Speakers and members of AWAC

World Affairs Councils of America - Alabama World Affairs Council

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Alabama World Affairs Council's Archive:

Notes, 2006-07

These notes by Jeremy Lewis do not represent the views of AWAC, its Board, or other members.

Bret Stephens, key points of speech to AWAC, YouTube, 3'

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revised 13 Apr. '07, with new notes, by Jeremy Lewis.
Images '06-07 | A | B |

17 October, 2006. Dr. Brian Latell, Latin America and Cuba specialist, "What Next after Fidel?"

12 December, 2006. Dr. Richard Millett, specialist on South America, "The Rise of Populist and Anti-American Governments in South America."

23 January, 2007. His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, on Saudi-U.S. relations in the fight against terrorism.

6 February, 2007. Panel of China experts, on the new China.

April 24, 2007. Four senior Air War College instructors will  report on their recent regional trips.

Postponed to a later date, 2007. The American Academy of Diplomacy, will provide a speaker, on "The World's Rising Powers."


17 October, 2006. Dr. Brian Latell, Latin America and Cuba specialist for the last 40 years, including 35 years in the CIA. An acclaimed author, he he has taught at the University of Miami and Georgetown University, where he earned his PhD. He will speak on "What Next after Fidel."
  • Maps of Cuba, Caribbean basin & Latin America
  • Foreign Policy, "Seven Questions: After Fidel" Aug. '06 interview with Latell, includes image of the brothers Castro
  • See Leonard Pitts, Jr., "For Cuban exiles, Castro's death will bring seismic change," Jewish World Review, August 22, 2006. http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0806/pitts082206.php3
  • Jan Banning - Wide Angle: The State at Work, Foreign Policy
  • Loretta Napoleoni, "Profile of a Killer", Foreign Policy, [free registration required]
  • Stephen M. Walt, "The Blame Game," Foreign Policy, [free registration required]
  • Ibsen Martínez, "Romancing the Globe," Foreign Policy, [archived article]
  • Jorge I. Domínguez, "The Day After — Cuba: His Brother’s Keeper," Foreign Policy,  [free registration required]
  • Latell's Book: Publisher, w/reviewsBook cover | Barnes & Noble, w/reviews | BAM, w/reviews |
  • Image of the brothers Castro
  • Images of Brian Latell and members following his speech to AWAC
  • Introduction by Gen. Cleveland: Foremost expert on Cuba, served as CIA National Intelligence Officer on Cuba '90-94, highest level analytical position.  35 years of expertise on Cuba, book After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Currently with Georgetown's CSIS.
  • Speaker: Congratulated AWAC on the largest audience turnout he has experienced among similar organizations.
  • Book title originally was My Brother's Keeper.  Raúl world's longest serving defense minister, yet almost nothing written about him before the book.  Second meaning to title After Fidel.  In early career was Cuban analyst, told to imagine Fidel's thinking; read every word -- a challenge because he has spoken more words than anyone.  He was after Fidel, tracking him.  Cuban intelligence soon was after Latell.  Taught at Georgetown for 25 years, and Cuban students transcribed his lectures for Cuban intelligence.  Secret communications with Fidel in public speeches -- Fidel learning of and then denying Latell's interpretations.
  • Fidel's place in history:
  • Brink of nuclear war in 1962, humiliated Kennedy at Bay of Pigs 1961.  Titanic figure in Latin America.  Heroes in boyhood were conquerors like Alexander the Great and Napoleon -- born 1926, and grew up in poor eastern Cuba.  Remarkable that he succeeded.
  • 1975 sent thousands of Cuban troops to defeat south African troops in dusty battlefields in Africa -- conquering distant lands.  Two years later in Ethiopia defeated troops in Somalia.  Yet Cuba in the 1970s had only 9 - 10 M people.
  • Visited Argentina in July 1006, received as conquering hero, visited Che Guevara's boyhood home, indicates has left an amazing mark.  Has ruled longer (nearly 48 years since Jan ) than any except one Brazilian emperor.  Fidel will not last 49 years -- from many sources, now dying of cancer, and no longer in charge.  31 July he signed proclamation turning over power to Raúl.  Latell's book is only one on Raúl.
  • Raúl Castro.
  • No demonstrations or challenges to Raúl, who dominates 3 most important institutions: military since 1959, security & intelligence since 1989, and communist party.  Raúl more interesting than Fidel, despite dullness in public speaking, which he dislikes.  Complementary to Fidel -- Raúl is organization man, unlike Fidel whose mind jumps ahead and is unfocussed.  With Fidel since first shots in 1953.
  • Duality of Raúl's personality: enters into dependent relationship, works closely with brother.  More even than sort Kennedy brothers administration.
  • Interviewed family, teachers and professors, many defectors from government.  Found cold blooded murder by Raúl in Mexico, still in cold case files, ordered by Fidel to execute an associate before sailed to Cuba, to prevent betrayal.  Apparently without qualms.  As a student assassination attempts by Fidel and blood on his hands -- but not Raúl to that point.  Driving fast on way to boat, hit and ran a peasant, left him to die -- so two killings that night.  Raúl then became executioner of revolution, hardline Stalinist and member of CP in 1953, whereas Fidel did not announce member of CP until 1963.
