Special Briefing: The End of Birthright Citizenship?

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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 happened? President Donald Trump casually dropped a bombshell this week: He’s been advised, he said, that he can use an executive order to end the constitutionally protected right of citizenship for anyone born on American soil. That set off alarm bells for legal scholars, most of whom have taken issue with his suggestion — but it also sparked a national discussion about why birthright citizenship exists and what its end might mean. 

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President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Southern Illinois Airport on October 27, in Murphysboro, Illinois.

Source Scott Olson/Getty

Why does it matter? While Trump has talked about it since well before he was elected, the push to end birthright citizenship has long been a cause of America’s White nationalists. But White House officials were reportedly startled by the commander in chief’s announcement, saying it hadn’t been discussed. Opponents of the president have characterized the controversial idea as a way for Trump to rally his base on issues of immigration ahead of next week’s midterm elections. 


Can he do that? Probably not. While nearly all scholars on both sides of the political spectrum agree that birthright citizenship is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment — “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside” — some claim it could exclude undocumented immigrants, given judicial precedent. But far fewer believe that measure could be taken with a presidential executive order. Besides, any such order would likely be challenged immediately in court, where legal experts expect it would be struck down. 

Political gain. Trump’s proposal comes one week before America’s midterm elections on Nov. 6, in which many pollsters expect Democratic candidates to make gains. The president’s critics have largely called out the focus on citizenship — given its legal unlikelihood — as a strategy to get hard-line anti-immigration conservatives to turn out at the polls. Others say it could just as easily backfire against more moderate GOP candidates.

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Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, leaves a House Republicans’ caucus meeting on immigration reforms in June 2018.

Source Bill Clark/Getty

Playing identity politics. Those favoring a narrower interpretation of the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to solidify the citizenship of former slaves, include Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa — who’s pushed lawmakers to repeal the policy since at least 2015. Meanwhile, former Ku Klux Klan member Derek Black, who renounced his affiliation in 2013 despite being the godson of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, described Trump’s proposal as resembling a key White nationalist goal — “one of the cornerstones of their belief system.” 

America’s not alone. While Trump claimed this week that the U.S. is the only country providing birthright citizenship, that’s not true: At least 35 countries, from Argentina to Lesotho — and including neighbors Mexico and Canada — offer it too. But the U.S. wouldn’t be the first to drop it either. Within the past 25 years, France, New Zealand and Ireland have all dumped birthright citizenship in favor of a policy known as jus sanguinis, wherein citizenship is granted automatically only if the child has at least one parent native to the country. Meanwhile, a 2011 Pew Research poll found that 57 percent of Americans oppose amending the Constitution to jettison birthright citizenship. 


The Problem With Challenging Birthright Citizenship, by Garrett Epps in The Atlantic

“On this scale, we are not talking about immigration policy; we are talking (I don’t have time for political correctness here) about a crime against humanity.” 

Citizenship Shouldn’t Be a Birthright, by Michael Anton in The Washington Post

“The notion that simply being born within the geographical limits of the United States automatically confers U.S. citizenship is an absurdity — historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically.” 


President to Terminate Birthright Citizenship

“It’s in the process. It’ll happen, with an executive order.”

Watch on Axios on YouTube:

Paul Ryan: Trump Can’t End Birthright Citizenship

“We didn’t like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws with an executive action, and obviously as conservatives we believe in the Constitution.”

Watch on CNN on YouTube:


Twist of fate. President Trump himself profits from birthright citizenship in at least one way: Wealthy Russian women are increasingly traveling stateside to bear their children, to guarantee them American passports — known as “birth tourism” — and a Daily Beast investigation found that Trump’s own Florida properties are wildly popular among expectant Russian families. The privately owned rental properties are advertised by companies specializing in Russian birth tourism, and women have posted photos on Instagram of themselves pregnant or with newborns at the Trump International Beach Resort in Miami.

Pittsburgh’s Mayor, an ‘Adopted Jew,’ Tries to Hold City Together in Darkest Hour

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It would have been easy to overlook Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto sitting quietly among the mourners who filled Rodef Shalom Temple in the city’s Shadyside neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon. Packing the sanctuary, aisles and balcony, they gathered to lay to rest brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, two of the 11 people killed on Saturday when Robert Bowers opened fire during services at Tree of Life Congregation in nearby Squirrel Hill.

