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Expert Voices

Rexit undermines Tillerson's Africa trip

Rex Tillerson and president of Chad
Secretary Tillerson and Chad's President Idriss Deby after their meeting on March 12, 2018. Photo: Jonathan Ernst / AFP / Getty Images

There were no real surprises during the erstwhile Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Africa. It is likely to be remembered merely for preceding his firing by President Donald Trump, which the White House linked to upcoming negotiations with North Korea, rather than to anything about his Africa trip.

Why it matters: Trump and Tillerson had little personal chemistry and a host of policy differences, so the transition was expected. However, removing Tillerson at the tail-end of his first major official trip to Africa undercuts whatever promises he made or good will he may have won with African leaders, and would seem to be another manifestation of the administration’s disregard for the continent.

Tillerson visited Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Chad — countries selected in large part for their security challenges, though no security cooperation initiatives seem to have been unveiled. He pledged more than $500 million in humanitarian assistance, though how much of that was new money (as opposed to funds left over from previous budgets) remains unclear. He criticized the human rights situation in Ethiopia and Kenya, but softened that message with praise for the two countries’ efforts at improvement.

Tillerson also warned his hosts in harsh language of the dangers of an economic embrace with China and referred to increased trade and foreign direct investment, specifically the finalizing of the Continental Free Trade Agreement through the African Union.

What's next: President Trump has nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state, but the administration’s approach to Africa would likely change little under his leadership.

John Campbell is the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Jonathan Swan 7 hours ago
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Trump's two-front war

Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump is ending the week with a flop — nowhere close to the border wall funding he wanted in the DACA-less spending bill that congressional leaders released last evening. But he's fulfilling one of his most aggressive campaign promises with his anti-China trade action.

The big picture: Trump's expected announcement today of tariffs on Chinese imports is a big deal, and analysts fear it could provoke a trade war — and it comes as Trump has been battling his own party here at home over the government spending bill.

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The worst flu season in eight years

Note: Activity levels are based on outpatient visits in a state compared to the average number of visits that occur during weeks with little or no flu virus circulation; Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

This year's flu season caught many experts off guard with both its sustained prevalence and its virulence. At its peak, there was a higher level of flu-like illnesses reported than any other year during the past eight years. Watch in the visual as it hits its peak around Week 18.

Why it matters: Public health officials try to capture this data when developing the next year's vaccines. And, of course, they want to find better ways to prevent severe flu seasons. There's a "Strategic Plan" to develop a universal vaccine to protect against a wider range of influenza viruses, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.