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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘issue’

Can Women say Kaddish?

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

When a parent dies one of the things done during the year long mourning period is to say Kaddish. This is usually done by a son. The idea behind that is to build up Zechuyos (merit) for the Niftar (the deceased).

The reason we do that is based on the idea that most people do not live a sin free life and before one merits his final place in Olam HaBa, the soul has to go through a ‘cleansing period’ whereby it pays for sins it committed during its brief stay in the body. By doing things in the merit of the Niftar it is hoped that the punishment it gets during this ‘cleansing period’ will be reduced.

This is a universal practice in Judaism. No matter how great – or not so great – the deceased parent was, assuming he was not a Rasha the practice is to say Kaddish for the same amount of time (11 months. Saying Kaddish for more than 11 months implies that the deceased was a Rasha). Why Kaddish was established as opposed to other ways of bringing merit to the deceased is beyond the scope of this post.

The question arises as to whether a woman can say Kaddish for a parent. There are differences of opinion about that. I am not here to Paskin. That is beyond my pay grade. But I believe there are Poskim that permit it.You would think that a woman saying Kaddish for a parent in Shul was tantamount to using profanity the way some people react to it. That is not OK. From a letter submitted to JOFA:

No, you can’t say kaddish because you’re a woman… Shh! Why can’t you keep your voice quiet!? We can hear you over the mechitza!… [The silence when no one says amen to my kaddish recitation]… You know, it doesn’t actually count when a daughter says kaddish… Couldn’t you get your husband or father to say kaddish instead?… It would be much more respectful if you didn’t say kaddish… Is there a man who is REALLY saying kaddish for your mom?

No one has a right to criticize any woman for saying Kaddish for a deceased parent. No matter what their opinion is about the permissibly or effectiveness of it. To say the things said to one such woman contained in this letter (reproduced above), is not only insensitive, but in my view a disgusting psychological abuse of another human being. An abuse of the type Chazal had some very harsh words for: Kol HaMelaben Pnei Chavero B’Rabim K’ilu Shofech Damo! Embarrassing some one publicly is tantamount to murder.

Kayla Jacobs submitted this letter as a reason for needing JOFA – the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

I submit that she does not need JOFA for that. I am not a member of JOFA and I am as outraged by such comments as she and any Orthodox Feminist is. Justifiably so. But do we really need a Feminist organization to protest this kind of insensitivity on the part of some ignorant people? Or do we need common sense?

Where is the empathy? Where is the Jewish Soul? Where is the brain?!

What kind of human being would insult a woman who is expressing the best way she knows how her mourning for a parent?

I do not see this as a feminist issue at all. This is a human issue. And if there are more than a few people in the religious world who are like this, the fault lies in the Chinuch they get. Either in the home or in the school. Or both.

Not that they aren’t entitled to their views with respect to who gets to say Kaddish and who doesn’t. Honorable people can disagree about that. But in how to treat a fellow human being. Especially one who is suffering the loss of a parent. The disgusting comments contained in that letter is not how that is done. Those kinds of statements can only lead down a different road. One that will require offspring to say Kaddish for more than 11 months.

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Middle East Crises of 2013 Already in Dress Rehearsal

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

If 2011 was the year of the Arab Spring, 2013 looks to be the year of the Arab Fall. The hopes of quick, easy democracy have already been eclipsed by the rise of radical Islamist groups, which are no less extreme for coming to power through elections. And so the coming months are likely to see more disillusion, violence, and the entrenchment of Islamist regimes.

Let’s start with the Gaza Strip. Hamas is determined to fight Israel in the belief that it can win total victory. Its five years in power have had no moderating effect and it doesn’t care how much of Gaza is destroyed, how much the people there suffer, or how many are killed. It puts a priority on jihad and hopes that international pressure will always stop Israel from continuing its retaliation too long, much less overthrowing the regime there.

