United States Agency for International Development

MOSCOW—When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived for the APEC summit in Vladivostok on September 8, there was one item on the agenda she was not expecting. Sitting down with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the two discussed missile defense and Syria, talked about Iran’s quest to get a nuclear weapon. And then Lavrov dropped the bomb: USAID was to cease all operations inside the Russian Federation starting October 1. Four days later, the Russian Foreign Ministry delivered the news in writing. USAID, the government development agency started by John F.

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If you go to the website of the U.S.

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Game Changer

I confess that I’m torn. I had the same cranky reaction to Time’s Person of the Year choice as pretty much the entire Internet: It’s hard to see the calculation that makes Mark Zuckerberg more influential than Julian Assange in 2010. Still, there’s something about this conventional wisdom that’s annoying in its own right. When people riff about the impact of Wikileaks, you typically hear how it’s forever changed diplomacy or intelligence-gathering. The more ambitious accounts will mention the implications for journalism, too. All of that’s true and vaguely relevant.

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The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance—OFDA as it is known universally—is the department within the U.S. Agency for International Development that specializes in emergency relief, whether immediately, in response to natural disasters, or with long-running crises that have created large numbers of refugees or internally displaced people. Established more than 40 years ago, OFDA now has annual budget of $1.03 billion, which, while it is only a little more than 5 percent of the total USAID budget, makes it by far the best-funded emergency relief agency in the world.

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Sometimes, it seems like the United States is more interested in giving aid to Egypt than Egypt is to receive it. This year, for example, Egypt objected to a $250 million civilian aid package if USAID funded unregistered NGOs. Many human rights groups in the country have trouble receiving official sanction from the Egyptian government and thus require outside support to be effective. So, instead of standing firm, the Obama administration agreed to cut their USAID support, departing from U.S.

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Does the Obama administration have any idea at all what it wants out of its development efforts? In a recent speech at SAIS at Johns Hopkins, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Washington’s new six-year, $63 billion Global Health Initiative. She was at pains to differentiate the administration from its predecessor—yet one more recapitulation of a by now familiar trope, but one that is particularly disingenuous in the case of global health, where the Bush administration’s record actually was very good.

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There is an old Washington adage that the ultimate “man bites dog” story is one in which a politician tells the truth in public. Chris Matthews pointed out on his show recently that there was something almost uplifting about the response of the new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, who, when asked whether he was demanding changes in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to protect the interest of the Boston-based State Street investment firm, replied that, no, it wasn’t just for them.

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Independent humanitarian action, commonly if not entirely accurately thought to have begun with the so-called ‘French Doctors’ in Biafra in the late-'60s, was never as independent as either relief groups like Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, or the International Rescue Committee, themselves liked to claim or as the general public assumed them to be. U.S. organizations in particular, despite their efforts to develop an individual donor base, were always and remain too dependent on American government funding for the claim to stand up to scrutiny.

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Nuclear Standoff

As is often the case with tales of great discovery, the details of how buried treasure came to be found beneath the rolling countryside of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, have grown a little gauzy over the last 30 years. But here is the story as the prospectors tell it. One day, in March 1979, a man named Byrd Berman, a geologist by training, was driving down a road through cattle pastures when the scintillometer sitting on the dashboard of his Hertz rental car began to beep. The device, similar to a Geiger counter, was designed to detect the gamma radiation naturally emitted by uranium.

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There are many factors which have determined and over-determined the miserable history of Haiti, to which almost everybody had become accustomed. The recent plague, however, provoked a moment of pity ... and also of self-pity, which manifested itself by Haitian anger against the aid providers who did not act fast enough or did not bring the right equipment or did not bring sufficient aid-workers. Or imported clothing when they should have brought water or food.

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