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Will the US foreign aid budget continue its decline? | 

US Foreain Aid snapshot

An increase in the foreign affairs budget for 2014 saw an end to a four year decline in the US. Discussions are now taking place over the Fiscal Year 2015 budget and the downward trend may resume.

That is what will happen if Rep Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget proposal wins out. If President Obama gets his way, funds will hold steady at $44.1 billion. While it looks likely that foreign aid will be safe from cuts, thanks to is strong supporters, being back on the chopping block is a cause for concern for foreign aid supporters.

Ryan’s cuts into foreign aid appear to be based more on a belief that it is an unnecessary expenditure. The proposed Ryan budget led to public cries to protect the US foreign aid budget. Supporters like to point out that it represents less than 1% of the total federal budget.

Making cuts to such a small program will do little to help reduce US government debt and will harm the people who benefit from US aid work. Ryan has acknowledged this fact in the past, but continues to propose cuts. Foreign aid advocates are pushing against Ryan’s plan by pointing to the damage it will cause to US foreign policy interests.

“Now is not the time to cut America’s vital tools of national security given the growing number of hotspots around the globe,” said General Anthony Zinni, Co-Chair of U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s National Security Advisory Council. “The International Affairs Budget has already seen large reductions in the past few years, and now is not the time to diminish America’s leadership in the world.”

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US underfunding crucial global health research and development, warns group | 

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Steve Snodgrass

As global health funding remains largely stagnant, more groups are trying to get a bigger piece of the US budgetary pie. For their part, research and development supporters wants a bigger slice, or at least for theirs to stay the same size.

A report by the Global Health Technologies Coalition warns that the political wrangling over federal budgets in Washington DC are putting crucial global health research and development at risk.

The coalition, made up of some 30+ NGOs, says funding for research and development has eroded over the past few years. Making proper investments means not only that new lifesaving developments in areas like TB, AIDS and maternal health can be made, it also represents a significant boost to the US.

“The investment we have made in research to date has contributed to major public health successes, but there is no guarantee that the gains we have made today will work tomorrow,” said Kaitlin Christenson, MPH, director of the GHTC, to Humanosphere.

Christenson argues that investing in research and development is one that will benefit people around the world, as well as Americans. It taps into the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans. The report, Innovation for a changing world: The role of US leadership in global health R&D, says that existing investments have helped to create 7 million jobs and contributes $69 billion to the US GDP each year.

“The investment in innovation resonates with American character, that helps support domestic improvements, economic growth and our diplomatic goals,” she said.

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Video of the Day: 5 Myths about Immigration in the US | 

This video comes from the pro-immigration reform group FWD.us, so it should be said that it comes with a political and activist slant. The founders are some big names, including Bill Gates, Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerburg. It’s supporters include some more stars of the tech industry, one that admittedly would benefit from the easier migration of high-skilled workers.

Though limited in information, given its intent to support immigrants, it does knock down some major myths. Here are the five:

  1. It’s easy to gain legal status in the U.S.
  2. Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.
  3. Most new immigrants come from Latin America.
  4. DREAMers affect the U.S. economy negatively.
  5. Most immigrants are undocumented.

Watch the video to learn the facts.

Attacks on hospitals hamper South Sudan humanitarian response | 

South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
ECHO

The ongoing fighting in South Sudan continues to put the people living in the country at risk, as well as the people trying to provide humanitarian assistance. Its impact has extended beyond the young country’s borders and into neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Hospitals run by the medical NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have experienced attacks and evidence of patients murdered in their hospital beds. The challenge to provide medical aid coupled with insecurity and poor living conditions in camp are making for a worrying combination says the group.

“This lack of respect for medical care has deprived people lifesaving care at a time they need it most,” said Chris Lockyear, MSF’s operations manager for South Sudan, in a press call last week.

Equally concerning is what MSF sees as a lack of respect for humanitarian actors and medical facilities. On February 22, the MSF team working at the Malakal teaching hospital discovered fourteen dead bodies. The evidence suggested that they were shot dead in their hospital beds, said Lockyear. A similar report from Bor in December cited patients killed in their beds.

In another incident earlier this year, a team working in Unity State were forced to evacuate when fighting began to affect the hospital, leaving thousands of people with no access to medical care. MSF staff are back working at the hospital, but the situation remains tenuous.

