A Post-American Africa – By Reuben Brigety August 2018

TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS African leaders gathered at the Assembly of Heads of State and the Governments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 2017.

Africa is transforming rapidly, and the United States’ approach to Africa is not keeping pace. While other countries are jumping at opportunities to invest in growing African economies, the United States is struggling to keep up. China’s commitments to the continent are stronger than ever, as evidenced by the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, during which China and African countries will strengthen cooperation on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, sign a number of bilateral agreements, and sign a communiqué calling for “a stronger community with a shared future between China and Africa.” U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, delayed two years before finally appointing an assistant secretary for African Affairs last month, and his administration has committed a series of diplomatic blunders in its relations with the continent, such as snubbing the chair of the African Union Commission in a botched visit to Washington and punishing Rwanda for imposing tariffs on secondhand clothes from the United States. On a deeper level, the United States has failed to outline any kind of serious, long-term agenda for engagement with Africa, leaving the continent’s leaders wondering about the future of U.S.-African partnership.

On August 20, First Lady Melania Trump announced that she would make a solo trip to Africa in October. (The goals and itinerary of the trip have not yet been announced.) Her visit is long overdue. For decades, U.S. presidential administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, have partnered with African governments and regional institutions to save African lives, improve African economies, and stop African wars. They did so based on the premise that helping Africa prosper also served the interests of the United States. Past administrations enjoyed the privileged position of being a “partner of choice” to Africa. For example, when Rwandan troops needed to be airlifted to the Central African Republic in 2014 to support an African Union peacekeeping force, they called on the U.S. Air Force for support. When the AIDS pandemic threatened to wipe out an entire generation of young Africans, the United States responded with the transformational President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR). And thousands of young Africans studied in American universities in the 1960s and 1970s, and rose to prominent roles in government and business in their home countries years later. But the United States is now in danger of losing its status Africa’s “partner of choice,” supplanted by China and others. If the United States is to regain its standing with African countries, both the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector must make serious efforts to improve their understanding of Africa: how it is changing, how other actors are responding to those changes, and what the implications are for their own approaches to the continent.

Article continues:

Anticipation builds around Mueller as 60-day election window nears – JOSH MEYER 08/30/2018 06:54 PM EDT

The cutoff is not a hard and fast rule, but some former prosecutors expect Mueller to bend over backward to avoid taking steps that might be construed as improper before the midterms.

Robert Mueller.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team have managed, so far, to keep their plans about the timing — and the targets — of indictments almost entirely under wraps. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP Getty Images

The window closes next week for special counsel Robert Mueller to take any more bombshell actions before midterm season officially kicks off, and people in the president’s orbit and across Washington are watching with heightened anticipation that a final pre-election surprise could come soon.

Longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone emailed supporters Monday and asked for donations to his legal defense fund, saying he believes his indictment is imminent.

The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly called on Mueller to wrap up his investigation into Trump by the end of next week, when the midterms will be two months away.

“Just a few days before 60 day run-up to 2018 elections,” Giuliani tweeted Saturday from his golfing vacation in Scotland. “If Mueller wants to show he’s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction.”

The increased attention stems from Justice Department guidelines that recommend against law enforcement taking major investigative or prosecutorial actions close to an election, so as not to unduly influence voters. Although primaries have been underway for months, Giuliani and others have said the 60-day period before the election should be free of any big activity by Mueller’s team.

But a close read of Justice Department policy shows that the cutoff is not a hard and fast rule, according to more than a dozen current and former Justice Department officials and other legal experts.

Article continues:

Japan to Spend Billions on U.S. Missile-Defense System – By Alastair Gale and Chieko Tsuneoka Aug. 31, 2018 1:31 a.m. ET

POTUS has called for Tokyo buy more American military equipment to reduce its trade surplus with Washington and its dependency on U.S. protection

An advanced Global Hawk surveillance drone displayed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.

An advanced Global Hawk surveillance drone displayed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. Photo: Eric Talmadge/Associated Press

TOKYO—Japan is set to pay $2.1 billion for a new U.S. missile-defense system, one of its largest military acquisitions, as pressure from President Trump accelerates Tokyo’s spending on American military hardware.

Japan is already among the biggest global buyers of U.S. arms, ranking alongside countries in the Middle East in recent years with purchases of F-35 stealth jet fighters and Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft.

Even so, last year Mr. Trump called for Tokyo buy “massive amounts” of U.S. military equipment to reduce its trade surplus with Washington and its dependency on U.S. protection. Under a security alliance formed after World War II, the U.S. has military bases across Japan. The U.S. Seventh Fleet is permanently stationed near Tokyo.

Support for the alliance is strong in Japan, particularly during periods of tension with North Korea or China.

Article continues:

Justice Department Sides Against Harvard In Racial Discrimination Lawsuit – Merrit Kennedy August 30, 2018

The U.S. Department of Justice is throwing its support behind an anti-affirmative action group that is suing Harvard University over alleged racial discrimination in its admissions policies.

