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Vox Sentences: This is how bad the drought in Somalia has gotten

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The French election this weekend; the holiday that is today (kind of); the drought in Somalia.

French 11

French Presidential Candidate Emmanuel Macron Holds Campaign Rally
A campaign rally for French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.
Getty Images / Sylvain Lefevre
  • This Sunday, French voters head to the polls for the first round of their presidential election, which increasingly looks like a toss-up. The top two finishers will advance to a runoff in May. [Wall Street Journal / Joshua Robinson]
  • Quick refresher on who’s running: There are four top contenders in a field of 11. On the far right is the media-savvy populist Marine Le Pen; there’s conservative François Fillon, a former prime minister who’s currently being investigated for misusing public funds; the independent centrist ex-investment banker Emmanuel Macron, who is widely seen as France’s best bet to beat Le Pen in a runoff; and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate who has recently seen a surge in popularity. [Reuters / Sudip Kar-Gupta, Sarah White]
  • France, it’s also worth noting, is a nuclear power, and one of five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council — so an extremely nationalist France could have major foreign policy implications. [New York Times / Aurelien Breeden]
  • France’s EU membership in particular is becoming a defining issue in this election. Both Le Pen and Mélenchon are euroskeptics and have suggested they might leave the EU if elected president. Macron, on the other hand, is advocating for more EU integration, not less. [Wall Street Journal / Stacy Meichtry, Anton Troianovski]
  • Much ink has been spilled over Le Pen (which is exactly what her team wants), but it’s worth examining the two candidates she seems most likely to face off against: Macron and Mélenchon. [Politico EU / Nicholas Vinocur]
  • Mélenchon is way left wing — he left France’s socialist party to create a left-wing alternative in 2008. His “policies are so liberal they make Bernie Sanders look like a right-winger,” writes Vox’s Sarah Wildman. He is advocating for a shorter workweek and a 100 percent top tax rate, but interestingly, some of his stances actually overlap with Le Pen’s — like his euroskepticism and his interest in a stronger relationship with Russia. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • A united Europe’s best hope in the election is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old ex-banker who served in President François Hollande’s Socialist Party government before striking out on his own and creating an independent party, “En Marche!” He has never run for office before this. But if he can get through the first round, he is projected to beat his likely opponent, Le Pen, in the runoff. [Vox / Sarah Wildman​]

Happy Weed Day!

Steve Russell / Contributor
  • But wait, how did 4/20 become “Weed Day”? Is it named for a California penal code or a police radio code? Does it draw on a Bob Dylan song? Or it is a reference to 4:20 pm, which one group of high schoolers in the early ’70s realized was the perfect time of day to get high? [CNN / Madeline Holcombe]
  • Regardless of the origin story, this Weed Day indeed marks a milestone in the battle for legalization. CBS News conducted a poll, released today, finding that 61 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legalized — an all-time high (hell yeah), and up 5 points from last year. [The Hill / Brooke Seipel]
  • Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized weed in some form… [CNN Money / Aaron Smith]
  • …But that ranges pretty widely from decriminalizing the possession of small amounts to legalizing medical marijuana only to more broadly legalizing weed for recreational use. [Governing Magazine]
  • And not all of the laws have actually taken effect yet. West Virginia joined the list yesterday with a medical marijuana bill signed by Gov. Jim Justice that will make marijuana patient ID cards available starting July 1, 2019. [Charleston Gazette-Mail / Jake Zuckerman]
  • But as of 2017, eight states and DC allow for recreational use. [Business Insider / Melia Robinson]
  • So the battle for legalization may seem all but won — however, the next frontier will likely be a push to have marijuana regulated the way alcohol is. A US Congress member from Colorado has introduced a bill that would achieve just that. [Newsweek / Janice Williams]
  • Colorado is on top of it, seriously. The state’s Department of Revenue executive director recently made the case for legalization to Illinois lawmakers, citing how the state’s legal market is “eating into the black market, funding drug abuse treatment and prevention and providing a safer product.” Apparently legalization has garnered $200 million in tax revenue from the more than $1 billion in sales in Colorado in 2016 — $40 million of which went to Colorado schools. [Chicago Tribune / Robert McCoppin]
  • If legalization seems inevitable — and could be beneficial to cash-strapped states — why is weed illegal in the first place? In short: Outlawing marijuana was essentially an excuse to deport Mexican immigrants in the early 1900s. [Drug Policy Alliance / Malik Burnett, Amanda Reiman​]

