He Dares to Challenge Kenya’s ‘Big Conservation Lie’

130a0308

Online, Mordecai Ogada deals in exclamation points. “Calling class to order!” is his Facebook tagline, and the conservationist is known for angry posts calling out colleagues, government officials, foreign do-gooders and fellow Kenyans.

In person, his approach is softer, more persuasive, but no less forceful. On a drizzly weekday night, Ogada draws a crowd of 50 at Pawa254, a center for activism and social justice, for a talk titled “Conservation: The Quiet Spread of Imperialism.” He pleads with the audience to wake up to the grave reality that Kenyans are losing sovereignty over their own land to nongovernmental organization–backed nature conservancies and expat-led animal projects. The audience — teachers, public servants, NGO staffers, students, fellow scientists — nods, mmm hmms and shouts back throughout.

Ogada calls his fellow environmental scientists “prostitutes,” explaining they will find a “simplistic solution to feed back into donors looking for instant gratification.” 

Over a strawberry milkshake at a Nairobi café, Ogada, 49, projects thoughtfulness and humility when preaching his radical yet simple mantra: people first. Conservationists in Africa, he says, overlook the challenges confronting local populations — land loss, drought, urbanization — as they work to save the animals. “Conservation needs to be honest,” he says. “The biggest problem is the myth in the media worldwide that ‘African wildlife is in peril’ and that the danger to African wildlife is Black people, living or ‘poaching.’ Kenyans should know better.”

Kenya’s brand of conservation, he says, is tourism-driven, intrinsically racist and comes at a steep cost to indigenous communities that live near wildlife. After years as a researcher, Ogada, an ecologist who studies carnivores and earned his Ph.D. at Kenyatta University, teamed up with journalist John Mbaria to write The Big Conservation Lie, published last year.

Throughout his career, he’s always ruffled feathers. Ogada calls his fellow environmental scientists “prostitutes,” explaining they will find a “simplistic solution to feed back into donors looking for instant gratification.” Foreigners who love animals and have good intentions, he says, will propose facile solutions to complex issues. For example, fencing large areas of land to protect a rhino can disrupt livelihoods for herders of cattle or goats.

 

Space for Giants, an organization that protects elephants, declined to comment directly on Ogada but directed me to its values statement, which reads: “The conservation crisis is a human crisis. We understand wildlife and landscapes must provide people benefits. We are committed to conservation in a human context.” Four other well-known Kenya-based conservation organizations declined to comment on Ogada’s views.

Fellow ecologists attending Ogada’s Nairobi lecture found this unsurprising, telling me there is little productive dialogue between activists and large organizations. But Shivani Bhalla, executive director of Ewaso Lions, an organization dedicated to protecting lions and large carnivores, believes “Mordecai brings to light a lot of issues that require attention.” For her, “conservation is and always will be about how local people are engaged in conservation of the species around them. Mordecai is on board with this and our collective battle is to keep Kenyans invested … and bring more on board.”

Img 2396

Mordecai Ogada, a carnivore-studying ecologist, is married to a fish-studying ichthyologist.

Ogada didn’t get into the game solely to be an agitator. Raised by an agronomist father and a political scientist mother, Ogada seems a perfect blend of both. With a deep reverence for Kenya’s natural landscapes coupled with an activist’s spark, he knew he wanted to work in wildlife from an early age. His first degree was in zoology, but after finding it too emotionally difficult to work with sick and injured animals, he changed course and studied ecology.

While pursuing his master’s, Ogada completed field research on reducing the loss of herdsmen’s livestock to carnivores in Laikipia, which has the largest concentration of White landowners in Kenya’s 47 counties. Laikipia made international headlines in 2017 when local herdsmen invaded ranches and animal conservancies with their livestock, responding to brutal drought conditions and calls from local politicians, who many say were manipulating historical grievances.

As a master’s student in 2000, Ogada says Laikipia was “still very much [in] a colonial time warp.… For many of these ranch-owning families, I was the first sort-of educated African any of them had spoken to or sat down to lunch with.” When the ranchers drove their pickup trucks, he recalls, Black people sat in the bed, while the dogs sat up front.

Ogada’s supervisor on the field project once hired a helicopter from a ranch owner to track lions from the air, but the pilot refused to take Ogada up — flying Ogada’s White research assistant instead. While Ogada acknowledges racist attitudes are not universal, he says they are widespread in conservation, which he calls “colonialism’s last bastion in Africa.… Now, settlers are tourists.”

A person in the Laikipia community, who declined to be identified to avoid taking a public stance on a sensitive issue, insists times have changed and says if ranchers there have issues with Ogada, it’s due to his scientific approach, not his race. “The consensus among the conservation and ranching community is that Mordecai’s beliefs … ignore clear evidence of severe ecological damage in areas where pastoralist communities and wildlife cohabitate,” the person says.

But for Ogada, “pastoralists” simply means “Black people who are already living on the land.” He blames structural racism and profit motives for the current state of conservation: “Save the elephant, get money from [the] tourist.”

Instead, he maintains that pastoralist communities can live in harmony with wildlife, and removing the barriers will pay off for everyone in the long term. Working through the Kenyan tourism board, he’s pushing companies to market safari experiences that include seeing Masai people with their cows among the elephants.

These days, Ogada teaches and consults out of Nanyuki, Kenya, where he lives with his wife, an ichthyologist (fish specialist), and two children. Though he feels boxed out of traditional roles in the conservation sector, he will carry on rattling cages to change the system for the sake of his country — one exclamation point at a time.

“If you want to see an elephant, go to a zoo,” he says. “If you want to see wildlife without local herdsmen around, go to Botswana. The people, the whole ecosystem functioning, that elephant near a herd of goats — that’s magical. That’s what’s special about Kenya.”

5 Questions for Mordecai Ogada 

What was the last book you read? What Is the What, by Dave Eggers.

What was the last film you saw? Not Black Panther, which my 11-year-old is pissed about! I watch a lot of kids’ films these days. Recently we watched Mrs. Doubtfire at home.