Hamas may be moved by fearing that the regime might fall, the people might turn actively against it (but with Fatah not trying to overthrow Hamas a real internal threat is unlikely). But the key factor is how much help Hamas can expect from Egypt. Right now and in the current war, Egypt is still cautious. The regime hasn’t really entrenched itself in power, begun Islamizing the country, and consolidated control over the army. But in the coming months, as the regime needs to distract its peoples attention from failures and mobilize support the next war with Hamas might involve some higher level of Egyptian involvement. And that would really be a conflict to shake the Middle East.

Then there was the place where hope for democracy was greatest, Tunisia, where the dramatic events of 2011 began. The Muslim Brotherhood won with just over 40 percent of the votes—with the secularists split into four rival parties—and formed a government that was to oversee the transition and prepare a constitution.

Now, however, there is a violent Salafist movement which has clashed with secularists and is trying to impose its brand of Sharia on the society. There have been street battles, deaths, and attacks on police stations. A local secular party leader was murdered by Islamists; an Islamist stabbed a police chief and in response to that attacker’s arrest, hundreds of armed Salafists went into the streets threatening retaliation. Rioters torched the American school, attacked the U.S. embassy, and plotted to kidnap several members of Tunisia’s small Jewish community.

Islamic clerics are increasingly outspoken in their demands for a total transformation of the country. That doesn’t mean they will win but it does mean there will be a growing atmosphere of intimidation, violence, and extremism. Despite a lot of talk and some international conferences with lots of air travel and nice banquets, there has been no massive international aid effort for Tunisia. Tourism is plummeting.

The “moderate” Islamist Rachid al-Ghannouchi, gives speeches to loyalists explaining that it will take time to impose Sharia law. First, the Islamists have to get their people into controlling the government ministries and the army.

Everything that’s been happening in Tunisia has been taking place on a far larger scale in Egypt. We still haven’t seen a draft of the constitution but since it is being written by the Brotherhood and Salafists the limit on Islamist dictatorship will only be what they are willing to put into it as a sign of their patience and caution. The army was quickly taken over with the forced retirement of lots of officers and their replacement by opportunists willing to follow the Brotherhood’s orders.

During the coming months, we can expect to see more attacks on Christians, women rejecting Islamist restrictions, and secularists. Assaults on American institutions in these two countries are quite likely, even if there is not some new offensive video. What is especially disconcerting is the growing data on the formation of terrorist groups. In the Sinai peninsula, , there is already a low-level war going on as Salafists launch attacks on dissidents, police stations, and across the across the border into Israel.

One factor that has definitely not changed in Middle Eastern politics is how violence and killing—or the threat to do so—is not just a last resort, it’s the first resort.

For example, a Syrian opposition activist and a pro-Hizballah Lebanese journalist were being interviewed on Al-Arabiya television, the more moderate rival of al-Jazira. The activist, Ammar al-Qurabi, director-general of the National Organization of Human Rights in Syria, at one point remarked that Hizballah Secretary-General Nasrallah would end up being found hiding in a sewer like, he said, Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi. He might also have mentioned that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured while hiding in a hole. Both former dictators were executed.

The journalist, Ghassan Jawwad, angrily responded, “You will be killed” for saying that. The host tried to calm Jawwad in vain.

Qurabi later remarked, “This is their response to any attempt at dialogue,” he said. A Lebanese friend of mine once remarked that a Syrian official could never say anything without including a threat. And thus Qurabi added, “This was the basis for the revolution in Syria.” But it is also the basis for the death of tens of thousands in Syria and increased violence in Lebanon.

Three events that might not make it into 2013—they could take until 2014–but whose signs will be increasingly visible, are:

–The end of the Syrian civil war with the overthrow of the Bashar al-Asad regime and the coming to power of a rebel coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.

–An economic crisis in Egypt that will drive the Brotherhood regime—and simultaneously give it an excuse—toward greater extremism, a crackdown on dissidents, and a growing hysteria against the United States and Israel.

–Iran obtaining nuclear weapons or being attacked by Israel.

In Libya, though, things may move more quickly. There, in contrast to Egypt and Tunisia, there is no Islamist regime to appease the Salafists or keep them under control. The killing of four Americans in Benghazi seems like a prelude to a new Libyan civil war. Radical Islamists, with support from some of the armed militias that did or did not join the country’s army, try to overthrow what they see as a Western puppet regime despite its winning an election.

