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Trump Control, From Comey To Korean Peninsula

New South Korean President Moon Jae-in
New South Korean President Moon Jae-in
Rebecca Aydin

-Analysis-

Having spent his whole life running a family business, Donald Trump is still adjusting to the strategic art of control required to effectively run the White House — and help lead the world.

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, making him the shortest serving director since the 1920s. Comey had orbited in and out of Trump's favor since the real estate tycoon had made the leap into politics. Comey closed the Hillary Clinton email investigation in July 2016, only to reopen it in October, just before the election. Though Trump has praised Comey's "guts' in that investigation, his administration is now citing its mishandling as grounds for his termination.

Democrats suspect the firing may instead be part of a cover-up of connections between the Trump campaign and administration and Russian meddling in the U.S. election. In March, Comey had affirmed that the FBI was "investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government."

Whatever the reason, the abruptness of the firing seems to follow a pattern of haphazard decisions and bad attempts at defending them. Trump gave the axe to former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (stated reason: for opposing his immigration ban) and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (stated reason: for having lied to Vice President Mike Pence regarding conversations with the Russian ambassador). Most recently, he fired the White House's Chief Usher Angella Reid, the first woman and second African-American to hold the position.

His hard line on North Korea may have been dramatically undermined.

Though he may believe he had legitimate grounds in each case, Trump increasingly looks like a screaming orange toddler banging his fists on his Oval Office desk in a much higher-stakes version of his reality TV show.

While Trump attempted to exert control over his own administration yesterday, he also saw another example of the limits of his powers far away from home. Washington's sudden shift last month to a harder line on the regime in North Korea may have been dramatically undermined by Tuesday's election of a new president in South Korea.

Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party is a former human rights lawyer and the son of North Korean refugees. He is in favor of opening dialogue with Pyongyang and envisions economic integration between North and South Korea. Moon Jae-in is also advocating for cooperation between South Korea, the U.S., and China in order to prevent nuclear escalation, and even said he would be willing to meet the North's leader Kim Jong-un.

Back in Washington, among the many things the U.S. president has floated in recent weeks, was a similar kind of "personal" offer/dare to meet the dictator in Pyongyang. Trump, it seems, believes in the strategic art of unpredictability.

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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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