Thursday, December 31, 2015

AuthorSuite #NewYear

  The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame    - Oscar Wilde 


Here's an exposé on the murky world of high-stakes politics, a depiction of the life-and-death struggle of a young female lawyer who goes to great lengths to outwit a diabolical trio in order to save her lover from a murder rap.

The conscience of a town steeped in sexism, vanity and hypocrisy is pricked by the brutal murder of a mysterious woman in an LA park. But the shock is transformed into a steamy, seductive scandal when the corpse turns out to be Susan Whitaker, the flamboyant wife of the governor of California. 

A secret lover/blackmailer theory leads to the indictment of Hollywood's most influential black celebrity. It is only the beginning, for Susan Whitaker did not, in fact, exist. Little does anyone realize that this colossal fraud is a mere curtain raiser to a chilling world of ugly skeletons dating back to the assassination of a U.S. senator in a Washington hotel sauna, skeletons connected to riveting sex scandals in high places, skeletons the FBI and political kingmakers will kill for...



What would you do if you found out that the man you married is not who you thought he was? What would you do if you suddenly discovered that you have indeed had the one thing you had yearned for all your life without realizing it?

Now, imagine a woman transformed from psychiatrist to patient, and lured into a compelling backward journey through her own life on a psychotherapist's couch. Imagine skeletons from the past pulling her back into the vortex of darkness from which she thought she had escaped. Paige Lyman is a woman conned by fate, and plagued by damning memories she must decipher in order to be free.

Trang Tran's visual perception
Take Back the Memory is a psychological exposé on love, betrayal, vengeance, and a heart-wrenching secret.


A blogger's visual perception of a character: 

Paige Lyman is a gorgeous redhead. She's over fifty and now in semi-retirement. She's still an object of fascination to many including her daughter, Diane. She possesses the loveliest pair of legs on Riverside Drive, and when she wears skirts, which she does often, even young men from the nearby Columbia University turn to stare. What's more, her wonderful head of hair still causes whispers in elevators.

Everything changes as she slowly comes to terms with her troubled childhood...



Augustine Sam lives in Venice, Italy - that most romantic of all cities - and offers this collection of his poetry for romantics and those looking for meaning in the many challenges life offers.

His poems glow with musical invention and the manner in which he elects to place his words on the page enhances the meaning and the beauty of these works. Liquid flowing music from a poet who understands passion. His eloquent poems speak to each of us as private as a whispered conversation. Brilliant. 
                                                   - Grady Harp - Hall of Fame | Vine Voice  
Flashes of Emotion is a book of romantic poetry, a selection that allows the reader to tap into the poet's insights into a wide variety of topics from life and love to death and drudgery - a collection that showcases Augustine Sam's lively, refreshing and innovative style. A 'must have' for anyone who has ever experienced love, pain, defeat, or joy.   



Friday, December 25, 2015

WarOnTerror Sound Bites

  Iraq War Was A Failure That Helped Create ISIS

Retired Lt. Gen. Flynn 
- Retired Lt. General Flynn

Senator John McCain

White House Recommended Arming ISIS  

- Senator John McCain

General Wesley Clark

ISIS Was Created By U.S. Allies

    - General Wesley Clark

Hilary Clinton


 We Created Al Qaeda” 

                                 - Hilary Clinton    

Image from Paris Attack
Nearly a month after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks—consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage taking—occurred in the French capital, Paris and its northern suburb of Saint-Denis, many Americans must have wished that the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino shooting was anything but a terrorist attack. (On that occasion -- a holiday banquet at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, USA, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people and injured 21 others).

Victims of San Bernardino Massacre
As sad as that was, random shootings of that nature, in fact, have become so rampant in the United States that some have begun to think of it as the 'new normal.' The massacre, not surprisingly, reignited the rather familiar gun control debate, a subject seemingly less frightening than any suggestion that the Islamic State (ISIS) had perhaps penetrated the U.S. as it had France. But the gun control debate was a red herring. While such debate might serve the U.S. in its domestic quest for peaceful coexistence, this particular massacre went beyond the purview of gun laws, though the couple were said to have exploited the “bullet button loophole” to legally obtained assault-style rifles in California.
In the Wake of Paris Attacks
The FBI has since acknowledged it as an “Act of Terrorism,” and the Islamic State has claimed, in a radio broadcast, that its followers carried out the attack. What was more, American-born Syed Rizwan Farook was reported to have had contact with at least two militant groups overseas, including the al-Nusra Front, (an Al Qaeda affiliate allegedly supported by the U.S. to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria). His Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik was said to have pledged loyalty to ISIS in a Facebook post hours before the massacre.

