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Trump And The World

What Trump Talks About When He Talks About War

Atomic cake
Atomic cake
Sruthi Gottipati

-OpEd-

When U.S. President Donald Trump recounted last week's bombing of Syria to a Fox News journalist, the first direct U.S. assault on the regime of the war-torn country, he shared an anecdote — in vivid detail — about eating chocolate cake with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-A-Lago estate.

Trump: "I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We're now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it. So what happens is, I said, we've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq."

Journalist, momentarily flummoxed: "Headed to Syria?"

Pause.

Trump: "Yes, heading toward Syria."

So he remembered the dessert served, but forgot the country targeted.

The missile strikes, which enmesh the U.S. deeper in the Middle East, a region Trump's predecessor spent two terms trying to extract the country from, killed seven people, including four children, Syrian state media claims — a charge the White House denies. Trump's jocular attitude toward the U.S. attack is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake." It could only come from a president who sleeps soundly at night, unperturbed by how much devastation can be wrought by just a jowly nod from the commander-in-chief.

Trump appears to employ military options with the nonchalance of scheduling a weekend getaway at Mar-A-Lago.

Indeed, there was more to come. On Thursday, the U.S. dropped the "mother of all bombs," shortened to the sprightly moniker MOAB, on an ISIS target in Afghanistan. This was the largest non-nuclear device ever unleashed in combat. Reuters quantified it: "The bomb's destructive power, equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, pales in comparison with the relatively small atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War Two, which had blasts equivalent to between 15,000 and 20,000 tons of TNT."

In a week where Trump suddenly reversed his stance on multiple foreign policy fronts, the decision to use such a weapon begs the question where all this is headed. A new arms race with Russia? Nuclear showdown this summer with North Korea? Trump appears to employ military options with the nonchalance of scheduling a weekend getaway at Mar-A-Lago.

Barely three months ago, Trump was sworn in as the president in an inauguration that sent collective jitters around the world. This real estate billionaire, who has quipped that he could "stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody" without losing voters, was assuming the most powerful office in the world that gave him access to the country's nuclear codes.

In a divided nation, some analysts worried that domestic policy failures would mean that Trump would turn toward foreign shores to bolster his popularity at home.

Sure enough his domestic policy has thus far failed. And sure enough he is casting his eyes abroad. The attack on Syria led to fawning media attention for the first time for a president hungry for approval. For Trump, it was just desserts.

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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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