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Haitians arrive Enugu to trace their Igbo origin

Inquest of identity

A delegation of Haitian citizens has arrived Enugu State, South Eastern Nigeria, on a mission to trace their ancestral origin to Igbo land.

The leader of the delegation Senator Moise Jean Charles was accompanied by some Haiti nationals for the historic fact-finding mission

The delegation was received by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who is represented by the Secretary to the state government, Simon Ortuanya.

Haiti is the first independent black republic in the world that defeated King Napoleon and the Fresh colonists in 1803 and became a sovereign nation in 1804.

Back to nativity

Haiti is the second oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere after the United States of America and was also the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery.

The Igbo lineage of the Haitian people has been a lingering story over the years, taking facts from the culture of the people of Haiti whose population derives from black slaves who got liberated from areas around the United States of America.

Some 12 years ago, the late journalist and administrator Dimgba Igwe of The Sun Newspaper wrote a column in the paper of his encounter with a Haitian woman when he visited the country.

He had narrated how a lady housekeeper in the hotel he stayed at the Haitian capital, Port Au Prince told him her name was Adanna.

As he in surprise told the woman that the name is an Igbo name that meant first daughter, the Haitian woman, corrected him and said that her father said her name actually means father’s first daughter. He expressed his shock and surprise that the Haitian lady knew the more detailed meaning of the name in Igbo language than himself an Igbo man.

Airlines seem to have overcome the 5G operation hitch


Airline executives breathed a sigh of relief to their investors Thursday, saying they believe the threat to their operations from the rollout of 5G technology is now behind them.

Although AT&T and Verizon have agreed only to temporarily delay 5G deployment at major airports, the CEOs of American and United both said there will now be a resolution of the dispute without thousands of delayed, diverted or canceled flights. They had been predicting those dire consequences earlier this week.

“It’s taken a while to get to the right spot, but I feel like we’re in the right spot,” said Doug Parker, the CEO of American Airlines. “I don’t think you’re going to see any material disruption going forward because of this.”

“While I wish it happened earlier, the good news is we now have everyone engaged, the FAA and DOT at the highest levels, the … aircraft manufacturers, airlines and the telecoms,” said Scott Kirby, the United CEO. “While we don’t have a final resolution quite yet, I’m confident we’ll get there.”

The Federal Communications Commission auctioned off the C-band spectrum to US wireless carriers last year — an $81 billion sale that would allow them to provide robust — and lucrative — 5G service. But the airlines soon started screaming that use of that technology near airports could interfere with aircraft radar altimeters, an instrument that tells pilots how high their plane is off the ground. Altimeters are crucial for landing airplanes in low-visibility conditions.

That could have meant widespread, continual and costly schedule disruptions — perhaps delaying tens of thousands of flights a year. It could have costs billions of dollars to the industry that has lost tens of billions in the last two years due to the pandemic.

Canceled or delayed flights, no matter the cause, are costly. Just two weeks of disruptions during the recent holiday travel season caused by lack of staff due to Omicron cases and bad weather cost Delta $80 million. This had the potential to create schedule disruptions unlike anything seen in decades.

After a couple of temporary 5G service delays, the White House and the telecoms this week reached a deal to delay the rollout of the technology near airports until there can be a consensus on how to address the potential problem.

The telecom companies sounded less than pleased with the truce.

“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” AT&T spokesperson Megan Ketterer. CNN is owned by AT&T.

But the airline executives voiced confidence there can be an agreement in short order that will satisfy all parties.

“The technical experts that are working on it tell us it’s really not that complicated once they all are able to share information and work on it,” Parker said Thursday. “So they seem encouraged that we’ll be able to address this in a way that allows for full deployment of 5G, including near airports. I don’t expect until we get to the point that everyone is really comfortable that you’ll see anything turned on near airports, because no one wants to go through this again.”

There are still some problems for regional airlines that fly smaller planes, including American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express. Faye Malarkey Black, president of the Regional Airline Association said her member are still waiting to see what rules will apply in cases of bad visibility for their flights.

“Manufacturers for regional aircraft have submitted those same plans to the FAA,” Black told CNN. “They have not heard word back. We don’t know when they’ll hear word back.”

But, after a number of international airlines US suspended flights because of 5G concerns, most of those flights have resumed.


Mastercard launches instant B2B payments


Mastercard on Thursday (Jan. 20) unveiled its Mastercard Track Instant Pay, a virtual card solution for instant B2B payments, according to a press release.

