A few of my favorite articles

Africa: What’s Up with WhatsApp?

When Kenyan entrepreneur Mugethi Gitau started a business making all-natural hair and skin products in 2016, she didn’t worry about how to manage orders and customers. She went to the messaging platform she uses for nearly all her communication: Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp. “WhatsApp is already there,” Gitau says. “So it's the easiest way to reach somebody.” WhatsApp’s ubiquity means it is intertwined with every aspect of business and personal life in Kenya. But for entrepreneurs like Gitau, the symbiotic relationship could be about to get a lot more complicated.

How trauma of war hits U.S. troops

FORWARD OPERATING BASE BOSTICK, Afghanistan — More than half a year after one of the deadliest battles ever waged by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the men of Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry are still fighting in — and with — their memories. They cannot forget Oct. 3, 2009. On that day, 300 insurgents attacked two outposts in eastern Afghanistan manned by 72 soldiers, sparking a 12-hour fight. By nightfall, eight U.S. soldiers were dead.

Infant-Sleep Deaths in Focus in Fight Over Role of Consumer-Safety Agency

WASHINGTON—Earlier this year, a parent in New York filed a complaint with the government’s consumer-product watchdog about a controversial type of baby bed. A napping six-month-old sleeping in it had rolled over, stopped breathing and died. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received reports of at least 30 deaths and more than 700 injuries since 2005 in connection with these inclined sleepers, which angle a baby so its head is elevated. More than half the reported deaths—16—occurred since September 2016. The product, which some parents praise for finally getting their fussy baby to sleep, has become the focus of a battle over how strongly federal consumer-safety regulators should act, and how quickly.

In Hunt for Funds, Somalia Found Trouble

When Somalia's government wanted to rebuild the country's war-shattered economy in 2009, it hired lawyers to recover what it believed was more than $100 million of government funds frozen by foreign countries during two decades of civil conflict. Things didn't go according to plan. Over the past five years, the drive to reclaim the missing money has spawned corruption allegations and led to the resignation of two central bank governors. The fragile Somali government is now tussling with American lawyers over the funds.

Afghan army struggles with ethnic divisions

ARGHANDAB VALLEY, Afghanistan — The Afghan soldiers look like they belong. They wear beards, carry Soviet-era rifles and stride confidently through fields of wheat, melons and okra. In one village, a young girl brings them a jug of milk to drink under the shade of a tree. Officers in the U.S. Army routinely praise their Afghan partners: They know the culture, can relate to the villagers and understand regional politics. But in southern Afghanistan, the focus of the U.S. war effort, nearly all the Afghan soldiers are foreigners too.

Uber Battles Locals for Future of African Taxis

NAIROBI, Kenya—In the traffic-clogged, potholed streets of Kenya’s capital city, there is a battle waging for the future of the African taxi ride that is pitting local startups eager to become the “Uber of Kenya” against, well, Uber. The winner will help answer a question dogging those who work in technology in the developing world: whether chaotic, impoverished cities like Nairobi will create the tools that bring the “bottom billion” online, or if apps that have already taken off in the U.S. and Europe can be exported here.

Afghan pass shows struggle of handover

GULRUDDIN OUTPOST, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. forces scored a strategic victory against the Taliban four months ago when they seized a mountain pass that had enabled suicide bombers to make their way from Pakistan to the Afghan capital, Kabul. But as American troops draw down in the war, it will fall on Afghan soldiers and police to hold this dirt road in eastern Afghanistan's Taba Kakar mountains. So far, the signs are not encouraging. The district police chief was a drug addict who was fired at the end of November only after he punched a U.S. military translator, according to American soldiers. He then sold or stole everything from electronics to teacups, even removing the batteries from the remote control for the heating unit supplied by the Americans.

Liberian Ebola Survivors Return to Help the Sick

MONROVIA, Liberia—Six mornings a week, Salome Karwah gets up and goes to work at the Ebola treatment unit where she watched her parents wither and die just three days apart and where she almost died of Ebola as well. Ms. Karwah, 26 years old, who had been a nurse’s assistant at a private clinic before the outbreak, recovered from the virus and was discharged on Sept. 5 as a patient from the Elwa treatment unit here. Less than a month later, she returned as one of seven Ebola survivors hired by the clinic, run by Doctors Without Borders, to counsel and comfort those suffering from the disease.

Searching for their Western dream, Indians stranded in the Sahara

ZOUERAT, Mauritania -- There are no roads to this Sahara Desert town, just tracks in the sand. Yet it has become a holding tank for victims of people-smugglers – Asians who set out to find a better life in Europe and ended up dumped in the desert. Dozens of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have turned up in Zouerat over the past 18 months, having been abandoned by the smugglers in the Sahara with little water, no food and no passports.

Kenya's severed families work to reunite

NAIROBI, Kenya —– Among the children laughing and shouting on the swing set at a Nairobi orphanage is a boy who was pulled from his bed by men with machetes and an 11-year-old girl who assumes her mother was burned alive. They play as they wait for aid workers to bring news of their parents, to tell them if they're orphans or not. Waves of attacks since Kenya's disputed Dec. 27 presidential vote have uprooted more than a half million people and left more than 1,000 dead. In the chaos, many parents and children lost track of each other: Kenya's Red Cross says it knows of at least 500 youngsters who were separated from their families, and many more probably went unreported.

Chemical-Safety Board Is Cutting Back Under Trump

WASHINGTON—Three days after a Sunoco pipeline in Texas caught fire during welding work in 2016, a tiny government agency called the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board dispatched a team to investigate. But its findings about the incident—in which seven workers suffered severe burns—are shaping up differently under President Trump than under President Obama, according to people familiar with the agency under both administrations.

Nigeria's oil fires stoke claims of villagers to spoils

KEGBARA DERE, Nigeria -- The fire burned strong for 45 days and 45 nights, blanketing the village with ash and torching the young cassava plants in Ada Baniba's field. As she weeded, the flames flared out of the leaking oil pipeline behind her. It wasn't that no one could put the fire out. It was that no one would _ not the oil company that owned the pipeline, not the government and not the villagers breathing the fumes. The tale of Kegbara Dere's fire shows just how desperate the long-neglected communities of Nigeria's oil-rich river delta have become.

Lead from old car batteries poisons Senegalese town

THIAROYE-SUR-MER, Senegal — First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared. Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed. The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal's capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed. When they did - when the TV news aired parents' angry pleas for an investigation, when the doctors ordered more tests, when the West sent health experts - they did not find malaria, or polio or AIDS, or any of the diseases that kill the poor of Africa. They found lead.