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Negative words do not help the spirit of the country’ – Ofori-Atta tells Ato Forson

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Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has entreated the Ranking Member on Parliament’s Finance Committee, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, to desist from making pessimistic comments that derail the hope of a better economy.

According to the Finance Minister, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), is not a reliable entity to fall on when discussing measures to be implemented to save the Ghanaian economy.

His comment is in reaction to concerns by Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, that government’s fiscal measures to salvage the economy and restore investor confidence would yield no result.

In a tweet, he wrote: “The fiscal measures announced today are just cosmetic and empty. It will further erode confidence in the economy”.

But speaking to the press on Thursday, Mr Ofori-Atta stated that it is the opposition party’s duty to state their response on government initiatives, however, Ghana would have been worse-off if interventions from the NDC were implemented by the incumbent government.

“Let me be very clear. If I had followed an NDC programmed economic transformation for this country, we would not be here,” he stressed.

For Dr Ato Forson, who is a former Deputy Finance Minister, government should rather place a moratorium on new loans, cut 2022 foreign-financed projects by at least 50 per cent, and “deliver on promise to review all flagship programs.”

But the Finance Minister believes that if Dr Ato Forson was committed to boosting investor confidence, the Minority in Parliament would have passed government’s revenue measures.

We have all been partners in seeing how the economy was run from 2017 to 2019 and it is very clear the impact of Covid-19 on this economy, yet still we have been able to see some growth within that period.

The issue therefore of investor confidence, is he (Ato Forson) going to take responsibility for his inability, maybe, and for his party not passing our revenue measures in the House?”

Mr Ofori-Atta indicated that the Minority’s failure to support government led to Ghana’s downgrade and its inability to go to the international market in the first quarter.

Due to this, the sector Minister said “we (government) went out with a 20 per cent cut, so that we can shrink our expenses to make sure we still meet a 7.4 per cent that we have promised.”

The Finance Minister, therefore, called on Dr Ato Forson to stop the “negative words” as such actions “do not help the spirit of the country.”

Moody’s downgrades Ghana’s rating to Caa1

In February this year, Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) downgraded the Government of Ghana’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings to Caa1 from B3 and changed the outlook to stable from negative.

The downgrade to Caa1 reflects the increasingly difficult task the government faces addressing its intertwined liquidity and debt challenges. Weak revenue generation constrains government’s budget flexibility and tight funding conditions on international markets have forced the government to rely on costly debt with shorter maturity.

Moody’s estimates that interest payments will absorb more than half the government’s revenue over the foreseeable future, which is exceptionally high compared to peers at all rating levels. As a remedy, the government has proposed sharp fiscal consolidation and a switch to borrowings from external partners on more favourable terms.

Finance Ministry appeals against Moody’s downgrade of Ghana’s rating

But the Finance Ministry appealed against the downgrade of the country’s credit rating to Caa1, from B3 by ratings agency Moody’s.

The Ministry cited the omission of key material information from the assumptions driving some of Moody’s forecasts and projections such as the 2022 budget expenditure control measures, the 2022 upfront fiscal adjustments and inaccurate balance of payment statistics as well as the appointment of a new primary credit analyst, only four weeks prior to such a major credit rating decision as the major reasons.

It also questioned the committee’s refusal to consider deferring such a  monumental rating action until the analyst had enough time to more fully understand both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the Ghana credit story.

Government’s measures to mitigate economic hardship

Meanwhile, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has revealed a wide range of plans to salvage the country’s economy. They include;

  • Discretionary spending is to be further cut by an additional 10%.
  • 50% cut in fuel coupon allocations for all political appointees and Heads of government institutions, including SOEs, effective 1st April 2022.
  • Imposition of a complete moratorium on the purchase of imported vehicles for the rest of the year with immediate effect. This will affect all new orders, especially 4-wheel drives. This is geared towards reducing total vehicle purchases by the public sector by at least 50 percent for the period.
  • Government has imposed a moratorium on all foreign travels, except pre-approved critical/statutory travels.
  • Government will conclude on-going measures to eliminate “ghost” workers from the Government payroll by end December 2022;
  • Government will conclude the renegotiation of the Energy Sector IPPs capacity charges by end of Q3-2022 to further reduce excess capacity payments by 20% to generate a total savings of GHS1.5 billion;
  • impose a moratorium on establishment of new public sector institutions by end April, 2022.
  • prioritise ongoing public projects over new projects to enhance the efficient use of limited public funds over the period by finishing ongoing or stalled but approved projects.

