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from The Great Debate:

Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and Gaza are falling apart and John Kerry’s not helping

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is pictured aboard a replica of Captain Cook's ship 'Endeavour' during his visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney

In what is almost certainly his last job in public service, Secretary of State John Kerry is bumbling his way around the world, ricocheting from crisis to crisis. The idea of the last chapter of his biography portraying him as a punch line can't sit well. But is it Kerry's fault, or is he simply being swept up in an American foreign policy in historic disarray?

America lashed out after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and a decade later has substituted strategic incoherence for idiotic decisiveness. A common meme is that Kerry is at worst a bad actor stuck in an even worse movie, contributing little to lift it up but at the same time not baring any real responsibility for the flick’s failure.

There's truth in that, but it misses Kerry's genuine capacity for haplessness. Over decades, this kind of serial failure just did not happen to previous secretaries of state. Not Schultz, not Baker, not Powell, not Albright, not Clinton.

To understand John Kerry's near-unique failures as secretary of state, it is important to look at how a secretary's trips abroad are conducted, and how secretaries in the past have used the State Department to accomplish their goals. I know, because during my own 24-year career at the State Department, I was on the receiving end of many of these visits.

from Photographers' Blog:

A night with the rat hunters

New York City, New York

By Mike Segar

On a hot and humid night in late July on New York City’s lower East side, I find Richard Reynolds and a small group of dog enthusiasts standing beneath the pale-yellow glow of the street lights. The sound of dogs barking emanates from inside cars parked near the apartment buildings.

This is the staging ground for a group of enthusiasts named The Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society, or R.A.T.S. The name comes from a notoriously rat-infested street in Lower Manhattan, where this group and their dogs (mostly terriers) have one mission: to hunt down and kill rats, something I was told they have been doing for about 15 years.

from Mark Jones:

Ebola: The Politics of Resistance in Liberia http://t.co/qMsNJyk8ZU

Ebola: The Politics of Resistance in Liberia http://t.co/qMsNJyk8ZU

from The Great Debate:

What should we eat to stay healthy? Why experts actually have no idea.

To match FOOD-GLUTENFREE/Have you ever wondered why nutrition experts so often change their minds about what constitutes a healthy diet? In the last six months, a variety of experts and nutrition organizations have issued at least as many major dietary guidelines proclaiming the next set of instructions on what to eat to prevent cancer, whether processed foods are really food, whether the type of fat you eat has any effect on developing heart disease, and how to control diabetes with diet. And the next set of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) dietary guidelines, due out next year, are already creating a buzz.

These new guidelines have, like most dietary guidelines in the past, done little to solidify our understanding of the cause and effect relationship between diet and disease. Even worse, they’re likely to discredit nutritional science. Moreover, guidelines like these tend to suggest, without proper research as proof, that people have control over whether or not they develop certain diseases, and it is therefore their fault if they become ill.

from MacroScope:

End game in east Ukraine?

A Ukrainian serviceman sits on a military armoured vehicle near Donetsk

Ukrainian government forces say they are preparing for the final stage of recapturing the city of Donetsk from pro-Russian separatist rebels after shelling its outskirts and making significant gains over the weekend.

The city faces increasing shortages of food, water and electricity. Vladimir Putin must now decide whether to leave the rebels to their fate or step up his support.  Kiev said on Saturday it had headed off an attempt by Russia to send troops into Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers accompanying a humanitarian convoy sanctioned by the Red Cross. Moscow dismissed the allegation as a "fairy tale".

from Breakingviews:

China’s e-commerce secret weapon: the delivery guy

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Want a Big Mac delivered to your door in minutes? Or a refrigerator by the end of the day? While U.S. retailers puzzle over how to make that happen, China’s e-commerce companies are already there. Servicing the country’s web-connected consumers at ever-faster speeds is driving some big businesses, not to mention stock market valuations. The secret weapon: the humble delivery guy.

from Mark Jones:

End game in east Ukraine? http://t.co/v5JA47x3M1

End game in east Ukraine? http://t.co/v5JA47x3M1

from The Great Debate:

Why it’s the relatively wealthy who spread Ebola

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun

The media is focused on the horrors of Ebola, a disease with no known cure that is jumping across borders in West Africa, leaving more than 900 dead in its wake. Fears of the disease’s spread even traveled to the United States, where two Ebola patients are being treated at Emory University hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

The virus first appeared in West Africa in March, but suddenly gained momentum in the past few weeks, making it the worst outbreak ever. The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, but Nigeria now confirms the presence of the disease.

from Lisa Richwine:

‘Turtles’ beats Marvel’s ‘Guardians’ at US, Canada box office

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The return of the
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" earned $65 million in ticket
sales at U.S. and Canadian movie theaters over the weekend,
easily winning a box office battle with Marvel's outer space hit
"Guardians of the Galaxy."

"Ninja Turtles," a reboot of a franchise born in 1980s comic
books and popularized in TV cartoons, rang up another $28.7
million in international markets for a global debut of $93.7
million, according to distributor Paramount Pictures which
wasted no time in announcing a sequel, set to open June 3, 2016.

from Alison Frankel:

Arab Bank terror finance trial: How much screening must banks do?

Osama Hamdan, the Hamas spokesman who recently refused to retract his claims that Jews kill Christians to bake their blood into matzoh, was an account holder at Arab Bank from 1998 to 2005. His account number was listed on a website associated with Hamas, which the U.S. Treasury Department first designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and several transfers processed through Hamdan's account listed Hamas as a beneficiary. During his last two years as an Arab Bank account holder, Hamdan himself was a "specially designated global terrorist," according to the Treasury Department, which added him and several other Hamas leaders to the rolls in 2003.

Hamas's founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was also a customer of Arab Bank. Yassin, whom the U.S. government named a terrorist in 1995, received a $60,000 payment, routed through Arab Bank's New York operations, in 2001, the same year that the leader of Hamas's military wing received $110,000 in payments to his Arab Bank account. The bank processed more than $400,000 for yet another prominent Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, who was an Arab Bank account holder from 2000 until 2004, when his account was raided by the Israel Defense Forces. Over the same time period, Hamas claimed credit for sending bombers to blow up restaurants, nightclubs, bus stations and other public sites in Israel.

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