Congo’s Slide Into Chaos – By Stuart A. Reid ESSAY January/February 2018 Issue` 1

How a State Fails

KENNY KATOMBE / REUTERS Blood in the streets: at a protest against Kabila in Kinshasa, September 2016.


On January 16, 2001, the Democratic Republic of the Congo tumbled into uncertainty. The country’s president, Laurent Kabila, had been sitting in his office at his marble palace in Kinshasa, the capital, when one of his teenage bodyguards entered, drew his pistol, aimed it at Kabila, and fired several times.

Kabila had installed himself as president in 1997, after overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko, the cancer-stricken dictator of what was then known as Zaire. He had begun fighting Mobutu back in the 1960s, leading a Marxist rebellion in the eastern half of the country before, in the 1980s, fleeing to nearby Uganda and Tanzania, where he raised his children under false names. After years of dodging Mobutu’s intelligence agents, Kabila finally got the chance to remove his nemesis, riding in on an invasion backed by eight nations to take the presidency, if not control, of the country he rechristened the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila’s Rwandan backers quickly tired of him, however. They launched a rebellion in the east that kicked off the Great War of Africa, a five-year conflict so deadly and confused that estimates of its death toll range from two million to five million. Now, less than four years into a presidency he had spent his life pursuing, Kabila was slumped over, bleeding into his chair.

Kabila’s advisers scrambled to react. Keeping news of the attack from the public, they arranged for his dead body to be flown to Zimbabwe, ostensibly for treatment. Congo’s borders were sealed, its airports shut down, and a curfew announced. Late at night, Kabila’s inner circle gathered to decide on a successor, as Mwenze Kongolo, the justice minister at the time, recently recounted to me. “It was at that moment,” he said, “when we decided we had to put in Joseph.”

Joseph, Laurent Kabila’s son, was just 29 years old, a commander in the new Congolese military. Having grown up in Uganda and Tanzania, he spoke Swahili and English, but little French, Congo’s official language, and no Lingala, its most prominent African one. Shy and inscrutable, he was not a man made for politics. His only civilian work experience lay in doing odd jobs for his father and driving a taxi. Joseph was a mystery, unknown to foreign diplomats and the Congolese public alike; even his age was an open question at the time. Yet having marched across the country as part of the invasion, he enjoyed legitimacy among the military and the confidence of his father. “He was not a stranger,” Kongolo said. “And with his father having died, it had to be someone close.”

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Women March to Denounce Trump One Year After His Inauguration – January 20, 2018, 2:58 PM PST

In cities across the country, protesters highlighted a raft of issues while urging greater participation in the coming midterm elections.

Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg

Bloomberg News

Americans in cities coast-to-coast poured into the streets Saturday for the Women’s March, an event that highlighted not only vehement opposition to the policies of the Trump administration but also support for the #MeToo movement that has taken hold in recent months.

As the federal government began a shutdown following Congress’s failure to agree on a stopgap spending measure, the signs on display in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles denounced Donald Trump and urged more women to vote even as the president sought in a Twitter post to claim credit for a healthy U.S. economy.

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The Aziz Ansari story is ordinary. That’s why we have to talk about it. – Anna North Jan 16, 2018, 10:10am EST

A woman’s account of her date with the actor reveals our broken attitudes toward sex.

Aziz Ansari at the Golden Globes.
AFP/Getty Images

A woman publicly known as Grace went on a date with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari in September. What happened between them is at the center of the latest debate around consent, sexual assault, and the #MeToo moment.

In an account published Saturday, Grace told’s Katie Way that when she and Ansari got back to his apartment after a dinner out, Ansari kept trying to initiate sex, despite her physical and verbal indications that she wasn’t interested. At one point, she says she told him, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” At first, he responded well, saying, “Let’s just chill over here on the couch.” But then, she says, he pointed to his penis with the expectation of oral sex.

Later, she says he suggested they “just chill, but this time with our clothes on” — but once they were dressed, he tried to remove her clothes again. Eventually, she stood up and said she would call herself a car. “I cried the whole ride home,” she told Babe. “At that point I felt violated. That last hour was so out of my hand.”

In a statement, Ansari says that the two “ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.” When he found out she had been uncomfortable, he said, “I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”

Unlike many reports that have emerged in the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Grace’s story is not one of workplace harassment. But what she describes — a man repeatedly pushing sex without noticing (or without caring about) what she wants — is something many, many women have experienced in encounters with men. And while few men have committed the litany of misdeeds of which Weinstein has been accused, countless men have likely behaved as Grace says Ansari did — focusing on their own desires without recognizing what their partner wants. It is the sheer commonness of Grace’s experience that makes it so important to talk about.

Grace’s story gets to the heart of our culture’s problems with sex

The backlash against the supposed excesses of #MeToo has been roiling for some time now, and Grace’s story has been quickly incorporated into the narrative that women, in their zeal to expose harassers, are now going too far. Writing at the Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan argues that, feeling regretful after not getting what she wanted out of her encounter with Ansari (“perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend,” Flanagan speculates), Grace teamed up with the Babe writer to produce “3,000 words of revenge porn.”

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It’s Been 50 Years Since MLK Jr. Declared War on Poverty. The Economy for Black Americans Still Stinks. – Eli DayJan. 16, 2018 6:00 AM

Median black household wealth could reach $0 by the middle of the century.

Horace Cort/AP

As Americans reflect on the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day of the Trump administration and prepare for the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination, it’s as good a time as any to measure our world against the one Dr. King dared us to imagine.

In the months leading up to the April day in Memphis when he was shot dead by a white supremacist after standing with striking sanitation workers, King had grown increasingly outspoken on issues of class, income inequality, and economic justice. Along with other leading lights of the civil rights movement, he had just launched the Poor People’s Campaign against what he termed the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” It is in the statements and writings of his final months where we find the fullest expression of King’s political and economic vision, and a guidepost for our current assessments.

For black Americans in particular, the odds of achieving equal economic footing remain, in many ways, as dim as they were in the years leading up to 1968. Sweeping across the Bible Belt to promote his anti-poverty campaign, King issued a stinging criticism against a status quo that left black people “penniless and illiterate” in the country they had built.

Fifty years later, on everything from hourly wages to household income to family wealth, black people remain miles behind their white counterparts.

This chart from The Economic Policy Institute illustrates the point:

Is Blockchain the Answer to Sexual Consent? – By VALENTINA ZARYA January 16, 2018

Is the idea of using a mobile app to document consent ridiculous—or revolutionary?

Last week, a group of French women, among them the storied actress Catherine Deneuve, wrote a letter to proclaim that the #MeToo movement had gone too far (she later apologized). In addition to asserting that the movement had turned into a witch hunt, the authors described the fallout as an overreaction:

“Bordering on ridiculous, in Sweden a bill was presented that calls for explicit consent before any sexual relations! Next we’ll have a smartphone app that adults who want to sleep together will have to use to check precisely which sex acts the other does or does not accept.”

While portrayed as a frivolous idea in the letter, a product very similar to the described app actually already exists. A Dutch company called LegalThings, whose primary business is creating digital legal contracts, last week launched beta testing of an app called LegalFling that promises to be “the first blockchain-based app to verify explicit consent before having sex.”

LegalThings co-founder Arnold Daniels says the app is meant to provide a solution that’s less black-and-white than Sweden’s proposed law, which stipulates that sex without clearly worded or demonstrated consent is rape.

“Just saying ‘yes’ really isn’t enough,” Daniels says. “You want to set a really clear set of boundaries.” For instance, he says the app would help clarify a situation where, say, one party consents to sex, but not to having nude photos of themselves taken.

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