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The perils of covering foreign affairs

Today, I went to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in downtown D.C. to cover a talk by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who is in town for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. I expected this talk to be much like Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s visit the Brookings Institution, which I covered successfully back in July. But this time, I was to learn about the trials and tribulations that sometimes come with covering heads of state from different countries. 

The trouble began early on. When I arrived at the CSIS, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the person registering people told me Keita would be speaking French, and that they’d run out of the in-ear translation devices that would allow me to hear what he would be saying in English. This meant I would have to watch the talk from the dreaded “overflow room” – basically a conference room filled with big TV screens that would be broadcasting the talk with an English translation dubbed over the president’s French. 

I decided to make the most of my demotion, and quickly took advantage of the free coffee and orange juice CSIS had kindly provided for us. But after the talk started – about half an hour later than it was supposed to – the translation did not. Instead, I had the privilege of attempting to lip read Keita’s French from the silent flat screen in front of me. When the translation did finally kick in during the Q&A portion of the talk, the French-to-English translator didn’t seem to completely understand either French or English. CSIS brought in a pinch hitter partway through, whose translation was much better, but by that time I’d pretty much lost all hope of salvaging a story from the event. 

As I drained the last of my free coffee – my one silver lining – I knew I’d learned some important lessons: always arrive early enough to get a fancy in-ear translation device and add learning French to my to-do list.

Post by Lindsey Holden



On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit business forum. He spoke about Africa’s economic potential in a positive light.

But in a classic VEEP moment, Biden provides us with another gaffe.

“There’s no reason the nation of Africa cannot and should not join the ranks of the world’s most prosperous nations,” Biden said.

Just an F.Y.I., Mr. VP, Africa is a continent, not a country.

One could argue that Biden’s words got a little jumbled. From the clip, it’s hard to tell if he says “nation” or “nations.” There are no indications Biden thinks Africa is a single country. But for a man who has made a few gaffes in the past, we can’t help but note this one.

Post by Eliza Larson



What’s being said about Paul George

Last week Paul George suffered a gruesome injury in a Team USA scrimmage. Here’s some of the reactions via Twitter:

Fans in Indiana are signing a banner:



U.S. African Leaders Summit: D.C. Traffic’s Worst Nightmare

While scores of government officials, international politicians and D.C. bigwigs discussed important issues such as climate change and wildlife trafficking in Africa, commuters in Washington were complaining about the horrific traffic conditions downtown.

The U.S. Africa Leaders Summit hosted by President Obama, focuses on strengthening financial ties between the U.S. and Africa, maintaining regional stability and dealing with environmental concerns.

The summit brought African heads of state and other guests to the White House for a three-day conference starting Aug. 4. It also brought many traffic delays and even protests due to road closures in the area.

Commuters should expect higher drive times…as well as potential increases in hostility levels among colleagues.

 For a list of complete road closures see below:



Christian Flores talks with a few of his male colleagues about fashion in the newsroom.

Ryan has big ideas, but few specifics at Monitor Breakfast

WASHINGTON— Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, solidified his role as the Republicans’ new voice of reform at Wednesday’s Monitor Breakfast, but preferred to look at his ideas from a big picture, developmental point of view.

Ryan, R-Wis., last week introduced a new anti-poverty program, which he referred to as an “upward mobility plan” at the breakfast, that would consolidate federal welfare and food stamp program dollars into “Opportunity Grants” to be distributed to each state. States would then channel the funds to various private, public and non-profit organizations. Working in partnership, these groups would then use the allocated dollars to help those in need develop individualized plans.

At the breakfast, Ryan stressed accountability to tax payers and the need for a results-based plan, but has yet to figure out the details.

"People are generous with their tax dollars they send to the government. I think it’s wholly right and appropriate to expect something in return," Ryan said. 

"You can fund these reforms at any level. I didn’t want to get into a funding debate over proper funding levels at the status quo. That’s really beside the point."  

"The point is, the status quo isn’t working – let’s figure out how to reform it and then we can figure out what funding levels should fund it, if you want to have that conversation at another time," Ryan said.

When asked if his plan’s extra customization would take away from money that’s already being spent on aid programs, Ryan emphasized the importance of utilizing partnerships and the additional dollars they could contribute. 

"I think having work requirements and time limits, along with customization and leveraging of other sources of funding, that to me is the most effective approach we ought to take," Ryan said.

Ultimately, Ryan urged those present to look at his overall plan before zooming in on how it would be carried out.

"I think you have to broaden your understanding of the proposal before you take a look at that notion," Ryan said.

"The alternative argument is just stick with the status quo. The status quo isn’t working." 



Sega vs. Nintendo: Marketing Masters

Everyone on the panel joked about the use of terms like Blast Processing, which were completely made up for use with marketing. When asked what Blast Processing did, Kaplan joked it did the same thing as the Super FX chip.

Sega valiantly pushed against Nintendo with its marketing, and though Nintendo rarely acted in kind, Kaplan said it did nearly decide to dump a dump truck full of bananas into Sega’s parking lot to celebrate the release of Donkey Kong Country, but ultimately decided not to as it would require a huge amount of clean-up and would be an incredible waste of food.

Read More:

A global Tea Party?

“We believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement,” declared Bannon, who took over the American conservative new media empire after the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012. Speaking via Skype to a conference on Catholic responses to poverty, he said, “You’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels… On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement.”

Events across the Atlantic do look familiar to American eyes: an uprising against long-established parties in Brussels amid economic stagnation. But these elements have been around a long time in European politics. What is new — and what feels so American — is represented by the group Bannon was addressing: Europe is getting its own version of the religious right.

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Washington Post: ‘Dumb’ Polls need context

Will Americans be forced to choose between Congress and Nickelback? It seems unlikely. Will Darth Vader give Chris Christie a run for his money in Iowa? Probably not.

But those comparisons at least put an interesting spin on what is otherwise a pretty boring set of questions that are asked over and over again and show the same things: that Congress is terrible and that the GOP presidential race is wide open.

Read More:

CNN Poll: Romney beats Obama if election held today

According to the poll, if the 2012 election were somehow held again, Romney would capture 53% of the popular vote, with the President at 44%. Obama beat Romney 51%-47% in the popular vote in the 2012 contest. And he won the all-important Electoral College by a wider margin, 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.

Learn more:

Politico on Obama’s hits and blunders

Try to find a Republican in Washington who thinks he hasn’t been partisan. But to Obama’s team, it’s mostly the GOP that has built the wall of opposition, to the point where they’re convinced many Republicans reflexively turn against anything he supports.

“I’d love nothing more than a loyal and rational opposition,” Obama put it to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon last week in Los Altos Hills, California. “But that’s not what we have right now, and as a consequence we’re going to need change.”

Read more:



Medill’s Elle Calderone talks to Kwame Holman, editor at Medill News Service, about a trip to the Washington Post. Find out what Holman heard during the trip.