Freezing temperatures, tight security in U.S usher in New Year

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As the world welcomes 2018, millions in the U.S entered the New Year with freezing temperatures and security-related beef up in most cities.

Weather services said the bitter-cold temperatures, which ushered in the new year in parts of the U.S as record lows hit the Midwest states, dampened the New Year’s Eve celebrations in many cities.

The negative-degrees temperatures made it the second-coldest New Year’s Eve on record, matching 1962, according to AccuWeather.com.

In New York‘s Times Square, temperatures hovered around minus 12 degrees Celsius but the wind chill factor made it feel like minus 18 degrees Celsius, according to the National Weather Service.

Freezing temperatures also swept through the Midwest and Northeast as New York City braces for its coldest New Year’s Eve since the 1960s, the service said.

Wind chills on Sunday fell to zero degrees in New York City, minus 16 degrees in Boston and minus 43 degrees in Watertown, New York.

That made it the second-coldest New Year’s Eve on record, matching 1962, according to weather services.

Multiple low-temperature records were also broken on Sunday with Flint, Michigan, hitting an all-time December record low of minus 17 degrees on Sunday, weather services said.

International Falls, Minnesota, set a record low at minus 36 degrees, and Cotton, Minnesota, broke another record with a whopping low temperature of minus 41 degrees.

With wind chills as low as 35 degrees below zero, skin could freeze in a matter of 10 to 30 minutes if exposed, medical personnel warned.

Revelers from around the world crowded into New York’s Times Square on the bone-chilling Sunday evening to watch the glittering New Year’s Eve ball make its annual descent at midnight to ring in 2018.

The ball drop, a tradition that dated to 1907, three years after New Yorkers started gathering en masse in Times Square, ushered in the new year.

The lighted ball, a geodesic sphere 12 feet in diameter and covered by illuminated crystals, descended 70 feet in the final 60 seconds.

About two million people hoping to see musical acts and other entertainment up close in Times Square passed by heavily armed officers along with dogs trained to detect explosives.

They also went through a magnetometer to check for weapons, have their bags inspected, then repeated all those steps a second time.

Six thousands police personnel were on hand, some heavily armed, others undercover with rooftop snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs and thousands of officers, which the New York Police Department (NYPD) said it hoped for a safe start to 2018.

Police cars, dump trucks filled with sand and cement blocks were again used to close streets starting from Sunday morning while about 125 parking garages in the area were emptied of all cars and sealed, according to NYPD.

“The idea is to have enough of a visual deterrence so people will look at this and say it’s a hard target,” John Miller, the Deputy Commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism said.

New York’s security plan for about one million expected revelers included radiations scanners and bag checks, plus multi-tonne trucks and concrete barriers to guard against a vehicle attack.

There was also a special focus on aerial security, with officers inside about two dozen nearby hotels ready to combat a sniper-style assault, NYPD said.

“What you’re looking for is to do what people expect but also what your adversary might not expect,” Miller said.

Other cities like Houston are also on high-alert with Chicago police saying they were adding specialised teams with a focus on vehicle-style attacks while for the first time, Miami would conduct random security checks at its outdoor events.

 

 

 

2018 budget: Financial expert urges FG to work with NASS on early passage

 

A financial expert, Prof. Sheiffdeen Tella, on Monday called on the Federal Government to work closely with the National Assembly to ensure speedy passage of 2018 budget.

Tella, a Professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in Ogun, said in Lagos that this was to avoid returning the country to recession.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on November 7, 2017 presented before a joint session of the National Assembly, a budget proposal of N8.612 trillion for the 2018 fiscal year.

This represents 16 per cent increase of N7.298 trillion over the 2017 budget.

The budget had been generating controversy since it was presented by President Buhari.

Tella said Federal Government should work on the Mational Assembly (NASS) to pass the budget on time and set to start its implementation immediately.

The expert said budget implementation could only be achieved with early passage of the budget. He said all attempts should be made to grow the economy faster to avoid returning the country to recession.

“Federal Government should start implementation of the capital aspect of the budget, particularly power, road and rail infrastructure and mining as well as financial sector development to engineer cheap or affordable credits for industrial sector.

“Increase in money supply is likely to increase due to increased political activities, but that will be from the second quarter. It can cause inflation, if improved production does not begin from the end of first quarter.

“So, budget implementation must start early if the budget is passed early in the year.

“All efforts must be made to grow the economy faster to avoid returning to recession,” Tella said.

He said the progress made on the economy in 2017 would leap frog in 2018 on improved policy implementation.

The economist said the pace of diversification of economy, through agriculture and industrialisation, should be pursued steadily and consistently with appropriate corporation between monetary and fiscal policy makers.

Tella said the country should be interested in domestic production of refined fuel than importation, adding that action on modular refinery should be intensified.

He said power supply should progress more in such that alternative energy sources like solar and wind should be improved upon and diverted to non-commercial areas.

Tella said energy from gas and thermal sources should be diverted for industrial use. He said improvement in power supply would bring down the cost of production greatly for effective competition of domestic goods and imported.

According to him, the use of local raw materials in production will also reduce importation and cost of production arising from exchange rate problems.

On the capital market, he said the market performance in 2017 was quite impressive and would likely continue in 2018 with the right policy.

“If interest rate falls and businesses go to the market to raise funds, the market performance will improve faster, otherwise if economy remains sluggish, the capital market can suffer from patronage,” Tella said.