What do you worry about? Loss of social consciousness in Kenya. Be it in conservation, education and all that.

What’s on your bucket list? I want to see a snow leopard. For that, I’ll have to go to Pakistan or northern Indian states.

What’s your favorite food? Chapati. With any stew or with tea.

Should There Be Racial and Gender Quotas for the U.S. Congress? We Asked, You Answered

Shutterstock 390999490

Last week, we askedShould there be racial and gender quotas for the U.S. Congress?You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.

Niko Zagame, Manitowoc, Wisconsin 

How about term limits so we don’t have career politicians? The presidency has a two-term limit, which is eight years. Why not similar term limits for senators and representatives?

James W. Wiley, Harleysville, Pennsylvania

Not yet. But we should do a whole lot more to organize our families, friends and neighborhoods to more strongly represent our views and interests. End gerrymandering. Caucuses, collaborations, unions, affinity groups and power groups all are too little utilized in American politics. Two parties end up [being] too much like winner takes all. Proportional representation or perhaps proportional voting might spread the power base more equitably among positions and views. 

Jennifer Foxworth Boswell

Nope. But we should do something to change the way politicians and aspiring politicians campaign so we have the best chance to vote for a person with our best interests at heart, and not the person who had the best resources and financial backing. Establishing quotas would mean the best person for the job may get passed over because of the need for a specific gender or race.

Matt Daniel, Wilhoit, Arizona

No. Short, strict term limits, a federal job guarantee, socialized medicine and a living wage is how to manage corruption at the federal level. 

 

Meg Garstang

No. We should end gerrymandering, remove barriers to voting, educate our children in civics, repeal Citizens United and elect our own representatives regardless of gender, race or any other external characteristic.

Tim Shehane

How would such a quota be enforced with each state and voting district selecting their own representation?

Leonard Wahl

Then why have an election?

Michael McMillen

There should be at least some requirements for intelligence and reasoning skills. You can’t have a gender quota since half the people today don’t know what they are. Which brings us back to intelligence.

Julia J. Shaw, Worcester, Massachusetts

Just being a woman, or being of color, means little to nothing about their politics. Campaign finance reform would help a lot more to restore democracy.   

Ray Fischer

Moot issue. Any change would require a constitutional amendment, and that ain’t gonna happen.

 

Europe Plots How to Work Around Trump’s Iran Sanctions

Gettyimages 159915110

The EU is finalizing its plans to mitigate punitive measures as the Trump administration prepares to impose a new wave of sanctions next month and in November. The first batch will target trading in cars, gold and other metals; the second Iran’s oil exports and transactions with the central bank.

The main weapon the EU has developed is an updated version of a “blocking statute” originally drawn up in the 1990s to counter U.S. sanctions on Iran, Libya and Cuba. The law forbids European companies from complying with the U.S. measures and allows them to recover damages arising from the sanctions “from the person causing them.”

But lawyers and diplomats say there are doubts over the effectiveness of a tool that has never been properly tested.

“It’s a European policy that’s totally in contradiction to the American policy: that doesn’t happen very often,” says Jean De Ruyt, a senior adviser at Covington & Burling, the international law firm, and a former Belgian ambassador to the EU.

Any important European company will be afraid … because the U.S. arm is long.

Jean De Ruyt, Covington & Burling

The dilemma was created after Donald Trump in May withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran signed with world powers, including the EU, the U.K., France and Germany. The European signatories are desperate to save the deal, and believe it is critical that the republic is still able to reap an economic dividend from the accord.

But Trump has suggested his administration will offer few waivers to companies. The U.S. president used his toughest language yet against the Islamic regime this week, warning Iran it would face severe “consequences” if it threatened America. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, this weekend said that reimposing new sanctions would equate to a “declaration of war against” the nation.

There are also trade tensions between the U.S. and the EU over Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel imports to America.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, acknowledged last week that the EU faced a “difficult exercise” in its response to the sanctions on Iran because of the “weight of the U.S. in the global economy and financial system.”

“But we are determined to preserve this deal,” she said.

Brett Hillis, partner and sanctions expert at Reed Smith, the international law firm, says there was nothing in the EU plans that would stop a “run for the hills” by European businesses active in Iran. He said the blocking statute was “a measure which indicates the EU’s displeasure but in no way goes far enough to move the calculus for European companies.”

 

Any punishment threatened in Europe for complying with the sanctions is likely to pale against the potential retribution in the U.S. for ignoring them. In 2015, a U.S. court ordered BNP Paribas, the French bank, to pay almost $9 billion in fines and forfeitures over alleged violations of sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

European companies would also face the threat in the U.S. of action against individual executives, exclusion from public procurement and other opportunities lost because of reputational damage.

To enforce the blocking statute, European authorities would also need to prove a company had violated it by withdrawing from Iran. Businesses could advance a range of defenses, including that they were leaving the Islamic republic for commercial reasons.

European companies including Peugeot parent PSA and French oil major Total have already said they will halt their operations in Iran unless they secure a waiver. It emerged this month that the U.S. has rebuffed a European request for a carve-out from the renewed sanctions of crucial industries, including finance, energy and health care.

Roger Matthews, a senior lawyer at Dechert, says that if the EU were to give the blocking statute “enough teeth to have the effect they want, it’s just going to be a compliance nightmare with added legal expense.” He adds that European Commission guidelines expected soon should provide more clarity.

Other EU proposals to insulate companies by offering them non-dollar-denominated finance lines through institutions such as the European Investment Bank have run into troubles of their own.

Werner Hoyer, EIB president, said last week that it would “risk the business model of the bank” if it played an “active role” in Iran.

European diplomats hope they can still make progress in other areas, such as providing bilateral financing lines to Tehran and measures to make payments for oil directly to Iran’s central bank. The U.S. might also still soften its stance: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted this month that Washington may yet grant individual country requests for sanctions waivers.

But without such carve-outs, the impact of the EU countermeasures is likely to be largely symbolic and insufficient to persuade many big businesses to engage with Iran. “Any important European company will be afraid,” says De Ruyt. “Because the U.S. arm is long.”

