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A blog devoted to on-the-ground reporting around the world.

Here are the signs that America's longest war is finally ending

Kandahar Airfield is unusually quiet and military contractors are looking for their next gigs. As Iraq falls apart, what will Afghanistan look like in a few years?
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Stenciled on a blast wall at Kandahar Airfield, a soldier's gallows humor echoes the uncertainty of Afghanistan's future. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Arriving here for the sixth time since 2010, I’ve never seen Kandahar Airfield as quiet as it is now. Most of the roaring diesel generators are gone, and the buildings they once powered are either abandoned or demolished. What was once a flood of traffic with huge armored convoys jockeying against trash trucks and fuel tankers on the airfield’s narrow streets has slowed to a trickle.

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How the US pulled off its humanitarian aid missions to the Yazidis

Everything you could want to know about the technology that made the aid airdrops in Iraq possible.
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A young displaced Iraqi Yazidi, who fled a jihadist onslaught on Sinjar, stands inside a tent after he took refuge at the Bajid Kandala camp in Kurdistan's western Dohuk province, on August 13, 2014. Time is running out for starving Yazidis trapped on an Iraqi mountain as the West ramp up efforts to assist survivors and arm Kurdish forces battling jihadists. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

US Air Force cargo planes have flown seven missions over northern Iraq this week to drop humanitarian aid to Yazidis trapped by the Islamic State on Mount Sinjar in Nineva Province. While the US Central Command won’t specify where these flights are coming from, a little research can uncover more information than the government is willing to share.

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USAID’s $500 million dam project circling the drain in Afghanistan

The strategically critical city of Kandahar will soon be without electricity after USAID's epic failure to finish a dam that has already cost half a billion dollars.
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Engineers work in the control room at the Kajaki Hydroelectric Power Plant in Helmand Province. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

A linchpin of the American counterinsurgency strategy in southern Afghanistan is maintaining electrical service in Kandahar City, and even that modest goal appears to be slipping away with the ongoing troop withdrawal. That is because the long-overdue upgrade of Kajaki Dam, slated to provide power to Kandahar, now appears unlikely to ever be finished.

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Duplicity’s Child: How British promises sowed the seeds of today’s Israel-Palestine bloodshed

Gaza and Jerusalem were promised to both the Arabs and the Jews. They're still fighting nearly a century later.
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Israeli soldiers stand in front of a banner with a copy of a letter from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (a leader of the British Jewish community) known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, as Palestinians, Israeli and foreign protesters demonstrate near the Karmi Tsor Jewish settlement not far from the Palestinian village of Beit Omar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on November 6, 2010. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

In October 1917, British forces finally drove the Ottoman army from Gaza, in recent weeks the site of Israeli-Palestinian fighting but then a dusty garrison town that had stubbornly held out against British attacks.

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Sending ammunition to Israeli military, US shows a legal loophole

Despite war crimes accusations against Israel for killing more than 900 civilians in Gaza, the US has transferred tank ammunition and grenades to its military.
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An Israeli soldier arrives at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014. A three-day humanitarian truce in Gaza collapsed only hours after it began amid a deadly new wave of violence and the apparent capture by Hamas of an Israeli soldier. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States has transferred tank ammunition and grenades to the Israeli military in order to refill stocks being depleted in Operation Protective Edge, according to recent reports.

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Looking at Argentina's Catholic women of worship

In Pope Francis' former spiritual home, women hold a paradoxical role.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Sitting in the first pew before the altar at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires — the former church of Pope Francis, then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio — I waited for noon Mass to begin.

The Catholic Church had been at the center of many of our interviews and exchanges over coffee, and it seemed like we’d spent most of our time in this cathedral. But this was the first time on the trip — for me, the first time in maybe 20 years — that we’d sat for Mass. Our first interview had confirmed that, in Argentina, you could not look at the issue of abortion without also looking at the church, and the paradoxical relationship women have within it.

“The Catholic Church is a very patriarchal institution that, historically, has been opposed to women’s rights,” Victoria Tesoriero, a member of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, or Catholics for the Right to Decide, had said in that first interview. “It has bound women to subaltern or domestic roles that are lower in rank — in the hierarchy. This is a place of inequality.”

