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Christie and Cuomo

Big Drop in American Volunteers to Ebola Zone

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It turns out unnecessary quarantine rules and the stigmatization of aid workers is undermining the fight to defeat ebola at its source. Thanks, Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo!“Aid groups have been warning about a possible “chilling effect” on volunteers since the two states’ rules were announced in late October. And now there is some data to back up those claims. The United States Agency for International Development, which handles applications from medical personnel volunteering to serve in West Africa, says applications declined by about 17 percent after October 26th, when the rules for mandatory quarantine rules were announced. “There was an unquestionable drop-off,” says USAID spokesman Matt Herrick. “And unfortunately, that decline has continued.” (NPR http://n.pr/1u8zHD1)

New Data on Access to Clean Water and Sanitation…Global efforts to provide improved water and sanitation  for all are gaining momentum, but serious gaps in funding continue to hamper progress, according to a new report from the World Health Organization on behalf of UN-Water. The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS 2014), published biannually, presents data from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies….2.5 billion men, women and children around the world lack access to basic sanitation services. About 1 billion people continue to practice open defecation. An additional 748 million people do not have ready access to an improved source of drinking-water. (WHO http://bit.ly/1u8yBXR)

For your Bemusement….Here’s Bob Geldof getting pulled from live TV for an intemperate reaction to a perfectly legitimate line of inquiry. (Daily Mirror. http://bit.ly/1u8BqIu). And here’s the excellent Amanda Taub asking more perfectly legitimate questions. (Vox  http://bit.ly/1u8BqIu)

Ebola

The failure of a top Malian hospital to detect probable cases of Ebola has raised questions about whether the country’s health system is sufficiently prepared to tackle the disease. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1xk3VsQ)

The United Nations is worried about the potential for further isolation of the hardest-hit nations in West Africa. (IPS http://bit.ly/1xjOoJA)

Why is Sierra Leone reporting an uptick in Ebola cases while Liberia’s outbreak is slowing? The chain of events in one village points up the obstacles that the country is facing. (NPR http://n.pr/1xk51on)

Africa

Fewer babies could mean an “economic miracle” for sub-Saharan Africa, with gains of $500 billion a year over three decades for the region, the UN Population Fund said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1xjRVHF)

Michel Kafando was sworn in as transitional president of Burkina Faso on Tuesday, faced with the task of leading the West African country to elections in a year following a brief military takeover. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1EVVnbN)

South Africa plans to spend $2.2 billion over two years to buy HIV/AIDS drugs for public hospitals, a government minister said on Monday, as a study shows the prevalence of the virus is rising. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1EVVHaz)

Aid workers in Somalia, which faces worsening hunger three years after famine struck the country, believe the humanitarian system is “rotten” and are hamstrung by fears of being prosecuted for aiding terrorists, an expert said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1EVVXX9)

Human Rights Watch accused police in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday of summarily executing at least 51 people in an anti-gang operation and of being responsible for the disappearance of at least 33 more. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1EVWb0l)

Guyana President Donald Ramotar’s decision to suspend parliament to avoid a no-confidence motion against him has plunged the small former British colony into political crisis, as foes decry the president as a dictator. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1xjRopk)

 Sudan’s government and rebels from war-torn South Kordofan and Blue Nile adjourned a week of peace talks late Monday, with mediators claiming they were “not too far” from a deal. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1EW4R6Y)

Former rebels now serving in Cote d’Ivoire’s army erected barricades and blocked streets outside barracks across the country on Tuesday in protest over unpaid benefits and bonuses, military and diplomatic sources said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1xk23Ae)

MENA

Tensions are incredibly high in Israel and Palestine following the murder of four rabbis in their Jerusalem synagogue tuesday morning by two Palestinian cousins who were not part of any known terrorist group. Haaretz http://bit.ly/1u8AhRk)

A U.N. panel of experts monitoring al-Qaida is recommending new sanctions that would authorize the seizure of tanker trucks carrying oil from areas in Syria and Iraq controlled by the Islamic State group or the Nusra Front. (AP http://yhoo.it/1xjSv8k)

An Egyptian rights group said Tuesday the government has repeatedly violated the country’s new constitution, calling it a crime that must be addressed immediately. (AP http://yhoo.it/1xk1TZF)

Spanish lawmakers were set to vote on Tuesday in favor of their government recognizing Palestine as a state in a symbolic move intended to promote peace between the Palestinians and Israel but which has angered the Jewish state. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1EW4VDJ)