The bitter fruits of the Obama Administration’s pro-Islamist policy will be increasingly visible. The only question is whether the Obama Administration will still be around to respond ineffectively or even to keep helping the anti-American forces.

[For a graphic vision of what might be coming elsewhere see this amazing collection of Russian photos from Syrian civil war Photos 5-8: the killing by rebels of a guy in civilian clothes (pro-regime militiaman?) Most of the weapons are AK-47 and other Russian equipment with the exception of a futuristic-looking AUG, Austrian-made assault rifle.]

[And for a really good lecture on the realities of Egypt and of Obama policy there--including the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood and nuclear weapons--see the lecture by Raymond Stock here.]

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Hooligans?!

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

They keep saying that they are working to change things. But I don’t believe a word of it. According to the Jerusalem Post The Meah Shearim crowd is working with Charedi volunteers in the fire fighting establishment to prevent such occurrences in the future.

What kind of occurrences? These:

Haredim physically assaulted a female firefighter in the Mea She’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported Thursday. The woman was working in a group of firefighters to put out garbage fires when the haredim threw objects at her, hitting her back and very lightly injuring her.

I’ve heard it all before. I know all about it. “These are hooligans no less than any society’s hooligans.” That is the cry of the apologists among us. I do not buy that argument. Never will. These people may be hooligans in the sense that they perpetrate violence against innocent outsiders whereas most of their society would never do that. But they are not hooligans like any other society’s hooligans. Certainly not in their Hashkafos which is what motivate their actions. These people were raised to believe that certain behavior is unacceptable. One cannot allow mingling of the sexes for any reason. Female firefighters working with male firefighters is therefore a violation of Halacha as they understand it.

That most of these people would not necessarily act this way on those beliefs is beside the point. There are some among them who believe they have an obligation to act on it. One can call them misguided. One can call them hooligans. But one cannot deny their motives. They do not just attack random people. They attack only people whom they feel violate their community rules. Rules which the rest of civilization does not have. Including the vast majority of Orthodox Jews. Including most normal Charedim.

Hooligans of the type that apologists compare these people to do not attack others based on the ideals learned from their religious leaders. The hooligans of a Chicago street gang are an orders of magnitude different from the Shomer Shabbos Charedim who threw objects at a female firefighter. The hooligans of Meah Shearim are meticulous about a great many Mitzvos – including going beyond the letter of Halacha in their observance of them.

They have beards, They have Peyos. They wear Chasidic type garb so as to differentiate from the secular world. They take pride in their isolationism for purposes of not being influenced by it. In short they are Frum to the point of being “Lifnim MeShuras HaDin” (beyond the letter of the law) in many aspects of their lives! I doubt for example that any of those hooligans have ever eating anything that did not have an Eida haCharedis Hechsher. To compare these people with the street gangs of Chicago or New York is completely disingenuous.

I realize of course that these people are probably dysfunctional. I also realize that they do not have the approval to do what they do from their rabbinic leadership. They do all this pretty much on their own. But they also know that their gender separation goals are very much appreciated by that very same leadership.

That is the core issue. It is the issue now with respect to that innocent firefighter and it was the issue last year with Naama Margolis, the 8 year old who was severely harassed on her way to school by the “hooligans” of Bet Shemesh. I’m sure those people too eat only from the Eida Hacharedis Hechsher.

In other words, they are all coming form the same place, Hashkaficly.

I have absolutely no confidence on things changing in those communities. The Charedi hooligans of Meah Shearim (and Bet Shemesh; and where ever else they can be found) who have lots of time on their hands will continue doing this type of thing unless their leadership cracks down on them. That means that they would have to violate their concepts of Mesira (informing on – or testifying against one of their own to the secular authorities). The Israeli government is not only a secular authority, they are considered a virtual enemy!

The bottom line is that this community can “Shrei Chai V’Kayom” – they scream until they are blue in the face about stopping this from happening again. They can say it is only the hooligans and that every society has hooligans. They can say all day long that they will work to change things. I don’t believe them. Until their leadership (like the Toldos Avraham Yitzchok Rebbe – pictured above) recognize that the problem starts with them – nothing is going to change.

