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The Senate loses a Latin America policy expert

Today, Sen. Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Conn., announced that will not seek re-election this year. Dodd, suffering from a low approval rating and bashed for his perceived closeness with fat-cat bankers, wasn't expected to win a sixth term.

Dodd was primarily known as a domestic policy guy, and a powerful one at that -- a longtime Hill veteran, the head of the Senate Banking Committee, and at the center of the financial regulations storm.

But Dodd was also an important foreign policy thinker -- especially regarding Latin America. In the 1970s, just out of college, Dodd served with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Once on the Hill, he maintained an interest in the region, becoming one of the loudest progressive voices regarding policy for the countries he always insisted were not "America's backyard" but "America's neighborhood." Back in the 1980s, he -- along with Sens. John Kerry and Tom Harkin -- spoke out against the Reagan administration's military and financial support of anticommunist groups, like the contras in Nicaragua. He later advocated for taking a soft-glove approach with countries like Cuba and Venezuela. (This won him plenty of opprobrium from the right, particularly during the Bush administrations.) More recently, he has won plaudits for his vocal support of policies to aid the human-rights disaster in Darfur. 

As for Dodd's seat's future -- the Connecticut Democratic and Republican primaries are upcoming. Richard Blumenthal, the state's very popular attorney general, is expected to gain the Dem nod and Dodd's seat in the Senate. He'll likely face Republican Linda McMahon, the head of the WWE wrestling federation. No word yet on her views on Chavez.

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Yemen for dummies

Yemen -- it's the new black, or, the new country that as of Dec. 25 the United States realized it should be paying attention to. But if we've learned anything about Yemen in the two weeks since the Pants Bomber so thankfully failed, it's that virtually nobody in the media or government, at least on the Hill, knows much about it. So, a blog post to help fix that. Here are some basic, good sources of information on the country and the debate about it.

  • Foreign Policy's own Marc Lynch has an excellent run-down and take-down of Washington's pack thinking on Yemen
  • Local news sources in English: the Yemen Observer and Yemen Times
  • On the Knife's Edge, a November policy brief on Yemen from Andrew Exum and Richard Fontaine at the Center for a New American Security; Exum and Fontaine also took to the pages of the L.A. Times hawkishly advocating U.S. intervention and earning them some pushback
  • The State of Yemen, a report by Alistair Harris and Michael Page of the Royal United Services Institute (requires subscription)
  • "Disorder on the Border" explains Saudi Arabia's war with Yemen, by Joost Hilterman in Foreign Affairs
  • Bruce Reidel at the Brookings Institution is an expert on the issue and has been publishing feverishly
  • A good primer on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from BBC News
  • Among the best western reporters on Yemen is Ginny Hill, a frequent contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and policy analyst at Chatham House. See her work here.
  • Other to-follows: The Majlis and Waq al-Waq, a blog by Foreign Policy contributor and Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen and Brian O'Neill, a former editor at the Yemen Observer