America-born Syed Farook
Pakistani wife, Malik
As it now sadly appears, ISIS penetrations into the U.S. and western Europe is no longer a mere propaganda but a reality.

If this reality is frightening, then maybe it is time for the West to rethink the strategies, the blatant lies, and hypocrisies that gave impetus to this terror in the first place. 

Bush admits that Iraq Had Nothing To Do With 9/11

- Pope Francis

Pope Francis (Reuters/Dal Zennaro)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sex & Voodoo Saga in Italy

The ordinary story of women without rights | (cc) Cássio Abreu/Flickr

The Ordinary Story of Women Without Rights !!! 

Under the rolling hills of Colli Euganei—a group of volcanic hills that arise almost like an archipelago from the Po-Venetian plain, through which Italy’s longest river, Po, flows—nestles a small, nondescript town called Carbonara di Rovolon, whose parish was, for over a decade, revered, oftentimes disparaged, for offering shelter to immigrant girls rescued from prostitution rings in the Venice region. Over the years, many young women, forced into the sex trade after being brought to Italy on the pretext of landing lucrative jobs, had found shelter in this parish lying a few kilometers south-west of the province of Padua, one of the notable wine producing areas of the country.  
Euganean Hills
The immigrant girls sheltered in the parish were salvaged from the streets by a non-profit organization called Mimosa. Of all these girls, according to the then parish priest, Don Lino, only one was a Nigerian (a country with a large number of sex slaves in Italy), not because the parish was unwilling to shelter them but because Nigerian prostitutes were averse to breaking away from their pimps in order to get help, for fear of repercussions—centering mainly on the threat of harm to families back home.
But Benedetta—the only Nigerian girl sheltered in the parish—was an exception. She didn't
Carbonara di Rovolon Church
look like a commercial sex worker at first sight and that was unusual. Typically, the ‘profession’ of many Nigeria girls in this Mediterranean country is given away by their attire, which was not the case with Benedetta. Dressed in a blue turtleneck sweater, a pair of well-fitting jeans, and matching sneakers, she was the only immigrant girl in the parish who was taken there by the police, not Mimosa. Unlike the other girls, she did not labor under the illusion that the parish priest or Mimosa would help her get a temporary residence permit to avoid being deported. Benedetta, unlike the girls sheltered in the parish, was under house arrest. After spending four years in prison for drug trafficking, a crime she claimed to have committed at the behest of her pimp, her sentence was commuted to house arrest on humanitarian grounds.

Notwithstanding the accompanying drama, her story is a familiar one across Italy, where many Nigerian girls, upon their arrival after a hazardous journey through the North African desert, usually have their passports confiscated before being forced into prostitution. Recently, an online newspaper in Sicily, La Sicilia, documented a covert operation coordinated by the district attorney of Agrigento, tagged “Voodoo”, through which the "San Benedetto del Tronto" branch of the Italian military police, Carabineri, quashed a Nigerian human trafficking ring in the municipality of Ascoli Piceno. The newspaper said that five gang members—three men and two women—Uche & DestinyObuhBridget Owanlengba (residents of Ravenna), Endurance Obuh (a resident of Rome), and Famous Erengbo (a resident of "Castel di Lama" in the municipality of Ascoli Piceno), were arrested on the orders of Ottavio Mosti, a magistrate in Agrigento.