Boris and Bill’s Excellent Adventure

Gettyimages 576828884

You’d be hard-pressed to remember another time an American leader laughed so violently, hysterically loud. Just watch the footage of then President Boris Yeltsin of Russia bashing reporters during an October 1995 press conference in New York: Standing next to his Russian counterpart, Bill Clinton could barely contain himself after Yeltsin delivered his coup de grâce. “Now, for the first time,” the Russian leader said sternly, referring to recent coverage predicting his meeting with Clinton would end in disaster, “I can tell you that you’re a disaster.”  

The Comeback Kid exploded into laughter, his beet-red face contorting as he gripped Yeltsin’s shoulder for support. The barrel-chested Russian, for his part, chuckled with equal parts satisfaction and confusion. Whether Clinton’s amusement was entirely genuine is still a subject of debate. But either way, it was a warm moment in an otherwise tumultuous decade in relations between the former adversaries.

Many an American president has attempted to make nice with Soviet or Russian leaders. Sure, George W. Bush famously saw Vladimir Putin’s soul, and more recently, President Donald Trump has proved unusually willing to indulge his Russian counterpart. 

But little else matches the peculiar chemistry between Clinton and Yeltsin, who shared a close, if perpetually strained, relationship as they navigated their countries through a complicated new global order. Their ability to maintain substantial ties despite persistent political tension is a case study in personal diplomacy — which, between the two, “yielded half a dozen major understandings that either resolved or alleviated disputes over Russia’s role in the post–Cold War world,” writes Strobe Talbott, Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, in The Russia Hand.

Clinton and Yeltsin quickly took a liking to each other, forming a bond that buoyed an unprecedented 18 visits between the two leaders.

Sharing similar backgrounds — both were small-town boys who elbowed their way through regional politics — Clinton and Yeltsin quickly took a liking to each other, forming a bond that buoyed an unprecedented 18 visits between the two leaders. Yet one of the reasons they met so often, Talbott writes, was that the U.S.-Russian relationship was beset with difficulties stemming from the new geopolitical realities that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over, leaving the U.S. the world’s only superpower, but Russia still controlled thousands of nuclear warheads and held sway over a vast stretch of territory once governed by Moscow.

For his part, Yeltsin had ridden the wave of democratic euphoria that followed the Soviet collapse, but by Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, he faced widespread discontent over the country’s painful transition from communism. On the one hand, Yeltsin sought American help to keep a broke and wounded Russia a stable member of the international community. On the other, he was deeply sensitive to being perceived as the junior partner. “Fate gave him a tough time in which to govern,” Clinton said upon Yeltsin’s death in 2007, “but history will be kind to him because he was courageous and steadfast on the big issues — peace, freedom and progress.” 

 

NATO expansion, especially the military alliance’s bombing campaigns in Yugoslavia, proved a particularly thorny issue between the two. Rarely a meeting went by without Yeltsin raising a ruckus about feeling cornered by NATO in his own backyard. The disputes often played out in public, splashed across international headlines. 

Still, both leaders shared a firm conviction that personal relations were key. For Yeltsin, it was rooted in a Soviet-style mindset prioritizing patronage over often dysfunctional institutions. “I think he really believed that, ‘If we are friends, things can move forward,’” says Maxim Bratersky, a professor of international relations at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

Clinton, in turn, placed a great deal of faith in his Russian counterpart — a trust that galvanized his critics, who argued he’d over-personalized the strategically critical relationship. “Clinton, himself a highly intuitive politician, believed Yeltsin had the right instincts,” Talbott writes, which included a sense of responsibility to his citizens and a reluctance to push confrontation to a breaking point.

Gettyimages 50377073

Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin shaking hands and all smiles during the Helsinki summit press conference in March 1997.

Source Dirck Halstead/Getty

That’s what might have made their final meeting even more memorable. In Moscow for his first sit-down with a newly elected Putin in 2000, Clinton visited “Ol’ Boris,” as he called him, at his residence outside the Russian capital. “Yeltsin kept saying, in a low, choked voice, ‘Moi drug, moi drug’ — my friend, my friend,” Talbott writes. But Clinton soon found himself in the familiar position of being sternly warned that Russia wouldn’t be yanked around. In the end, Clinton calmly encouraged his buddy to “keep an eye” on Putin. “You’ve got democracy in your heart,” he said, according to Talbott. “You’ve got the trust of the people in your bones.”

These days, things are different. Trump’s pledge to mend fences with Moscow — no longer a defeated junior partner — rings suspicious considering the Kremlin’s hacking of U.S. politics, its annexation of Crimea and posturing abroad. Brian Whitmore, a senior analyst at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C., says the “warm interpersonal relationship between Clinton and Yeltsin helped relations at that time.” But that’s when Russia remained committed to a post–Cold War order based on rules. “This, to put it mildly, is not the case with Putin’s Russia,” he says. 

It’s too early to tell what the relationship between Trump and Putin has in store. But one thing’s clear: The ’90s are over.

This Is the Year of Color for American Politics

Year of Color Photo Illustration

When Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset the fourth-highest-ranking U.S. House Democrat in June in New York, the primary victory was touted as a win for progressive values. Even more striking, though, was the image of a young Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx toppling a middle-aged, White, longtime incumbent. As the until-recently waitress said in her first campaign ad: “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”

Now, women like her are upending that old political calculus, driving elections across the nation. Men are joining too, as candidates of color rally around each other. A week after Ocasio-Cortez won, she endorsed Abdul El-Sayed, the son of Egyptian immigrants running to become the nation’s first Muslim governor, and in July stumped for him in Michigan. In turn, El-Sayed and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Mexican-born congressional candidate in Illinois, announced mutual endorsements, with El-Sayed praising Garcia as “a courageous leader” willing to “stand up to our broken system.”

