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U.S. Officials Eye Links Between Weekend Bombings

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Bombings

U.S. investigators on Sunday were studying possible links between a pair of bombs detonated in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend, although no evidence had yet emerged tying the devices to known extremist groups.

The country was shaken by a trio of attacks over the weekend including a Saturday night bombing that injured 29 in Manhattan and a stabbing attack at a Minnesota shopping mall that wounded nine.

While officials described all three as deliberate, criminal acts and were investigating them as potential “acts of terrorism,” they stopped short of characterizing the motivation behind any of them until more evidence is uncovered.

A deafening roar and powerful shock rocked Manhattan’s popular Chelsea neighborhood late on Saturday after a pressure-cooker bomb packed with shrapnel exploded. A similar, unexploded device, was found a few blocks away later that night.

No international militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the New York blast or a pipe bomb that went off earlier along the route of a Saturday road race in suburban New Jersey. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the act of blowing up a bomb in a crowded area of Manhattan “is obviously an act of terrorism.”

No suspects were immediately identified in the New York and New Jersey attacks.

But CNN reported on Sunday night that police had reviewed surveillance video showing a man, who was not identified, leaving both devices on Saturday.

The Islamic State militant group quickly claimed responsibility for the Minnesota attack by a man who made references to Allah and asked at least one person if he or she was Muslim before he assaulted the individual. An off-duty police officer fatally shot the assailant.

Police did not immediately identify the Minnesota attacker, citing an ongoing investigation, although some local media reports gave his name and said he was an African-born junior college student. Reuters could not immediately confirm his identity.

There were no immediate connections established between the Minnesota attack and the bombings in New York and New Jersey, which came days before the United Nations General Assembly opens on Tuesday. Some 135 heads of state or government are expected to attend the event, and city officials said they had bolstered an already heavy security force with 1,000 more uniformed police officers and National Guard members.

‘CRUDE’ DEVICES

Federal Bureau of Investigation experts were examining remnants of the two devices that went off in Chelsea and Seaside Park, New Jersey, some 80 miles (130 km) south of New York City, as well as the undetonated pressure-cooker bomb, the same sort of improvised explosive device that killed three people and wounded more than 260 in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

“The crudity of the devices in all three cases certainly doesn’t point to any group that’s been developing (improvised explosive devices) for years,” said a U.S. official involved in the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss the inquiry.

The official added that the crude nature of the devices and the apparent low level of planning had some investigators concerned that the blasts were just a test of New York’s security.

“That’s what worries us: Was this some kind of test run, not just of the devices, but also of the surveillance in New York and the response?” the official said.

The United States has experienced a series of deadly attacks over the past year by gunmen inspired by Islamic State, which has been fighting a long civil war in Syria. A man who claimed allegiance to the group fatally shot 50 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in June, six months after a married couple massacred 14 in San Bernardino, California.

Investigators at the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Virginia, were set to look to see if the three devices in the New York area had a common design, although a U.S. official familiar with the inquiry said that would not be proof in itself the attacks were linked.

“Almost anybody could have fabricated these bombs and used cellphones as timed detonators,” said the official. “There are instructions all over the internet, and the crudity, positioning, and relative ineffectiveness of these does not suggest that a more sophisticated group played any role in this.”

The bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombing were built using instructions that the pair of brothers behind the attack found in al Qaeda’s “Inspire” online magazine.

The FBI considers the Minnesota episode a “potential act of terrorism,” Richard Thornton, FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Minneapolis division, told a news conference on Sunday.

Amaq, the news agency affiliated with Islamic State, issued a statement on Sunday calling the attacker “a soldier of the Islamic State.”

Reporters was not immediately able to verify the Amaq assertion.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and John Walcott in Washington, Robert MacMillan in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Government

FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi

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NAIRA - Investors King

The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.

The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.

“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.

“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).

“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.

Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.

Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.

“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.

“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.

