President Obama Heads to Kenya and Ethiopia for Trip Filled with Firsts

President Barack Obama is heading back to his ancestral homeland.

A couple of decades ago, Obama traveled to Kenya, the birthplace of his estranged father, to learn about his heritage. On Thursday evening, he left Washington to make the trip again. And when he arrives on Friday, he’ll become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the East African nation.

Over the course of four days, Obama will travel both to Kenya and Ethiopia, starting in Nairobi for the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit and ending in Addis Ababa, where the African Union is headquartered. The trip is peppered with firsts: the first time Obama has traveled to Kenya as commander-in-chief and the first time a sitting president has visited Ethiopia. His speech before the African Union will also be the first time a sitting American president addresses the body.

The explicit purpose of the trip is for Obama to participate in the annual gathering of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and government officials, of which he is co-chair, and to engage with African leaders. Throughout the trip he will participate in a number of bilateral meetings and press conferences. He will participate in a civil society event, meet with government officials, and address the Kenyan people directly.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Wednesday he will not have time to visit the village where his family is rooted, but will make time to meet with family members while he’s in Kenya. Rice also said the trip will offer President Obama an opportunity to advance the U.S.’s trade and investment relationship with Africa, call for greater human rights protections and transparency in government, and highlight American efforts to increase opportunities for the next generation of Africans.

“This is an opportunity not only to support that Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which is something the president is deeply committed to,” Rice said. “But, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen and deepen our relationship to Africa.”

But for many in Kenya, the historic trip feels like an opportunity to welcome home their American brother, a man whose face has been painted on the sides of buildings and whose name resonates from villages to city centers. “They take it really personally,” a café owner told the Associated Press.

While Obama’s will largely focus on economic issues like trade and investments while he’s in Kenya, human rights activists are urging the president to address some serious concerns raised by those on the ground. Jedidah Waruhiu, of Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights said on a conference call Wednesday she hopes that Obama uses his voice to “speak truth to human rights.”

Obama is also expected to address the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Kenya. Earlier this week, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called LGBT rights a “non-issue” that’s “not on our agenda at all” ahead of the visit by Obama.

“We as a country, as a continent, are faced with much more issues which we would want to engage the U.S. and all our partners with,” Kenyatta said.

If pressed, however, Obama isn’t likely to shy away from the topic. When Obama traveled to Senegal in 2013, he advocated for universal rights for LGBT folks to the dismay of his host. Ambassador Rice hinted Wednesday that if asked to address the in Kenya, Obama will speak openly. “This is not something that we think is a topic we reserve for certain parts of the world and not others,” she said.

“We always—not just in Africa, but around the world—when we are traveling to countries where we have concerns about the rule of law, human rights, corruption, whatever…we make those concerns known publicly and privately,” Rice said later on Wednesday.

The issue, Waruhiu said, is “emotive” in Kenya and activists worry about potential backlash if Obama goes too far on LGBT rights.

“However much he feels strongly about this issue—this is an issue that will cloud other important issues like security and trade any the country, because any other good thing he says or does in the country will be whitewashed with the whole issue of LGBTI issues,” she said.

The trip to Kenya and Ethiopia will also provide an opportunity for President Obama to discuss countering terror groups like al Shabaab, which has a stronghold in the region, and the ongoing crisis in South Sudan. Both activists and government leaders are looking forward to the pending discussions on counterterror strategies, promoting trade, and providing opportunity during Obama’s visit, though the president’s tone throughout his time in Kenya will be closely monitored.

“He needs to earn the Obama mania a little,” said Brian Dooley, Human Rights First’s Director of Human Rights Defenders on a conference call. “He can’t just turn up and expect to be welcomed as a prodigal son.”

“Some people are not happy he’s taken so long as president to visit Kenya,” he added Wednesday. “He needs to, I think, earn a bit of popularity and not take it for granted.”

TIME Cancer

Top Cancer Doctors Call for Lower Drug Costs

Stethoscope checking hand holding dollar coins
Getty Images

“It’s time for patients and their physicians to call for change"

A group of cancer doctors are joining grassroots organizers and politicians in pleading with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of cancer treatments.

In an editorial that ran Thursday in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, 118 cancer experts produced a series of recommendations they say would lead to a reduction in treatment expenses. The doctors say that one in three individuals will be burdened with cancer in their lifetime, but out-of-pocket drug costs could easily exceed the average household income of an insured patient.

Four doses of one particular cancer drug, according to a report published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2012, costs a staggering $120,000.

“It’s time for patients and their physicians to call for change,” said Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, a Mayo Clinic hematologist in a press release.

Among the recommendations are allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, permitting cancer drug imports for individual patients, and passing laws to keep drug companies from delaying access to generic drugs.

