Death by Elephant

Death by Elephant

elechargeAnother two tourists were killed by elephant Saturday.

There are conflicting accounts of the deaths. The official Zambian police report claims that the 57-year old Belgian woman walked “too close” to take photos. But family members of the two killed told the Lusaka Times “the duo were looking at the giant mammals from a distance” and were charged unexpectedly.

In the big scheme of things, here’s why the details matter less than you might think.

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Sanity not Screams

Sanity not Screams

elephanttrustOne of the most important elephant organizations in the world, Cynthia Moss’ Elephant Trust, has minimized any imminent threat of elephant extinction and quite to the contrary reaffirmed the need “to promote coexistence between increasing numbers of humans and elephants.”

Over the last few years there have been literally dozens, if not hundreds, of not-for-profit organizations using inflammatory claims that elephants are on the brink of extinction in order to raise funds. This was malfeasance little different from Fox News.

Moss’ organization has reset the “elephant problem” in the right way.

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Dead Wrong

Dead Wrong

deadwrongIn war we focus on battles won and lost. Little question for the need to fight: the causes were reasoned as justified.  In chaos spiced with denial and obfuscation it’s like punching a cloud of smoke. You die of exhaustion without landing a single punch.

The resources the U.S. currently deploys in Africa approaches that of the Afghanistan invasion, while 60% of our State Department has been eviscerated. “The growing scale and lack of clear motive for shadow wars and African militarization is a cause for concern,” concludes the UC-Davis’ “nonpartisan” political magazine today.

And it’s not working. It’s making things critically worse.

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Uber vs Uber

Uber vs Uber

ubervsuberThe best taxi service is still Uber… in Nairobi, Joburg, Cape Town, Lagos, Kampala, Cairo, Dar… but … not in London or Amsterdam. Uber lost its license in London and its customers in Amsterdam.

The Uber controversy is fascinating, and a perfect example of what’s to come in a better world. (You’ll be surprised what I mean.)

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Paradise Hidden

Paradise Hidden

paradise hiddenThe lofty positions held by a number of Africans in both government and business is jeopardized by the Paradise Papers expose, and for exactly the same reason that Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is on the way out.

Nothing illegal is alleged in the Paradise Papers’ leaked business deals, mostly with Cayman Island banks. Nothing illegal is alleged in the Times’ expose of Apple’s tax havens in Britain and Ireland.

But legality isn’t the issue. Morality is. Wealth of this magnitude should not be held by so few.

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Gathering Gitmo

Gathering Gitmo

gitmodiaryThe release last week of the unredacted Guantánamo Diary is a terrifying reminder that America is destroying itself.

How apt at the same time a gun fit leaves 26 dead outside a little Texas church, world climate talks open with three competing US delegations, South Koreans boo Trump and announce they wish to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, and two more cabinet secretaries purge themselves.

I’m not sure we have until the midterms.

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Ever Outlasting

Ever Outlasting

travel ban against stupid looking peopleTime to check your clocks. No, I’m not reminding you about the end of daylight savings time. I want to be sure that your ticks still clock, sinets mounting into meconds and inuits into mours, because it isn’t just government that’s falling apart, science is, too.

Our world of disinformation and strangled reasoning has sucked in science. Walrus-looking agricultural science advisors with no science credentials, EPA forbidding use of the world ‘climate’ and what has really driven me crazy, paleontologists speaking like political idiots.

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Moral Dichotomies

Moral Dichotomies

moral dichotomiesIn this incredibly dangerous and mendacious time when little seems to get better but the bank accounts of the rich why is society reacting so quickly to improve its mores regarding sexual relations?

While democracy, poverty, disease and war get worse? Is it because doing, confessing and chastising sexual harassment is easier than stopping a man from killing eight people with a truck in God’s name? Is it because the hypocrisy of the rich and religious has just gotten so grotesque that it’s finally bubbling over?