To replace that “broken system,” minority candidates are building a support system that counts on mutual support but also greater access to campaign cash — made possible by a wave of groups supporting them — than was  available in the past. BlackPAC spent $1.2 million this spring supporting eventual nominee Stacey Abrams in the Georgia gubernatorial Democratic primary, after previously spending $2.1 million in the Alabama Senate race and $1.1 million in Virginia helping a slate including Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax in 2017. The Collective PAC has also backed 18 African-American candidates, putting a quarter-million in campaign contributions directly in their coffers while also holding training seminars for political newcomers. The Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Victory Fund is planning support for as many as 15 candidates, recently putting six-digit figures into organizing efforts in swing states like North Carolina and Virginia.

None of these funding groups specifically backing candidates of color existed during the last election cycle.

This chain reaction isn’t restricted to Democrats. In California, Korean-American immigrant Young Kim is running to replace veteran congressional Republican Ed Royce in Orange County. In South Florida, Miami Republicans are counting on Hispanic candidates in three statehouse races and a crucial congressional race.

These shifting winds are allowing new candidates of color like Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year who is now fighting for a seat in Congress from Connecticut, to boldly hope that 2018 may be heralding something truly different for American politics. Hayes launched her campaign in May saying the wave of new candidates “gave me the courage to say, ‘You know what, maybe I will say yes this time.’” Seeing others run encouraged her “subconsciously,” says Sharice Davids, a Native American woman running for Congress in Kansas: “Three years ago, I don’t think the recognition of the need for [diversity] existed as much.” 

 

Demographics are part of the reason why parties are betting on candidates of color. Miami Republicans, for instance, are battling against the odds. Donald Trump’s record-low 2016 results (he performed worse than any GOP presidential nominee since 1944) in the region are a millstone on down-ballot Republicans, says Rey Anthony Lastre, a conservative-leaning political scientist who studies the Latino vote in South Florida.

Republicans must recruit candidates who “fit the profile of the districts they’re representing,” Lastre says, if they want to protect their House majority. He points to Maria Elvira Salazar, a pro-LGBT, pro–equal pay Latina woman with conservative economic and foreign policy views, drafted by the national party to run in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The average voter in Miami is “a Hispanic woman around 55 years old,” Lastre adds.

Previously, such candidates of color weren’t seen as winning horses, suggests Quentin James, who founded the Collective with his partner, Stefanie Brown James. “People say they value diversity, they value gender equality, but faced with it, [they bring up] all these problems and questions,” says James. “A year ago, I don’t think the political apparatus was as such where they could break through like they can now.”

Indeed, none of these funding groups specifically backing candidates of color existed during or after the last election cycle. They all came up after the 2016 presidential elections. Reflecting on the rush of candidates, James notices a major driving force: the same cohort that played a central role in defeating controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama last December.

“It’s driven by Black women not just seeing themselves as voters but as having a seat at the table,” James says. They’re creating what is quickly becoming the Year of Color.

***

In late July, 100 Black candidates gathered in Atlanta for a campaign school organized by the Collective: fresh-faced 20-somethings and wizened septuagenarians, university professors, activist organizers, college interns and airline employees. The sessions were focused on addressing “cultural barriers people of color face,” James says, that other candidates don’t.

Even longstanding liberal-bankrolling organizations have adjusted to the moment. After 2016, Emily’s List created a four-person team with a focus on local state campaigns. That team organized 24 training sessions in 24 cities last year. The rooms are “much more diverse” than years past, says Vanessa Cardenas, its director of national outreach: A third of the women in a Los Angeles event were Hispanic; in Atlanta, the attendance was four-fifths African-American; in Minneapolis, a large Indian contingent showed. They have borne fruit, from Gina Ortiz Jones, a Filipina Texan, to Lauren Underwood, a Black woman in Illinois, who both won their March congressional primaries and got their start at Emily’s List training seminars.

In the past, Democrat groups like Emily’s List would wait until the primary was over before endorsing — but by then, many minority candidates were phased out by their structural disadvantages. Candidates get deemed viable by how much money they raise, says Adrianne Shropshire, founder of BlackPAC: “That is a real challenge, particularly for folks who come from modest means.” This year, Emily’s List has more willingly jumped into the early fray, with some success — for instance, backing Deidre DeJear, now the Democratic Party nominee for secretary of state in Iowa, and Lucy McBath, a Black woman who won Georgia’s 6th Congressional District primary after joining the race motivated by her son’s shooting death.

“People didn’t have the networks to go deeper into communities to recruit a diverse set of candidates,” admits Cardenas, but says Emily’s List has “really progressed.” For Davids in Kansas, an Emily’s List–backed candidate, the support came in “the pieces that people don’t see,” Davids says, such as technical assistance and fundraising capacity building. “Them having people come here to Kansas and be on the ground has really been phenomenal.” 

Another challenge for minority-focused PACs: Does it matter if their funding comes mostly from wealthy White donors, rather than small-donor communities of color? That question faces BlackPAC, whose known contributions come mostly from mega-donors such as George Soros and the Hillary Clinton–affiliated Priorities USA Action. Only one African-American and two Latinos made the list of the top 100 U.S. political donors overall since 2009, according to a recent study by the Center for Responsive Politics, while Black billionaires such as Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey largely stay on the sidelines.

Asian-American voters and candidates are also throwing up questions for bankrollers. Nationwide, the Indian-American community has more than 100 candidates vying for office in 2018, says AAPI Victory Fund president Varun Nikore. What’s more, in the Virginia and New Jersey statewide elections, plus special elections across the country, Asian-Americans are turning out close to presidential levels, according to an AFL-CIO study. “This is completely unheard of,” Nikore says. (In comparison, that same report said African-American turnout was midway between presidential and midterm levels, while Hispanic voters were polling at ordinary midterm levels.) “No money is really being spent on Asian turnout, and yet they are turning out,” Nikore says. “It begs the question: What would happen if we invested a little bit of money?”

***

Liliana Bakhtiari knew what a Trump-idolizing state senator was after this spring, when he hitched his Georgia gubernatorial hopes to a “Deportation Bus,” traveling across the state in a retrofitted school bus with slogans like “Follow Me to Mexico” and “Fill This Bus With Illegals.”