The physician’s recommendations come on the heels of a change.org petition led by patients that calls for a reduction in drug costs, particularly for cancer patients.

TIME Video Games

Professional Video Gamers to Be Tested for Doping

Games League of Legends
Mark J. Terrill—AP The team of SK Telecom T1 competes in the second round at the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship Final on Oct. 4, 2013, in Los Angeles.

The Electronic Sports League will begin testing gamers for performance enhancing drugs from August

Professional video gamers will soon be subjected to the same scrutiny as professional athletes.

The largest and oldest professional video game organization, the Electronic Sports League (ESL), announced in a statement Thursday that starting in August they’ll begin testing gamers for performance enhancing drugs.

“As the world’s largest and oldest esports organization, ESL has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding both the integrity of our competitions and that of esports as a whole – we wish to ensure we can provide a fair playing field for all participating players,”a post on ESL’s website reads.

The first tests will be administered at the ESL One Cologne event in August, according to the statement.

Sports Illustrated reports the announcement comes in the wake of a scandal surrounding a team that admitted to taking the anti hyperactivity and attention deficit correction drug Adderall during a recent competition.

TIME White House

President Obama Uses Small Business Owners to Argue for Export-Import Bank

US President Barack Obama speaks to small business owners on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks to small business owners on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Congress allowed the bank's charter to expire earlier this month

President Obama said the renewing the Export-Import Bank’s charter should be a “no-brainer” during a meeting with business owners at the White House.

On Wednesday, Obama called on Congress reauthorize the bank, which Congress allowed to expire in late June, by using small- and medium-sized business owners to debunk the Congressional argument that it provides government handouts to big businesses.

“This should be a no-brainer,” Obama said Wednesday. “The Export-Import Bank makes money for the U.S. government. I just want to be clear about this: This is not a situation in which taxpayers are subsidizing these companies.”

The 81-year-old bank, which helps finance foreign purchases of U.S. products such as Boeing planes, saw its charter lapse on July 1 when Congress failed to act. Conservative activists had increasingly targeted the bank as a form of corporate welfare in recent years, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called it “crony capitalism,” although it retains some support among Republican lawmakers.

But while activists focus on the bank’s bigger clients, the White House has focused on the ways it helps smaller businesses.

“Ex-Im equips companies with financing they need to go toe-to-toe with foreign rivals, resulting in more exports and more well-paying jobs in cities and towns here in America, rather than overseas,” a White House official said recently.

Senators have signaled interest in renewing the bank through an amendment to a bill that funds a critical infrastructure program that could suffer a lapse in funding if its not renewed by the end of July. The Senate, however, is struggling to pass its version of the bill, which failed to clear a procedural hurdle on Tuesday.

TIME National Security

Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison in the Works

Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed White House plan to close the prison is being drafted

The Obama Administration is drafting a plan to finally close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Wednesday, racing against the clock to fulfill a long-delayed promise by President Obama before his time in office runs out.

“The Administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to present that plan to Congress,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

Earnest said closing the prison is in the national security interest of the United States.

One of Obama’s first moves as President was to pledge that the prison would close within his first year in office. But he has repeatedly been stymied by opposition from congressional Republicans to transferring or releasing prisoners from the site, which Obama has decried as a propaganda tool for terrorists because of the years suspected militants have spent there without trial.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a longtime proponent of closing the prison, wants to give the Obama Administration an opportunity to potentially do so through the National Defense Authorization Act. Under his plan, Congress would have the ability to review the White House’s plan for closing the prison. In the House, however, Republicans still angry about the exchange of American service member Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban detainees are pushing a plan that would make any attempts to transfer prisoners and close the prison more difficult. The White House, however, has threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization act and says Congress is still impeding efforts to close the prison.

Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel of national security at Human Rights First, said the fact that the White House is working plan could be a good first step, but questions still remain as to whether or not Congress will be able to approve any plan given many members’ opposition to closing the prison. “It’s still within the Administration’s power to do a lot to close the prison,” she said. “[The White House] can’t keep blaming Congress, but Congress also needs to do more. It shouldn’t be this political football anymore.”

There are currently 116 prisoners left in Guantanamo Bay prison, and about 800 men have been detained there since it began holding prisoners more than a decade ago. The American Civil Liberties Union says 51 of those men are still being imprisoned even though the government has cleared them for release.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at ACLU, said the plan being sent to Congress will constitute no more than an “irrelevant checking of the box.” He added that the president already has the executive authority to make detainee transfers happen without Congress.

“It’s not much different than plans that have already been sent and it’s not going to convince Congress to change its mind,” Anders said. “’Obama should tell the Secretary of Defense to approve the transfer of cleared detainees.”