Inquiries into the operations of the gang, carried out in the provinces of Ascoli Piceno, Ravenna, Brindisi, and Rome, is said to be ongoing as some of those implicated are on the run. According to the report, the covert police operation began in August 2011 following the kidnap of a Nigerian girl who had sought refuge in a homeless shelter after escaping from her pimp. The police, through electronic surveillance, eventually tracked down the kidnapped girl, who recounted her story, which the investigators said was similar to those of many other Nigerian girls caught up in the prostitution trafficking ring. Working out the pattern of events piece by piece, the investigators detailed the activities of the traffickers and their organizational strategy, from the recruitment of the girls in Nigeria to the stopover in Libya, with acts of violence including rapes during the journey, as well as the illegal ferry crossing to the island of Lampedusa in Sicily.

Usually, after a stint in the holding centers, the girls are granted temporary residence permits and transferred to various cities. Members of the criminal gang, investigators found, recuperate the girls at this point, and send them into the streets as sex workers. In order to exercise absolute control over the girls, the criminal gangs usually avail themselves of the shenanigans of a sorcerer, who would then threaten the girls with the impairment of their families back in Nigeria through various voodoo rituals if they denounced their pimps.

In a magazine interview, one of such girls recounted her ordeal. “I was born into a large
Nigerian Girls in a Catholic Shelter for victims
family in Benin City (in the Niger Delta of Nigeria). Though my father had two wives, he managed to take good care of his family until his death, which brought untold hardship on me and my eight brothers and sisters. When I was 19, I met a certain lady who was a hairdresser by profession at the time. She asked me if I’d like to go to Italy where she could help me get a nice job and I said yes. A few days later, she accompanied me and a few other girls out of Nigeria, but the journey, quite strangely, ended in Abidjan," she said.

"We were stranded in this French-speaking country for weeks. I later met a man who promised to help me get to Italy. We embarked on a strange journey, from Abidjan to Morocco by air, from Morocco to Spain on foot, and from there to Turin (in Italy) by car. It was 1999. My traveling companion, who was also my boyfriend, turned out to be a pimp. In Turin, he took me to the home of a lady he said was his business partner, left me there and traveled to Austria, where he actually lived. I was not alone in Turin. Seven other Nigerian girls lived in the lady’s apartment with me. Every so often, the boyfriend/pimp visited from Austria, mainly to collect my earnings on the streets, deemed as partial refund of the cost of the trip he had financed to Italy." 
A juju ceremony in Cameroon | (cc) rbairdpccam/Flickr
There were occasional police raids, she told the magazine. "Oftentimes, when we were raided by the police, I made no attempt to escape, in the hope that an arrest could mean a rescue for me. But the police constantly let me go. And whenever I returned to the apartment, the lady would beat me up, accusing me of trying to get myself deported to avoid repaying my debt. One day, she told us she had acquired residence permits and asked us to pay for them. Convinced my permit was genuine, I escaped to the province of Pescara, where I hid in a hotel for two weeks. Unfortunately, my savings ran out, and to make ends meet, I had to return to the streets, where I met a man who, aware of the risks associated with being a fugitive in the streets, found me a job in a club. As fate would have it, the club was raided, and at the police station, my residence permit was discovered to be bogus. I was taken to a detention center in the provincial capital of Lecce and held for 31 days. When I was freed, I went back to Pescara, but having no means of livelihood, I couldn't help returning to the streets.

This time my boyfriend/pimp found me and threatened to hurt my mother back in Benin City if I stopped working for him. I was trapped in this vicious circle until 2007 when I finally escaped to Genoa, where a friend of mine lived in a community. I stayed there for nine months but couldn't get any tangible help because the community is only helpful to documented immigrants. So, once again, I had to escape, this time, to Bologna, where the Community of Pope John XXIII sheltered me for a couple of days before taking me to a foster home." It was at this point that her ordeal ended, according to the magazine interview. "Today, I have a residence permit and I share an apartment with two other Nigerian girls and an Italian.” 
Map of the Venice Region of Italy
While this story has a happy ending, not many Nigerian girls in Italy are so fortunate. Elena Perlino, an Italian photographer based in Paris, highlighted the plight of these girls in a thought-provoking photo series entitled Pipeline, to be featured in a new book, excerpts of which was published in the UK-based Mail newspaper. In it, the photographer illustrated how the girls’ dreams of a better life in Europe were transformed into a living hell after being tricked into the sex trade. “When I started to take pictures in 2005, I was interested in showing Nigerian women and their relationship with the environment they were in,” Perlino said. But during her commutes from Turin to Paris, she became aware of an increasing number of young Nigerian women working on the streets. “I decided to start from this surreal vision to tell a story. I have been working on it for several years, focusing mainly on the Italian connection.”