“Integrated with Mastercard Track Business Payment Service, Mastercard’s open-loop B2B network, the new, first-of-its-kind virtual card solution delivers greater choice, efficiency and automation for buyers and suppliers to help streamline and speed business payments,” the company said.

Mastercard says Mastercard Track is designed to help customers avoid slower and more complicated payment methods, such as ACH.

And while there’s a growing demand by businesses to use virtual cards to automate payments to suppliers, many of these solutions aren’t meeting those needs, as 90% of virtual card transactions are still being processed manually.

“Mastercard Track Instant Pay is the first virtual card solution that can safely and intelligently authorize an immediate payment to a supplier once they submit an invoice,” the company said.

This tool uses machine learning and AI from the business finance firm Previse to analyze invoices and identify those likely to be rejected, thus allowing the rest to be approved for payment the day they’re received. With straight-through processing, digital payments are sent securely to a supplier’s bank account via a Mastercard virtual card, with no need for manual intervention.

“Delayed payments create significant challenges for businesses financially and operationally, especially in today’s environment,” said Ron Shultz, executive vice president, new payment flows, North America at Mastercard. “Track Instant Pay helps solve these pain points by enabling buyers and suppliers to automate their manual payment processes, unlocking valuable time, working capital and choice.”

Shultz was one of the executives who contributed to In a Word: 50 Thought Leaders Sum Up 2021,” where he spoke in part about the importance of automation in B2B payments.

“Early in the pandemic, when no one was at offices to handle paperwork, invoicing and check processing ground to a screeching halt,” he said. “As a result, 82% of small businesses changed how they send and receive payments, and 51% pivoted their clients to digital payment methods, Mastercard found.”


Nigeria’s bond issuance oversubscribed by N139b, says DMO


The Debt Management Office (DMO) says the country’s January bond issuance valued at N214.05 billion ended with an oversubscription of N139 billion.

The debt office disclosed in the FGN bond result released on Wednesday.

It said the auction, which ended on January 19, has a settlement date of January 22, 2022.

The agency offered two tranches of bonds worth N75 billion each.

According to DMO, it offered a reopened 10-year bond at 12.50 percent and a newly-issued 20-year bond at 13.00 percent. 

Both issuances have a maturity date of January 22, 2026, and January 21, 2042, respectively. 

It also said the auction has a term-to maturity period of 4 years and 20 years.

The agency noted that the auction concluded with 160 successful bids out of the 254 bids it received. 

It further said the amount allotted culminated in N81.72 billion and N88.92 billion for the first and second bond offers. 

Also, DMO noted that the bids received for the 10-year bond ranged from 10.80 percent to 13.25 percent, while the 20-year bond ranged from 11 percent to 14.50 percent. 

“Successful bids for the 12.50% FGN JAN 2026 & 13.00% FGN JAN 2042 were allotted at the Marginal Rates of 11.50% and 13.00%, respectively,” the statement reads. 

“However, the original coupon rates of 12.5000% for the 12.5000% FGN JAN 2026 will be maintained, while the coupon rate for the 13.00% FGN JAN 2042 (New Issue), is set at 13.00%.”

Omicron is adding fuel to mental health crisis


It’s been nearly two years since COVID-19 turned life as we knew it upside down, sending rates of depression and anxiety soaring. Then in November, just when many people began to feel that the pandemic was easing, the wildly infectious omicron strain brought new fears of illness, as well as despair: Will this thing ever end?

“Our brains are not designed to live under chronic stress,” says Karen Hahn, 54, a social worker in Washington, D.C., who says she has upped her dosage of antidepressants in recent weeks to try to lift herself out of a self-defeating depression-inertia loop worsened by omicron. “I’m laying on the couch napping all day Saturday going, ‘Yeah, if I could just put my tennis shoes on and go outside and walk for an hour I’d feel better.’ But I can’t even do that. I just want to nap.”  

Americans’ mental health needs during the pandemic already began raising alarms months ago. Last year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine (see box below), which offers support for mental health and substance abuse issues, received 1,027,381 calls. That’s up 23 percent from 2020 — when call volume was up 27 percent over 2019. 

But the emotional strain has grown more acute in recent months, health experts say. Texas’ statewide mental health COVID support line, for example, has seen a 20 percent increase in calls since early December, says Greg Hansch, a social worker and executive director of the Texas chapter of NAMI.

