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US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel walks to the podium during a press conference at the conclusion of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defence ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on June 4, 2014. NATO defence ministers agreed on June 3 to a series of steps to bolster protection in eastern Europe after the Ukraine crisis, but insisted they were acting within the limits of a key post-Cold War treaty with Moscow.

- AFP/Getty Images

DENVER — The growing international role of three authoritarian revisionist states – China, Russia and Iran – and the diminishing role of the United States raises two questions: Is the post-cold war era over? What will the transition period look like?

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NEW YORK — The demographic transformation of the United States of America is one of the greatest untold stories of our time. That is thanks in part to widespread underreporting in our mainstream media.

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An Afghan man looks at an election billboard along a street near Bagram Airfield in Parwan on May 29, 2014. Two candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah will compete in the run-off on June 14 to determine who leads Afghanistan into a new era without the assistance of NATO combat troops to help fight the Taliban insurgency.

- AFP/Getty Images

KABUL, Afghanistan — With a historic presidential runoff election rapidly approaching, Afghanistan is at a crossroads. Will the two remaining candidates continue to push forward to the scheduled June 14 runoff? Or will they recognize that, for all their differences, the best interests of the nation require them to forge an alliance?

Afghanistan, more than ever before, appears to be making meaningful progress towards stable democracy, as President Hamid Karzai prepares to cede the reins of power to his duly elected successor after more than 12 years in office as required by the Afghan constitution. This will be the nation’s first democratic transfer of power.

At the same time, the very fact that a run-off election is necessary points to looming dangers rooted in Afghanistan’s fierce and often bloody ethnic rivalries. This is an especially precarious moment as most foreign troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year, barring a new agreement.

Facing off in the final round are frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban Northern Alliance leader, and former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani.

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US President Barack Obama and President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine hold a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, on June 4, 2014. Obama sat down with Poroshenko in Warsaw, during a trip designed to assuage security concerns in eastern Europe following Russia's annexation of Crimea and what Washington says is an effort to destabilise Ukraine.

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OWL’S HEAD, Maine — Wirth a new president in place, Ukraine faces formidable challenges. The winner, billionaire chocolate king Petro Poroshenko, faces more difficult international challenges.

His country is wedged between US and Russian ambitions. With compromise and clever diplomacy, Poroshenko might begin to lift Ukraine from six months of Cold War-style chaos — and a previous 20 years of destructive corruption and economic collapse.

Of course, how President Obama and President Putin deal with Poroshenko, and with each other, is at least as important as how Poroshenko deals with the factions within Ukraine.

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WASHINGTON — Even though I did not experience Tian’anmen Square Protests first hand, the event has had a profound influence on my life.

In my hometown, a small city in South China, people stay away from politics. The first time I heard about the Tian’anmen Square events of June 4, 1989 was in my Chinese history book, which included only one single sentence about the horrific incident.

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In this handout image provided by Universal Orlando Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter kicked off its grand opening celebration with help from 'Harry Potter' film stars Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Bonnie Wright, Oliver Phelps, Daniel Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Warwick Davis, Rupert Grint and James Phelps on June 16, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.

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YORKSHIRE, UK — If you’re a farmer in Ivory Coast, the start of the cocoa season foretells another harvest tainted by modern slavery and shameful forms of child labor.

It has been known for more than a decade that each year forced workers — many aged 16 and younger — return to harvest the cocoa beans that are processed into the chocolate products we love.

The scale of the problem helps explain why it persists. Ivory Coast cocoa industry involves 3.5 million workers, and the country exports around 35 percent of the world’s cocoa beans.

Across the Atlantic, US consumers play an important role in holding businesses accountable for abuses in their supply chains. Later this summer, the expansion of Warner Bros’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a popular theme park in Orlando, Florida, will give consumers a new opportunity to show suppliers they won’t stand for products tainted by modern-day slavery.

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Muslim pilgrims pray to God after they threw pebbles at pillars during the 2nd day of "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, on October 16, 2013.

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NEW YORK — Since Syria’s conflict began in 2011, a stream of jihadists militants has travelled from Saudi Arabia to join rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al Assad. Although travelling fighters are a Saudi tradition going back to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Saudi government worries that this time they may return home and take up arms against the monarchy.

So it was perhaps no surprise when the government this year criminalized the act of fighting in foreign conflicts, and named as “terrorist” several groups with which the Saudi jihadists identify: Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various factions of Al Qaeda.

What was surprising was the inclusion of another group on the “terrorist” list: Saudi atheists.

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U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) answers questions during a press conference following a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the U.S. Capitol May 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders spoke on Edward Snowden and the U.S. economy during their remarks. Also pictured (L-R) are House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

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OWL’S HEAD, Maine — The book that's capturing the headlines this spring is, surprisingly, a 600-pager by a French economist, Thomas Piketty.

What's particularly striking about "Capital in the 21st Century," is that its key point — how during the last four decades the US has returned to the kind of economic inequality that last existed in the Gilded Age of the 1890s — is something we've all sensed that now we finally grasp.

Economic stagnation for the majority of Americans over the last two generations is only part of the story. Our country’s unique uni-power status in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's disintegration initially boosted US self-esteem and subsumed the underlying economic developments. But in the aftermath of the failed Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they resurfaced with a vengeance.

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Turkish miners shout slogans during a protest over the Soma deadly mining disaster, on May 28, 2014 outside the Energy Ministry in Ankara. A total of eight officials from Soma Komur have now been charged over last May 13, 2014 accident that claimed 301 lives at the Soma mine, and sparked anti-government protests in several towns and cities.The placard in yeloow reads: " It's not an accident, but a massacre!"

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ISTANBUL — At the time of writing this article, at least 301 people have lost their lives in the Turkish district of Soma, where the largest mining accident in the country's history struck last Tuesday.

This is not, however, the first such incident in recent times. According to official statistics, more than 3,000 miners have been killed in Turkey's coal mines alone since 1941, and the largest tragedy before Soma left 263 dead near Zonguldak in 1992. Turkey has the highest death rate per million tons of coal in the world.

We might think that no politician in Turkey would or could make matters worse. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who seems to have become incapable of making a neutral speech on any subject, immediately proved this assumption to be false.

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Supporters of the Greek ultra nationalist party Golden Dawn I during a pre-election rally on May 23, 2014 in Athens, Greece. Greeks go to polls on Sunday for the European elections and the second round of the local elections.

- Getty Images

WARSAW — On the eve of the 2014 Euro-elections, and 69 years after World War II and the Holocaust, a spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of nationalism. Today, revolutionaries of quite another sort storm Strasbourg and Brussels to dismantle the EU: nationalists from Britain, Italy, France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland, as well as from the rest of the EU.

Never before has the Europroject been the object of such a concerted attack. The union that was suggested by Winston Churchill and formed by Christian democratic leaders, now faces a phalanx of enemies.

Leaders of today’s radical right are elegant and buff, articulate before the cameras and comfortable on the social networks. Among them are Marine Le Pen of the French National Front, the well spoken, photogenic blond successor of her father; the dapper Nigel Farange from the UK Independence Party with his cutting wit tailor-made for YouTube; Poland’s Janusz Korwin-Mikke from the Congress of the New Right, playing the jester in his neat bow tie, and, lest we forget, Jörg Haider, the consummate skier, player and man about town, who in 2008 perished in his fast and furious Phaeton, leaving a mass of Austrian neo-fascists orphans.

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