Peduto, 54, wasn’t the only familiar face in the crowd — there, too, was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin, as well as former Steelers great Franco Harris. But on this day, the athletes and the mayor blended into the assemblage of dark clothing, easy to miss. They were there simply to grieve.

It is undoubtedly part of a mayor’s job description to unite his constituents following a tragedy — this one, the “darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history,” as Peduto said in a news conference Sunday. But in this major city that can often feel more like a small town, Peduto’s words of comfort and the calls to action reflect more than an attempt to pay lip service.

This is a horrible time, and he’s trying to guide us through it.

Bryan Carey, friend of Bill Peduto

While serving in the Pittsburgh City Council between 2002 and 2014, the Democrat represented parts of Squirrel Hill, where about 40 percent of the population is Jewish. Though he was raised a devout Catholic, the youngest of four brothers, Peduto considers himself an “adopted Jew” thanks to his work in the 8th District. On Monday, Peduto told The Forward, “I feel a personal bond through the friendships that I have been able to build over the past couple of decades, and I feel a personal loss about what happened on Saturday.”

Those friendships have earned Peduto, a progressive who calls himself a “Reform Democrat,” support around the entire city — which elected him to his second mayoral term in November 2017. But the residents of this part of town, in particular, reciprocate the bond he feels with them. Peduto is a regular at Cappy’s Cafe, an unassuming watering hole in Shadyside. Owner Bryan Carey, who says Peduto has been coming in as long as he’s been there — 21 years — considers him a good friend.

“This is a horrible time, and he’s trying to guide us through it,” says Carey. “You can tell the pain we’re all experiencing — including myself; I lived in Squirrel Hill for almost 10 years — he’s experiencing too.”


A native of Scott township, in Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs, he was student government president in high school and dropped out of Penn State in 1989 three courses short of a political science degree — so he could work in politics, naturally. He finally earned the degree in 2007, making him the only member of the city council with a college degree at the time. It wasn’t the only thing that made him stand out during his three terms, when Peduto’s independent streak and sharp elbows didn’t always endear him to colleagues. 

He mounted mayoral campaigns in 2005 and 2007, dropping out of the latter Democratic primary against then-mayor Luke Ravenstahl — a bitter political rival for years — when polls showed him trailing badly. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board at the time criticized his “political cowardice.”

That’s not a term many would use to describe Peduto today, five years after winning the post at last. Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Peduto has taken a leading role in rebuffing the president on behalf of Pittsburgh. In June 2017, when Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the president declared he was elected by voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Peduto fired back on Twitter:

In this week’s clash between Peduto and the president, the mayor urged Trump to consult the families of the shooting victims before traveling to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to pay his respects — with some critics saying Peduto was politicizing the event. “We do not have enough public safety officials to provide enough protection at the funerals and to be able at the same time [to] draw attention to a potential presidential visit,” Peduto said. “If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead.” In an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Peduto criticized Trump for suggesting increased armed security could have prevented the shooting. “I don’t think that the answer to this problem is solved by having our synagogues, mosques and churches filled with armed guards or our schools filled with armed guards,” he said.

Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh on Tuesday was quiet and somber. The president, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, visited Tree of Life and met with the injured at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. After the Trumps paid their respects, Air Force One carried them out of town. The funerals continue on through Friday, says mayoral spokesman Timothy McNulty, and Peduto will keep showing up, dressed in black. 

“Bill’s a tireless worker,” says Carey. “He’s not sleeping when anything happens in this city. You’ve got people murdering innocent people in a synagogue. He’s not going to sleep for a long time.”  

Good News for British Women: Your Pay Gap Has Never Been Lower

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The U.K.’s gender pay gap fell this year to its lowest level on record and has been virtually eliminated for full-time workers under 40, suggesting that the government’s naming and shaming efforts have been paying off.

The Office for National Statistics’ main annual survey of pay also showed reasonable weekly earnings growth as people worked longer hours, and a large decline in the proportion of employees with hourly pay levels well below the national average.

Together, the figures will offer a boost to the government ahead of next week’s budget, showing falling gender pay differences and a decline in very low pay, even if hourly wage levels have barely grown above inflation. According to the ONS’ annual survey of hours and earnings:

The gender pay gap for full-time employees fell to 8.6 percent in April 2018, down from 9.1 percent in 2017 and 17 percent in 1997.

Most of the improvement came from younger workers, among whom gender discrimination has disappeared far more quickly. The 2018 full-time pay gap was less than 1.5 percent for full-time workers in their twenties and thirties but still 12.8 percent for people in their forties and 15.5 percent for those in their fifties.