  • Raúl Castro in power.
  • more practical, more flexible and likely to show this in running Cuba -- probably including better relations with US and closer to China model of tough political controls mixed with political decentralization and private market.  Will govern collegially and might turn over presidency to Carlos Lage.
  • Complicated character with blood on his hands and many enemies, wears bullet proof vest when speaking to Cuban army officers.  Has good security and still runs the service.  Interim leader only -- turned 75 in early June, and rumored to have serious health problems, including hard drinking since his teenage years.  Top priority will be succession -- have not seen Fidel in public and must have a successor to Raoul.
  • Free market and democracy?
  • Likely to happen but problematic, there is support for Fidelistas among older generation perhaps 25% of population.  So a future democracy must handle a Fidelista party for some time.
  • Raúl in contrast to Fidel Castro.
  • has organizations, but weaknesses: drinks, not well educated (perhaps 6 years only, expelled from prestigious Jesuit HS unlike Fidel, who was a star student and graduated).  Raúl and Fidel may have different bio fathers from wild, frontier family.  Not an intellectual, and defensive around intellectuals.  Fidel reads voraciously, and has photographic memory.  Fidel has managed every crisis including Elian Gonzalez, missile crisis, Bay of Pigs -- so Raúl has no experience.  Impossible to say how long he can last.
  • Fidel had surgery 27 July and announced it 4 days later, time to mobilize army and security police in case of disturbances.
  • Generational change:
  • 2.5 M dissenting young Cubans coming of age since 1989 end of cold war said by a top official to have no memory of Soviet subsidies, no collectivist sense, want to use internet but only regime has access.  They want to be able to interact and travel, but are repressed and struggling.  Eventually this segment will force to regime.
  • Question Time:
  • Interview on For the Record will be playing at 11 pm on APTV.
  • Why still called the Cuban Revolution?  Because they still call it that -- even in Fidel's last speech.  Probably will hear less and less about it.
  • Article in Atlantic Monthly about Cuban exiles who used to engage in terrorism against Cuban government during Kennedy administration.  Operation Mongoose run by RFK via Gen. Lansdale, included sabotage and assassination attempts.  Now in their seventies -- and a very small number now.  Cuban diaspora very diverse now, some very progressive on Left and others far on Right.  Cuban radio programs are both virulently anti and strongly pro Castro -- much changed.
  • Two Cuban Americans in US Senate -- Dem. from NJ and R from FL and may be a fourth elected soon.  Haialea, FL, 99% Cuban American and strongly democratic -- like Cuban Americans in North.  Overwhelmingly they are citizens and they turnout well -- join local party in power in the locality.
  • Cuban medical facilities outstanding?  Yes, significant accomplishments -- and few beggars or homeless.  But should not overestimate health care, not all fair and equitable.  Literacy rates are as high as US and Europe but there's nothing to read.  An independent library movement based on small home collections, lent to neighbors -- but many leaders are now 3 years into 20 year sentences.  Prohibited: UN Declaration of Human Rights; also book signed by Jimmy Carter.
  • Economic difficulties?  Sugar has collapsed.  Chavez subsidizes by at least $2 Bn a year -- all oil needs plus investment in factories.  Tourism beneficial, though facilities all for hard currency "apartheid" for foreigners only.  Chavez very close, like brother or son to Fidel -- though may not be as close to Raúl.  (E.g., Chavez only out of office for two days after a coup, restored to power by loyal officers after Fidel made enough inspirational phone calls, giving orders about which military base to go to to build support.)
  • Castro's daughter estranged?  Alina Fernandez only known daughter, though he has seven known sons, Alina wrote book.  Mother was Fidel's mistress, did not reveal father until she was grown, and she had little contact, like his other relatives.  Alina has radio program, and lovely but very wounded personality.
  • Dissident movement?  Relatively small and fractionalized; independent labor people -- but all infiltrated by Cuban intelligence, being betrayed all the time.  One of five best intelligence services in world.  No access to media for dissidents, all controlled by government -- and brutally violently repressed.  Acts of repudiation organized by security services, abuse and sometimes beat up dissidents when they step outside home.  They export dissidents by suddenly letting them leave for Miami.
  • Don't know any Cuban American who intends to return and reclaim property, knowing all property is in ruins.  US would assert claims that have been certified by Claims Commission, but the claimants will likely receive only 20%.  Five other countries have settled for 20% (Canadians, Swiss, Spanish, etc.).
  • Felix Rodriguez (CIA) debriefed Che Guevara, and requested clemency on behalf of US, before Bolivians executed him.

