"In an extraordinary pair of articles published this week, The Washington Post has filled in the picture of how the U.S. military and intelligence establishment have worked to create a network of a dozen or so air bases for spying purposes across Africa. What is most remarkable about the articles are not the details themselves, which involve small, specially equipped turboprop aircraft flying surveillance missions out of remote airfields in the Sahel and in equatorial East Africa.
What stands out most about the articles, instead, is the way that this news has cast the African continent as a place where serious American interests are at play. Such things are all too rare for the mainstream media. Far more typically, the media chronicles African political upheaval, violence and suffering as distant and almost random incidents or miscellany with little connection to life outside of the continent. The Africa of our day-to-day coverage is dominated, in other words, by vivid splashes of color, by scene and emotion, and it is largely bereft of form or of pattern, and of politics and ideas that could help connect one development to another or connect the whole to the rest of the world.Some of this may be changing slowly with the recent sharp rise of China's profile throughout the continent, which has drawn a belated response from a United States suddenly eager to avoid watching the continent get snatched away from the West, as some fear ... The leading messenger for this was Hillary Clinton, whose talk yesterday about economic opportunity for American businesses in Africa was as welcome as it was overdue. As a spate of recent articles has made clear, she spoke of the Africa as a place of strong economic growth and the continent with the highest returns on investment. It is precisely Chinese firms' awareness of this that has been driving them, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrants, to Africa in recent years in search of opportunity.In policy briefings for the press, however, and in Clinton's own statements, the promotion of democracy was given pride of place in a new American agenda for Africa, and this is where the rub comes between rhetoric versus reality.The Post piece reveals that the key American allies in Washington's military and intelligence push are the leaders of Burkina Faso in West Africa and Uganda in East Africa. These two men, Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, have been in power respectively for 25 and 26 years. Both came to power by force. Both have resisted real democratization in their countries. And both have been prolific and mischievous meddlers in neighboring countries, where their adventures have sown death and havoc, routinely employed child soldiers for themselves or for allies within their regimes, and have involved lucrative arms trafficking as well as the organized pillage of natural resources." (TheAtlantic)
"The Obama administration said today that it would stop deporting, and start granting work permits to, immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. It’s a huge policy change and huge political news. Let me explain what’s going on here.Immigration policy as a whole is a huge mess. We have millions of people living here illegally, which is not only bad for them but bad for the rest of us, since they can’t pay taxes or otherwise productively enmesh themselves in American society. Nobody has been able to solve the problem. Finding and deporting them all is a practical impossibility. The only solution entails offering them legal status in some way, but conservatives refuse to accept such a move because they believe, sensibly enough, that rewarding illegal immigrants would only encourage more illegal immigration.Obama came into office with a two-part plan to handle immigration. First, he increased enforcement of the laws, stepping up deportations, in hopes that this would convince hard-liners to make a deal on large-scale reform. Second, he tried to pass, as an immediate compromise measure, the DREAM Act. That would offer legal status to people who came to the United States as children, so long as they have avoided legal trouble and completed a certain level of education or served in the military. But both the policy and the politics have been in a shambles. In 2010 Republicans, along with a handful of moderate Democrats, killed the DREAM Act. So immigration advocates have been furious with Obama because the DREAM Act didn’t pass. (Romney, characteristically, has attacked Obama for this, in keeping with his general approach for blaming the president for everything that happens, including things that Republicans have done.) Obama’s attempts to mollify immigration advocates have run into the difficulty that he has, in fact, ramped up deportations in an attempt to mollify immigration hard-liners. And the immigration hard-liners oppose him anyway because he’s Barack Obama, which means that his attempts to woo them with stronger enforcement have done zero good. Basically, everybody hates him." (NYMag)
"Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, a hard-ine conservative who is credited with pushing back al Qaeda, has died, Saudi state TV said on Saturday.Nayef, who had been named crown prince in October by his brother the king, was heir to the Saudi throne. State TV is broadcasting Quran readings as an expression of mourning for the prince, who died in Geneva, Switzerland. 'It is a shock. We are knew his health was frail but his death is a shock,' Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama Nogali told CNN. 'We still don't know the reason behind his death.'The Saudi Press Agency published a statement from the Royal Court, saying it 'condoles the Saudi people on the deceased prince pray to God to bless his soul and to reward him for his services to his religion and homeland.' Nayef's body will arrive in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Sunday and will be buried after afternoon prayer in Mecca, Nogali said.After the funeral, a period of mourning -- most likely for three days -- will be announced, a Saudi official told CNN. The official asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. It is expected that authorities selected by the king to choose a successor will meet as soon as the mourning period is over, the official said. A new crown prince could be named within the next three to four days, the source said. Nayef served as Saudi interior minister since 1975, having overseen the kingdom's counterterrorism efforts.He also served as deputy premier. A classified U.S. Embassy cable leaked by the website WikiLeaks described Nayef as a hard-line conservative who was lukewarm to King Abdullah's reform initiatives." (CNN)
"WHEN Anna Wintour was in Paris for Fashion Week in March, there was one topic the Vogue editor couldn’t stop talking about. And it had nothing to do with the winter collections. Who was going to win the French presidential election in a few weeks, she wondered aloud to several seat mates in the front row. Catch Ms. Wintour in New York today, and you might just get an earful about the crucial swing states for President Obama or the pitiful Spanish and Greek economies.
And don’t even get her started on the international fabric trade. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, recalled a conversation she had with Ms. Wintour on the subject. 'She said, ‘You may not realize this, but the tariffs and the treaties we have in place fundamentally affect the ability to provide various goods to various markets at an affordable rate,’' Senator Gillibrand said. After that meeting, Senator Gillibrand emerged from Vogue’s offices high above Times Square with a list of stores and vendors that Ms. Wintour suggested she visit so she could better understand how trade affects businesses in the city. For those who know Ms. Wintour only as the icy, inscrutable character obsessed over in the tabloids and satirized on film, it can be impossible to separate her from the fashion runways she terrorizes from behind those dark sunglasses. But she has emerged as something more: an engaged politico and valuable asset to President Obama and his re-election effort." (NYTimes)
"It's been an intense time for hip-hop love triangles, and you may need a flowchart to unpack this latest one. It's a labyrinthine tale in which one half of a U.K. banking power-couple was caught in an yearlong affair with the American rapper Jay Electronica. The story is pretty much a modern rap-world version of a 'Downton Abbey' subplot: Kate Rothschild and Ben Goldsmith, each scions of insanely wealthy British families, married in 2003. Rothschild, heir to a major banking fortune, had her own career as a music producer when she met Electronica, a rapper on Jay-Z's Roc Nation label who had previously fathered a child with Erykah Badu. The two reportedly carried on an affair for a year before Goldsmith, a financier and clean-tech investor, got wind of the affair. Goldsmith and Rothschild are divorcing and were engaged in a heated (and now deleted) Twitter spat, in which Rothschild described her relationship with Electronica thusly: 'As for Jay Electronica... he saved my life in many ways and I am eternally grateful to him and hope that I can repay him by helping him, as his manager and friend.' Electronica joined in by declaiming "#LoveIsOnTheWay" on his own Twitter page on June 4 after traveling to England. The guy should really write his own pickup-artist book at this point. To further complicate things, it's not the first time the two families have spatted over a divorce." (LATimes)
"LAST January, Amy Chua got an unexpected e-mail just before an excerpt from her provocative child-rearing manual, 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,' appeared in The Wall Street Journal. It was from Wendi Murdoch, the wife of Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns The Journal. 'She wanted her daughters to come to New Haven and meet my daughters,' Ms. Chua said in a phone interview. Like the Murdoch girls, Ms. Chua’s daughters are fluent in Chinese and English, and have a Chinese mother who grew up with a mother of her own who was unimaginably strict by Western standards. 'She was asking for advice like, ‘How do you get a child to practice piano for more than one hour a day?’ ' Ms. Chua recalled of their first meeting. 'She parents almost identically to the way I do.' In return for Ms. Chua’s parenting tips, Mrs. Murdoch gave the author some advice. After the excerpt ran in The Journal, Ms. Chua found herself the subject of an angry backlash on mommy blogs, morning TV and newspaper columns. A lot of friends tried to console Ms. Chua, but Mrs. Murdoch was different. 'She was like: ‘Why do you care what people think?'" (NYTimes)France, Germany, and Austria—there is sure to be whining in the media and among the political caste. This is understandable, since the latter are the heirs of those who seized power and aim to keep it forever—regardless of what their subjects might want. Sundry triumphant pols passed laws forbidding the physical return of royal heirs to their nations—even as visitors. One by one, however, these measures were voided until the European Court tossed out the last of them and allowed the House of Savoy to return to Italy. The entrenched political class feared that once back, the royals might regain some of their property. To avoid this, recourse was had in several countries (most notably Austria) to the kind of legal chicanery we Americans are used to with the Supreme Court. But the dominant classes’ apprehensions were fulfilled in all the Balkan countries—heretofore exposed to the reductio ad absurdum of 'democracy' in the form of exquisitely brutal communist regimes." (Charles Coulombe)
"Last night the MePa was rumbling with the sounds of stilettos on cobblestones mixed with the thumping tunes blasting from the Diesel Noise Division and Monster VEKTR headphone launch at TOY in the Gansevoort Hotel. While a slew of chicsters clambered to get through the door, lucky guests like Penn Badgley and Paz de la Huerta held court with Diesel's Stefano Rosso in the upstairs VIP lounge while sipping glasses of champers between extravagant sushi nibbles. Solange Knowles jumped into the DJ booth to throw down some beats using the sleek new headphones—along with fellow DJs Theophilus London and Brendan Fallis bringing the crowd to life—especially once the Belvedere cocktails kicked in (note: Belvie and soda was the combo for the evening). Your Daily was happily invited to the inner VIP sanctum to chat with Rosso and Monster's Noel Lee. 'This is our first real venture, and we collaborated with the biggest and best lifestyle brand we could think of, ' said Lee. 'We found out that we have so many things in common because Renzo [Rosso] founded the same year we did, we're both entrepreneurs, and we're both family-owned businesses so the cultural fit was really family. And they said we have to get along as family first before we can do business.'" (Fashionweekdaily)
"One of the buried facts of our collective past is that the United States came very close to dissolving long before slavery sundered the union. America was in almost perpetual peril during the quarter century from the French Revolution to the Treaty of Ghent, which concluded the war with Britain in 1814. Throughout this period, the two great world powers of the time, France and England, sought to destroy each other; each tried to bribe, seduce, subvert, or intimidate the neutral states in order to tip the balance in their favor. In this great and cynical game, the United States, which at the time constituted what we would now call "an emerging nation,' was one of the most valuable prizes.American politics consisted of, in effect, an 'English' party and a 'French' party. This was scarcely unusual at the time: Both republican Holland and autocratic Russia, among others, tilted back and forth between partisans of the two. In America, however, the Founding Fathers recognized that this contest for supremacy posed a mortal threat to the nation. In his brief farewell address, George Washington ardently defendedthe policy of neutrality to which he had consistently hewed. The president warned his fellow citizens that 'excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.'" (ForeignPolicy)
"The Great Gatsby seems to be enjoying a moment, what with the success of the New York production of Gatz, opening in London (described by America's leading theatre critic Ben Brantley as 'The most remarkable achievement in theatre not only of this year but also of this decade'), and the release later this year of Baz Luhrman's $120m film version. The book was little noticed on your side of the Atlantic on its initial publication. Collins, which had published the English editions of F Scott Fitzgerald's first two novels, rejected it outright, and the Chatto and Windus edition failed to arouse much enthusiasm, critical or commercial, when it was published in London in 1926. To be fair, the novel hadn't been a smash hit in the States the year before, selling less than his two previous novels and falling well short of the expectations of Fitzgerald and his publisher, despite some very good reviews. TS Eliot declared: 'In fact, it seems to me the first step American fiction has taken since Henry James.' And yet, many of the 23,000 copies printed in 1925 were gathering dust in the Scribner's warehouse when Fitzgerald died in obscurity in Hollywood 15 years later. At that time, Gatsby seemed like the relic of an age most wanted to forget. In the succeeding years, Fitzgerald's slim tale of the jazz age became the most celebrated and beloved novel in the American canon. It's more than an American classic; it's become a defining document of the national psyche, a creation myth, the Rosetta Stone of the American dream. And yet all the attempts to adapt it to stage and screen have only served to illustrate its fragility and its flaws. Fitzgerald's prose somehow elevates a lurid and underdeveloped narrative to the level of myth." (Jay McInerney)
"Hamptons aristocrats are expected at dueling 'Downton Abbey'-themed parties out east today. Isabella Rossellini and daughter Elettra Wiedemann are hosting an 'Abbey'-inspired birthday bash at their Bellport home for fashion insider Lorenzo Martone. Guests are said to include Francisco Costa and Andre Leon Talley. In East Hampton, interior designers Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper are throwing their own 'Downton' do at their house, Woodhouse Park, to benefit Gods Love We Deliver. Guests including Kim Cattrall, Calvin Klein, Beth Stern and Donny Deutsch will pose for souvenir photos 'in an Edwardian setting.' We’re not sure which party has more valets, butlers and footmen." (PageSix)
Within weeks, most fade to oblivion, but those with endurance make the leap to the commercial world. Properly exploited, some memes can bring in anywhere from a few thousand dollars for a single licensed broadcast of a popular video to six figures for an integrated marketing campaign based around a meme. 'These things … are the new Mickey Mouse or Bart Simpson,' says Ben Lashes, a former musician based in Portland, Ore., who manages popular memes such as Keyboard Cat (a piano-playing feline), Nyan Cat (the above-mentioned Pop-Tart/cat hybrid), and Scumbag Steve (a photo of a sleazy-looking man whose real name is Blake Boston). In the past two years, Lashes has helped clients license memes to brands such as Nike (NKE), Nokia (NOK), Wonderful Pistachios, and Lipton (UL) Brisk Iced Tea, which uses the Scumbag Steve photo in a new Web ad. Lashes and Nyan Cat creator Chris Torres just signed with Jakks Pacific (JAKK), which makes Hello Kitty, among other toys, to license plush versions of Torres’s creation this fall. These are 'not just dumb things on the Internet,' says Lashes. 'These are the next huge pop culture characters.'" (BusinessWeek)