BY MCEE CARTHY

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R. Kelly Promised 17-Year-Old McDonald’s Worker ‘Cuddles’ That Turned Into Him Filming Explicit Tape, Prosecutors Claim

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Prosecutors accused R. Kelly of picking up one of his victims at a local McDonald’s with false promises of “cuddles” that turned into a relationship filled with horrific abuse filmed by the singer.

Last year, Kelly was found guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering by a New York jury. His sentencing is scheduled for June 28.

In court documents filed by New York prosecutors, they lay out the specific abuse each girl suffered at the hands of Kelly. They describe in great detail the disgraced singer’s encounters with a young girl named Stephanie.

In 1998, the government said Kelly noticed Stephanie working at a McDonald’s in Chicago. He had one of his associates approach her, point out Kelly, and gave her the singer’s telephone number — despite her informing the associate she was 16.

rkelly  pm #1

The court docs state Stephanie threw away the phone number. However, a year later, she approached Kelly after running into him at a store. She asked if he was willing to listen to her friend’s music and potentially help her out.

Kelly allegedly told Stephanie that “he thought he could arrange that, but he’d like to get to know [Stephanie] and he also said he liked to cuddle and would [Stephanie] be okay with that,” to which Stephanie responded yes.”

Kelly gave Stephanie his number and told her to call him. She eventually ended up at his Chicago studio where they had sexual relations. The government said the singer was well aware of Stephanie’s age because she told him.

“They continued to have sex over the next approximately six months. Stephanie’s sexual interactions with [Kelly] were “humiliating,” the motion reads.

rkelly  pm #2

Stephanie told investigators, “[Kelly] would be very specific in how he wanted me to be. He would put me in positions that he wanted me to be in. He would tell me that he wanted me — he’d tell me to get undressed and then he would position my body in a way and he would then say, all right, I’m going to go and when I come back I want you to be just like this,” she said. “So I would just be completely naked with my b— in the air and just like waiting there for him to come have his way … Sometimes hours.”

She told the feds if Kelly found her not in the right position when he returned he would become “disappointed and angry.” She said Kelly also took her to his townhouse and directed her to participate in his creation of child pornography, videotaping her naked and as he engaged in sexual activity with her.”

In 1999, Kelly allegedly paid for Stephanie to travel to Florida. While in a studio, he allegedly used a handheld video camera to record Stephanie’s face as his p—- was in her mouth and she was giving him oral sex. In yet another act of humiliation, [Kelly] ejaculated on her face and did not let her wipe it off”. He forced her to walk down the public hall to another bathroom to wipe her face.

Kelly also ordered Stephanie not to talk to other men.

rkelly

The government writes, “On one occasion, she was at a Houston’s restaurant in Chicago with the defendant and two rappers. Stephanie was not allowed to speak to the rappers during the meal, but heard the defendant tell them “that he likes young girls and that people make such a big deal of it but it really isn’t a big deal because, even, look at Jerry Lee Lewis, he’s a genius and I’m a genius and we should be allowed to do whatever we want because of what we give to this world,”

Lewis infamously married his 13-year-old cousin in 1958. Prosecutors believe the judge should consider the story when sentencing Kelly next week.

Kelly has asked the judge not to throw the book at him. He said a 10-year prison sentence would suffice.

As RadarOnline.com previously reported, once Kelly’s New York case wraps up he will head over to Illinois to deal with a separate criminal case over similar allegations.

Sourcelink

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38 Nigerians Have Been Killed While Fighting For Ukraine Against Russia: Report

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According to the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMOD), 38 Nigerians have been killed while fighting for Ukraine against Russia.

In a report published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, it was stated that 85 Nigerians arrived in Ukraine after a global call was made by Ukraine for assistance. While 38 have been killed so far in the war between Ukraine and Russia, 35 have returned to Nigeria and 12 are still fighting to defend Ukraine.

“Against the backdrop of the Kiev regime’s mounting military failures and massive daily losses in manpower and equipment, the flow of foreign mercenaries to Ukraine has not only decreased, but is actually turning in the opposite direction,” Russian Defense Ministry stated.

