Accused Fight Subpoena of Bank Statements

first_imgAs the alleged US$950,000 Global Witness bribery scandal intensifies, Criminal Court A at the Temple of Justice has subpoenaed (summoned) four banking institutions to produce bank statements of United States dollar accounts belonging to several public officials, including Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman, and some international companies named in the entity’s report.International Bank (Liberia) Limited, Ecobank Liberia Limited, Guaranty Trust Bank Liberia Limited and Global Bank Liberia Limited are those financial institutions expected to appear before Judge Boimah Kontoe today to produce the bank statements of the accused that covered the period of January 2010 to September 30, 2010.Besides Cllr. Sherman, others whose United States dollar bank statements are expected to be disclosed include Sherman and Sherman Inc, Sable Mining, Western Cluster, Delta Mining Consolidated (Pty) Limited and West Africa Exploration.Others include: Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County; Sumo Kupee, Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC); Cletus Wotorson, former Senator of Grand Kru Conuty; Speaker Alex Tyler; Rep. Henry Fahnbulleh; as well as the Chairman of the PublicProcurement Concession Commission (PPCC), Willie Belleh, and former National Investment Commission (NIC), Richard Tolbert.Global Witness alleged in its reports that over US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments were made to top government officials by UK mining firm Sable Mining and its Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Varney Sherman, chairman of the ruling Unity Party. The officials allegedly received money from Sable’s representatives to insert a loophole in the Public Procurement and Concessions Law, which would increase the mining company’s chances for securing the coveted Wologizi iron ore concession without submitting to a competitive bid. The court’s action was based on a communication dated May 19, under the signature of Cllr. Daku Mulbah, County Attorney for Montserrado County, one of government’s lead prosecutors.The communication, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, partly reads, “We request your Honor and the Honorable Court to order the banks to produce bank statements of United States dollars covered the period of January 1, 2010 to September 30, 2010, in the names of the entities and individuals.”The letter concludes, “The purpose for this request is to assist the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to complete an ongoing investigation.”Although the banks would appear to produce the statements, the accused have already asked the court to quash (suppress) the request.It is not clear whether that would happen today.In their request to suppress, the accused argued that the document which forms the basis for the appearance of the bank is a mere letter, of which is attached an affidavit totally unrelated to the letter.They further argued that the purpose, as stated in the communication, is vague, ambiguous and uncertain, that it does not form the basis for the issuance of the subpoena.“Whatever the actual purpose, it should be stated so that, we accused, as adversaries or opposite parties, would be fully informed and be given the opportunity to challenge or object to the issuance of the writs,” they said in the government summon.They argued that the confidentiality of any individual’s account at a bank and his transaction with a bank is a fundamental underlying basis for banking in Liberia and most parts of the world.“The confidentiality of the accused accounts with those banks are so sacrosanct that the law provides that the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) shall not, unless lawfully required to do so by law or court of law, reveal to any person information as to the affairs of any individual customer of a financial institution obtained in the exercise of its regulatory jurisdiction,” they said in the document.According to them, each of the financial institutions mentioned in the subpoena has its own internal regulations and contract provision with their customers on the sanctity of confidentiality of the customer’s account.“It seems therefore that this confidentiality obligation should not be set aside or violated by this Honorable Court unless good cause is shown, unless the account holder has the opportunity to object to the application to this court for disclosure of his account and transaction of his account,” those accused emphasized.Narrating the law, they claimed that it also provides that in publishing information obtained from commercial banks pursuant to its regulatory authority, “the CBL shall not publish any information which would disclose the affairs of any person who is a customer of a financial institution, unless the consent of such interested party has been obtained in writing.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Astronomy Columnist Tackles Naturalism vs. Intelligence