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American teenager is the face of global TB | 

Washington, DC Jake paused when he entered the room. He pulled out his phone to take a picture of the empty seats facing the empty table where he and his mom, Caryn, will soon sit.

The Irvine, California high school Freshman is dressed in a sharp suit and polka-dot bowtie. A young embodiment of California cool, Jake jokes with his mother as he decides what Instagram filter to apply before sharing the photo.

He is every bit the normal American kid, except for one unapparent difference. Jake has tuberculosis (TB).

(l to r) Dr Felice Adler, Jake Kaufman and Caryn Kaufman
(l to r) Dr Felice Adler, Jake Kaufman and Caryn Kaufman
Courtney Miller

He shows no evidence of active TB, the kind that can spread from person to person, but cannot know for sure if the preventative therapy worked. Jake is a perfectly healthy teen who lives with the possibility that he is still infected by TB.

Nearly 1 million children around the world developed TB in 2010, says a new study. The researchers also estimated, for the first time, that more than 30,000 children were infected by a multidrug-resistant form of TB.

Jake and Caryn are in Washington to put a face on the problem of TB and encourage lawmakers to provide support for the research and development of treatments, diagnostic tools and preventative steps against TB. They lobbied with the advocacy organization RESULTS and participated in a briefing at the Senate Visitors Center on Wednesday.

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Map of the Day: Refugees Accepted by US States, Population Adjusted | 

In 2012, more than 87,000 people were resettled as refugees or granted asylum. People from Burma, Bhutan and Iraq made up more than 70% of the refugees arriving that year. The majority of US states take in refugees each year. Roughly 1 out of ever 5 refugees end up in the giant states of Texas and California.

However, adjusting for population, California and Texas are not overburdened.

Refugees per million residents yearly, 2009-12.
Refugees per million residents yearly, 2009-12.
Casey Cupp

This map by Casey Cupp is warped to show which states take on the highest number of refugees relative to their population. For example, the densely populated New Jersey takes in a far lower rate of refugees than that of the two Dakotas. What the map shows is that the distribution of refugees looks very different when considering state populations as opposed to strictly the number of people living in each state.

HT Cherokee Gothic

Data: Migration Policy Institue

US financial policy to cause short term problems for emerging economies | 

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The recovery of the United States is not great news for emerging economies. The tide of investments that increased over the past few years is heading back out.

The news is great for people living in the US and the Euro zone. A much discussed recovery is actually happening. As a result, governments are making changes to financial polices that were meant to help deal with slow economic growth. Some of the policies, such as quantitative easing, were a boon for emerging economies.

Public discussions about the end of quantitative easing were enough to alter billions of dollars worth of investment portfolios. An estimated $64 billion in mutual fund investments was taken out of emerging markets between June and August last year. Much of the rise and fall of the investments can be tied to the policy of quantitative easing carried out by the US Federal Reserve (Fed).

“Five years of unconventional monetary policies in developed countries to address the impact of the global financial crisis led to increased capital flows to developing countries as investors searched for yields as developed countries’ interest rates were kept at historic lows,” explains a new report by the Overseas Development Institute.

“The potential for the unwinding of these unconventional policies caused global instability from May 2013, especially in emerging economies such as India (initially), Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil.”
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$2.4 billion raised for Syria crisis does not allay concerns | 

Mideast Lebanon Syria Refugee Students
A Syrian teacher, left, teaches on the first day of classes at a private school built for Syrian refugees in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon.
AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari

International donors and charities pledged a total of $2.4 billion in aid for the Syrian crisis. It is only a fraction of the $6.5 billion needed to respond to the largest UN appeal ever.

A two-day conference in Kuwait brought together charities, donors and other global actors to rally support for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria. The first day saw charities and NGOs pledge $400 million in aid. Kuwait led the way on Wednesday by pledging $500 million.

Roughly 70% of the $1.5 billion pledged in a similar conference last year has materialized to date. There is little reason to be confident that all of the money promised this week will be disbursed.

The three year old crisis has displaced an estimated 9 million people. An international response to the humanitarian problems caused by the fighting in Syria has struggled to meet increasing needs. Neighboring countries who are hosting the more than 4 million refugees are struggling to support all the incoming people.

“No country, no people should face hardship or calamity for helping Syrians in need. It is vital for this region and our world that the burden is shared. Let us reward the compassion of Syria’s neighbors with generosity and solidarity,” said UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.

The situation is getting harder.
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