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Ukraine/Russian War: Twitter Heightens Fight Against Misinformation 

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Twitter - Investor sking

In the wake of the Russia-Ukarine crisis, Twitter has stepped up its effort to put an end to misleading tweets from official accounts about the war.

Investors King gathered that Twitter has already limited content from more than 300 Russian government accounts, including President Putin. The new change will be effected under the company’s new “crisis” policies.

Twitter will also prioritise labelling false posts from accounts with wide reach, like state media or official government accounts, while preserving them for “accountability” reasons.

Twitter users will now be required to click through the warning notice to view the post and Twitter will disable the ability to like, retweet or share the content. The company said it would also change its search and explore features to avoid amplifying false tweets.

Twitter’s head of security and safety, Yoel Roth, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes saying “Today, we’re introducing our crisis misinformation policy – a global policy that will guide our efforts to elevate credible, authoritative information, and will help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crises. In times of crisis, misleading information can undermine public trust and cause further harm to already vulnerable communities. 

“Alongside our existing work to make reliable information more accessible during crisis events, this new approach will help to slow the spread by us of the most visible, misleading content, particularly that which could lead to severe harms. 

“While this first iteration is focused on international armed conflict, starting with the war in Ukraine, we plan to update and expand the policy to include additional forms of crisis,” Twitter said examples of problematic posts included false or misleading allegations of war crimes, false information regarding the international response and false allegations regarding use of force.

The company said it would rely on multiple sources to determine when claims are misleading. Strong commentary and first person accounts are among the types of tweets that would not be challenged by the policy, it said.

Twitter has approved a $44bn takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, who has criticised its content moderation policies

The new policies come just weeks after Twitter’s board agreed to a $44bn (£34.5bn) takeover offer from billionaire businessman Elon Musk, who has called for less moderated speech on the platform.

Musk had said in the past week that he would revoke Twitter’s suspension of former United States president, Donald Trump. 

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Government

Modest Increase in the FAAC Payout – Coronation Economic Note

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FAAC

The gross monthly distribution by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to the three tiers of government and public agencies amounted to N725.6bn in April (from March revenue). This shows an increase of 4.4% or N30.6bn from the previous payout.

Based on data in the local media, it was observed that companies’ income tax (CIT), petroleum profit tax (PPT), value-added tax (VAT), oil and gas royalties, import and excise duties recorded increases over the previous month. The FGN received a total of N277.1bn and state governments received N227.2bn, including N53.4bn representing the 13% derivation for the few oil producing states.

The headline figure consists of N337.4bn in gross statutory distribution, N165.6bn from the VAT Pool, and excess bank charges of N7.5bn was recovered. The total deductions for cost of collection was N44.4bn and the total deductions for statutory transfers, refunds and savings was N382.8bn.

The committee disclosed that the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) is USD35.4m.

The average monthly FAAC distribution (N665.1bn in Q1 ‘22) declined from an average of N682.5bn in Q4 ’21 but is slightly above the average of N647.0bn recorded in Q1 ’21.

Based on local newswires, the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) has not made any remittance to the federation account this year due to the high fuel subsidy costs. The NNPC spent N210.4bn (USD500.1m), N219.8bn (USD522.9m) and N245.8bn (USD584.8m) as subsidies on petrol in January, February, and March respectively. This is a total of N675.9bn (USD1.6bn) in Q1 ’22.

The NNPC is expected to deduct N671.9bn from its remittance to FAAC for April which is due for sharing at the May ‘22 FAAC meeting. The estimated total shortfall of N671.9bn comprises of shortfalls recorded in February (N152bn) and March (N519bn).

Money markets saw an inflow of N391bn in early-May ‘22, representing the net distribution to state and local governments. The FGN’s share is directly to the treasury single account.

Analysts at Coronation expect continuous strain with regards to FAAC payouts. According to them, it is imperative for states that depend solely on the inadequate monthly FAAC distribution to seek ways to boost their internally generated revenue. The FGN’s primary objective should be to create a conducive business environment as IGR sustainability is a by-product of an enabling environment.

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