Much of the gap relates to a pay penalty for mothers after they have children, with hourly part-time pay levels significantly lower than full-time pay.

Women are the predominant part-time workers, with 28 percent of females aged 22 to 30 working part time, rising to 38 percent of women in their thirties and 41 percent in their forties.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said the fall in the gender pay gap was far too slow. “At this rate, another generation of women will spend their whole working lives waiting to be paid the same as men,” she said.


Some of the largest gender pay gaps were for production managers in the mining and energy sectors, construction supervisors, printers and financial managers and directors.

Women were paid a little more than men in jobs such as butchery, public relations and architecture, with a 23 percent gap favoring women among counselors.

With its sample size being far bigger than other measures of wages and earnings, the annual ONS data, which samples one in 100 employees whose national insurance numbers end in 14, provides far more information than the monthly data on trends in pay.

It showed median hourly earnings growth of 2.5 percent in 2018, the same as in 2017 and barely above the 2.4 percent consumer price inflation rate in April.

Full-time workers did a little better, with median hourly wages rising 2.7 percent, but with an increase in their average hours in 2018, the rise in median weekly earnings growth was 3.5 percent, the highest figure on this basis since 2008.

With the introduction and steady rise in the minimum wage level for those over 25, the levels of low pay — classed as hourly pay below two-thirds of the median or £8.52 ($10.93) an hour, compared with the £7.50 ($9.62) minimum wage — has dropped sharply. In 2013, 21.6 percent of employees had jobs classed as low-paid by the hour, dropping steadily to 17.8 percent in 2018.

There was little change in the proportion of people in high-paid work, with 25.7 percent of jobs paying more than 1.5 times the median, or more than £19.17 ($24.58) an hour in 2018.

Stephen Clarke, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said a worrying trend in the figures was that wages were growing most strongly at the top of the scale.

“Today’s figures also show the first growth in pay inequality since 2010,” he says. “While a rising minimum wage helped reduce the proportion of low-paid jobs to its lowest point since the series began, a drop in hours worked by the lowest-paid resulted in further falls in real weekly wages in the bottom fifth of the distribution.”

OZY puts it in perspective: China’s gender pay gap is 22 percent, down from 30 percent in 2017, while the OECD reports that the U.S. still has an 18 percent pay gap. But South Korea’s gap is truly shocking at 37 percent.  

How Trump Is Good for Democracy

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Ray Santiago knows how engaged liberals are in what’s going on in Washington. He saw for himself when protesters swarmed during the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That, for him, was the final straw. He typically only picks up a ballot once every four years, but this time he plans to vote in the U.S. midterms.

“I can’t let a crowd like that control the country,” Santiago, 63, said outside a polling place in Hope Mills, North Carolina, home to one of the closest congressional contests in the country this year. Santiago’s also pushing his friends and family to vote in support of Republicans who will back Donald Trump. “I think he’s doing a good job.”

Trump’s mastery of the spotlight clearly has made people care about their government again.

From Trump’s first days in office, it was clear that the man formerly known as “The Donald” was inspiring passion and engagement, both for him and against him. First was the big inaugural crowd (though smaller than Barack Obama’s), and then came the huge crowd of protesters when more than 3 million participated in the women’s marches nationwide. News outlets, meanwhile, have also enjoyed a “Trump Bump” and are awash in readers, viewers and listeners, all eager to dive into the weeds of health care policy and special counsel investigations. Congressional representatives are flooded with mail, and with a highly engaged citizenry juicing a big midterm turnout, Trump’s mastery of the spotlight clearly has made people care about their government again.

Consider the numbers: A poll conducted by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation early this year found that one in five Americans had joined a political rally or protest since January 2016. Of those, 19 percent said they had never done so before.

They’ve been deluging members of Congress. Bradford Fitch, who heads the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to improving how Congress interacts with constituents, has been studying these interactions closely since 2002. He says moments of activism come in waves — and those waves have become more frequent in the past couple of years, whether it’s the nomination of Betsy DeVos to secretary of education (which produced 1.3 million calls in a single day to one congressional leadership office) or Kavanaugh.


One congressional office in the suburban D.C. area, Fitch says, got 9,300 letters and emails in 2001. By 2011, it had grown to 43,000. Last year, 127,000 missives came in. This shows an extraordinary number of people petitioning their leaders, which is how it’s supposed to work.