I surveyed a number of African countries to find out. Here’s what I learned:

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Negotiating Position

Negotiating Position

negotiating positionThe Trump Administration’s new military rules of engagement have destroyed years of peace-making efforts that were coming to fruition. Terrorist bombings and conventional attacks are substantially increasing as the U.S. goes on the offensive, particularly in Africa.

So far the U.S. has acknowledged only one soldier killed in Somalia and 4 in Niger, but local reports suggest far more – perhaps dozens – of U.S. casualities as the Africa war explodes.

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Way Too Much Talking

Way Too Much Talking

way too much talkingWith the testimony this week by social media giants in the prism of fake news, I followed with special interest the discovery announced recently that old human teeth were “rewriting” human history.

A year ago German scientists made a remarkable find of 9.7 million-year old human-like teeth. For some reason, they took a year to officially report it. In a clearly rhetorical postulation the scientists suggested the teeth were hominin, and this would require a radical rethinking of current human evolution.

The mayor in the town where the discovery happened was pretty definitive: “I don’t want to over-dramatise it, but I would hypothesise that we shall have to start rewriting the history of mankind after today.”

His statement was immediately published by such normally careful media as USAToday and London’s Independent.

Well, no.

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Life Goes On

Life Goes On

safaris go on with violence'Racism has been affirmed and strengthened by democracy. This morning Kenya is controlled by Kikuyus and their allied tribes, as it has been for 300 years. Fires still burn, several people have been shot, and Kenya’s non-Kikuyu cities are ghost towns. It could have been much worse.

I am supposed to guide in Kenya in a few months. Should I go? Yes. Why? Because it will be safe for my clients, because we will only travel into Kikuyu and allied lands. What about other places? Probably in a year. I’ve seen it before. The Kikuyus will be benevolent if not wholly fair, and the country will settle into an uncomfortable peace.

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Not Voting Ahead

Not Voting Ahead

kenyan protestorsWatch Kenya. What is happening right now in Kenya could very well be what happens in America in 2020. At the time of this posting two hours remain before the polls close in Kenya’s rerun national election. So far the turnout seems to be around 25%. (The turnout in the August 8 election which was annulled by the Supreme Court was 80%.)

There’s widespread violence in the west of the country and in parts of Nairobi’s slums. The official announcement of winners could take a week. Incumbents and opposition alike know what the outcome will be: the rerun election will affirm the results of the original election. So 2 out of 3 citizens are not voting.

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A Better View

A Better View

A better viewAlmost all wild carnivores and most omnivores give birth in secrecy. The mother senses imminent birth and removes herself from her normal group to safely hide away. She rejoins her group with her infant(s) several days to several weeks later. We now think we know why.

Childbirth is among the starkest behaviors that even the wildest animal shares with us. Childbirth was rarely welcomed in primitive human societies. It was considered bad luck, and a variety of reasons were explored immediately after birth to trigger infantacide, including twins and physical deformities.

The new chimp behavior reported last week may shed light on this grissly behavior.

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Donalds Everywhere

Donalds Everywhere

pithouse&kenelectionDemocracy isn’t working, anywhere. South African Richard Pithouse predicted all of this in his summary of Trump’s election: “The Donalds are Everywhere.” Since that analysis nearly a year ago, Kenya, Spain, Italy, South Africa, the U.S., France, Britain and probably to some degree every democratic nation on earth has grown increasingly tumultuous.

Be prepared, folks. If you think the hurricane season is just about wind and rain, you’ve got another thing coming.

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Gettleman’s Gilligans

Gettleman’s Gilligans

gettlemansbookLast spring my favorite African journalist of all time (I actually think he outdid Stanley) published a memoir, Love-Africa, that so disappointed me I’ve taken quite a long time to think about before writing this.

It was actually way beyond disappointment. I questioned my own perspectives on Africa, wondering if I could be fooling myself as much as the New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman fooled himself, and by extension, me. Was at least some of his impactful African reporting that so deeply effected me (and thank goodness, from time to time, Congress) a sham for his own self-aggrandizement? It’s complicated. But it’s time to say something.

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