She showcased a phenomenon that traverses several Italian cities, including Turin, Milan, Genoa, Rome, Naples, Padua, and Palermo. Based on reports that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime listed Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest human trafficking rates in the world, Perlino believes that of those trafficked to Italy, eighty percent are from Benin City (the oil-rich but poverty-ridden Niger Delta region of Nigerian.) 

Isoke- Aikpitanyi
“The women are still coming,” Claudio Magnabosco, a journalist and former official of the European Parliament, said. “They are younger than ever and arrive here with massive debts to pay off.” He noted that a large number of the exploited girls are minors, and insisted they should not be called prostitutes, but aptly, slaves. 
Mr. Magnabosco, in a chance encounter in 2000, met a Nigerian prostitute named Isoke Aikpitanyi, who later became his wife, through whom he learnt about the criminal gang. Together, they founded an association called “The Girls of Benin City”—a network of former clients of prostitutes in Italy—to help discourage patronage in order to starve off the criminal gang exploiting them.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Woman Who Wants To Rule Spain

Helen Mukoro

She may not have had the time or the media wherewithal to hype herself up for the event. So, not many people knew that Helen Mukoro—a naturalized Spanish citizen of Nigerian descent—did, in fact, shatter a significant but little-noticed barrier in May this year when she became the first woman and the first non-white Spanish citizen to run for the office of mayor of Dénia, a key tourist city in the autonomous  community of Valencia. What makes the event noteworthy even today is that though Spain is not an openly racist country—and has no xenophobic party with parliamentary representation—blacks, in the Spanish mind is still synonymous with domestic work, poverty, and lawlessness. Helen Mukoro is the exact opposite of this portrait. Vigorous, cultured, and flamboyant, with a rather spectacular afro hair, she runs a legal firm and has worked as a legal consultant for the Red Cross in Spain, as well as being the author of more than 21 books.     

She entered the mayoral race on the platform of Unión De Todos (“Union of All”), a political party she founded three months earlier. While the move was unprecedented and to some extent, far-fetched, it was by no means uncharacteristic of a lady who migrated from her native Delta State in Nigeria to Spain in 1992 at the age of 23 and went on to study Law at the Spanish National University in Alicante, acquiring along the way post-graduate degrees and certificates in Criminology, Social Education, and Forensic Psychology. With little time at her disposition, following a legal tussle to determine the legitimacy of her candidacy on the grounds of citizenship, she went into the race, not for the fun of participating, but to win. It is important to note that while dual citizenship is recognized by the Spanish constitution, a naturalized citizen, however, is expected to renounce his/her original citizenship to become a Spanish national. Mukoro was said to have successfully proved that she had renounced her Nigerian citizenship and thus qualified to run for office in Spain. She lost.

Mukoro At a party meeting
Interestingly, losing the mayoral race did not discourage her; the process, in fact, galvanized her to up the ante. So, when news broke that she had declared her candidacy for the presidency of Spain, it seemed like a big deal—the ultimate coup de grâce to cynics—except that no one can be president of Spain, not even someone whose citizenship is based upon the principle of jus sanguinis (right of blood). That is because Spain—officially the Kingdom of Spain—does not have a president. The only time in the country’s history that the official title of President of Spain existed was during the Second Spanish Republic between 1931 and 1939. Today, Spain—the sixth largest economy in Europe—is a constitutional monarchy with the king as head of state and the prime minister as head of government.

King Felipe VI & Queen Letizia
It was therefore a little surprising when Mukoro, in response to a reporter’s question, “Why do you want to be president of Spain,” during a late summer interview with Lagos-based Punch newspapers, said “There are so many reasons for my presidential ambition...” rather than explain to the reporter that there was no such title as President of Spain. It is not clear if this was an oversight or sheer ignorance of the goal she had set herself. In Spain, when electorates go to the polls for national elections, they do not elect a president because there are no presidential candidates to choose from; they elect political parties. And the leader of the party with the most vote then asks for a parliamentary vote of confidence which, if won, automatically makes him prime minister, eligible to form a government. Now, aside from the erroneous representation of Mukoro’s candidacy and/or ambition, what are her chances of winning a national election in Spain?