But there is a downside. “I would argue we’re seeing a decrease in genuine communications if you believe communicating is defined by someone having a robust dialog on something,” Fitch says. “Our members are having difficulty separating signal from the noise.” He points to the decline of in-person town hall meetings, which have become mere stages for angry constituents to yell at their representatives.

Increased media consumption can similarly be a double-edged sword. The bump has prompted huge cable news ratings and an increase in paid digital subscriptions to the Washington Post and New York Times, among other outlets. In the millions, Americans are diving into political podcasts like Pod Save America on the left and The Ben Shapiro Show on the right. But 68 percent of respondents told the Pew Research Center that they were “worn out” by the sheer amount of news flooding in these days.

And while there are signs that the president is becoming oversaturated — even Trump-friendly Fox News isn’t carrying all his political rallies live anymore — there’s no question he is compelling television. Simmering White House personnel tensions, the international intrigue and the improvisational nature of it all keep us tuning in. As does Trump’s love of telegraphing his own announcements, and offering frequent rhetorical cliffhangers like “we’ll see.”

He’s also incredibly accessible. His Twitter account offers an unprecedented real-time look at his thinking. An ABC News analysis found that in one recent 11-day stretch (notably including sweeps week–level guest star Kanye West in the Oval Office) Trump took 300 questions from reporters — a gobsmacking sum for which the network could find no historical precedent.

It’s all pushing more Americans to the polls. Across House, Senate and gubernatorial elections, turnout for primary season was far ahead of past midterms. Early voting for the general election has been brisk — and some Texans were fired up enough to camp out overnight before the first day to cast their ballots. Though it’s hard to extrapolate too much from early voting, which has been trending higher for a while at the expense of Election Day, all signs point toward a big year for the “I Voted” sticker industry.

Perhaps it took a president with a penchant for showmanship and an intimate knowledge of our reality-TV culture to get people interested in government — and to accomplish what our beleaguered civics educators could not.

Bakers Dare to Mess With Mexico’s ‘Bread of the Dead’

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Mexico is creeping toward November, when it celebrates its famous Day of the Dead tradition: decorating graves to celebrate the dead and eating candy skulls and pan de muerto (literally translated, this means bread of the dead), the traditional sweet bread that goes with the season.  

Only this year, an interloper has snuck into the city’s supermarkets and bakeries. The mantemuerto — or bread of the dead “cupcake” — is rattling the bones of Mexicans at home and abroad. 

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A baker places the crosses on the cupcakes. 

Source Deborah Bonello

The original pan de muerto is a round, fat bun about the size of the palm of a hand that is decorated with strips of pastry to resemble bones and then sprinkled with sugar. Made from the same dough as the original bread — a combination of milk, flour, eggs, shredded orange peel, yeast, sugar and spices — the only real difference between a pan de muerto and its newer, bastardized version is that the latter has been baked in a cupcake shell.

They have the same sweet, orange-tinted buttery taste and sugar sprinkles as the original.

Still, some call the mantemuerto an aberration that betrays tradition: “I don’t like it — I prefer the original,” says Lucrecia Soto, a hairdresser in Mexico City. “It’s good to innovate, but not with traditional things.”  


But many in Mexico love the new mantemuertos — they have the same sweet, orange-tinted buttery taste and sugar sprinkles as the original. Despite being created some eight years ago, the new pastry is seeing a surge in popularity. The fact that at least one major supermarket chain has started churning them out has given rise to the cake going from niche to mainstream. Creator Fabiola Galván says she has been inundated with orders for the corpse cupcake in recent months. “People used to order it very close to the dates of Day of the Dead, but people already started ordering it with two months to go,” Galván says. 

Galván wanted to put a new spin on cupcakes, which she sells through her business Dream & Bite. “You know the cupcake is not a Mexican product — it’s not from here. But our idea was to adapt it and make some changes because Mexican tastes aren’t the same as the United States,” she says. “I wanted to make cupcakes more exotic — more Mexican.” 

The Superama chain owned by Walmart has started to make and stock the mantemuerto, copying Galván’s example. The supermarket versions are significantly smaller and cheaper than hers — costing 11 pesos compared to her 35. It doesn’t seem that cost will be a barrier to the sweet bread’s success either way. 

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The mantemuertos are decorated with strips of pastry to resemble bones and then sprinkled with sugar.