While part of that uptick in calls for help was driven by the stress of the holiday season, he notes, it’s also related to “the uncertainty of the omicron variant.” Anxiety is often stoked by uncertainty, says Hansch, who believes that the pandemic’s general unpredictability “has been a big driver of a lot of the mental health concerns of the last few years.”

He also cites older people’s genuine anxiety about getting sick, since they’re more likely to suffer negative effects from a COVID-19 infection, as well as grief, with so many lives lost and experiences missed (weddings, grandchildren’s births). There’s also “guilt and shame, for people who do contract COVID-19 feeling like they’ve failed in some way,” he adds.

As we near the start of the pandemic’s third year (it officially began on March 11, 2020, based on the World Health Organization’s declaration), nerves are more frayed than ever, says Katherine Gold, M.D., an associate professor in family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and a primary care physician. “We’re absolutely seeing just exhaustion from the pandemic,” she reports. “People are tired of isolating and tired of all the restrictions and just tired of the fear of getting COVID — not only patients with existing mental health conditions, but people who don’t really have a diagnosis of a mental health condition are feeling increasingly isolated, or anxious.”

She and other experts say the persistent pandemic is responsible for exacerbating two particularly big risk factors for mental health issues:


Reza Hosseini Ghomi, M.D., a geriatric neuropsychiatrist in Billings, Montana, says he’s seeing more depression and anxiety among his older patients, sometimes as a result of the loneliness that can come with isolation. It “manifests typically as either anxiety or depression. [There’s] a lot of sadness, hopelessness, ‘Oh, this is never going to end.’ And a lot of sleep issues.”  

Loneliness can worsen our health on many levels; it rivals smoking for its negative impact, and raises the risk of dementia by 50 percent, according to a 2020 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“Human beings are social animals,” says Samoon Ahmad, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine whose book Coping With COVID-19: The Medical, Mental, and Social Consequences of the Pandemic comes out in April. “We need to interact with other humans. When we are placed in isolation for long periods of time, we deteriorate psychologically and physically and these two have a reciprocal effect — meaning psychological deterioration accelerates physical deterioration and vice versa.”    

Chronic stress

Many people have felt higher levels of anxiety for many months now, making it a chronic problem with potentially serious health consequences (among other things, it can suppress the immune system). “People are very resilient — we tend to recover from even deeply traumatic events,” says Ahmad. “But that process of recovery becomes more difficult if the stress does not let up.”

With the rise of omicron, he adds, “I worry that people have not had time to recover from previous waves, and that this is going to lead to even more people experiencing some of the most common symptoms associated with stress disorders.”

Those include:

Intrusive thoughts or dreams associated with the traumatic experience 

Social withdrawal (or avoiding items, people or places associated with the experience)

Negative mood 

Hypervigilance (the sensation of being constantly on guard and easily startled)

Difficulty sleeping 

Low energy

Another risk associated with chronic stress: self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. In a February 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 23 percent of adults reported drinking more in the first year of the pandemic. Like the anxiety alcohol users may be trying to alleviate, heavy drinking can impair immune function, as well as exacerbate other health conditions common among older adults, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Ahmed says he’s seeing more alcohol consumption among his own patients. “It’s not that someone who used to only drink occasionally is suddenly going through a bottle of vodka every two or three days,” he notes. “Instead, it’s people who used to drink socially and have maybe six or seven drinks per month are noticing that they might have two or three drinks per night.”

Finding professional help

If you think therapy can help you, be persistent in finding the right therapist. Many are so busy they’re turning away new clients, says Gold, who’s been frustrated trying to find mental health professionals to whom she can refer her patients. “We don’t have enough people doing mental health care, and those who are doing it are just booked for weeks.” In the APA’s September 2021 survey of psychologists, 41 percent of 1,141 respondents said they were unable to meet demand for treatment, up from 30 percent in 2020.  

But don’t give up, says Ghomi: “I always tell people, go ahead and call five different people all at once, rather than one at a time. Cast a wide net… talk to a bunch of different people, and then decide.”

If you don’t have a referral, Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist and the APA’s Psychologist Locator, are good resources. Type in your zip code and you’ll find a list of professionals near you. Another way to go: Narrow the prospects based on your insurance to find in-network providers. After you’ve pared down your search, interview potential therapists by giving each one a call or requesting a free consultation. (Keep in mind, right now most therapists are conducting sessions over the phone or video conferencing because of the coronavirus.) For more on the different kinds of therapy and finding one that fits your needs, see our story “How to Find the Right Therapist.”


PHOTO: Google Images