She had seen similar candidates stir up racial resentment, but in the past nobody gave them the attention they craved. This time? Her social media pages were filled with outrage hate-sharing from her progressive peers who, in her view, were unwittingly spreading his message. “Republicans didn’t even give him the microphone. Democrats gave him thousands of dollars of free advertising,” she says.

Still, Bakhtiari knew some response was needed. She knew exactly how hard it was for candidates of color to enter such a heated political moment, having run for Atlanta City Council as the Muslim daughter of Iranian immigrants in 2017. So, the 30-year-old decided to recruit four other minority women, all artists, to buy their own bus at a public auction, which they are now painting with their own pro-immigrant messaging. As the pivotal November election approaches, Bakhtiari and her crew plan to barnstorm the state while drumming up the vote for Abrams, who’s vying to become the first female African-American governor in the nation.

Stirring up racial animosity has been a winning tactic for unscrupulous politicians throughout American history, most famously with Richard Nixon and the so-called “Southern strategy.” But as Trump — who has called African nations ”shithole countries” and defended White nationalists before disavowing them — implements strict anti-immigrant policies and rolls back civil rights protections, a curious reaction is emerging.

Rather than weakened, minority candidates have grown in strength. Both in numbers and in fundraising, they are producing a groundswell against the crucible of the president’s rhetoric and policies. Come November, it might not simply be a blue or red battle for statehouses and Congress, but a tidal wave of color.

Five Candidates of Color to Know

  • Ben Jealous: Formerly the NAACP’s youngest president ever, the civil rights activist served as a key African-American outreach surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ campaign and is now running for Maryland governor. Key quote: “Jobs stop bullets.”
  • Maria Elvira Salazar: A former Telemundo and CNN newscaster and one of the most trusted voices in U.S. Hispanic television, the Miami daughter of Cuban parents was drafted by Republicans in the competitive Florida 27th Congressional District.
  • Abdul El-Sayed: The 33-year-old son of Egyptian immigrants and former Detroit health commissioner is running on a progressive platform in Michigan to become the first Muslim governor in American history.
  • Sharice Davids: “Raised by a single mom, from community college to the Ivy League, from a waitress to the White House” begins the campaign ad for the lawyer running in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District to be the first indigenous congresswoman.
  • Vennia Francois: An Afro-Bahamian conservative and former gospel-singing star, the Orlando native worked as a policy analyst for two Florida senators and is now running to become the Republican nominee in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

The Next ‘Game of Thrones’ Could Come From China

Ff cover

Jin Yong had to wait six decades to see his fantasy trilogy, Legends of the Condor Heroes, translated into English earlier this year — nevermind that 300 million copies of his books had sold in the Chinese-speaking world by then. It took Ken Liu just a year since the 2015 publication of his book The Grace of Kings to emerge as a finalist for the prestigious Nebula award for best novel. The difference between them is no coincidence. The Eurocentric world of fantasy is changing, and the West is finally embracing epic fiction rooted in East Asia, particularly China.

Since The Lord of the Rings was published almost 70 years ago, epic fantasy has grown into a powerful current in mainstream pop culture. Successes like HBO’s Game of Thrones series, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, have built on a fantasy market long dominated by stories deeply rooted in European culture and myth. Now a new guard of authors is challenging that supremacy by bringing to life a universe of fantastical worlds inspired by the legends and history of East Asia.

Nobody in the core fantasy readership cares that much about elves or orcs anymore.

Carl Engle-Laird, Tor.com Publishing

Some marry contemporary history and fantasy. R.F. Kuang’s 2018 The Poppy War, described as “the best fantasy debut of the year” by popular European review site BookNest, follows the journey of a war orphan who becomes a supernatural warrior. Fonda Lee’s Jade City is a finalist for the Nebula Award for best novel. In the book — set on an island inspired by mid-20th-century Hong Kong — jade empowers warriors with superhuman capabilities. Other authors blend technology — lightning guns, zeppelins, submarines — with epic empires reminiscent of imperial China. Ken Liu calls the genre “silkpunk.” Jin Yong’s trilogy traverses generations of battles, mysterious fighting techniques, love and betrayal, with historical wars from the 12th century as the backdrop. And Singapore-based writer JY Yang’s Tensorate series of East Asian fantasy has been nominated for the Nebula Award for best novella in 2017, and for the Kitschies Golden Tentacle and Hugo awards this year. 

Never before has East Asian fantasy competed for — and frequently won — Western literary honors year after year. Suddenly, critics, publishers and longtime fans are devouring tales of magical jade cities, mythic island empires and wars fought with divine interventions and opium-fueled kung fu.

 

“Asia as a whole has such a rich and varied tapestry of history and culture to draw from — seeing them reflected in these books really excites me as a reader,” says Aentee, who runs the book review blog Read at Midnight and goes by a single name.

This sudden embrace of East Asian fantasy in the West has come about because of a combination of factors, say industry analysts. The shift from paper to digital submissions makes it easier for international authors to submit their work, says Carl Engle-Laird, associate editor at Tor.com Publishing, a New York–based science-fiction and fantasy publisher. “The biggest factor is the evolution of the genre conversation on Twitter,” Engle-Laird says. Asian authors, he says, have been tireless both in pushing their own work and in supporting their community: “Authors that make it use their platforms to hold the door open for others.”

Within the publishing industry in the West, there are greater calls for diverse voices. There’s a simultaneous demand for fresh fantasy and a growing tiredness with the cultural sameness of Europe-driven novels, say industry insiders. “Nobody in the core fantasy readership cares that much about elves or orcs anymore,” says Engle-Laird. “We’re as far beyond The Hobbit as literary fiction is beyond Of Mice and Men. Both those books are foundational, but they’re not what we’re doing these days.”

For readers like Aentee, who is Vietnamese and lives in New Zealand, these East Asia–inspired fantasy novels carry echoes of childhood stories and references to beloved comfort dishes. For readers less familiar with the cultural references, fantasy is often the best medium to learn about new societies.