first_imgBob Berman is an unusual columnist for a science magazine.  He’s independent-thinking, unafraid to tackle big questions and criticize powerful institutions, but all the while able to keep a sense of humor.  In his monthly column “Bob Berman’s Strange Universe” in the November issue of Astronomy (p. 10), he took a moment from munching on his hot dog under the moon to think big.  “Astronomy leads us to deep issues,” he began.  “Many are so profound, we can’t even handle them.”  In “Hall of Mirrors,” he nevertheless handled, in his own whimsical way, some of the biggest: quantum theory, consciousness, perception, time, space, and intelligence.Take the question of intelligence lurking throughout the cosmos.  This topic arises when we look for life beneath the martian surface or perform SETI searches.  We assume life is out there, but we don’t know its limits….    Or consider nature itself, which most of us feel is smart.  Yet, it supposedly arose randomly from inert matter.  So we have this universe, which is basically as dumb as gravel.  A few billion years ago, some witless bits of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen slammed together for awhile until out popped Kobayashi – the Japanese competitive eater who devours hot dogs.  How carbon and oxygen atoms should have ever developed a taste for frankfurters is mysterious.  But there you have it, and it probably happened on other worlds, too.  We’re left with a combo plate: Some of the universe is smart, some of it is dumb.  We’re never quite sure where to draw the line.So given that the source of intelligence in the universe is a profound mystery, who does a better job explaining it: scientists, or theologians?  Berman switches the conventional whipping boys:If all this sounds far-out, well, you bet it is – although no more so than the standard model where the universe popped out of nothingness like a jack-in-the-box.  Any way you slice it, the biggest aspects of the cosmos are strange and mysterious.    Religions push back these mysteries by one step, and science, understandably, finds this unhelpful, even if it cannot come to the rescue itself.  We’re left with the stuff no one talks about, the uncle with the facial tic that everyone tries to ignore.    I think mysteries are among the best parts of astronomy, the perfect accompaniments to a starry night.  Scientists love ’em too, as they brilliantly chip away.  It would be nice, however, if cosmologists would put a lid on their arrogant ghetto-talk about their latest theory of everything and admit – just once in a while – that their knowledge is a single snowflake in the blizzard of the unknown.So even though he called it a draw, he reserved his biggest put-down for the standard cosmologists.  No worries, mate: “Me, I’m gonna observe the Moon,” he ended amicably.  “Want a hot dog?”Bob Berman is a rare columnist unafraid to stand up to the big guys in Big Science when he thinks they are a bunch of clueless loudmouths who don’t know what they are talking about (see 10/06/2004).  Bravo.    Is it really adding another step, though, to posit God as the Author of intelligence?  Is it really unhelpful?  This common misconception needs to be put in its place.  Carl Sagan used this in Cosmos as one of his many digs at religion, saying “Why not save a step, and say that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question?”  Don’t just swallow this line and feel intimidated by it.  It’s time to go on offense:It begs the question that saving a step is a good thing.  Sometimes it is, but not always.  Should a pilot save a step, and skip over his flight checklist?It is not really saving a step.  Materialists have exactly the same problem.  They need a step to explain the origin of the cosmos, so in the place of God, they put a multiverse, nothingness, or their own imaginations.  If anything, they are adding steps if not multiplying them.Omitting a source of intelligence for the cosmos leaves intelligence unexplained.  It is a deficient answer.Supposing that intelligence can arise from non-intelligent matter (Berman’s “dumb as gravel” stuff) has no empirical support.  It is tantamount to ascribing God-like powers to inanimate objects.Skipping the question just because it is mysterious is a cop-out.  This is an arbitrary move in a debate, which spells death to logic.  Deal with it.  Either explain how intelligence arose spontaneously without an intelligent cause, or consider the alternatives honestly, without arrogance.Rational discussion is impossible in a material universe of impersonal, unintelligent particles and forces, because reasoning presupposes the existence of truth and the laws of logic – which are immaterial and unchangeable.  Deny that and your arguments become arbitrary and inconsistent; i.e., you forfeit the debate.In a day when most science reporters and columnists just regurgitate whatever scientists say about everything, it is refreshing to see an exception every once in awhile.  Bob understands the enormity of these questions for religion and philosophy and does not endure arrogant posturing even by the inhabitants of powerful ghettos.  We applaud Mr. Berman for having the guts to call it like he sees it.(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Corn-counting robot earns top recognition at leading robotics conference

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Today’s crop breeders are trying to boost yields while preparing crops to withstand severe weather and changing climates. To succeed, they must locate genes for high-yielding, hardy traits in crop plants’ DNA. A robot developed by the University of Illinois to find these proverbial needles in the haystack was recognized by the best systems paper award at Robotics: Science and Systems, the preeminent robotics conference held last week in Pittsburgh.“There’s a real need to accelerate breeding to meet global food demand,” said principal investigator Girish Chowdhary, an assistant professor of field robotics in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the Coordinated Science Lab at Illinois. “In Africa, the population will more than double by 2050, but today the yields are only a quarter of their potential.”Crop breeders run massive experiments comparing thousands of different cultivars, or varieties, of crops over hundreds of acres and measure key traits, like plant emergence or height, by hand. The task is expensive, time-consuming, inaccurate, and ultimately inadequate — a team can only manually measure a fraction of plants in a field.“The lack of automation for measuring plant traits is a bottleneck to progress,” said first author Erkan Kayacan, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “But it’s hard to make robotic systems that can count plants autonomously: the fields are vast, the data can be noisy (unlike benchmark datasets), and the robot has to stay within the tight rows in the challenging under-canopy environment.”Illinois’ 13-inch wide, 24-pound TerraSentia robot is transportable, compact and autonomous. It captures each plant from top to bottom using a suite of sensors (cameras), algorithms, and deep learning. Using a transfer learning method, the researchers taught TerraSentia to count corn plants with just 300 images.“One challenge is that plants aren’t equally spaced, so just assuming that a single plant is in the camera frame is not good enough,” said co-author ZhongZhong Zhang, a graduate student in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science (ACES). “We developed a method that uses the camera motion to adjust to varying inter-plant spacing, which has led to a fairly robust system for counting plants in different fields, with different and varying spacing, and at different speeds.”This work was supported by the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as part of the TERRA-MEPP project at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. The robot is now available through the start-up company, EarthSense, Inc. which is equipping the robot with advanced autonomy and plant analytics capabilities.TERRA-MEPP is a research project that is developing a low-cost phenotyping robot to identify top-performing crops led by the University of Illinois in partnership with Cornell University and Signetron Inc. with support from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).last_img read more