What can we do about it? Not sure. But at the very least we ought to know the truth about what the real problem is.

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How to Keep Up School Spirit!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

My oldest daughter loves school. In fact, over the long holiday break, whenever her school was mentioned, she would say in a little sad voice, “I miss my morahs.”

I repeated this story gleefully to my friends. Some of them, the ones with older kids, looked at me with a blasé face and said, “don’t worry; as she gets older she’ll dread going back to school.” My heart fell. There had to be some way to make sure that Shayna kept relishing the joys and stimulation of school.

I took a small, very unscientific survey and came to the conclusion that some older kids like school, and some don’t. The kids who enjoy going to school have two basic reasons: they have friends and they like their teachers.

Lest you think that the easiest way to ensure this outcome is by picking the best school and then utilizing every level of proteczia to get your child accepted, remember this wise quote from Rabbi Fishel Schachter. At a chinuch l’banot gathering, he said people spend too much time researching schools and sweating over interviews. Every school has every type of kid. A lot depends on who is friends with your child. Obviously, you only have a modicum of control over this situation, so like in most cases involving raising children, some meaningful prayer is definitely in order.

There are, however, some basic building blocks every child needs to succeed and a diligent parent should do their best to ensure their child is receiving them.

Firstly, the school is providing a service. It is their duty to provide our children with a solid education, development of healthy values and a safe place to go. Schools have a responsibility to ensure that parents feel comfortable with the environment the school is creating. If there is an issue that you would like to discuss and you feel that the school is giving you a runaround or is difficult to reach, it might be time to consider switching schools.

On your end, you are responsible for not just paying the tuition for the upkeep of the school, but maintaining the sense of kavod towards the school. If the child hears the school, the administration or the teachers being bashed in front of them, how can you expect him or her to pay the school any mind? Rabbi Shmuel Wallerstein once told me a story about a father who ran to his rabbi and begged for help – his son was about to marry a non-Jewish girl. “Why would he listen to me?” asked the rabbi. “You’ve mocked everything I’ve said for the past ten years.”

Parents have to feel that they are partners with the school, building towards a common goal. It bears saying that it is super crucial to develop a positive relationship with your children’s teacher. He or she is one of the most influential figures in your child’s life and you need to be on the same page. Work with the teachers by taking class attendance and homework seriously. If there is an upcoming baby, family wedding, or chas v’shalom a crisis situation, let the teacher know so that she can treat your child accordingly. Signing up for the PTA or as a class mother is always a bonus. It shows the school you are willing to help out, and if a concern comes up, they will respond to you with your dedication in mind.

In my school, two dinner reservations are built into the tuition. I am always surprised by how many parents don’t bother to attend. Personally, I love the school dinner. Not only is the food and ambience par excellence, but it’s a chance to support the school for all its dedication and efforts on behalf of your child. It’s wonderful to hear all inspiring testimonies of the teachers and the list of achievements of the graduates. It really makes you proud of be part of the school. It’s a shame to skip it, especially if you already paid for it.

Then there is the personal front. Make it easy for your teachers to like your child and always make sure that he or she is going to school well rested, clean and fed. As this is a sore point for me, I’ll take a few minutes to clarify. Rested for the average child is 11-12 of sleep hours a night. Without that, children are short-tempered and cranky. A clean child is someone who bathes almost every night, wears clean, un-wrinkled clothes, and knows how to wash up in the bathroom properly. Finally, a hungry child is a distracted learner. Most parents know they should be on top of those things, but life gets in the way, and they figure the teachers will understand. Trust me, she doesn’t. Help your child succeed and take care of his physical needs.

IAEA: Dramatic Increase of Uranium Production in Iran

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will soon issue a report showing that Iranian nuclear centrifuges are dramatically increasing their production, according to a report by the AFP.

The watchdog group says Iran has completed the installation of 2,700 new centrifuges at its Fordo plant, which is buried deep in a mountain range and is considered impenetrable by air assault.