“Fantasy readers are used to diving into alien worlds,” says Engle-Laird, citing readers’ abilities to “make leaps of imagination” and involve themselves in worlds with novel systems for everything from politics to physics. Robert Jordan’s magical wheel spinning to weave reality, George R.R. Martin’s decadelong winters and J.R.R. Tolkien’s own symphonic creation myth have all required readers to suspend their critical thinking during visits to these worlds.

Subtly, these books are also serving as reminders to the West of how East Asian culture has in the past been appropriated by Western storytellers. And some of these books — like The Poppy War, a reference to the Opium Wars — touch upon the history of European imperialism in Asia.

That doesn’t mean that East Asian fantasy can’t co-exist with its Eurocentric counterparts. Singapore-based Yang says The Lord of the Rings movies were their “gateway drug” into fantasy literature.

Compelling stories in those settings are still possible,  Yang says, ”if they’re done well.” 

The next leap for East Asian sci-fi and fantasy novels — onto television screens and into film theaters — may still take time. Amazon’s $1 billion Lord of the Rings series and a prequel series to Game of Thrones are already in the works. But these authors have already shown they know how to wait for their moment.

This Weird Combination Makes for Mexico’s Tastiest Crepe

Kryj72

A skinny, well-calculated drizzle of batter falls from the jug, bubbling as it pools on the sizzling griddle before a quick flick of the wrist forces it to cobweb its way across the entire cast iron surface. Some unlucky globs succumb to the open flame below, but the rest unite to make a wafer-thin crepe that is (soon-to-be) rolled into a tight, compact cylinder; the edges should be smooth, the bake even and the contents plentiful. But, like pizza, even a slightly imperfect marquesita is better than no marquesita at all. 

Watching a marquesita being made at oil-clothed street-side stalls or on modified three-wheeled push-bikes is enthralling, but crunch, crunch, crunching one down is so much better. This is especially true once it’s been loaded up with the contradictory yet complementary combo of creamy, chocolaty Nutella spread schmeared along the length of the crepe and salty queso de bola (a Mexican riff on Dutch Edam that literally translates as “cheese ball”).

Wait … chocolate and cheese?

There’s just something about how the handful of cheese melts down into the sickly sweet slather of chocolaty creaminess …

Yes, really. Trust me. The first time I tried a marquesita was out of sheer curiosity, in Valladolid, Yucatán (the key cheese component originates in Ocosingo, Chiapas, but the marquesita is far more heavily linked to Mexico’s east coast). Anyone in Mexico knows that street stalls only have massive queues for one reason — whatever they’re selling is bloody good — and this particular marquesita stall had the longest line of all. And after queuing for 45 minutes, I wasn’t disappointed.   

There’s just something about how the handful of cheese melts down into the sickly sweet slather of chocolaty creaminess inside the elegantly slender marquesita that makes it irresistible. Think of the crepe shell — striped with thin griddle marks (perhaps for grip, who knows?) — as the streamlined, lightweight vehicle for getting that gooey inner goodness into your face hole. A sort of dessert version of taquitos or their longer, skinnier cousin, the flauta, albeit with tortillas swapped out for pancake batter and with that “sweet-salty-creamy combo that makes them unique,” adds Marisol Borges, owner of Veracruz-based marquesería, MarqueCity.

 

And even though chocolate and cheese is the classic combo, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. Jam, peanut butter, condensed milk and even fresh fruit are all perfectly valid options. In fact, the most-sold MarqueCity specialty is the “Frida” (named for its inventor, not Frida Kahlo), which combines cajeta (a kind of Mexican caramel) with queso de bola and cream cheese.

Rumor has it that marquesitas (supposedly named for either the daughter of a local marquis or the inventor’s wife, Marquesa) started life in a Mérida ice cream parlor, dreamed up by the owner, Don Vicente Mena, as a snack to boost sales during the comparatively cooler winter months; however, conflicting sources say this tale took place between 1910 and 1930. So it’s safe to say it should be taken with a pinch of local legend salt. And the now-popular chocolate-cheese filling wasn’t always a marquesita staple; instead it was just the crepe, and then the crepe with cheese, before sweeter additions made their way into the mix.   

Either way, for a country where desserts sometimes miss the mark with both Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike (see: wobbly flan and a penchant for spicy-sweet candies), people-pleasing marquesitas have a melty salty-sweetness and brittle savory crunch that will leave you obsessed. And for just 30 pesos ($1.60) a pop, one (or two, or three) won’t break the bank.  

Special Briefing: Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman Goes on Trial

Gettyimages 975319020

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What’s happening? Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort goes on trial on Tuesday on charges arising from the investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It is the first of two scheduled trials for Manafort, who took over from Corey Lewandowski as Trump’s campaign head in June 2016.

What are the charges against him? Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty, faces charges of tax evasion and bank fraud, and the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars. Prosecutors have levied a 32-count indictment — with 436 pieces of evidence — against Manafort that largely deals with him hiding more than $30 million in income from tax authorities. The former lobbyist received millions of dollars during his support of pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and has has been in jail since June for trying to influence the testimony of witnesses in his case. 

Gettyimages 585096050

Republican nominee Donald Trump, his campaign manager Paul Manafort and his daughter Ivanka Trump do a walk-through at the Republican Convention, July 20, 2016, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Source Brooks Kraft/ Getty

What’s this got to do with Trump-Russia? Mueller’s team has said it will not present evidence about any campaign collusion at Manafort’s first trial. But as part of detailing Manafort’s alleged financial crimes, prosecutors plan to lay out Manafort’s extensive dealing with Russia-linked Ukrainian oligarchs, his financial ties to them, and the personal debts he had incurred prior to joining the Trump campaign — all of which could lay the groundwork for potential collusion between Manafort and Russia during the campaign. 