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    12 December, 2006. Dr. Richard Millett, specialist on South America, particularly the Andean Ridge. Received his AB from Harvard College, MA and PhD from the University of New Mexico and is a graduate of the Air War College. He has testified before Congress, written for newspapers and appeared on television. .He will speak on "The Rise of Populist and Anti-American Governments in South America."
  • His speech was enriched by a lode of humorous stories and anecdotes, which cannot be reflected in these notes.
  • Maps of Latin America
  • Pronounced shift to the Left in the western hemisphere, though with exceptions.  In most cases, should not unduly concern US.
  • Why this shift?
  • (1) Failure of traditional political class, key to understanding Chavez.  Democratic parties often inept and corrupt in government.  Latinobarometro poll in current Economist, shows prestige of political parties is low.
  • (2) Breakdown of citizen security.  Most crime ridden region on planet, and massively increased.  Courts do not produce justice, they administer it in Latin understanding.  Police encouraged suspects to confess.  Now expected to respect civil rights and find evidence -- but conviction rates have dropped.  No plea bargaining or conspiracy statutes.  From Mexico to Peru, demobilized youth who had received weapons training, from both guerrillas and army -- unemployed and turned to crime.  Trafficking in people, cars, documents and arms, not merely narcotics.
  • (3) Failure of promise of economic reform and globalization, has not produced much of any kind of economic growth, not reaching the 5% needed to prevent increasing unemployment.  Terrible maldistribution, with large masses on less than $1 per day -- exacerbated by urbanization, worse form of poverty without subsistence farming, support of extended family.
  • But most still believe in democracy, especially in Venezuela.  Different view of democracy, in which elections are a means to holding those in power accountable rather than selecting leaders.  All power is limited by terms, by law and by others.  Losers have a chance to win next time, do not lose their rights along with their office.  But Latin power is ineffective power, and Venezuelans do not want limited power, viewing Chavez' dismantling of restraints with approval.
  • Country by country analysis:
  • Mexican democracy is in trouble, but don't underestimate power of leftist opposition under Obrador.  Regional divide North and South, South very poor with except for tourism has little impact on economy..
  • Nicaragua: -- met Ortega recently -- was supported by his previous Catholic opponent.  Sounding moderate but taking oil from Chavez.  US comes to the game with no chips.  Ortega pulled in two directions, but will not turn back the country, does not control Congress or the military.
  • Argentina: happy to sell government bonds to Chavez.
  • Ecuador: led by populist with discontent among indigenous population, but has little appeal to Congress.
  • Pronounced shift of power to congresses from presidents, especially in Mexico and Ecuador -- where no party has a quarter of the seats.
  • US is a public relations officer for Chavez, and buys his oil, which keeps up his popularity.  Traditional political class has low credibility, opposition making slow progress, and Chavez is moving step by step.
  • US view and neighbors view of Chavez are different -- they do not like disorder or even chaos on their borders.  Easier to live with Chavez than with disrupted oil flow, better devil you know.
  • Hugo Morales in Bolivia: scariest and most tragic place. Indigenous people maltreated since Columbus and have little reason to trust politicians.  In Spanish culture urbanized mestizos step up -- but in indigenous view, Ladinos are those who have lost their values in countryside.  Indigenous use internet now to spread their values.  Empowerment does not equate with pragmatic agendas.  Permitted to grow coca plants.  Tin mines are in poor shape, but oil and gas are in lowlands -- whereas population is in alti plata, where can only grow tiny potatoes.  Lowlanders do not like attempts to restrict sales of oil and gas, and have separatist movement.  Bolivia could explode.
  • Two other Left governments: Brazil and Chile.  Both clearly on democratic Left, believe in honest elections.  Chile: president Bachelet now woman, and military like the way she handles the job.  Many Chileans returned to Chile when democracy restored believe in reconciliation, and have coalition governments, and are responsible political parties.  President is a glorified prime minister, and voters vote on issues.  Female presidency only cost a few percent of vote, because issue based.  Parties and judicial system are respected.
  • Brazil: GDP is bigger than Russia in absolute and per capital terms, and trade with US is bigger.  We underestimate Brazil.  Lula must succeed or Brazil will decline.  Leftists there are potentially much worse and splits could develop.
  • Question Time:
  • High percentage of youth in Latin America? Population growth has dropped dramatically, especially Argentina, Chile, Uruguay.  Even Mexico's growth has dropped.  Problem is the year they enter the job market, and bubble has been passing through.  Television correlates with lower birth rate, as does urbanization and education.  Haiti has high infant mortality rate which reduces youth population.  Governments have been reduced via privatization, but with corruption and unemployment in short term.  Christian Democrats in Panama were largest party, but self destructed through honest hiring policy -- held only one seat in next election.  Does have growth at 8%, however.  Education and jobs are twin problems, but funds are limited -- and in indigenous areas spanish language instruction as foreign language resisted, whereas native language leads nowhere in job market.
  • Death and legacy Pinochet in Chile? Chile very divided but rational society.  Strong traditional Right, and believes Pinochet saved country from communism, but a shrinking and aging minority.  Argument is over cost and way of doing rather than what Pinochet achieved.
  • Argentina? One third live in Buenos Aires.  [Portenos tell jokes on themselves.] [Falklands war, leading paper felt unsparing to use Ghurkhas.]  Peronists after WW1 inherited thriving economy, climate, great port -- but political instability and corruption lessened its potential.  Self sufficient in oil, but frustrated.
  • Threats and Challenges posed by narcos and terrorists? Latin America getting big narcotics problem of own, separate from global narcotics issues.  Insurgency now financed criminally as state financing of terrorist dried up.  Narcotics trade has provided schools and other benefits for villages and amazing resources.  Tremendous ability to corrupt government, especially at lower levels.  Amazing courage of those who have stood up to them, e.g. Colombian female judge, when bodyguard shot, who shot back at assassins.  Triborder areas Brazil-Paraguay - Bolivia has balloon effect, bulges occur elsewhere when we squeeze terrorists in some parts of world.  Smugglers however know this is bad for business, and criminal will turn evidence on terrorists.
  • Ortega?  Looking for foreign investment, bankers in Miami, needs jobs at home, speaks of canal -- and does still have ideological rhetoric and corrupt congress, but at the moment the pragmatic has a fragile edge.  Jury is out.  Reason for hope but not for optimism.

