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Pompeo makes 1st trip to Africa in bid to reassert US as leading partner

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To that end, Trump may host African leaders for a U.S.-Africa investment summit in Washington, co-hosted by South Africa, according to Lana Marks, the U.S. ambassador in Pretoria and a close Trump friend.

The administration also requested in its new FY 2021 budget $800 million for the Development Finance Corporation, a newly created government agency that provides financing for private development projects. That’s more than double the $299 million Congress gave it in fiscal year 2020. Trump’s budget proposal also sought an additional $50 million for its Prosper Africa initiative to increase two- way trade, for a new total of $75 million. But overall, the budget proposal slashes assistance to Africa by 39%, or $3.23 billion, and funding for key health programs in Africa like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which would see a 26% cut.

There is a similar contradiction in the administration’s military posture across the continent. Senior officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy, have warned for months now about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, the region situated between the Sahara desert and the savanna and stretching across the continent from Senegal and Mauritania to Sudan and Ethiopia.

With terrorist fighters and weapons flowing south from Libya, the Sahel has seen a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks — with Nagy warning in November that the U.S. and European strategy to contain it was not working: “We need to have a much, much more robust engagement. There has to be much more robust coordination.”

But the Pentagon is currently reviewing whether to slash its troop presence in West Africa. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday no decision had been made about the U.S. counterterrorism mission there, but the Pentagon announced Wednesday that about one thousand service members would depart as part of a change in mission in East Africa, where a special Army unit to train local partner forces will replace members of an Army infantry division.

Even that scaling down “makes very little sense,” according to Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow also with Brookings, who called it “an overly narrow fixation on pulling forces out of Africa and elsewhere in order to get them closer to Russia and China” and position them for “great power” competition, as Trump’s national security strategy says.

Mbaye said any cuts to troop totals in the Sahel would be “very, very worrisome.”

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Global stocks mixed after Wall Street rises to record

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Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.3% to finish at 23,479.15, shedding bigger early gains. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3% to 7,162.50. and the Shanghai Composite index picked up 1.8% to 3,030.15. But South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.7% to 2,195.50. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.2% to 27,609.16, while India’s Sensex was little changed at 41,330.57.

Overnight, U.S. stocks shook off their latest virus-induced losses, breaching new record highs.

Technology stocks led the rally, as Apple recovered most of its loss from the day before. It dropped Tuesday after warning that revenue this quarter would fall short of forecasts due to the viral outbreak centered in China.

Low rates have been a key underpinning for the strong U.S. stock market, which has rallied even though growth in corporate profits has been weak. The Fed released minutes Wednesday afternoon from its last policy meeting, where officials said they see the current level of monetary policy “as likely to remain appropriate for a time,” at least until data on the economy shows a change in momentum.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil added21 cents to $53.70a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $1.20 to $53.49 overnight. Brent crude oil, the international standard,was unchanged at $59.12 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to111.72Japanese yen from 110.34 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened slightly to$1.0790from $1.0805.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama



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John Bolton defends decision not to share Ukraine information ahead of book release

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In his upcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” Bolton makes at least two explosive allegations about Trump, according to excerpts of the manuscript obtained and released by the New York Times: that Trump personally tied aid to Ukraine with investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and that Trump tasked Bolton with setting up a meeting between Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.

Despite a repeated stated desire to do so, Bolton has refrained from sharing his knowledge on impeachment-related matters while his book goes through a pre-publication security review for classified information with the White House National Security Council. Wednesday night, he warned of an “implied threat of criminal prosecution” if he were to “just spill [his] guts.”

Rice questioned this reasoning, noting she had experienced her fair share “of trepidation about going through the clearance process at the White House” with her own book.

“I can’t say that at any point, the fact of being in the pre-clearance process caused me to refuse to share information with Congress and the public that I thought was of national import,” Rice continued. “I just don’t understand using the fact of the pre-clearance process as a reason not to be forthcoming.”

Bolton on Monday night had accused the Trump administration of “censorship” in its review process while speaking at Duke University, which was his first public remarks since the conclusion of Trump’s impeachment trial.

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Bloomberg, Sanders pile-ons reveal Democrats' angst as race narrows: ANALYSIS

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Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg warned that, after Super Tuesday, only Sanders and Bloomberg — “the two most polarizing figures on this stage” — could be standing as viable candidates.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another who wants to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said.

Bloomberg has been able to buy enough ads to make his arguments without significant refutation. That changed Wednesday night, and if he is pitching himself around electability, none of his rivals are buying it.

He seemed flustered by a series of attacks by Warren, who pointed out that his company signed non-disclosure agreements after negotiating settlements with women. Bloomberg wouldn’t say how many women are covered under such agreements, and repeatedly declined to say he would release them to allow them to tell their stories.

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women.’ That just doesn’t cut it,” Warren said. “We need to know exactly what’s lurking out there.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden mocked the notion that the women in question want to remain silent.

“You think the women in fact were ready to say, ‘I don’t want anybody to know about what you did to me?’ That’s not how it works,” he said.

Bloomberg insisted that he had no reason to change the terms of any agreements.

“They were made consensually and they have every right to expect that they will stay private,” he said to scattered boos in the debate hall.

Bloomberg is trying to square himself up against Sanders. And Sanders — now the national polling front-runner, and the only candidate other than Bloomberg with the resources to compete nationwide now — also took significant incoming fire.

“I think the will of the people should prevail,” he said.

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