 

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

He’s feeling the heat. Recent news that special counsel Robert Mueller plans to call 35 witnesses — among them Manafort’s ex-deputy Rick Gates and Tad Devine, a onetime Bernie Sanders consultant who worked with Manafort on Ukraine — to testify in the case doesn’t bode well for Trump’s former right-hand man. The fact that Manafort’s lawyers recently asked the court for a delay (but were granted one shorter than requested) also indicates they may be scrambling to mount their defense against a well-prepared prosecution. “I think it’s the desperation strategy,” one law professor said.

The Manafort behind the myth. Manafort was seen as a Washington insider when he joined Trump’s campaign as its chairman and chief strategist in 2016. He had started his political career advising Republican president Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign before moving on as a hired political consultant for other leaders around the world, including dictators in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines. But the lobbyist’s relationship with Trump dates back to well before the presidential campaign: Manafort’s firm was hired by the Trump Organization in the 1980s to lobby on gambling and real estate. In 2006, he even bought an apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower.

Gettyimages 975545656

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court on June 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C. A judge revoked Manafort’s bail and sent him to jail over claims he was tampering with witnesses in the case against him brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Source MANDEL NGAN/Getty

Fixer for hire. In the years before joining the Trump campaign, Manafort made his name as a foreign fixer rehabilitating Yanukovych, a disgraced Ukrainian presidential candidate who lost a 2004 election only to secure a victory six years later, thanks to Manafort’s efforts. The problem? Yanukovych and his cronies were deeply corrupt, making the massive payments the U.S. political operator received for his work — which also included sprucing up Yanukovych’s international image — instantly suspicious. 

Filial concern. Alleged hacked text messages from Manafort’s daughters from 2012 to 2016 were posted to the dark web by a hacktivist collective last year. According to the messages, one daughter called her father’s relationship with Trump the “most dangerous friendship in America” between “power-hungry egomaniacs.” And at least one daughter seemed troubled by her father’s work in Ukraine. “You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,” Andrea Manafort texted. “That money we have is blood money.”   

WHAT TO READ 

The Plot Against America, by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic. 

“Only a small handful of Americans — oil executives, Cold War spymasters — could claim to have ever amassed such influence in a foreign regime.” 

Inside the Jail Where Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort Is Being Held, by David Z. Morris in Fortune. 

“The jail has been described online by apparent insiders as a ‘hell hole’ where ‘inmates are treated worse than livestock’ … [although] Manafort’s housing in a “VIP” unit might make his stay a bit more pleasant.”

WHAT TO WATCH 

Who Is Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort?

“While Trump was dealing with the American people, it appeared that Manafort was dealing with Russian officials.” 

Watch on NowThis on YouTube:

The Key to the Mueller Investigation Is Paul Manafort’s Life

“When he became Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in April of 2016 he was to outward appearances someone on top of the world. When he left in August 2016, he was a man shattered.”

Watch on Washington Post on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER 

The spoils of victory. The prosecution will offer proof at trial of the lavish lifestyle Manafort enjoyed thanks to his undeclared income, including nearly $1 million paid to an antique rug store, millions spent for property in New York and Virginia, $503,500 in fees for landscaping and $850,000 for men’s clothing. Prosecutors are planning to display photos of such extravagant purchases, including of the waterfall Manafort had at one home.

Trump’s Approach to Iran: Driving US Policy in Circles

Leslie 103527970

President Donald Trump’s Iran policy looks increasingly like it’s trapped in a cul-de-sac. Following the U.S. administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement in May, the prospects for tightening restrictions on Iran are low. It’s also unlikely that the White House will succeed in engineering a regime change in Tehran, if indeed that is what it really wants.  

The 2015 nuclear accord by Obama’s administration had its flaws, but at least it would have sharply limited Tehran’s weapons-related nuclear work for a decade or more. It was also a rare point of convergence for the United States, Europe, Russia, China and Iran — all signatories to the agreement. Pulling out only added to growing U.S. isolation in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its budding trade wars with Europe and Asia.

It is still unclear what advantage Trump saw in jettisoning the agreement, apart from diminishing Obama-era achievements. That said, the U.S. president and other members of his government had consistently criticized the accord on several substantive grounds. They argued that many of its nuclear-limitation provisions would expire in 10 to 15 years; that it did nothing to constrain Iranian missile development or support for hostile groups opposed to the U.S.; and that its verification procedures were weak and not sufficiently intrusive.

Bellicose tweet-driven rhetoric flying back and forth between Trump and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in recent days makes it sound like the U.S. is ready to use military power if Iranian taunts continue.

The other side of the argument was that the accord bought time. It extended from months to years the amount of time it would’ve taken Iran to muster a nuclear weapon, and many of the provisions, such as the monitoring of its uranium acquisition, would’ve endured in perpetuity because Iran accepted the so-called additional protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Moreover, Obama purposely limited the accord to nuclear issues and did not wrap other Iranian activities into it. His administration made no secret of its opposition to other Iranian activities but concluded that it would be too difficult to get all parties on board with a more sweeping package.

So where does all this leave the Trump administration and its Iran policy? Most of its tools are economic ones. New and renewed U.S. sanctions will hurt Iran because many European and other countries, unable to use U.S. banking services without penalty, will pull out of the Iran market. GE, Honeywell, Peugeot and Siemens, for example, are winding down Iranian operations, and Boeing has announced it will not fulfill a major contract for new aircraft and parts. While these and other steps will cause pain and inconvenience to the Iranian public, it also plays into the hands of Iranian hard-liners who argued that Washington could not be trusted. Also, anti-Iran actions by the U.S. typically cause Iranians to coalesce in defense of their country, rather than cast blame on their political leaders. 

 

Beyond economic pressure, the administration has few viable options. It could seek to renegotiate the agreement to get better terms, but there is virtually no chance Tehran will agree to reopen the accord. European allies tried tightening the agreement somewhat in the hope of meeting Trump’s conditions for remaining in it but did not make much progress. Besides, Iran will cite the repeated certifications of its compliance by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to make the point that there is nothing to renegotiate. 