Asia

Students in Myanmar have threatened to protest nationwide if the government does not amend an education law that prohibits them from engaging in political activities and curbs academic freedom. (AP http://yhoo.it/1EVXbl3)

More than 600 trafficking victims from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been rescued off the South Asian coast, a navy spokesman in Dhaka said on Tuesday, in the single biggest operation of its kind by Bangladesh authorities. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1xjTfu9)

Indonesia must stop subjecting female police recruits to physical tests in an effort to determine whether they are virgins, a leading human rights group said Tuesday, describing the practice as degrading and discriminatory. (AP http://yhoo.it/1EW4Uj5)

Myanmar’s influential parliament speaker said Tuesday that any changes to the military-drafted constitution that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president will not take effect before next year’s election. (AP http://yhoo.it/1xk1QwU)

Cambodia’s government is using the country’s judiciary to silence opposition parties and other critics of its policies, a United Nations investigator said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1xk1Vke)

The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to recommend that crimes against humanity in North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court. Now, it’s up to the Security Council to decide if that will actually happen. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1u8AKCZ)

The Americas

The head of Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras promises to improve the way it is run as it struggles to deal with a corruption scandal. (BBC http://bbc.in/1EW5GwK)

A tweet from the account of Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebel group’s peace negotiators said on Tuesday that kidnapped General Ruben Dario Alzate was a “prisoner of war”. But in a message from the same account minutes later, the FARC said its Twitter account had been hacked. It did not deny or confirm the general’s status. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1xk6nPW)

Opinion/Blogs

The Problem With “Safe Zones” in the Middle East (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1xA7nRj)

 Will There be Peace Between Iran and the West? (IPS http://bit.ly/1EVUHTZ)

Even with social media boost, big challenges ahead for Rohingya advocates (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1xk1BSs)

10 Million Stateless and Growing: How Donors Can Help (CGD http://bit.ly/1EW5P3d)

Is the BRICS moment over? (CNN http://cnn.it/1xk3wGD)

Nairobi’s ‘miniskirt’ march exposes sexual violence in Kenya (Guardian http://bit.ly/1xk43Zm)

Reflections on the Arab uprisings (Monkey Cage http://wapo.st/1xA6OXD)

Reactions to Reflections on the Arab Uprisings (Dart-Throwing Chimp http://bit.ly/1qSsG9m)

One Year Later—the Road to Resilience After Typhoon Haiyan (USAID Impact http://1.usa.gov/1qlzf9H)

Stitching a more sustainable garment industry for Haiti (Development that Works http://bit.ly/1qStATc)

Research/Reports

Give women the same access to land, credit, advice and markets as men, and they could increase yields on their farms by more than 20 percent, boosting total global agricultural output by up to four percent, a leading land rights researcher said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1EVVIeD)

New technology has “brought the bank” to millions of low-income women in a revolution that could help drive economic growth, according to an authority on women’s finance. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1xjPeWA)

More than 10,000 people protested in the Hungarian capital, demanding the ouster of the head of the tax authority and greater accountability from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. (AP http://yhoo.it/1EVWpVm)

Sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in Uganda (Overseas Development Institute http://bit.ly/1xk6GKy)

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Mampang IDP site, the Philippines

A Forgotten Crisis in The Philippines

Zamboanga, Philippines — This month, the Philippines is marking the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall. The international response to the typhoon was immediate and robust – essential given the reality that over four million people were displaced by the storm.

But this week, I am in the Philippines to mark the one-year anniversary of another humanitarian crisis – one that is coming without fanfare.  

On September 2013, in the city of Zamboanga on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, fighting broke out between the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim separatist group, and the Philippine Army. One hundred and twenty thousand people were displaced. The confrontation was the latest in a 40-year struggle by minority Muslim groups – comprised of indigenous ethnic people known collectively as “Moros” – for self-determination. 

My Refugees International colleague and I are in Zamboanga to assess the needs of the more than 38,000 who remain displaced. Seeing the state of the conditions in which they live, it seems hard to believe it has been over a year since the response to the crisis began. Unfortunately, unlike Haiyan, the international response to this crisis has been woefully inadequate.

There is no question that Typhoon Haiyan pulled humanitarian resources away from the response in Zamboanga. But the skeletal humanitarian staff in Zamboanga proved ill-equipped to manage the humanitarian challenges that one year later remain acute.