Inspirational speaker
The answer might lie in the political structure of the country. Spain has a multi-party system at both national and regional levels. Historically, the country has been ruled almost exclusively by the two predominant political parties—the center right People’s Party (or as it’s known in Spain, Partido Popular, PP)  and the center left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (or Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE). In practice, though, the Spanish electorates’ perennially unresolved conflict between disillusionment with politicians and attachment to ideologies, has always made it difficult for either of the two dominant parties to achieve an electoral majority in both houses of parliament or the bicameral Cortes Generales, made up of the Congress of Deputies (which is national in structure) and the Senate (which is populated by regional representation). 

Current Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy
Like in Italy, whose political structure mirrors that of Spain, this difficulty in obtaining absolute majority generally gives rise to the formation of coalitions with smaller (sometimes regional) parties in order to garner the necessary votes for governance. Consequently, these regional parties, some of which are strong in autonomous communities like Catalonia and the Basque Country end up becoming the decisive factor in the creation of the national government. Over the years, these smaller parties have grown not only in strength but in number as well. And they closely follow the PP & PSOE in national opinion polls.

Pablo Iglesias
But last year, as a wave of populist movements—both rightwing and leftwing—swept across Europe, a new element entered the political fray in Spain, posing the biggest threat yet to the country’s major political parties. It is, unfortunately, not Helen Mukoro’s Unión De Todos but a phenomenal movement called Podemos (meaning “We Can”), founded in March 2014 by Pablo Iglesias, a member of the European parliament and former lecturer in political science at the Complutense University of Madrid. Created in the aftermath of the anti-austerity protests that rocked most of Europe last year (known as the 15-M Movement or Indignant Movement in Spain), Podemos, a leftwing party, seeks to address the same issues that Helen Mukoro, in interviews and campaign declarations, touts as her platform and strong suit—inequality, unemployment and economic malaise. But while Mukoro’s Unión De Todos is yet to make any significant impact outside her region, Podemos’ appeal, from the onset, was so strong that it became the third largest party at the national level within the first 20 days of its existence.

Spain is expected to hold national elections later this month (December 2015) to
Campaign Rally
elect a new parliament and one of the issues that will most likely sway voters is the issue of immigration, a major concern of Mukoro. While it might seem that her favorable stance on the issue might pull the immigrant population to her side, immigrants in Spain, unfortunately, do not have a right to vote. And though most candidates with little or no chance of winning at all, stay in the race to create enough buzz to get them noticed for possible ministerial appointments, Mukoro doesn’t even have the support of many Nigerians in Spain. A feud with the Nigerian embassy in Madrid (due to a comment she made about the conduct of certain Nigerians of the Igbo tribe tarnishing the country’s image), has remained unresolved and has created a lot of bad blood between her and the Igbo community in Spain.

Outside Nigerian Embassy in Spain
Furthermore, Mukoro’s Unión De Todos party failed to get a mention in a recent Celeste Tel poll for El Diario, which showed that contrary to expectations, no party will emerge from the December election with an outright majority, making a race for coalition building a possibility. Political watchers predict two possible scenarios—a coalition of the ruling PP and Ciudadanos, or the PSOE and Podemos. But as both seem to show a draw on 156 seats, a third possibility is foreseen and that is an alliance between the PSOE, Podemos and the two (regional) Catalan parties currently under the Junts Pel Sí ("Together For Yes") separatist banner in Catalonia (CDC and ERC). A coalition of this nature, which is not a remote possibility, would deliver an overall number of 176 seats required for a majority in the 350-seat Spanish Congress. And with it, parties with less than 1% score, would be as good as extinguished. 

So, where does that leave Helen Mukoro? Maybe the absence of her Unión De Todos party in the graph below says it all.
% Vote
Popular Party (PP)
Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE)
Convergencia (CDC)
Republican Catalan Left (ERC)