Taken at face value, bellicose tweet-driven rhetoric flying back and forth between Trump and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in recent days makes it sound like the U.S. is ready to use military power if Iranian taunts continue. But Trump has made clear numerous times that he does not want to make or maintain major military ground operations in the Middle East. He has said repeatedly, for example, that he wants U.S. troops out of Syria. So chances are Iran is writing off Trump’s threats as hollow — probably a safe bet.

Finally, it is hard to interpret the administration’s harsh comments on Iran’s government and its endorsement of Iranian popular grievances and dissident groups as anything other than a yearning for regime change in Tehran. But recent U.S. experience with regime change — primarily Iraq — shows how difficult and costly this can be. Iran, by contrast, is about four times the size of Iraq, with a more complex society and stronger military. It’s hard to believe that any appetite for regime change would survive even a cursory assessment of its prospects. 

So economic sanctions are the only tools in the shed. These can inflict suffering on Iran but not as effectively as on North Korea. Iran is neither as isolated politically or economically as North Korea, nor is it as broke. And some cushion will inevitably come from the fact that Europe, Russia and China have not left the agreement and will be looking for ways to discourage Iran from pulling out and resuming its nuclear program.

The U.S. administration’s policy, in other words, looks destined to drive in circles. The previous administration confronted an Iran that was barreling along rapidly toward a nuclear weapon. The agreement it devised was imperfect, but insofar as it froze Iran’s nuclear capability, it was the policy equivalent of making lemonade out of lemons. The Trump administration appears now to have done something even more difficult: It turned that lemonade back into lemons.

A Guided Gander at Being the Best Lover Ever

Shutterstock 217330621

Depends on What Your Definition of “Is” Is

EUGENE, SIR: I’m 26 and have had five lovers. Here’s a question I want to ask, but it seems too stupid to ask anyone face to face. What do people mean when they call someone a “good” lover? I think I’m a good lover, but who knows? Will people tell you if you’re a bad lover? I guess I’m looking for an objective professional opinion about what it means to be “good” and not “bad.” — Just Checking

Dear Checking Account: Oh, people will tell you. Typically by never seeking out your company again if you’re bad. But I’ve heard tell of people being “too” good and also not being sought out again, mostly on account of a subject’s awareness that falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you puts you at a disadvantage. I’ve heard “it’s easier to fall in love with someone who is great in bed.” (Not if they’re asses in other ways.) In any case, straight to your query: Good is hard to make sense of. Sex is so singularly subjective that getting to an objective rendering is doomed to being culturally bound and almost insignificant if you move a little left or right of your target zone.

Which is to say, one person’s sexy could be another person’s sex crime, a fact that has largely contributed to everything from Aziz Ansari’s alleged bad date to former Stanford swimmer and convicted felon Brock Turner’s recent claim that he was seeking “outercourse,” not intercourse, and should have his conviction overturned.

But away from the stickier wickets of clearly bad behavior there seem to be certain good-sex benchmarks that might be useful in your self-evaluation. 

1. You and your partner are both having fun/enjoying yourselves: Almost never have I heard anyone say, “That restaurant was great! The food was so wonderfully terrible!” Not to go tautological on you, but this is a simple, though sometimes ignored, performance marker. Signs that participants might be enjoying themselves involve smiles, moans of appreciation and, often, an orgasm somewhere in the process.

2. You and your partner are actively engaged. Unless you have a specific kink, lying there deathly still seems to be antithetical to No. 1.

3. You and your partner are making creative choices: Now we’re just repeating ourselves, but the powers of imagination are useful and usually well-received. Dancing can be fun. But doing a step-by-step re-creation of John Travolta’s moves in Saturday Night Fever more than once? Not so fun, and maybe a little creepy. You do you so that everyone being done by you understands precisely what that will look like on a long-enough timeline.

Hope this helps. 

 

Alimentary Action 

EUGENE, SIR: When we’re having anal sex, my man sometimes says it hurts. Maybe it’s something I’ve eaten, but how long before having anal could I expect something I’ve eaten to come into play? — Vanessa

Dear Contessa Vanessa: It hurts him? Has he also been on the other end of a penis? He might recalibrate what “hurts” is all about if he had.… But what I think you’re asking is how long might it take for either the bran or the broken glass you’ve been eating to work its way through your system before you all enjoy an evening of anal. After asking a few doctors, the consensus seems to be anywhere from six to 10 hours. This, or a change of position, might reduce/eliminate whatever “unpleasantness” he’s “enduring” by sticking his penis in your anus. 

Doubling Trouble? 

EUGENE, SIR: We’re thinking of experimenting with double penetration, but we’re not adventurous enough to have a third person in with us. We’re 10 years married and actually love just each other, so we’ve been considering using sex toys. Does this make sense, and what do other people prefer as to where the sex toy goes (as opposed to a penis, I guess)? Any information will be appreciated. — Name withheld by request

Dear In Through the Out Door: Before we go any further I should address this: People who love each other still do enjoy threesomes. I know I’d get letters if I didn’t say so and now that I’ve said so, on to your inquiry. First, yes, it makes sense. As has been said before, sex is play and sex toys are playthings, so it makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t be alone in having worked this into your repertoire and for some of the same reasons. As to the preferred placement, this is largely a taste issue and lest you think this is a way to weasel out of having an answer for you, I can point to the fact that sex toys — specifically dildos, vibrators and plugs — are legion. You can find one for every size, shape and party preference. And for those allergic to latex or rubber, non-latex condoms are advised as an outer sheath.

But the real meat of your query: Have my years as a sex columnist yielded a vote on preferred placement, by which I guess you mean does the sex toy get used anally while you enter vaginally, or vice versa?

Most people seem to favor a toy used anally due to the aforementioned variety. You can scale up or down as comfortable.

The connoisseur’s preference, however?

Repeat writers have informed me that their preference trends toward a vibrating sex toy used vaginally while the partner enters through the rear. It frees the passive partner on account of the other partner now able to pilot both penis and sex toy while also digitally manipulating the vagina. Definitely for sophisticates only. But give it a try. And let us know how it works out!