In the immediate aftermath of the September fighting, many of the displaced sought refuge in a local sports stadium. Today, there are still almost 2,000 families – close to 11,000 people – living in the sports stadium. These are some of the most vulnerable IDPs – primarily minority Muslims who had no secure land rights, who have been prohibited from returning to their home areas based on flimsy claims ranging from geo-hazards to security risks, and who are undoubtedly amongst the poorest and most disenfranchised. 

While progress has been made over the last year in moving IDPs out of evacuation centers – primarily the sports stadium – the national government has said that it wants all of the IDPs to be removed from the stadium by December 15th. Unfortunately, the alternative being proposed for the majority of those IDPs is even worse.

The site that will receive the bulk of those IDPs is a transitional site known as Mampang. It is a hastily constructed site with conditions that fall below humanitarian standards. At Mampang, the emphasis has so far been put on building shelters to house the IDPs. However, the same attention has not been paid to creating adequate access to water and sanitation, as well as to education, health centers, and livelihoods. 

Mampang currently hosts about 3,800 people. Those numbers will dramatically increase once the majority of the population from the sports stadium arrives. Currently, water is brought in to the site by a single, unpaved access road. When it rains, the road becomes impassible. IDPs are forced to walk through mud to get to the water – leaving the elderly, young, and infirm without access. As one IDP leader at the site told me, “…when water deliveries do come through, fights often break out among families who don’t have enough water to bathe or wash themselves.”  As I walked along the congested rows of bunkhouses, I noticed that the latrines and showers were locked. The reason I was given was that the septic tanks have not been emptied, and there is no water for showers. 

The nearest school is three kilometers away from Mampang, and there is no transport available for the children. Most of the children are not in school, and those who had been attending schools prior to their transfer to Mampang are dropping out. Another major problem with Mampang is its location. Mampang is removed from the city center, and far from the part of the sea where many of the IDPs once made their living fishing. We spoke with one woman in Mampang who cried as she told us that it is hard for her to look at the sea now because she is reminded of the life she and her family used to have.

If these issues are not resolved, conditions in Mampang will continue to deteriorate. Given that, it is absolutely unacceptable to move more people to Mampang until conditions meet humanitarian standards. Such a movement at this stage would go against the fundamental humanitarian principle of “do no harm.” Any agency engaged in facilitating that movement would be actively participating in the creation of conditions for an even greater humanitarian crisis. 

It is hard to know what will happen next in Zamboanga. To complicate matters even further, in August the national government wrote to UN agencies to inform them that the “humanitarian phase” of this crisis was over. Now there is concern that more agencies will close their offices and pull-out of Zamboanga.

The humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga is far from over. International humanitarian organizations must take the lead in changing the situation for Zamboanga’s IDPs. And it must happen fast.

Dara McLeod is the Director of Communications for Refugees International, a non-profit advocacy organization that accepts no government or UN funding.

Image credit: Dara McLeod Mampang IDP site, The Philippines 

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Drowning deaths worldwide

Map of the Day: Drowning as a Global Health Priority

Today’s map comes from a new World Health Organization report on the global health implications of drownings. It shows where drowning is a leading cause of children’s deaths around the world.

Drowning deaths worldwide

As you can see, much of the world does not keep data on deaths from drowning. And this is part of the problem.

The report finds that drowning accounts for about 372,000 deaths worldwide every year, most of which are in the developing world. This puts deaths from drowning at about two thirds the number of global deaths due to malnutrition and about half the total number of deaths due to malaria. In other words, drowning is a serious global health issue. And it’s been pretty much off-the-radar of the international health and development community.

 

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VIa UN GIFT

Stunning New Stats on Modern Day Slavery

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More people are enslaved around the world than were previously estimated, 38.5 million to be precise. The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI), in its second annual report, said new methods showed some 20 percent more people were enslaved across the world than originally thought…The foundation’s definition of modern slavery includes slavery-like practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children, as well as human trafficking and forced labour…The report, which covers 167 countries, said modern slavery contributed to the production of at least 122 goods from 58 countries. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1t4atFG)

A new leading killer of children emerges…Preterm birth complications killed more than one million children last year, says a new study. Dr. Andres de Francisco, interim executive director of the Geneva-based Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health, said, “Over the last few years the proportion of deaths due to preterm births has been increasing. The reason for this is that we do not really have major interventions in place to avoid premature births — and second, to manage them in most communities where they occur.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1qeuNcN)

