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Families arrive at a checkpoint next to a temporary displacement camp on June 13, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISAS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region.

- Getty Images

DENVER — Iraq is collapsing. The Middle Eastern nation, where nearly 4,500 American lives were lost and nearly one billion dollars were spent from 2003-2011 to oust a dictator and rebuild a nation, is approaching chaos, perhaps even “failed state” status.

The deterioration in Syria and the invasion and spread of extremism in northern and western Iraq is putting the “cradle of civilization” under the control of the Middle East’s most militant, ruthless and vile Islamic extremists.

They proffer no future for the region’s inhabitants other than oppression under the guise of rigid adherence to Sharia law.

Extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — expelled from Al Qaida because of its extreme militancy — have seized Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul and took possession of Ninewah Province, after taking Fallujah and Ramadi just west of Baghdad late last year. They quickly moved south to Samarra and Tikrit, capturing both cities with little government resistance. They also seized Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. The militants have made no secret of their objective: Baghdad.

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CALI, Colombia — As Colombia heads into the June 15 run-off election that will determine its next president, the fate of the thousands of child soldiers in illegal combatant groups across the country is unclear.

Much of the presidential campaign has centered around current negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — a domestic armed militant group known as FARC.

The incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, has led an 18-month negotiation with FARC and has reached agreement on significant areas of conflict. His political challenger, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a former finance minister, has staked his campaign in opposition to the negotiations with the slogan “peace without impunity” — charging Santos as weak on terrorism.

Regardless of the outcome, what needs to be central in a subsequent government going forward is a commitment to the rescue and re-integration of the thousands of child soldiers that have been pressed into combat by illegal militant groups on both sides.

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Ecuador fans hold their match tickets outside of the National Stadium, ahead of their opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Switzerland on June 12, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.

- Getty Images

EVANSTON, Illinois — As the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil kicks off, media reports have surfaced about fraud surrounding the 2010 event in South Africa, as well as accusations of a pattern of bribery by Qatar to win support for its bid to host the event in 2022.

In South Africa, allegedly, a phony company acting as a front for criminal syndicates offered referees for exhibition matches — all expenses covered — to the country’s soccer federation.

Under financial pressure from the costs of hosting the Cup, South Africa accepted the referees for the exhibition games, even though FIFA rules barred host countries from doing so. Despite significant evidence that South African officials were complicit in the plan to fix the exhibition matches, the prosecuting authority in South Africa has filed no criminal charges.

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Bags with human complete blood are filtrated and scanned at the production and logistics center of the Bavarian Red Cross (BRK) blood donation service in Wiesentheid, southern Germany, on July 24, 2012.

- AFP/Getty Images

LONDON — Donating blood is, for the most part, a comfortable experience. The clinicians are friendly. The chairs are soft. You get cookies. You get stickers. You get endless compliments on your veins.

It’s so easy to give blood that I fear it may lull donors into thinking of their gift as an anodyne act of do-goodism, the human tissue equivalent of chucking a Pepsi bottle into the recycling bin. It’s not.

Having recently been at the other end of this particular supply chain, I’d like to offer some perspective on how much these pints matter.

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GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — For many African countries, the problem of unemployment is a major concern. This is the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where unemployment is seen as a curse, and the situation runs the risk of becoming a new post-war plague if we don’t find urgent and lasting solutions.

The population, especially Congolese youth, is waiting for adequate policy and concrete commitments from the government to put an end to the poverty that has affected the Congolese for decades, despite the country’s soil and geological resources being exceptionally rich.

In Goma, located in eastern DRC, and throughout the country in general, many young adults find themselves without work after finishing their studies. Those who are more creative throw themselves into a career in salvaging or sort themselves out while waiting for a good job opportunity to present itself, or for a successful family member to offer them help.

According to recent studies, more than 80 percent of young Congolese are underemployed and 58 percent are unemployed, even though the government claims otherwise.

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Ethiopian illegal immigrants from the Oromo region wait on December 5, 2010 near Obok, north of Djibouti's capital, for smugglers' boats to cross the Gulf of Aden into Yemen. Each year tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis make the perilous crossing to Yemen in the hope of a better life away from home, where economic deprivation, persecution and conflict have devastated their lives.

- AFP/Getty Images

SANAA, Yemen — Late one night last fall, I sat on a half-rotten mattress in a desolate square in the northern Yemeni town of Haradh as a 20-year-old high school student from a rural Ethiopian town — let’s call him Shikuri — told me his story. He had left home to find work in Saudi Arabia, but when he landed in Yemen en route, he found himself caught up in unimaginable horror.

Human traffickers abducted him and took him to an isolated camp in the desert where they torture African migrants to get ransom money from their relatives and friends. He paid, but was sold to a second group, paid ransom, was released and then was captured by a third.

The third group hung Shikuri with metal wire by his thumbs every day, for up to 15 minutes at a time. They tied his genitals with a rope and suspended a full water bottle from the rope. All of this to force him to give up the phone number of a family member who could wire money for his release.

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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.

- AFP/Getty Images

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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