Source Deborah Bonello

“It gives another angle to our traditions because they keep making the original one as well. It’s just another product on the market, and it’s great that bakers are thinking of new ideas,” said Cynthia Padilla, a psychologist.  

“Bread of the dead in whatever form — it’s delicious and I love that they’ve redesigned it this way,” said Fabiana Diaz De Leon, a sommelier. “It’s wonderful!”

Major League Sports Dads Need to Score Paternity Leave

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Miles Mikolas had worked his entire nine-year career for this opportunity, and when he finally earned it, he had to walk away. On May 21, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher threw his first major league complete game, a shutout. Not long thereafter, he earned his first All-Star selection. But life had other plans.

The day before the July 17 All-Star Game, Mikolas’ wife, Lauren, went into early labor with the couple’s twins. Mikolas flew to Jupiter, Florida, to be there for the twins’ birth and subsequent stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The twins — and Lauren — are fine, and Mikolas returned to the mound, helping lead the Cardinals to a strong finish this season. But when his family needed him during that week in July, he was able to be there, no questions asked, thanks to Major League Baseball’s paternity leave policy.

Would it have been as easy to put his family first if Mikolas played for the NFL, the NBA, the NHL or MLS? No, and this is why: MLB is currently the only North American men’s pro sports league to guarantee its players paternity leave. The progressive policy allows clubs to place players on paid leave for up to three days without having to play a man short, as was the case before the implementation of the policy.

If the NBA wants to continue its reputation for being the world’s most “woke” pro sports league, paternity leave has to be on the table.

“It’s 2018 and we should be supporting working parents,” says Scott Behson, a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide. “Baseball has been forward on this issue, and by all accounts, this is something that came out of a collaboration between team owners and the players’ union; it was not a contentious issue.”

Behson adds that it’s imperative that workplaces, be they major sports leagues or otherwise, have a stated formal policy regarding parental leave. “It takes the decision off the coach or general manager or athlete to make a decision that might be unpopular, or [for which] they might fear some informal repercussion.”

The players’ associations for the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS did not provide comments as to whether this is an issue they are taking up with their respective leagues. But the NFL and its union are about to renegotiate their collective bargaining agreement; the latest iteration, passed in 2011, was weighted decidedly toward the owners. And if the NBA wants to continue its reputation for being the world’s most “woke” pro sports league, paternity leave has to be on the table.


Mikolas is working to normalize the stigma surrounding athlete dads taking paternity leave and is currently involved in a campaign with Dove Men+Care to help drive awareness for paternity leave. “It’s an experience that I think every guy should get, being in that delivery room and being part of the whole process,” he says.

MLB has been leading the way on this issue since 2011. Three years after this policy was written into baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, then–New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took his guaranteed leave to attend the birth of his first child. The decision earned the scorn of radio host Mike Francesa and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, both of whom questioned why Murphy needed to be away from his team for three days. Francesa went so far as to call paternity leave “a scam and a half.” There’s this idea among sports fans and talking heads that the business of having children is best left to the offseason. “That’s not always how it works,” Mikolas quips. 

There’s no question that America has a warped perception overall when it comes to parental leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have a federal policy ensuring paid time off for mothers or fathers following the birth of a child. And as long as it’s not the norm, it will continue to be stigmatized. That’s why it’s crucial that athletes, some of the most visible figures in the nation, set the tone. 

“Not just sports leagues, but companies and corporations, in general, should be working on trying to get dads a little bit more paternity leave,” says Mikolas. “They want that time with their families.”

That brings us back to the other four leagues. Is guaranteed paternity leave a reasonable expectation across all major men’s sports? As Behson points out, varying season lengths matter. It’s easier for baseball, which has a 162-game season, to give its players three days of paid leave than for football, which has a 16-game season.

Still, like it or not, professional sports teams and athletes often occupy the center of America’s social discourse. It’s time for the other sports leagues to catch up to baseball when life throws their players a curveball.

Will Tanzania’s Rapping Politician-Turned-Prisoner Stay on Beat?

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Dressed in a slim-fit V-shaped sweater with matching trousers, he storms the stage like a superhero. The audience erupts as he spits politically charged rhymes into the microphone. His soulful melodies and lyrical style keep the crowd swinging as the disco lights filter through puffs of smoke during a performance at music venue Dar Live.