The drought in Somalia grows increasingly dire

Newly displaced Somali women and children walk to a food distribution at the Kaxda district, outskirts of Mogadishu, on April 9, 2017.
  • The threat of famine facing Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen is, collectively, the greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945, per the UN’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs. More than 20 million lives are at risk. [NPR / Miles Parks]
  • The latest reports out of Somalia estimate that more than 6 million people need assistance in that country alone, and more than 500 people have already died as a result of cholera and similar illnesses — which are exacerbating the crisis. [Guardian / Jason Burke]
  • A new survey found “very critical” levels of severe malnutrition in certain Somali districts. The country’s Save the Children director has warned: “We are on the brink of a massive catastrophe in Somalia with the death of three quarters of the country’s livestock, a rapid increase of children suffering severe malnutrition and the depletion of water stores in dozens of communities.” [Washington Post / Associated Press / Abdi Guled]
  • Reuters has done some searing reporting on the crisis there. Last month, the news agency shared the stories of families who are faced with an impossible choice: which of their children to prioritize feeding when they do not have enough food for all. “If there's a very small amount of food, we give it to those who need it the most — the youngest," said one Somali mother. [Reuters / Katharine Houreld, Ben Makori]
  • There’s yet another agonizing decision some parents are making in order to keep their children alive: forcing their young daughters into marriages with older men in order to obtain dowry money that can be used to sustain the rest of the family. [Reuters / Katharine Houreld]
  • The ongoing crisis raises an important question: How do famines happen? The answer is complicated, and it varies for each of the four countries at risk, but there is a pattern that has emerged repeatedly in famine situations. In areas beset by constant violent conflict, a drought can quickly deplete what little resources are available to everyday civilians, and the conflict can make the distribution of aid that might avert a catastrophe extremely difficult. [BBC]
  • As these problems escalate, they can provoke a famine, which is defined by several statistics: that at least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages, that rates of acute malnutrition exceed 30 percent, and that the death rate is higher than two people per day per 10,000 people. [BBC]
  • Part of the problem is also a lack of international aid funding — the UN has requested $4.4 billion in aid but has only received $984 million (as of last week). But in areas like northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram has a major presence, it’s almost impossible to distribute aid of any kind. [Reuters / Stephanie Nebehay]
  • President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to international assistance could exacerbate the drought and the threat of famine, as well. The Mercy Corps vice president of humanitarian leadership and response explained the on-the-ground consequences of slashing funding to Vox: “[The World Food Program] has a certain caseload of, say, a million people they serve in South Sudan for a monthly ration of so much kilocalories for a family of five. If they don’t get the funding they need, or if we don’t get the funding we need, we then have to make a decision based on vulnerability. Either lower the caseload or lower the rations. It’s simple mathematics. And ultimately that means more stresses on everyone else.” [Vox / Lindsay Maizland​]


  • This Henry Kissinger entry for Jared Kushner in the “Time 100” list reads like a professor writing a rec letter for a student he barely knows and maybe doesn’t like. [Time / Henry Kissinger]
  • What if "pro-growth" tax policy didn't just mean giveaways to the rich — but tax cuts for poor people too? [NYT / Neil Irwin]
  • Asking 12 illustrators to do drawings inspired by OK Computer is a very Pitchfork thing to do, but the results are pretty great. [Pitchfork]
  • Uber left Austin, Texas, in a huff last year, hoping its exit would push the city to abandon new regulations. Instead, a flurry of local ride-hailing companies launched, and the city is doing just fine. [CityLab / Laura Bliss]
  • Most developed countries have a universal cash allowance for parents with children. Why doesn’t the US? [The American Prospect / David Harris and Luke Shaefer]


  • “What does sour blue powder taste like? Like Jolly Ranchers, and shame.” [Washington Post / Maura Judkis]
  • “When I get a script, when I see a first film directed by a woman, I have in the past focused on what was wrong with it. And when I see a first film directed by a man, I focus on what’s right with it. I focus on where he could go with the next one, and I focus on where she failed to go.” [Anne Hathaway to ABC News / Peter Travers]
  • “I want to know everything I can about rats to protect myself from rats.” [Claudia O’Doherty to A.V. Club / Esther Zuckerman]
  • “Robots have been racist and sexist for as long as the people who created them have been racist and sexist, because machines can work only from the information given to them.” [The Guardian / Laurie Penny]
  • “Some of his judgements are simply bizarre. He thinks the storm-trooper leader Ernst Röhm wanted revolution by ‘active homosexuality with street boys’. He doesn't like dogs (‘Hitler, in common with many dog-lovers, was incapable of showing the same affection for any human being such as that which poured out of him when feeding, or stroking, or staring into the eyes of this smelly near-cousin of the wolf’).” [New Statesman / Richard J. Evans]

Watch this: What Marine Le Pen wants for France

A political push from the French far right. [Vox / Mac Schneider, Sarah Wildman]

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