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    23 January, 2007. His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States. For 25 years, he was the Chief of the Saudi Foreign Intelligence Service. He spoke on Saudi-U.S. relations in the fight against terrorism.
  • Maps of Middle East
  • Ambassador of Kingdom of South Africa to US, Prince Turki al-Faisal
  • [Relations with United States]:
  • [Public Diplomacy]:
  • Beyond highest levels, also initiative has increased people-to-people interactions with business leaders and citizens.
  • Also expanded scholarship program for Saudi students abroad, more than 12,000 sent to US.  Forming the next generation of friendships and bonds, as true ambassadors.
  • [Modernization of Society]:
  • Many Americans curious about Saudi, and very few windows available to view Saudi Arabia.
  • Burgeoning society and increasingly sophisticated.  University, internet cafes and traveling.
  • Saudi surgeons are pioneering organ transplants.
  • Saudi women opening new businesses, 25,000 new companies, now the largest emerging market in world.  Technology is driving performance.
  • Over 5 yrs, internet usage has grown 1,000 percent plus.
  • Important for Americans to be aware of this reality.  Truly very similar, event though customs and language different.  Faith and family in common.
  • Problems today, middle east, WMD, none can be faced alone.  Must work together for unity.
  • Future relationship, God willing, will be a bright one.
  • Question Time:
  • [Your reporter was carrying a microphone around the audience, unable to type notes during the discussion, hence additional comments from members would be most welcome.)
  • Saudi religious Wahabbism has been misunderstood, not extremist but moderate.  Prince is a direct descendant of Sheikh Wahabbi.  Jihad meant a personal moral struggle, and at most a defensive but not an aggressive war.
  • Three major disasters feared by Saudis, worst case scenarios of US intervention or withdrawal in middle east.  Included abrupt withdrawal of US, and major intervention in Iran.
  • Had not heard of alleged plots within Royal family.
  • US should not withdraw from Iraq uninvited.