And yet the Virgin Mary holds great power in the Latin American church.

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In Bethlehem, no one is in the mood to celebrate Eid

Commentary: Death and body counts coming out of Gaza have become a part of the daily rhythm in the West Bank. It’s as if Eid is intruding upon this catastrophe, not the other way around.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

BETHLEHEM, Palestine — It is the last day of Eid Al-Fitr.

Monday, the first day of a three-day celebration to end Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down, was marked by eerie silence and glum faces in Bethlehem. There were no fireworks illuminating the evening sky as is the custom during the end of Ramadan. The only light that came during Eid was from the candles that Palestinians lit in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp in memory of the some 200 children that were killed by the Israeli army in Gaza during the now 23-day onslaught.

On Tuesday, the second day of Eid, I walked into a fruit market in BeitSahour, a suburb of Bethlehem, expecting to see people buying fruits and vegetables by the armload for the second day of feasting. Three people lingered, haphazardly picking vegetables, their eyes glued to the television set on the wall above them.

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US government funding another anti-Castro social network in Cuba

ZunZuneo, the so-called 'Cuban Twitter,' was reported in April but actually closed in 2012. Now meet Piramideo, a mobile network aimed at young people.
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A Cuban boy uses his mobile phone next to a poster of Cuban former President Fidel Castro in June 2010 in Havana. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

HAVANA, Cuba — The US government is using a sophisticated cell phone program in a failed effort to spark anti-Castro demonstrations on the island, according to Cuban officials and a US expert.

The US Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) sponsors a cell phone service called "Piramideo" (roughly translated as Pyramid), which spreads propaganda through text messages, according to Nestor Garcia, a former Cuban diplomat who now teaches at the Institute for International Relations in Havana.

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Legal restrictions lead to 'DIY abortions' in Texas and Argentina alike

As Texas limits access to abortion, it is walking down a road well-tread by Argentina, where abortion is illegal but half a million women still terminate their pregnancies each year.
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Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State Capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. It was the first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Erich Schlegel/AFP/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, Texas and BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The plane descended and just beyond the city limits, the clouds gave way to a view of the expansive territory Texas is known for. We had landed, the flight attendant announced, in Houston — the most populous city in the Lone Star State.

We were on our way from Boston to Buenos Aires, where we will be reporting for the next two weeks on the country’s high abortion rate and the legal and religious institutions that surround it.

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The end of Brazil's World Cup brings the death of a protest

Almost exactly a year ago, swarms of Brazilians protested against the government. But as the World Cup got underway the streets saw more police officers than protesters, and hardly anybody noticed.
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About 30 demonstrators rally at the bus terminal in Brasilia on June 30, 2014 during the France vs Nigeria World Cup match in a protest organized by the Free Pass Movement (MPL), and the People's Committee of the Cup demanding, free transportation in the Federal District. (EDILSON RODRIGUES/AFP/Getty Images)

BRASILIA, Brazil — The chanting began as it would on any day during the World Cup — a group of Brazilians, some wearing jerseys, some banging large drums, singing in unison before the match kicked off.

Except they weren’t at the match, and they weren’t going. Their yellow jerseys weren’t for Brazil’s team — they read “VIOLATION” on the back, and displayed the number 0. And most important, their chants weren’t about soccer. Instead, anyone in the middle of the large bus station in Brasilia heard:

“If the World Cup is not for me, I will go to the streets!”

Go to the streets they did, about 50 of them, marching with a giant World Cup trophy wrapped in tarp and chanting slurs at FIFA as they walked toward the brand-new stadium in the capital. On this Monday afternoon, Brazil’s team was warming up inside to play Cameroon in the final match of the group stage — what seems like a lifetime ago before the country descended into mourning after Germany stomped on their dreams.

Vanessa Minnie surveyed the crowd. She had expected more people to show up, for one of the bigger protests planned during the Cup. Almost exactly a year ago, swarms of Brazilians protested against the government, and the rage felt contagious. They lit tires on fire in front of the stadium. They were interviewed by journalists from around the world. They told them that the billions of dollars spent to create the World Cup wasn’t helping Brazil with its major shortcomings in public education, health care, and transportation. Their message was getting through.

But on this day there were more police officers than protesters, and hardly anybody noticed.

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