Humanity Affirming Story of the Day: Kenyan women donned miniskirts and took to the streets of Nairobi to protest the assault of woman by a group of men at a bus stop, after she was accused of “tempting” men because of her clothing.  There’s a hashtag for this! #MyDressMyChoice (Al Jazeera http://aje.me/1zxi3Oz )=

Infographic of the Day: The Trinity of Development: Land+Women+Secure Property Rights (Landesa http://bit.ly/1zxhlks)

Ebola

Fearful of a surge of Ebola cases, Mali placed more than 440 people under surveillance. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1qeoLZH)

A surgeon from Sierra Leone has died of Ebola at the Nebraska hospital where he was being treated after arriving from West Africa over the weekend, the hospital said on Monday. (TRF http://bit.ly/1qer3rN)

Almost 200 people have received GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental Ebola vaccine in trials in the United States, Britain, Mali and Switzerland, and the safety data so far are “very satisfactory,” scientists said. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t48aT0)

The outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone has badly affected the West African country’s move towards meeting key development goals. Agriculture, which is the mainstay of the economy, has been the worst hit as many farmers have succumbed to the disease and many more have abandoned their farmlands in fear of contracting the virus. (IPS http://bit.ly/1qeLHrK

Africa

Authorities in Burkina Faso named former foreign minister Michel Kafando as transitional president on Monday in a key step towards returning the West African country to democracy in the wake of a brief military takeover. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t3YkAA)

Zimbabwe’s vice president Joice Mujuru hit back at charges of plotting to challenge President Robert Mugabe and said calls for her to resign were unconstitutional, her first public response to weeks of attacks by state-owned media. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1qefIYZ)

Sudan has refused to let U.N. and African Union peacekeepers visit a village in the western Darfur region to investigate allegations of mass rape for the second time this month, saying it was skeptical about the motives for the visit. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1qeiL38)

At least two people were killed Monday in clashes in the Somali town of Baidoa, the latest violence in the war-torn nation sparked by political power struggles, police said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t4619S)

More than a ton of ivory has disappeared from a Ugandan government vault, a police official said Monday as a corruption watchdog agency launched an investigation of Uganda’s wildlife protection agency over the missing tusks. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t4a8ms)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will ask the national assembly to extend a state of emergency in three northeastern states hit by an Islamist insurgency when it expires this week, the justice minister said on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t4ajy8)

MENA

With only one week to go before a self-imposed deadline, the nail-biting is accelerating over whether Iran will reach an agreement with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) that curbs its nuclear program for years to come in return for sanctions relief. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zxltRu)

Kurdish forces say the battle against Islamic State for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani has turned definitively in their favor following weeks of punishing U.S.-led airstrikes and the arrival of Kurdish reinforcements from Iraq. (LAT http://lat.ms/1zxlkNN)

Asia

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has missed his own deadline for naming a Cabinet as he undertakes a major overhaul of his country’s government, which officials and analysts say has long suffered from a focus on patronage rather than policy. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qehn0C)

Top Philippines officials said Monday they had launched investigations into a Manila children’s center overseen by a former president, after months of complaints about the “prison”-like conditions. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t455lW)

Bouts of vicious violence, together with discriminatory government policies, have sent an estimated 100,000 Rohingya fleeing Buddhist-majority Myanmar by boat in the last two years, according to the Arakan Project, which has been advocating on behalf of the minority Muslims for more than a decade. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qexGui)

The Americas

Haitians will soon rely more on their police to maintain security as the United Nations downsizes the peacekeeping force it has kept in Haiti since 2004, when a violent rebellion swept the country. While the U.N. will maintain a police contingent of 2,601, it will cut its multinational troop size from 5,021 to 2,370 in June. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qegJ31)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended two-year peace talks with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, as the military investigated the suspected abduction of a general and two others. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qegXqZ)

After announcing a major deal with China to curb emissions and a $3 billion pledge into a fund to help poor countries fight climate change last week, the Obama administration will turn its focus to American towns and cities to help them adapt to the impacts of global warming. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1t44lND)

Washington is bracing for a possible political earthquake this week, if President Barack Obama makes good on his promise to reform America’s oft-criticized immigration system through executive action. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qessid)

Opinion/Blogs

The Race for U.N. Secretary-General Is Rigged (Foreign Policy http://atfp.co/1xxNQ3W)

Dumping Smartphones on West Africa is a Bad Idea (Stories of UNICEF Innovation http://bit.ly/1zwDtvi)

Bob Geldof epidemic could spread to West Africa (Underground Magazine http://bit.ly/1zwDtvd)

