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Secretary of State John Kerry testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning the 2015 international affairs budget, on Capitol Hill, April 7, 2014 in Washington, DC.

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WASHINGTON — Syria is a mess, a hopeless, sectarian debacle. There are no good options, only the choice between two evils: the repressive regime that murders its own people and jihadist fanatics that want to establish a pure Islamic state.

This is the dominant media narrative and it could not be further from the truth.

There is another choice. Her name is Natalia. Living in Homs, every morning she takes her own life in her hands to deliver life-saving food, water and medical supplies to towns under siege from Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime.

Natalia believes in democracy, human and civil rights and legal protection for minorities.

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Palestinian refugees living in Syria and now residing in Thailand hold flowers as they gather during a demonstration outside the United High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok on April 10, 2014. The Palestinian refugees gathered to call for automatic renewal of their visas and for a quick refugee status to be conferred by UNHCR from the situation of civil war happening in Syria.

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NEW YORK — Politicians in many well-to-do countries speak in exaggerated terms about being threatened by potential hordes of refugees as they make populist appeals that feed on fears and prejudices. The truth is that the less-developed countries, many of them with significant problems of their own, bear a much heavier burden.

The United Nations refugee agency’s new annual statistical report, “Asylum Trends 2013,” highlights the challenges asylum seekers present to what it characterizes as “industrialized countries.”

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the government at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, April 9, 2014. Putin on April 9 ordered Ukraine to come to the negotiating table over its unpaid energy bills, warning that it would otherwise require payment in advance for gas. Ukraine "would receive only what they have paid for" if they failed to negotiate, Putin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

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MOSCOW — Most Western media coverage of Russia's annexation of Crimea and of President Vladimir Putin’s newly assertive tone has been about Putin himself. Headlines question what is going on in Putin's mind, portray him as a neo-imperialist, revanchist fascist, or a man with a big score to settle, ready to use Russia's military might to do so.

But what is happening in Russia today is about Russians themselves. Putin is as much a creature of modern Russia as he is the architect of the country’s military actions.

Responsibility for Putin’s actions in Ukraine belongs both to Putin and the Russian public.

Polls conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center find that more than 75 percent of Russians support Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

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A Bahraini man kisses the forehead of Sheikh Isa Qassim (R), top senior Shiite cleric, during a protest against the closing down of a Shiite Muslim clerics' council earlier this week, at a mosque in the capital Manama, on February 2, 2014. A Bahraini court ordered the closure of the Olamaa Islamic Council and the liquidation of its assets following a lawsuit by the ministry of justice, Islamic affairs and endowments, a judicial source said.

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WASHINGTON — On April 6, the Formula 1 automotive racing event spotlighted the host country of Bahrain, which remains home to the region’s largest United States naval base. As a recent fact-finding visit revealed, the Kingdom continues to be a stark study in contrasts facing its share of challenges and fateful decisions ahead.

In one respect, Bahrain has served as a regional model for modernization, including the tolerant treatment of non-Muslim religious minorities, from Christians and Hindus to Jews and Baha’is.

But on the other hand, the minority Sunni government has inadequately addressed the legitimate grievances of its peaceful Shi’a majority, including religious freedom violations perpetrated against its members.

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NEW YORK — Privacy, as we have known it, is dead the world over. Its demise did not come quickly and was not without forewarning.

Only now are we coming to terms with the weighty consequences of living in an increasingly Orwellian world, where our every move is recorded and our most personal information collected by governments and commercial enterprises, for better and for worse.

Never before in history has so much of our privacy — our musings, preferences, curiosities, dalliances, phobias, foibles, health, habits, our very nature — been compiled, with or without our permission, infringing on our personal freedoms and inciting fear.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 8, 2014.

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OWL’S HEAD, Maine — Indefatigable John Kerry had a flight pattern last week more erratic than the missing Malaysian airplane. In his effort to tamp down crises, he was returning to Washington from Saudi Arabia, where he had accompanied President Obama in smooth-talking the grumpy ally when, at a refueling stop in Ireland, Kerry did a U-turn for a hastily arranged Paris meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

The Paris meeting seemed to yield little on the Ukrainian front. No matter, it was just a way station for Kerry en route to another hastily scheduled response to a different crisis meeting in Israel before returning to Brussels.

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Rwandans hold a candle light vigil at Amahoro Stadium during the 20th anniversary commemoration of the 1994 genocide April 7, 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda. Thousands of Rwandans and global leaders, past and present, joined together to remember the country's 1994 genocide, when more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus were slaughtered over a 100 day period.

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KIGALI, Rwanda — The world is uniting in grief to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi.

Commemorative ceremonies are taking place across Rwanda and in many other countries as we remember the one million people who were massacred in just 100 days of unimaginable hatred and savagery.

No single event, of course, is the cause of such inhumanity. But history shows that it was the shooting down of the aircraft carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana that signaled the beginning of the genocide. This is why it is important to understand the true facts of what happened on April 6, 1994.

In today’s world, it is no surprise that such a momentous and terrible event should be surrounded by conspiracy theories. But there is no reason for dispute about who shot down his aircraft or why.

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Protesters display a large banner during a rally to support press freedom in Hong Kong on March 2, 2014. The rally was staged following the attack of a former editor of local liberal newspaper which comes at a time of growing unease over freedom of the press in the southern Chinese city, with mounting concerns that Beijing is seeking to tighten control over the semi-autonomous region.

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NEW YORK — The governments of Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have a lot in common. Each imposes an ever-tightening noose around domestic civil society. And now, each plans to run for election to a United Nations agency that regulates civil society matters.

A seat on the Committee on Non-governmental Organizations is highly desirable. The committee controls which civil society groups secure the coveted standing known as “consultative status.” This status bestows special UN rights and privileges to organizations that obtain it. Elections to the 19-member Committee take place April 23-25.

On its face, the committee’s function is primarily administrative; it evaluates about 400-500 applications of non-governmental organizations (NGO) annually. In reality, the job is highly political because committee members can block NGOs whose views they oppose.

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JAU, Bahrain — The opening day of the prestigious Formula 1 race in Bahrain — April 6, 2014 — is an important day for my country: the government gets the chance to show the world a modern, vibrant side of Bahrain. It's also a landmark day for me, the third anniversary of my arrest for peacefully representing the Bahraini Teacher’s Association (BTA).

I write today from Bahrain’s central prison with the hope that while the focus of international media falls on Bahrain for the Grand Prix, it does not ignore the continuing crackdown on civil society.

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A truck loaded with logs drives past the flags of Myanmar and Japan during the Commencement Ceremony of Thilawa Special Economic Zone Project in Thilawa, on the outskirts of Yangon on November 30, 2013. Thilawa SEZ (Special Economic Zone) will be built on 2400 hectares of land on the outskirts of Yangon.

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WASHINGTON — Japan’s development aid is driving Myanmar families into deeper poverty.

The Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) outside Rangoon, funded by the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has forcibly moved hundreds of Myanmar villagers into a flood-prone, cramped resettlement site without basic compensation. It will displace nearly 5,000 more in the coming months.

Heralded as Myanmar’s first major donor-funded development project since the political transition, Thilawa has also become Myanmar’s first major donor-funded embarrassment.

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