Iba Gani Adams, said with the celebration of Ajagunmale Festival, Lekki will soon become a top investment destination in Lagos State.

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Trump leaving NATO: dangerous for U.S., nightmare for Israel – Haaretz.com

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This article was first published on January 17, 2019

When Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, settled into his office at the Kirya after being sworn in Tuesday, he had a long list of military challenges to plan for: Rockets and tunnels by Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s persistent threatening stance against Israel in Syria, Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

One thing he probably never thought he would have to add to that list was planning for the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. 

The day is almost over, and no one from the Administration has denied the NYT story about Trump wanting to pull out of NATO. Worse, no one from the Administration would dare say he would never do it. Because they know he might.

— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)

But as he learned from the New York Times, the possibility is very much on President Donald Trump’s mind.

It is no small matter for Israel.

In the first instance, Israel benefits from NATO because of the way it broadens U.S. influence. NATO is an alliance, but it also entails its European members willingly accepting the United States’ leadership position on the continent.

U.S. allies outside the alliance benefit from the association. It has helped earn Israel a seat at the table as a NATO partner, has opened doors to cooperation with non-U.S. militaries, and helps prevent escalatory scenarios in moments of tension between Israel and NATO members, notably Turkey. In a post-NATO world, Israel’s alignment would be with an isolated United States that lacks the multiplying effect of broader Western support.

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But the operational effects could be far more challenging. Israel maintains impressive self-defense capabilities, which will be sustained in any scenario, but its security partnership with the United States, another critical pillar of its defense policy, will be forced to adapt in complicated ways.

The day-to-day relationships between the IDF and the U.S. military are conducted via U.S. European Command. U.S. forces based in Germany are the ones who travel to Israel by the thousands to conduct joint exercises, including those that drill bringing Patriot missile batteries to augment Israel’s domestic capabilities and help defend Israel in the case of a major conflict.  

U.S. Navy destroyers, home-ported in Spain and equipped with Aegis missile defense capabilities, are among the Sixth Fleet’s ships that sail regularly in the Eastern Mediterranean (and make port calls in Haifa) to ensure adequate support for Israel’s defense. U.S. Air Force squadrons based in Italy come to Israel to conduct joint air exercises with the Israeli Air Force. Other U.S. troops sit even closer, at Incirlik Air Force Base in Eastern Turkey.

Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished.

Could U.S. support for Israel be shifted and coordinated instead through U.S. Central Command, based in the Persian Gulf? It has been proposed before as an efficiency measure. But Israeli generals have always resisted the proposal. Their worry is that they would find it challenging to enjoy the same level of intimacy they currently have with Europe-based U.S. commanders, with commanders who maintain a similar closeness with Arab militaries. 

True, Israel is closer strategically today with the Arab Gulf states than at any time in its history, because of a focus on the common threat of Iran and the lower priority of the Palestinian issue. But those relationships are a long way from being normalized – and could still backslide.

Israeli security planners are, therefore, still most likely to want to maintain separation between their relationships with the U.S. military and with their Arab neighbors. Having observed the intense friendships formed between Israeli military commanders and their U.S. counterparts based in Europe, I can say that these ties will not be easily replaced.

The broader Middle East would also experience the effects of NATO’s demise in the form of further empowerment of Russia. That is happening already, but losing NATO would turbocharge those trends.

Already, Russia’s brutally decisive intervention in Syria, combined with successive U.S. administrations’ preference to reduce active U.S. military engagements in the region, have led many regional states to explore expanded security ties with Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets more frequently with Putin than he does with Trump, and the IDF and Russian Air Force deconflict their operations in Syria. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all close partners of the United States, have visited Moscow and explored acquiring advanced Russian weapons systems in addition to their American-supplied arsenals.

Should Russia decide to exert leverage, such as by constraining Israeli freedom of action against Iranian military targets in Syria, the United States would be ill-equipped to push back.

A U.S. withdrawal from NATO would unmistakably be understood as a major pullback from the United States’s leadership in global affairs. The effect of expanding Russian influence would be felt far beyond Europe and the Middle East.

Military planners are renowned for imagining, and developing options for, every possible scenario. So General Kochavi and his colleagues will find a way to prepare, and put themselves in a position to adapt. But there are certain anchors that any country hopes to maintain, particularly one facing as many threats, and so tied to its American ally, as Israel.

To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro

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Hate Speech Bill: UN, UK Oppose Inclusion Of Death Penalty

As the ongoing debate on the Hate Bill speech before the Nigeria Senate continues, the United Nations and the United Kingdom have added their voice in opposition against the inclusion of the death penalty in the proposed legislation.

The Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill, according to its sponsor, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, proposes that any person who violates the law shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.

But the UN and the UK insisted that the bill may act as a conduit to prevent Nigerians to exercise their right to free expression as guaranteed in the 1999 constitution (as amended).

Olusola Macaulay, spokesman of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Nigeria, said the introduction of the bill is not the most exigent matter for the National Assembly currently. He stated that public enlightenment on the dangers of hate speech is what should be communicated to Nigerians.

“I’m not sure what the government needs now is a bill or an idea to shut down people or prevent people from being able to express themselves or express their freedom of thought or information. What I think the government should do more is to enlighten the people,” he said in an interview with the Punch on Thursday.

“Every human being has the right to life and you cannot cut off people’s lives just because someone has expressed his opinion. Nobody is saying hate speech is good.

“Hate speech and fake news have been there from time immemorial and it is barbaric to say now that we want to hang people because they expressed their feelings or what they had in mind. So, censoring people or limiting people from participating in politics might not be the correct thing. As I said, the best thing to do is to educate the people.”

Macaulay disclosed that a UNESCO advocacy group, Media and Information Literacy Coalition, would soon meet with the National Assembly over the proposed legislation.

He also hinted that the UN would lobby the Federal Government on the legislation.

“We are trying to pay an advocacy visit to the government and do some lobbying. There is a coalition working already, it was formed with the support of UNESCO.

“They are working to meet with the National Assembly to express their mind and possibly advise the government to have a different narrative to the issue of hate speech and fake news,” he said.

On its part, the British government said while it unequivocally condemns hate speech, the inclusion of the death penalty in the proposed bill would stifle Nigerians from freely expressing themselves.

In a statement signed by Chris Ogunmodede, Senior Press and Public Affairs Officer, British High Commission, Abuja, the UK government said it supports the right of individuals to express their opinions peacefully in a an open society.

The statement read: “The UK government is following discussions around the proposed Prohibition of Hate Speech bill closely.

“We take a strong stand against hate speech, which can incite violence and damage community relationships within society.  We also strongly support the right of individuals to express opinions and peacefully challenge authority as an essential part of a free and open society.

“The UK strongly opposes the inclusion of the death penalty in any piece of legislation, as a matter of principle.”

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