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A displaced Iraqi child who fled Wadi Osaj village near Jalawla, Kurdistan as battles between peshmerga and Islamic State (IS) jihadists broke out, looks into the camera at a village near the Diyala province town of Khaniqin, where many displaced people are taking shelter on August 25, 2014.

- AFP/Getty Images

DENVER — The beheading of American journalist James Foley shocked this nation and the world. By filming his murder and distributing the video across the internet, the Islamic State appalled a world already grown accustomed to the nightmare horrors of terrorism since 9/11.

For me, Foley’s tragic death brought back haunting memories from my work in the Foreign Service.

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A parishioner holds a prayer card in memory of James Foley after a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley attended the memorial mass and offered prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria.

- AFP/Getty Images

SYDNEY, Australia — As a final-year medical student, even in my darkest and most stressful hours prior to exams and assessments, I still think some small part of me wants to change the world. I wonder what kind of doctor I should become in order to do this. I wonder where I should work. I wonder if I should go into family practice instead, and just play it safe: have nice patients, a nice car and a nice, easy life. 

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Some of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped their Boko Haram Islamist captors wait to meet the Nigerian president at the presidency in Abuja on July 22, 2014.

- AFP/Getty Images

NAIROBi, Kenya — “I really want to go back to school so that I can get a job and live a better life,” Changamile told us from her home in rural Malawi. But Changamile married at 16, and she has too much housework and no support from her family to return to school.

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Congo President Denis Sassou N'guesso (L) shakes with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 13, 2014. Denis Sassou N'guesso is on a visit to China from June 11 to 19.

- Getty Images

WASHINGTON DC — As Washington hosts the first US-Africa Leaders Summit, it’s worth comparing America and Chinese engagement in Africa. Both countries compete for access to the continent’s natural resources and growing consumer markets. For the sake of economic competitiveness, some experts urge President Obama to avoid the issues of democratic governance and human rights during the summit, just as China has done during summits in Beijing.

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Libyans condemn and urge for an end of war during a protest at the Algeria Square July 26, 2014 in Tripoli, Libya.

- AFP/Getty Images

BRUSSELS — It has been over three years since the NATO-led military intervention that overturned what was left of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. The optimism of that moment of political transformation in Libya and across the Arab world now feels decades away. Such is the disenchantment with what was expectantly heralded as the Arab Spring in 2011.

Egypt seems to have substituted one military strongman for another with the election of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. In Syria, there seems to be no end in sight for the bloodbath the revolution has become, and Libya is perched on the edge of a precipice, one move from anarchy.

One has to look no further than Libya’s recent parliamentary elections to understand how bleak the situation has become. With voter turnout hovering around 18.5 percent — only 44 percent of eligible Libyans registered to vote — little hope exists that any of the country’s new “representatives” can gain much legitimacy. Fathi al-Gabasi from the Eastern community of Aoudjila, for example, was elected to parliament with only three votes.

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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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An Iraqi family fleeing violence in the northern city of Tal Afar, arrive at the Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on July 1, 2014. Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq to be disbursed through the United Nations to those in need regardless of sect or ethnicity, state media reported.

- AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Humanitarian crises in the world today — Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan and now Gaza — all demand immediate and massive humanitarian response.

The crises are not only large-scale, affecting millions, but the conflicts also are complex, each with unique political realities and on-the-ground difficulties.

They are not alone among crises competing for our attention. They are simply the biggest, pushing off the front pages other crises where human needs remain urgent: Darfur, Central America, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia.

It’s not only the number and the scale that challenge the humanitarian community, but the proliferation of humanitarian actors, the politicization of humanitarian responses and the insecurity that confronts humanitarian workers.

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ISTANBUL, Turkey – As violence and despair spread once again across the Middle East, this great city could be the poster child for all that is right in the Islamic world.

Turkey’s success as a mostly well-functioning democracy with a vibrant economy and tolerant multidimensional society represents a model of stability in this rough and tumble neighborhood, particularly as we watch so much of the Middle East and North Africa confront violence, repression and ruthless sectarianism.

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NEW YORK — There are few universal truths we can settle on in this world. But one of the few truths we can probably all agree on is that children are not political animals — they are not motivated by politics and while they are often caught in political spheres, they are never the actors.

They are the shells the waves lap up and turn around and then let settle before another wave turns them topsy-turvy again. The children in world politics are the shells being tumbled about.

And so it has been with much pain and consternation that I have watched the story unfold about the children of Central America trying desperately to escape fear by running to a place they thought was a refuge. These children who have been taught to believe the United States is a country that is a haven. Can we hear it just one more time for the Statue of Liberty and Emma Lazarus?

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Children run towards charity workers on February 23, 2013 in Morija, Lesotho.

- Getty Images

MASERU, Lesotho – Some rankings instill pride. Others instill shame, and should inspire every effort to get off that list.

Two years ago, in a report for GlobalPost, I described how tiny Lesotho, a landlocked country high in the mountains of southern Africa, achieved a first for the entire region: a peaceful handover of power from ruler to opposition.

Two years later, the Basotho people of Lesotho have quietly climbed the wrong list. UNAIDS, reporting the “hope that ending AIDS is possible,” now ranks Lesotho as suffering the world’s second-highest rate of HIV infection; at 23 percent, the tragedy has touched nearly every Basotho family.

The rate of Lesotho’s HIV affliction hasn’t changed in a decade. The country, under a fragile coalition government, has become a case study for the limits of international development assistance, and a cautionary tale for what happens when a country is reluctant to tackle the real issues that plague ordinary people.

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