While dozens are left fighting for Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia, there have been reports of many returning to their home country, despite the increase in payments to fight for Kiev, the Capital city of Ukraine.

“Despite the Kiev regime’s efforts and increased payments, the process of mercenaries leaving to the ‘other world’ or back to their countries of residence has not been stopped by the Kiev leadership”, the statement added.

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U.S Army Eases Tattoo Restrictions With New Policy

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A Soldier from 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division poses after executing physical readiness training on Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Hawaii, May 18, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rachel Christensen)

To help compete for top talent, the Army has updated its regulations for tattoos, cutting processing times for new recruits who have the body art.

Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth made it official today by signing the updated directive that allows recruits and current Soldiers to receive tattoos on their hands, the back of their ears and the back of their necks.

The Army will now allow Soldiers to have one tattoo on each hand that does not exceed one inch in length. Soldiers also have the option to place one tattoo no larger than two inches on the back of their neck and one, inch-long tattoo behind each ear. Additionally, tattoos can be impressed between fingers as long as the designs cannot be seen when the fingers are closed.

Previously, recruits who had tattoos in these areas had to file waiver exceptions and sometimes had to wait weeks before they could be processed into service.

“We always review policy to keep the Army as an open option to as many people as possible who want to serve,” said Maj. Gen. Doug Stitt, Director of Military Personnel Management. “This directive makes sense for currently serving Soldiers and allows a greater number of talented individuals the opportunity to serve now.”

The Army will continue to prohibit tattoos on a Soldier’s face and the body art will continue to be allowed on a Soldier’s arms and legs as long as they do not become visible above a Soldier’s collar. Soldiers may not cover up tattoos with bandages or wrappings to comply with the regulation.

Sgt. Maj. Ashleigh Sykes, uniform policy sergeant major, said that a Soldier may choose to get tattoos for a wide range of reasons. Some see tattoos as form of creativity while others can get tattoos for religious reasons.

“Everyone has a different reason for getting a tattoo,” said Sykes who has tattoos herself. “Some see it as art, some see it as individuality, and some may even have cultural tattoos. Tattoos are more [accepted] now; it’s a change in society.”

Through May, Army recruiters have filed more than 650 waivers in 2022 for active duty and reserve recruits said David Andrews, Army Training and Doctrine Command enlisted chief.

Andrews said that tattoos have grown in popularity among younger people. According to research by TRADOC, 41% of 18 to 34 year olds have at least one or more tattoos. The Army originally began allowing Soldiers to have tattoos in 2015, granting more freedom for individual expression.

Sykes added that the waivers, which can take up to 14 days impacts the recruiting process because potential recruits who previously had tattoos in restricted areas could have decided to enlist in another military branch. He said that the Navy and the Marines have less restrictive tattoo policies.

Army Recruiting Command and TRADOC recommended the changes to Army senior leaders.

“Some may change their mind or go to a different service,” Sykes said. “[Or] they just didn’t want to wait anymore.”

According to the directive, tattoo designs must not contain any offensive, extremist or hateful words or images. Company commanders perform annual inspections of tattoos so that the tattoos remain within Army regulations.

Soldiers who have tattoos that do not meet the service’s restrictions will be counseled. They will then have 15 days to explain to commanders whether they will have the tattoos removed or altered. Soldiers who do not comply could potentially face separation.

While facial tattoos remain prohibited, Sykes said that some Soldiers may file for an exception if they would like to receive a facial tattoo for religious reasons. Previously, the service only allowed ring tattoos on hands.

“[The directive] gives us the opportunity to put people in [the Army] right away that have these types of tattoos,” Andrews said. “We don’t want people walking away from opportunities in the Army who are otherwise qualified.”

The Army relaxed restrictions on tattoos in 2015 when the service updated Army Regulation 670-1 to remove limits on the number of tattoos Soldiers could have on legs and arms. Andrews said the limits on tattoos impacted the Army’s ability to recruit top talent.

Several Soldiers have stated that the change allowed them to join the Army including Army Ranger, Staff Sgt. Matthew Hagensick a Madison, Wisconsin native who sports many tattoos on his arms.

Hagensick enlisted in the Army after the service updated the regulation in 2015 and he later went on to win the 2018 Soldier of the Year contest.

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