In a document filed in federal court on Thursday, the Justice Department said it is siding with Students for Fair Admissions in its request for a trial, currently scheduled to begin in mid-October.

The Justice Department said in a press release that Harvard has “failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian Americans.”

Harvard has filed a motion for summary judgment in its favor, which if approved by a judge would mean the case would not be tried. It argues that the lawsuit is baseless.

In a statement, Harvard said it was “deeply disappointed” that the Justice Department has taken the plaintiff’s side, “recycling the same misleading and hollow arguments that prove nothing more than the emptiness of the case against Harvard.”

“Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years,” the university added.

This lawsuit dates back to 2014, and alleges that Harvard is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. In its court filing Thursday, the Justice Department says Harvard receives “millions of taxpayer dollars every year.”

The Justice Department says Harvard’s admissions office uses a “personal rating” for applicants. It says in the court filing that the “vague and elusory” scoring system of “subjective” factors could be biased against Asian-Americans. According to the Justice Department, “it scores Asian-American applicants lower on the personal rating than white applicants.”

Article continues:

Is It Possible to Find Love Without Dating Apps? – ALEX BAKER-WHITCOMB CULTURE 08.30.18 07:55 PM

Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

Dating in 2018 can be a challenge. I’m sorry, let me rephrase: It suuuuuuuuccckkkkksssss.

Apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Grindr, and others are the dater’s tools of choice , and yet hating them is the one thing we can all agree on these days. They’re often more hazard than help, and the forced psychoanalysis of every picture and witty answer can shake even the most durable of confidences loose. Why am I not getting more matches? Why didn’t they respond? But is it your fault, or the app’s? Is it really possible to find true love with just your thumbs? I set out on a journey to find out, and it starts with defining love itself.

The heart of the matter is the heart itself. Like any muscle, it must be worked on to grow. And love for most people seems to emulate that—a laborious growing process. A symbiotic relationship where two people don’t just grow together, but toward each other. But how do you decide on the person, the deciding factor of your success? I asked some of my friends that question and got varying answers: Someone that makes me laugh. Someone that’s empathetic. Someone that gets me snacks. But how do you filter for that? Will Tinder ever have a checkbox for “level of snack-readiness?”

So if we agree that common interests and values are the types of things we’re all looking for in relationships, how can we be expected to find them in an app that sorts for first-glance aesthetics and the ability to write one clever sentence about yourself? It’s Romance Roulette. Your filters aren’t set for love; they’re set for lust, and their equation for it is faulty at best. Your best chance at not getting eliminated before you even start is to conform, in which case you arrive safely in the dating pool without any of the things that make you, you. Dating apps reward homogeneity, sifting everyone into two-dimensional profiles that look the same, sound the same, and in some cases, even algorithmically identify which picture is best to represent you for the largest possible audience.

Of course, people don’t love each other for what makes them the same; they love them for what makes them unique. I wanted someone insatiable, someone whose eyes set ablaze when they talked about something important to them. I wanted someone who was a good friend, a motivator, someone who enjoyed being a blessing to those around them. I wanted someone to invest their love in me for exactly the things that make me different. For those looking for a simple standard, a dating app can provide you with a sea of able-bodied mates. I wanted more than a flat photo and a single sentence could provide. So I chose to swipe dating apps right off my homescreen.

Bye Bye, Bumble

Moving away from dating apps sounds liberating—and it is. You’ll realize characteristics that only matter inside your phone screen—What picture is best of me? What’s one sentence that describes me? Why am I not getting the matches I want?—have been worrying you way too much outside of it. If you try to game love, you can expect love to game you. Hookups and temporary flings can be easy to find on apps, but when deep connections keep evading you, it’s not the app you question. It’s yourself. It can chew on your confidence to the point where it’s no longer raising your chances by widening the pool, it’s hurting them by leaving you at half strength during the times that really matter.

But how does one even meet people without an app anymore? Approaching strangers in bars is harder than it’s ever been; we leave our dating to our phones, and real life is spent inside the confines of our tightly knit friend circles. Anyone trying to date outside of their phone has the potential to come off, well, creepy.

Article continues:


JARED KUSHNER has yet to formally unveil his highly touted peace planfor resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. But in the past weeks and months, its outlines have become increasingly clear. Recent moves by the United States to recognize Israel’s capital in Jerusalem and deprive Palestinians of refugee status have taken key issues off the table before any future peace negotiation even begins. The Trump administration has announced a steady stream of cuts in aid for Palestinians, including reported plans to stop all funding for the United National Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency which provides healthcare and schooling for Palestinian refugees, as well as cutting $200 million in economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza. These moves are helping clarify the Trump administration’s strategy for getting to peace in the region: imposing maximum pain on the Palestinians as a means of bullying them into submission.

