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Council on Foreign Relations
Change Converging on Cuba?

U.S. policy toward Cuba has changed only at the margins during the last ten administrations to occupy the White House, but the Communist Caribbean island continues to command Washington's attention. Now Cuba watchers are contemplating whether President-elect Barack Obama's mantra of "change" might translate to...

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Healthcare Costs and U.S. Competitiveness

IntroductionFactoring in costs borne by government, the private sector, and individuals, the United States spends over $1.9 trillion annually on healthcare expenses, more than any other industrialized country. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School estimate the United States spends 44 percent more per capita than...

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Obama's North Korea Dilemma

Foremost among the foreign policy challenges facing the next U.S. administration will be a nuclear North Korea under a Communist regime with a record of proliferation to states unfriendly to Washington. President-elect Barack Obama's two predecessors in the White House have pursued a multilateral engagement...

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Imagining Obama's Africa Policy

Shortly after Barack Obama's election, South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper ran a special issue depicting the president-elect as a superhero (Atlantic). But the newspaper's editorial page took a more measured tone, warning against viewing him as Africa's messiah. "The only lesson we can learn...

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Talking to Tehran

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama made talking to Tehran a feature of his foreign policy. Touting "tough, direct presidential diplomacy" to keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands, Obama vowed during his campaign to engage "without preconditions." But the Iranian response since election day...

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Judging Guantanamo: The Court, Congress, and the White House

IntroductionThe status of the suspected terrorists detained by the United States at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, continues to test the balance between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the U.S. government, and is expected to become an early test for...

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The Rebirth of Industrial Policy

President Bush's decision to offer federal aid to troubled Detroit automakers (FT) has reopened an old debate about the wisdom or even the ability of the government to choose winners and losers in the American economy. Opposition in the U.S. Senate that killed a bill...

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Democracy Troubles in Southeast Asia

Thailand's fledgling democracy was dealt another blow last week when the country's constitutional court ordered the ruling party disbanded (BBC) and ousted Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat for election fraud. The court ruling came in the wake of anti-government protests that paralyzed the capital, Bangkok, and...

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Saudi Arabia and the Future of Afghanistan

IntroductionReports of Saudi-brokered talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban in late 2008 prompted a new round of speculation about the role Riyadh might play in the future of Afghanistan. Amid U.S. calls for a regional approach to the Afghan crisis, observers and politicians--including President-elect...

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Vietnam's Economic Hiccups

IntroductionOn January 11, 2007, Vietnam marked a major step in its economic journey when it became the 150th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the time, the Vietnamese economy was flying high. The country had just wrapped up a year in which it...

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Beginning of Iraq Endgame

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates accepted President-elect Barack Obama's invitation to stay on as Pentagon chief, the lifelong Republican pointed to a pair of freshly inked security accords with Iraq as influencing his decision. The once-ardent opponent of a firm departure date from Iraq...

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Troubles Plague UN Human Rights Council

IntroductionDespite a high-profile effort to reform the world's top human rights panel, the new UN Human Rights Council continues to face the same criticisms that plagued its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. Experts say bloc voting, loose membership standards, and bias against Israel are...

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Challenges to Globalizing Natural Gas

Natural Gas PotentialNatural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuelfor toxic air pollutants andit emits about half the greenhouse gases of coal. With future oil supplies in question, coal falling out of favor due to environmental concerns, and energy demand expected to increase, natural gas...

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The African Growth and Opportunity Act

IntroductionUnder President George W. Bush, U.S. aid to Africa has more than doubled. The continent receives most of the funding from programs like the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). But some analysts say potentially the most successful...

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James L. Jones, National Security Adviser Nominee

Retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, tapped to be national security adviser for the incoming Obama administration, brings extensive military and diplomatic experience. In a 40-year military career, Jones served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and in the Balkans before wrapping up as NATO's...

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Eric H. Holder Jr., Attorney General

President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., served as the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and has considerable justice department experience. He will be the first African American to serve in the post. The U.S. Senate confirmed Holder's appointment on Febuary...

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Eric H. Holder Jr., Attorney General Nominee

President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., served as the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and has considerable justice department experience. If confirmed, he would be the first African American to serve in the post.Holder began his career with...

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Robert M. Gates, Defense Secretary Nominee

Robert M. Gates has been asked by President-elect Barack Obama to continue as defense secretary, in an unusual step of continuity between Republican and Democratic administrations. Gates was selected by President George W. Bush to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief after heavy Republican Party...

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Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is President Barack Obama's secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano has experience in federal law enforcement and dealing with immigration issues on the front lines, which she will need to draw on in running the department created in response...

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Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary Nominee

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano has experience in federal law enforcement and dealing with immigration issues on the front lines, which she will need to draw on in running the department created...

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Profile: Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) (a.k.a. Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Lashkar e-Toiba; Lashkar-i-Taiba)

IntroductionThe Indian government has often accused the group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) of terrorist attacks, including the November 2008 deadly assault in Mumbai that killed nearly two hundred people and injured more than three hundred. LeT is among several banned Pakistani militant groups that experts say received...

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A Pakistan Connection?

With the latest accusations from India that the militants who attacked its financial capital, Mumbai, on November 26 belonged to a Pakistani militant group, tensions between South Asia's nuclear-armed neighbors are mounting yet again. Indian security officials say one of the captured attackers revealed under...

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U.S. Trade Policy in Transition

IntroductionEarly in 2008, Democratic congressional leaders put a hold on trade deals the Bush administration had negotiated with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. In the presidential campaign that played out the rest of the year, leading Democratic candidates and the party's ultimate winner, President-elect Barack...

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Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton's selection to serve as Barack Obama's secretary of State follows her strong race for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination against him. Clinton was among a number of top national security officials named by Obama on December 1, 2008. She was confirmed by...

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Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Nominee

Hillary Clinton's selection to serve as Barack Obama's secretary of State follows her strong race for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination against him. Clinton was among a number of top national security officials named by Obama on December 1. Obama said he would nominate...

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