Slavery in the supply chain: ‘Who is behind the clothes we wear?’ (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1qernXB)

World leaders must grasp the nettle in the battle against malnutrition (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1t49Yvt)

Blur/Gorillaz frontman on the problems with Band Aid and frames of Africa (A View from the Cave http://bit.ly/1qeyFdX)

The optimist and the plague (The Lector http://bit.ly/1oY0DJW)

Bob Geldof Still Trying to Help 30 Years On (DW http://bit.ly/1qeNWeJ)

Ebola in Sierra Leone: Cuban volunteers still not working (h5N1 http://bit.ly/1xxNIBr)

Why the Press Is Less Free Today (The New Yorker http://nyr.kr/1xxNKti)

Ebola: ‘I kept repeating to myself: I am a survivor. I am a survivor’ (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1zwDqzx)

Kori Schake, a seasoned Republican foreign policy hand, is Mark’s podcast guest. She discusses her regrets about the Iraq war. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1vkG1hb)

Research/Reports

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a bleak assessment of global economic prospects, comparing potential troubles to red warning lights on a car’s dashboard. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t409gN)

 

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190px-Middle_east_graphic_2003

The Problem With “Safe Zones” in the Middle East

Permeable state borders have been both a contributor to, and a consequence of, the current upheavals in the Middle East. The free flow of fighters, weapons, and illicit money across the poorly policed frontiers of the region has emboldened the Islamic State and other militant groups, aiding insurgent campaigns in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. In response, authorities in these states are taking increasingly drastic measures to fortify their borders and impose order.

Tunisia has established buffer zones to stem spillover from a rapidly disintegrating Libya. Two weeks ago, in the Sinai town of Rafah, the Egyptian government evacuated over 1,000 residents and demolished their homes in an attempt to curb the influx of arms and militants from Gaza, which Cairo claims has contributed to a series of sophisticated attacks against local police and military outposts orchestrated by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a ruthless band of Egyptian rebels. And Turkey has pursued a series of strategies to reinforce its porous border with Syria, calling most recently for a cross-border militarized zone to help combat the encroaching Islamic State.

It is difficult to fault states for attempting to shield their territories from security threats. But the international community should be concerned about the humanitarian impact of these buffer zones, which have significant implications for the tens of thousands of civilians uprooted by violence in Libya and the 13.6 million displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Militarizing borders and restricting access can interfere with individuals’ right to seek asylum and protection under the UN Refugee Convention. Many Syrians and Iraqis have been denied entry into Jordan, Turkey, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Since a bulk of the uprooted are internally displaced, they are particularly vulnerable to persecution and deprivation, yet that much more difficult to reach for humanitarian agencies — a growing concern as winter approaches.

Moreover, some of the heavy-handed tactics these countries are using to secure their borders may entail gross violations of international law. Egypt’s operation in Sinai is particularly disturbing, as the displacement of local populations has become an objective, not simply a byproduct, of military action. With the potential to render 10,000 civilians homeless and dislodged from their communities, the operation defies humanitarian and human rights law, in addition to the Kampala Convention on Internal Displacement. While the UN was quick to condemn the rebel attacks that elicited Egypt’s military response, it remains silent on the conduct of the government’s counterinsurgency. Similar to other instances where such strategies have been employed, Egypt’s gambit does not appear to be working.

Part of the problem is that the motivations behind these measures are unclear. While ostensibly aimed at repelling cross-border threats, efforts to establish buffer zones in Egypt and Turkey may also be intended to quell internal dissent and neutralize restive communities. It is puzzling that Egyptian authorities have not undertaken similar measures along the country’s western border with Libya, which has hemorrhaged a far greater number of weapons and combatantsthan Gaza. Critics of the Turkish government allege that its plans for a cross-border buffer are a thinly veiled attempt to smother residents of the autonomous Kurdish region in Syria, who are linked to the PKK, a rebel group that has waged a secessionist campaign against Turkey for decades. Whether or not this claim has any credence, it indicates that policies justified under the auspices of introducing stability may, in fact, foment instability — which should subject them to greater international scrutiny.

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Kori Schake

Episode 41: Kori Schake

Kori Schake is a Republican foreign policy advisor who served in various positions in the George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations before joining the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. Now ensconced in academia, she is working on a book about American foreign policy in the 19th Century. She discusses being mentored by Condoleezza Rice, her regrets about the Iraq War, and why she became a Republican. It’s an interesting conversation with a thoughtful critic of Obama’s foreign policy. Enjoy!

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