US President Barack Obama has said sanctions are having a strong impact on Iran.  Israel has asked the US to institute “red line” standards, the infraction of which by Iran would lead to a US military response.  The Obama administration said it would not institute such measures.

Aerial photos have shown Iran conducting clean ups of the areas around nuclear plants to eliminate evidence of their activities.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

In what may appear as one of the more interesting ironies to some, the Forward has chosen Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel (pictured here with Senator Joseph Lieberman) as one of the top 5 most influential Jews in America. (They did not say which position he holds on that short list.)

To that end they are showing short videos of each of those top 5. They have started off with one on Rabbi Zwiebel. (Could he be at the top of the list?) These 5 Jews head a list called the Forward 50. Which as the title suggest adds another 45 influential names. Rabbi Zweibel’s video can be seen below.

I use the word irony because of the fact that the Forward is often singled out by Charedim as very anti Charedi. Rabbi Zwiebel – for those who don’t know – is the executive director of one of the most publicly active Charedi organizations in the world, Agudath Israel of America.

This list has been heavily criticized in the past for choosing people who many of us in Orthodoxy never even heard of – to the exclusion of people many of us feel are quite a bit greater than those they have chosen. Like various Roshei Yeshiva and Poskim.

Agree or disagree – the Forward has its own guidelines for measuring impact (which they are certainly entitled to have) and they have chosen accordingly.

As executive director of Agudah he promotes the policies dictated to him by his organization’s Rabbinic authorities, which they term the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah – loosely translated as the Council of Torah Sages.

Rabbi Zweibel certainly has his detractors in wider Orthodoxy. There are issues that have stirred controversy. While all of Orthodoxy has more that unites us than divides us, there are some issues that are so controversial that they threaten to tear us apart and separate us forever. Among them are two of 3 which Rabbi Zweibel was asked about.

One is the issue of requiring all suspicions of sex abuse be first reported to a Rabbi before being reported to the police. That is so that the rabbi can determine whether the evidence is credible enough to over-ride the Issur of Mesirah. Even if one holds that Mesirah is still applicable in our era.

Rabbi Zweibel spoke eloquently about this vetting process. But as I have indicated in the past, I disagree with it. My difference with Agudah is that if there is going to be any vetting process about what is and isn’t credible evidence, it ought not be a rabbi that determines it. It ought to be mental health professionals and the police who regularly deal with sex abuse. As I recall it was R’ Elyashiv who Paskined that there are no Mesirah issues when there are Raglayim L’Davar (credible evidence). And he never said that it should be a rabbi that determines it.

The other controversial issue is MbP (Metzitza B’Peh – oral suction of the blood from a circumcision wound). Agudah is fighting New York City’s Health Department requirement of informed consent. Meaning that a Mohel has to warn parents about the dangers of transmitting diseases of the mouth via direct oral contact with the wound.

Again, I have profound differences on this issue. But I hear his argument. For Chasidim – a segment of Orthodoxy that believes MbP is an integral requirement of Bris Milah – asking their Mohalim to warn parents about it sends a message that a Halachic requirement is in fact dangerous! A danger they believe is practically nonexistent.

Although I understand their position and that of Agudah one has to weigh the message’s negative implications for them against the right of a parent to be informed about the possible dangers, rare though they may be. Rabbi Zweibel seems to say that two constitutional freedoms are at stake here. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I guess this is the argument they will make in the courts in order to overturn the health department’s informed consent requirement.

We’ll see how that plays out.

A 3rd issue mentioned in the interview was an offshoot of the Siyum HaShas. That Agudah managed to fill a football stadium to overflow crowds of mostly Charedim – seems to indicate that American Jewry’s growth is trending towards a more insular way of life. Thus we are less able to influence greater society by directly participating in it.

The Broader Implications of the Petraeus Resignation: Personal Behavior and Public Office

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

General David Petraeus was the hero of the victorious surge strategy in Iraq. But he also has the distinction of becoming America’s first Politically Correct field commander. His strategy in Afghanistan was in line with that of the Obama Administration by putting the emphasis on winning Muslim hearts and minds as a higher priority than military victories or even at times the safety of American soldiers. There’s a reason why President Barack Obama made him CIA director.