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  • 6 February, 2007. Panel of experts on China.
  • (The scheduled speaker, John Pomfret, cancelled due to illness. He has promised to come back in the Fall.)
  • Dr. James Nathan, Prince Khalid Eminent Scholar, Professor, AUM, three times Fulbright scholar to Beijing, Moderator
  • Dr. Lawrence Grinter, Professor, Air War College, founder member of AWC, Professor of Asian studies, Phd UNC.
  • Cornelis "Kees" Keur, Professor, Air War College, Foreign Service Officer with 20 years in Asia, Harvard graduate, speaks, Mandarin, Thai, & Dutch.
  • Dr. David Lai, Professor, Air War College, former diplomat, degrees from U. Denver and Diplomatic School of Beijing (highly competitive and merit based; there during cultural revolution)
  • Maps of China & Asia
  • Introduction
  • Solutions being considered to serve overflow crowd.
  • 6 March program cancelled.
  • AUM program on national security 14 Feb 6-9pm
  • Shell Oil CEO, RSA Activity Center, Chamber of Commerce, 15 March, $25
  • Prepared Remarks:
  • Grinter: 7-8 years ago China decided its rise would be facilitated by soft power approach, “China’s peaceful rise and development”.  Pay attention to both China’s policy and its operations.  Chinese are in competition with US in mainland SE Asia, though not at level seen in cold war.  Still old zero sum game is familiar.  Client relations with Thailand (US) and Burma (China). Vietnam will not do so with either.  China has close proximity, comfort with authoritarian governments, including Burmese, xenophobic junta.  US preoccupied with middle east and Afghanistan.  US supports Su Kuy, and opposes human rights abuses there.  US conducts military exercises in Thailand.  Vietnam resists any formal arrangement with either side, and has recent memory of fighting both.  2005 was 30th anniversary of Saigon’s fall.  US relations with Vietnam delicate, but tender and correct.
  • Keur: US sees trade with China as having issues of lost jobs, fair trade, and revaluation.  US did lose many textile jobs, but China also lost 2.2M textile jobs to automation in same period.  Trade deficit with China is less as a percent than used to be, since China is now cheaper.  Shoe imports now do come from China rather than other Asian countries.  All US computers now imported from assembly in China – boosts deficit – but actually Chinese import parts from Asian neighbors.  China now has trade deficit with SE Asia – and profit margin very slim on computer assembly – contrast with MS and Apple who make far more money off the software.  Revaluation of yuan would entail buying from other SE Asian countries at higher price.  Many trade issues are political issues in both China & US, but we should focus on trade rather than political aspect.  US is still growing because of Chinese trade.
  • Lai: China, and US relations.  Gov. Riley visited last July via AL Development Office.  China is like gigantic restaurant, eating together all the time.  Phenomenal market, now with next day delivery; consumer goods now prevalent.  Huge construction site, with yellow crane as new national “bird”.  But country is still in need of rules, including on the roads, where driving is reckless.  China’s rise will eventually marginalize US in Asia, replaced US already as dominant trading partner of Japan.  Risk of conflict in future would be a tragedy. Both countries will have to work for a better future, but changes.  US has exhausted its resources in Iraq.
  • Question Time:
  • Taiwan likely to take advantage of Olympics?
  • Grinter: Taiwan moving manufacturing to mainland.  Buildup of Chinese assault capability.  Everything is in motion across Taiwan straits.  China may be able to pull Taiwan into a conducive relation.
  • Lai: US and China understand neither wishes to fight over Taiwan.
  • China increasing interest in Africa?
  • Lai: huge supply of oil there, and China looking for diverse suppliers.  China signed Treaty to explore for oil in Kenya.  Trading with large projects in Africa.  2006 first China summit for African leaders, agreed to forgive African debts.  Exporting industrial zones to Africa.
  • Keur: Chinese cotillion ball, an international power, Peter Parker principle with great power comes great responsibility.  Oil deal with Sudan brought international pressure on China to influence Sudan.
  • Attitude of China to fundamentalist muslims?
  • Grinter: China borders Kazakhstan, tender area.  Working strategic relations via Shanghai Economic Cooperation group (including Russia but excluding US).  China does not want UN or other questioning of internal behavior of their own or related governments.  Unlike US, is not questioning partners.
  • Lai: China unable to assimilate those people in NW China into their ways.  Wanting to remove any incentive of minorities to ally with neighbor states.
  • Chinese knocking out a satellite recently?
  • Keur: Chinese are against weaponization of space and sole US ownership of space, via pre-emptive strike at this US idea.
  • Population control program’s status?
  • Keur: actually control was quite successful, if painful, a Hobson’s choice.  Children now seen as a limited asset and parents have costs of schooling, perhaps majority believe one child policy is correct.
  • Lai: stuck with 1.3 Bn people for years, possibly 1.4 Bn – Chinese say if had as few people as US, could be as well off.  Now plenty of food, but size of crowd is an issue.  Single child policy only in control in major cities – not in country where peasants pay the fine to have large families.  Peasants also leaving country, storming cities for work.  Give them credit for holding so many out of starvation.
  • Grinter: many Chinese baby girls up for adoption in south, sign of devaluation of female amid roaring of workers into cities.  Illegitimate children filling adoption agencies for NZ, Americans & others.
  • Effect of free press & free internet?
  • Keur: freer now than ever, can criticize public services – but not advocate another system of governance thatn CP.  Press does address pollution, corruption and police issues.  New phenomenon.  First time in 300 years with tranquility and lack of colonization by western powers, lack of pestilence.  Economy has quadrupled in this tranquil 20 years.  Effective governance and rice more important to them than democracy.  Even Singapore does not have such a free press.
  • Lai: this government is delivering its service, developing its economy.  Crackdown in Tiananmen sq also kept republic going and so mixed feelings.
  • Keur: Soviets tried to reform both politics and economy, chaos.  China opted to make economic changes first and slowly make political reform.
  • Political liberalization?
  • Keur: took centuries in West.
  • Lai: US not setting a good example, see cost of elections next year.  China does not attach political requirements for trade abroad.  But unintended result is to promote economic development, middle class and eventually democracy.
  • Grinter: problem with theory of economic development producing democracy.  Park Chung Hee became more authoritarian in Korea over time.  All Asian societies Confucian in culture, limiting political development.  Communist leaders across E. Asia fear loss of office in a democracy.
  • Keur: indivualism in West, but elsewhere family unit, tribe, village, people – and work is cooperative.  Many concepts do not transfer.

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    April 24, 2007. Four senior Air War College instructors will  report on their recent trips to the hot spots around the globe as part of the AWC Regional Studies Program.  Moderator: Col. Stephen Wright, PhD, Dean of AWC
    Maps index
    Dr. Dave Sorenson: The Middle East
    Dr. Steve Burgess: Africa
    Dr. Amit Gupta: India, Pakistan

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