Joseph Mbilinyi — aka Sugu (stubborn), II Proud or simply Mr. II — is a legendary Tanzanian musician and businessman. A pioneer of “Bongo Flava,” a music genre heavily influenced by U.S. hip-hop, he has released more than 20 albums and clinched numerous awards. His songs not only get the crowd moving, but they provoke political discussion on human-rights issues and social justice. “Sugu was a politician with no official title,” says Mike Mhagama, a friend and former host on Radio One.

Until he became a real politician that is. As a member of parliament, Sugu, 46, is one of the most prominent dissidents challenging the regime of President John Magufuli — authorities even tossed him in jail in February for insulting the president. Sugu was released after 73 days and seemed to relish the moment: “I have entered in history books as a political prisoner,” he says.

I never chose to be a politician; politics chose me.

Joseph “Sugu” Mbilinyi

Born in the southern township of Mtwara, Sugu, the oldest of four siblings, has always faced an uphill struggle in life. He was nicknamed “May,” ostensibly to symbolize hard work, as he was born on Tanzania’s workers’ day, according to Mhagama. Battling poverty, Sugu learned to be a hustler growing up in Mbeya, a city he describes as “the garden of Eden.”

His musical talent started to evolve in his early teens, as Sugu spent a lot of time composing lyrics. He never went to high school, instead moving to Dar es Salaam when he was barely 17 to study how to clear cargo from the port — a course he never completed.


After his father died when Sugu was 20, he had to earn for the family, so he worked as a security guard for two years. He put some of his earnings aside to record a single titled “Siku Yangu” (“My Day”) and his first album, Ni Mimi (“It’s Me”), came three years later. Influenced by Tupac Shakur, Sugu has tackled tough subjects in the manner of the legendary American rapper — just in Swahili. Sugu spits rhymes on police brutality, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and the plight of street children.

But many radio DJs were “careful not to cross the line” by playing his politically charged songs, Mhagama says. Still, Sugu found success with hits such as “Ndani ya Bongo” and “Coming of Age.” He is among the most famous artists in Tanzania, and his international tours have taken him to the United States and Europe. 

His songs also chart his own life’s arc, such as the 2016 song “Freedom,” in which Sugu says: “I never chose to be a politician; politics chose me.” Disillusioned by selfish political elites, Sugu joined the opposition party Chadema in June 2010 and was made its parliamentary candidate for the Mbeya constituency. On the backs of his legions of fans, he won the election.

But he hasn’t governed as a swaggering rapper. Instead, it’s Sugu’s self-effacing modesty that has earned him an unusual measure of respect. He won re-election in 2015 with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Armed with oratory power, Sugu has always advocated for economic freedom and social justice. In the parliament he often uses street slang to make his point, prompting laughter from other legislators. For example, he would use the Swahili word “Mwanangu” — used by street peers as a gesture of goodwill, but literally meaning “my son/daughter” — to beg the parliamentary chairperson to grant him the opportunity to ask a question.

Sugu’s critics say he hasn’t effectively used his political influence to promote the interests of his fellow artists. “I supported him and had a lot of expectations because I knew he would be our mouthpiece; he has disappointed us,” says Selemani Msindi, aka Afande Sele, a veteran hip-hop artist. Msindi accuses Sugu of betraying artists and the people who elected him by amassing his own wealth. “If you go to Mbeya, you will realize that he hasn’t done anything to his people,” Msindi says.

Sugu responds, “I was not elected to represent artists per se; I was elected to serve Tanzanians, especially my fellow Mbeya constituency.” He declined to reveal financial details, but he has no doubt made plenty of money. Sugu owns various businesses, including a three-star luxury hotel located in Mbeya. And he wrote an autobiography “to put my record straight” and describe how his survival skills from the street have brought him this far in music and politics.

It hasn’t been an easy road. The politician-rapper has found himself repeatedly charged with crimes. In June 2010 he was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill an opponent. He was later set free. Early this year he was sentenced to five months in prison for insulting the president at a December 2017 political rally, when he was accused of saying Magufuli “ought to confess to God for stagnating the country’s economy and rendering Tanzanians a hard life.” Amid accusations of “hate” speech against the head of state, Sugu maintains it was a political talk like any other. “I did nothing wrong,” he says. “It was a failed attempt to silence me.”

Sugu says he was treated with respect in prison, despite enduring horrid conditions and sharing a small mattress with four inmates. But it took a toll on his family. Sugu’s mother, Desderia, died in August. Delivering her eulogy, Sugu blamed the high blood pressure that led to his mother’s death on her belief that “I was unjustly imprisoned.”