But this strategy may backfire, including against a Netanyahu government that has enthusiastically supported Trump’s get-tough approach. Even former Israeli military officials have begun raising the alarm that the Trump administration’s punitive actions against the Palestinians, rather than bringing peace, are leading the region toward a new era of conflict. In an article this week in Ha’aretz, former Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner criticized the administration’s attempts to “blackmail” the Palestinians, stating that such a strategy would lead to a power vacuum in the West Bank, warning that “hardballing the Palestinian into submission is likely to blow up on Israel’s doorstep.” Lerner’s warning echoes previous reports from Israeli military officials that funding cuts are likely to lead to a humanitarian crisis and further unrest in the occupied territories.

Article continues:

Most Black Kids Can’t Swim. It’s Not Just A Stereotype, It’s History. (HBO) – VICE News Published on Aug 30, 2018

In 2014, the CDC found that an 11-year-old black child is 10 times more likely to drown than a white child the same age. The idea that “Black people can’t swim” may sound like a stereotype, but this disparity is rooted in a history of discriminatory access to swimming pools.

This summer has produced three high-profile incidents of white Americans calling – or threatening to call – the police on Black pool goers.

A South Carolina woman was charged with multiple accounts of assault for accosting a 15-year-old boy and a police officer. A North Carolina man lost his job after a video of him calling the police on a woman who refused to show him her identification. A property manager at a Memphis apartment complex also lost her job for calling the police on a man for wearing socks in the pool.

These episodes are just the most recent in a long history of discriminatory access at American swimming pools, going back almost 100 years. VICE News spoke with Jeff Wiltse, a professor of History at the University of Montana, and the author of “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America.”

“It was socially normal for blacks and whites to swim together at these public pools during the late 19th and early 20th century but that all changed during the 1920s and 1930s when cities opened up large resort like pools,” says Wiltse. “That permitted males and females to use them together.”

Wiltse said that it was at that point that white swimmers and public officials imposed racial segregation because most whites did not want to allow black men to interact with white women at such intimate public spaces.

Pools were desegregated after World War II — frequently by court order — but like America’s public schools, integration in the water was more of a legal concept than a cultural one.

Racial desegregation of public pools rarely lead to meaningful sort of interracial use, said Wiltse. “In general, whites abandoned public pools that black swimmers started to use.”

“Swimming became broadly popular within white communities and was passed down from generation to generation. Because of African-Americans more restricted access, swimming did not become a broadly popular activity among Black families.”

In 2017, USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the US, has found that African-American children and their parents are three times more fearful of drowning than Caucasian children and parents. Additionally, 64% of African American children have low or no swimming ability.

Dezria Holmes knows how to swim, but wouldn’t call herself a strong swimmer. She’s trying to change that for her children, 12-year old Madison and 7-year old Mason. Both are enrolled in a Chicago swimming program launched by USA Swimming, Chicago Park District, and Illinois Swimming to get a more diverse group of young people in the water.

“My grandparents couldn’t swim because of segregation,” said Holmes. “So when I saw the opportunity for my daughter to swim, and then my parents were able to see their granddaughter swim. They were actually crying, because no one in our family swims like Madison. So to be afforded this opportunity has just been amazing.”

USA Swimming has found that Black children and their parents are three times more fearful of drowning than white children and their parents. Safety was the main reason Holmes wanted her kids to learn how to swim.

A Big Choice for Big Tech – By Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge September/October 2018 Issue

CHRISTIAN HARTMANN / REUTERS Your data or your life: at the Google office in Zurich, Switzerland, August 2009.

Over the last two decades, a few technology giants have come to dominate digital markets. Google performs about nine out of every ten Internet searches worldwide. Facebook, the world’s leading social media platform, has well over two billion users. Together, the two companies have seized well over half of the online advertising market. Apple, originally a computer manufacturer, now runs the world’s largest mobile app store in terms of revenue, with about 80 percent of the market, and the second-largest music streaming business, approaching a third of the market. And Amazon captures close to every other dollar spent online in the United States. These companies are what the economist David Autor calls “superstar firms,” able to gain huge market shares and translate their market power into enormous profits.

Their success has brought tremendous benefits to users—and grave dangers to societies and economies. Each company hoards the information it collects and uses centralized systems to run its huge businesses. That hoarding has hampered innovation and allowed the companies to abuse user data, and their centralized systems leave online markets vulnerable to unexpected shocks, posing risks to the wider economy.

The most common answer to the problem of overly powerful firms is to break them up, as U.S. regulators once did to Standard Oil and AT&T. Yet that would destroy much of the value that these digital giants have created and probably do little to improve competition in the long run, since without structural reforms, killing today’s digital superstars would simply generate opportunities for new ones to emerge. There is a better solution: a progressive data-sharing mandate. This would leave these companies intact but require them to share anonymized slices of the data they collect with other companies. Such a mandate would decentralize digital markets and spur innovation as companies competed to extract the best insights from the same data. Much is at stake; if governments fail to act, they will leave key parts of Western economies and democracies vulnerable to sudden failures.

Article continues: