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Trump Masks, Warhol And The Temptations Of Instagram

A Trump of selfies
A Trump of selfies
Jeff Israely

PARIS — As the editor of what we call a "digital magazine," I must make lots of choices on any given day as the various streams of news — real and fake and often just pointless — criss-cross on my computer and smartphone screens. Save this, swipe that, assign this, ignore that.

Just one of countless outfits trying to make some sense of the world, and make a living along the way, Worldcrunch is at its best when we spot something worthwhile in a foreign language and get it out there for readers in English. Just in the past few days, we've had both topical and tropical beach stories, written in Italian and French, that I'd dare to say is summer reading that can make you smarter.

We are also generally at our best when we have a moment to reflect on the world around us, rather than join the headless-chicken race to keep up with the very latest breaking news — and the Internet itself. Still, old news editors sometimes can't help themselves. And so there I was yesterday morning in front of a news report on the La Stampa website: Two bank robber brothers in northern Italy were pulling off ATM heists, using Donald Trump latex masks to hide their faces from security cameras.

Even if we saw it first, that hardly matters

The race was on: Within an hour or two we had produced what those of us in the digital news business call a "social video." Check it out on Instagram. Or don't. Or check it out in on a million other corners of the Internet. Even if we saw it first, that hardly matters if the herd comes storming in afterward. Or better, and simply, it hardly matters.

How — and how much — we all talk about the American president is itself a phenomenon worth watching. That Donald Trump has apparently no qualms in making a mockery of objective truth and a free press is a serious problem in its own right, and also a trap for those of us who must report on it. But what does it mean that bank robbers wearing Trump masks trick an aging editor into dreaming of Instagram fame? We can't blame the Donald for that.

This brings me to a story flickering across my screen this morning. The aging (much older!) rock star Alice Cooper has dug up an authentic Andy Warhol worth millions that he'd placed in storage in the 1970s. The silk screen is of a photograph of an electric chair in blood-red relief, an image as relevant and vibrant as ever, destined no doubt to be hung some day on a museum wall. Even 40 years ago, it was perfect for Instagram.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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