He turned once again to his art. Sugu planned to release his new song, “#219,” narrating his prison time, but it was banned by the National Arts Council, the state’s creative works watchdog, on the grounds that it contained “prohibited” content. It’s one of the myriad ways Magufuli has cracked down on dissent since taking office in 2015, with authoritarianism advancing in the nation of nearly 60 million.

After the decision to ban his song, Sugu said he would sue the government so the nation can hear his unfiltered words once more. But he has yet to follow through on his threat.

OZY’s 5 Questions for Joseph “Sugu” Mbilinyi

  1. What’s was your angriest moment in prison? When prison wardens accused me of sneaking in a mobile telephone. They ordered me to undress before everyone. 
  2. What was your surprising moment in prison? A surprise birthday cake my wife brought. 
  3. What’s the one thing you can’t live without? My cell phone.
  4. Who’s your hero? My mother. 
  5. What’s one item on your bucket list? Creating 5,000 jobs for my people.

Special Briefing: Angela Merkel’s Long Goodbye

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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 happened? German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 64, announced on Monday that she would step down as leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) in December and would not seek re-election in 2021. On live television, the leader that millions of Germans call Mutti, or Mother, informed her constituents that they would have to “get ready for the time after me.” Merkel’s move came just hours after her party’s disastrous electoral showing in the western state of Hesse.

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German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel speaks to journalists after the end of the annual CDU party congress.

Source Carsten Koall/Getty

Why does it matter? Chancellor Merkel has been a rock in German and European politics for well over a decade, and whether she clings to power until the end of her term in 2021 or is pushed out by an election or party rivals before then, the Merkel era is drawing to a close. Some observers worry Merkel’s exit will leave Germany less able to lead the continent as Europe deals with Brexit, budget chaos in Italy and a continuing migrant crisis. Merkel’s government has been a guiding force in Europe on economic and foreign policy.


Rise and fall. Merkel became the first female, non-Catholic chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union Party in 2000 when she took over for Helmut Kohl. Then, in 2005, she became the first female Chancellor of Germany. A firm hand in Eurozone affairs, she took a hardline approach to Greece’s bailout plans and austerity measures. Described as one of the most powerful women in Europe, she adopted an open border policy at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, which damaged her popularity and enabled the far-right to make gains in Germany. The 2017 election saw her party’s worst result since 1949, followed by poor regional election results this month before she announced her decision to step down.

The replacements. It’s uncertain who will replace Merkel but CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tops many lists and is expected to continue Merkel’s pro-European, socially conservative and liberal immigration policies. Friedrich Merz, a lawyer, fiscal conservative and throw-back to the Helmut Kohl era, is another option, and an old rival of Merkel’s who retreated from politics as her star rose. Some see health minister Jens Spahn, 38, as the party’s future – young, right-wing and gay, and with a much more nationalistic approach to immigration. Other names on the cards include Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble.

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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer listens to a reporter’s question shortly after she was elected new general secretary of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) at the 30th CDU party congress on February 26, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

Source Sean Gallup/Getty

End of an era in the EU. Although Merkel’s exit likely won’t mean radical policy changes in Germany with regard to the EU, her lack of steadfast leadership could result in a vacuum. French President Emmanuel Macron — young and charismatic, popular internationally despite sliding ratings at home — may be just the leader to fill the gap. He’s shown himself to be deeply involved globally and even though his dreams of Eurozone reform may be shelved without Merkel as a partner, he should have more opportunities to lead the bloc in the future.  

The center cannot hold. A dissatisfaction with a liberal or centrist status quo and suspicion of globalization’s benefits is not unique to Europe, let alone Germany, as seen in recent polls. Hungary, Poland, Italy and a number of other European countries witnessed electoral gains by the populist right. On the other side of the world, Brazil just elected far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro as president in a vote against the leftist and long-in-power Workers’ Party.


The Long, Painful End of Angela Merkel, by Josef Joffe at Politico

“Merkel’s gambit may well give her three more years in office. She may be damaged and exhausted, but her strategic savvy and ruthlessness are not to be underestimated.”

Merkel’s Out. Now What? by Anna Sauerbrey in The New York Times

“The center-right’s problem goes beyond low poll numbers. Ms. Merkel has modernized the party and given up on most of its hard-held beliefs… As a result, her leadership has left her party without principles.”


Angela Merkel Confirms This is Her Final Term as German Chancellor

“Merkel has previously said that the two jobs, Chancellor and party leader, should go together — but after 18 years heading the Christian Democrats the moment has come where she feels she can only do one of them.”