Anders said the lack of transfers is the “number one obstacle” facing the president and that the Department of Defense is “digging in its heels” on closing the prison.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House Launches Twitter Account to Sell Iran Deal

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said officials will use the account to engage with the public and share information

Correction appended, July 21, 2015

The White House is ramping up its efforts to sell the nuclear deal with Iran to the American public, launching a webpage and a Twitter account focused on the pending agreement.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters en route to Pittsburgh on Tuesday that the digital tools would be used to “advocate for the recently announce agreement to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Administration officials will use the Twitter handle @TheIranDeal, which had gathered 2,000 followers by early Tuesday afternoon, to “distribute facts” and “engage” with the public about the deal. The webpage will host fact sheets and infographics.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in the White House’s all-hands-on-deck approach to pitching the nuclear deal with Iran, which awaits approval from a skeptical Congress.

Administration officials immediately began their sales pitch once the historic deal was reached last week, sending Vice President Joe Biden to visit with Democrats on Capitol Hill and having the President host a press conference at which he sought to address concerns about the deal raised by members of Congress and allies in the region who are opposed to it.

On Sunday, as Secretary of State John Kerry made his rounds on talk shows, President Obama took a handful of Congressional members golfing.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated where White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was traveling to when he discussed the new Twitter account. He was en route to Pittsburgh.


This is Where Charlize Theron Invited President Obama to a Strip Club

Said it'd be a good place to reach a different demographic

As commander-in-chief, President Obama likely gets invited a lot of places by bevy of constituents, friends, and foes. The place actress Charlize Theron suggested, however, likely won’t end up on a presidential schedule anytime soon — even if Obama is in the “bucket” years of his presidency.

The Mad Max star told Jimmy Kimmel Monday she was so nervous the last time she met Obama — during an episode of Kimmel’s late night show — when he said he was hoping to reach a younger demographic she suggested he reach out to a different demographic all together.

“Well, if you’re looking for a different demographic I can take you to a strip club,” the actress recalled saying. Luckily for her, Obama was pretty nice about the whole ordeal. But, the star told Kimmel she was mortified and couldn’t sleep for weeks after.

TIME Sports

Surfer Who Fought Off Shark Is Not Giving Up the Sport

"It’s something that gives me peace, I’m sure I’ll go back out"

The surfer who survived a shark attack on live television said Tuesday that while it may take weeks, or even months before he gets over the attack, he’ll definitely surf again.

“I’m sure I’ll go surfing [soon], surfing has given me so much, it’s something that gives me peace, I’m sure I’ll go back out,” Mick Fanning said Tuesday during a press conference.

In the nearly two days since Fanning fended off a shark during a competition in South Africa, and the champion surfer still appeared shaken according to the Guardian.

During a press conference Tuesday, he recalled the moment when he encountered the shark saying though he’s grateful he doesn’t have a scratch on him, he’s still dealing with the emotional stress of the ordeal.

“It’s more of an emotional, mental trauma. It will probably take a couple of weeks, months, I don’t know how long it’s going to take [to get over it]. I’m just lucky I’ve got great people around me,” he said.

[The Guardian]



Study Finds That Men Who Attack Women Online Are, Literally, Losers

Teenager playing video games
Getty Images

Men who perform badly in games are more likely to harass female users

A new study purports to show what we all could have guessed: Men who attack women online are actual losers.

A pair of researchers examined interactions between players during 163 games of Halo 3 to determine when men were most likely to exhibit sexist, anti-social behavior toward their female peers.

According to the study, which was recently published in the journal PLOS One, men who were worse players than their peers tended to hurl more nastiness at female gamers. On the other hand, men who knew their way around the console were nicer to male and female players.

The researchers say the findings support an “evolutionary argument” that low-status men with low dominance have more to lose and are therefore more hostile to women who threaten their status in the social hierarchy.

“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank,” researchers write.

The findings also support the growing body of anecdotal and research-based evidence that women face harsh blowback when they enter into and thrive in male-dominated corners of the Internet.

As the Washington Post points out, however, the study does not offer any solutions on how to solve the issue.

TIME celebrities

Emma Thompson Says Acting World Has Become More Sexist

Emma Thompson
Jordan Strauss—Invision/AP Emma Thompson arrives at the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Jan. 18, 2014, in Los Angeles.

“When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world," she says

Actress Emma Thompson says she’s “not impressed” by the way the acting industry treats women. In fact, she says, sexism in the acting industry has grown more prevalent as she’s gotten older.

“When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world and when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women and I find that very disturbing and sad,” she said in an interview with Radio Times magazine.

The actress, who plays a 77-year-old prostitute in the film The Legend of Barney Thomson, said there’s more pressure for women to look a certain way and take on certain roles than when she started out.

“I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement and I think that for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So, no, I am not impressed at all.”

Read more at Radio Times.

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