Leaving aside the question of the resignation’s relationship to the Benghazi debacle, in some ways, his fall is more discouraging than the election results. Don’t these powerful people feel that their duty is more important than their personal self-aggrandizement or pleasure? We should remember, too, that Petraeus’s predecessor in Afghanistan was brought down because of some incautious things said in a magazine interview.

Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Herman Caine, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Larry Craig, Richard Nixon, and other politicians supposedly represented certain ideas, policies, and the hopes and dreams of millions of people who have worked hard for them and put their trust in them. Can’t they put aside what they might also desire for the sake of those things?

I have seen with my own two eyes Kennedy drunk on the floor of the Senate and I know a lot from first-hand observation about the private adventures of former Senator Chris Dodd and Hart. And all of the above hasn’t begun to touch on financial corruption.

Of course, many do behave differently and far better. A few years ago I’d have said that perhaps the media has become too willing and able to expose the foibles of those at the top. Yet after the spectacle of a Teflon Obama and his entourage it would be more correct to say that the media only exposes those it wants to for political purposes. Then, too, Clinton and Kennedy didn’t suffer at all from their amorousness and bad driving.

If I’m not mistaken, there are now Democratic senators from Connecticut and Massachusetts who lied about their military records. The latter one, Senator John Kerry, may soon be secretary of state, which will be a global disaster of major proportions. There is also now a Democratic senator from Massachusetts who clearly lied about being a Cherokee in order to get preferential treatment in getting a job.

I have seen in the National Archives the OSS report during World War Two that a Danish journalist was a Nazi spy. And this is the woman with whom John F. Kennedy had an affair and for that reason was shipped out by his father to the Pacific front, where he would be made a hero through a combination of his bad navigation and subsequent brave behavior in the sinking of PT-109. General Dwight Eisenhower’s and President Franklin Roosevelt’s affairs during World War Two are today well known. But those were times when things remained quiet.

Why, though, are these personal matters anyone else’s business? The debate usually focuses around an argument between what is proper morality and whether Americans are too puritanical. The French, we are told, rejoice when their politicians get naughty.

But there is another far more important issue altogether that is rarely aired. If a politician or major public figure believes in what he’s doing and knows that exposure of his misdeed would destroy that mission, how can they give in to temptation if they really believe in the importance of that mission or of the importance of keeping faith with those who are relying on them?

And if they don’t care at all about those things, how can they be worthy of wielding power? It is not so much a question of personal morality as it is of character, not an issue of private life but of whether one takes seriously the concept of duty. If, for example, Bill Clinton was willing to risk his presidency for having some sort of relations–even if he could define them as not having had sex in some physiological sense–with Monica Lewinsky and then, according to the court finding, committing perjury about his behavior, that is not the sort of person one should want to be president. The fact that he escaped impeachment for the latter offense is not the point. His being willing to take that chance is the issue.

There is also something in the character of those who lust for power and fame—and I write this from long observation growing up in Washington DC—that very much distorts one’s personality. Such people almost inevitably feel superior to others, arrogant that they can get away with anything, coming to take for granted that they deserve privileges but that the rules don’t apply to them. That’s why the founders of America wanted to limit government and the power of those who ran it.

Such wisdom is even older, though it has only rarely done humanity much good. “Put not your trust in princes,” says Psalm 146. Rabbi Hillel said almost two thousand years ago that the obsessively ambitious end up by destroying themselves.

Today, it isn’t so much that Republicans are more upstanding. The difference is that they pay for their sins because the media is so quick to devour them. If, say, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri says something stupid once, he’s finished. If a Democrat does so, even repeatedly racialist statements, he gets to be vice-president for another four years. That’s reality.

Before the revolution it was clearly defined in France which classes whose members could or could not be legally tortured. This distinction now applies to public figures along partisan and ideological lines as well.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/the-broader-implications-of-the-petraeus-resignation-personal-behavior-and-public-office/2012/11/11/

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