Watch on DW English on YouTube:

Merkel Fatigue? The View from ‘Mini-Deutschland’

“Hassloch is a mirror of Germany as a whole, and under the surface, all is not well.”

Watch on BBC Newsnight on YouTube:


Don’t forget the left. The far-right AfD party, founded just five years ago and the third-largest party in parliament after it won Bundestag seats for the first time in last year’s federal elections, made progress in Germany’s Hesse state election. But the leftist Greens also made big gains at the expense of Merkel’s coalition. The Greens’ vote in the regional government doubled to 19.5 percent compared to AfD’s 12 percent — and polls show the party’s country-wide support has doubled in the last five years.

With One Week to Go, Democrats Tighten Grip on the House

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This election season is roaring to a close with a frenzy of controversy and violence that makes the outcome feel less than certain. But the numbers tell of a hardening reality: a split Capitol come January.

Democrats are deploying a huge cash advantage in the U.S. House to potentially run up the score, while red states are coming home for Republicans in a big way to secure their hold on the U.S. Senate. That’s the latest from OZY’s exclusive election forecast in partnership with Republican data and technology firm 0ptimus, which finds Democrats with a 98 percent chance of taking control of the House, while Republicans have a 90.1 percent chance of holding the Senate with at least 50 votes.

In partnership with Washington-based 0ptimus, we crunched more than 100 factors that helped predict past elections, along with extra weighting for unique aspects of this political year, to produce these forecasts. For more on how these numbers were derived, scroll down to the box below. For more exclusive election coverage, subscribe to our Midterms in a Minute newsletter.


The anticipated gain for Democrats in the House increased by one from last week to a projection of 235 seats on the back of strong new polls and a new round of fundraising reports. Alex Alduncin, data scientist for 0ptimus, points out that in the first 18 days of October, House Democratic candidates outraised Republicans roughly $74 million to $45 million. The numbers are all the more striking because they coincide with a time when Republicans felt an enthusiasm surge from the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the GOP surge didn’t show up in money, but post-Kavanaugh polls are fueling Republican Senate gains from Indiana to Missouri to Texas. Our model continues to predict a 52–48 Senate majority for Republicans, even though if you were to give all the races to the party with a greater than even chance of winning, the Senate would be 50–50. “The reason the model thinks this is heading toward 52–48 is because Democrats are dependent on holding or carrying many seats that are uncertain — Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, Florida, North Dakota,” Alduncin says. “On average, we’d expect them to lose at least two of those.”

As part of our extensive on-the-ground coverage of races across the U.S. this year, OZY wanted to build a better product to analyze the national political picture — given the failure of such forecasts in the past. So we decided to team up with Washington-based 0ptimus, a Republican firm that developed an unbiased, nonpartisan prediction model to show its clients in both politics and finance where the winds appear to be blowing.

0ptimus’ data team created and tested countless models, crunching publicly available data against past results in House and Senate races. They take into account more than 100 variables, including past vote totals, generic ballot surveys of which party voters prefer in Congress, the unemployment rate, fundraising data and public polling. The firm developed an artificial intelligence system to “smartly” average together several models to produce the strongest prediction numbers for the 2018 elections, automatically testing against past elections to assess quality. You can read more about the 0ptimus methodology here.

Given the unique factors in 2018, we asked 0ptimus to tweak its calculations, adding weight to:

  • The number of small donations — a sign of energy for candidates from Trump to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Gender — women are doing exceptionally well this year, and we expect that trend to continue. 
  • Trump’s approval rating — he hangs over the political and media scene with a heavier presence than past presidents.

Meanwhile, we asked 0ptimus to reduce the weight for:

  • Candidate ideology — its calculations rewarded more moderate candidates, while we think this election year is all about firing up the base.
  • Outside money — as OZY has reported, advertising is less persuasive coming from a super PAC than from a candidate.

Because 0ptimus averages several models, it agreed to introduce a new Bayesian model into the mix just for OZY that includes Trump’s approval, gender and unitemized donations while removing one that included ideology and independent expenditures. The result is the numbers we update for you each week.

The Donald Dossier

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Each week, OZY Politics Editor Daniel Malloy brings you The Donald Dossier, a column that aims to puncture the noise of the relentless news cycle to succinctly give you what mattered this week, and what’s coming next from Donald Trump. You can read back through the archives here, for your weekly White House checkin.