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WASHINGTON, DC — At a five-year-old’s birthday party over the weekend, I chatted with a therapist, a publishing executive and a furniture maker (no, this is not the opening to a bad joke). The subject matter wasn’t the flavor of the ice cream. Everyone wanted to talk about net neutrality, the principle that all online content must be treated equally — and the biggest tech issue of the moment.

No one understood why a Democratic Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman President Barack Obama had appointed would make the disastrous decision to end free speech and innovation online.

“Doesn’t the president support net neutrality?” one person asked. “How could he let this happen?”

My friends were responding to last week’s vote on the future of the Internet, in which three Democratic FCC commissioners voted to move forward with a plan that would trigger a corporate takeover of the Internet, ushering in an era of inequality and discrimination online.

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Picture made on September 10, 2013 show pupils of Gambool high school in a classroom in Garowe region of Somaliland. The school is a project funded by the European Commission and has the capacity for 1,750 pupils both boys and girls. As key partners, Somalia and the European Union (EU) will be co-hosting a High Level Conference on A New Deal for Somalia in Brussels on 16 September 2013. The Conference's underlying objective is to sustain the positive momentum in Somalia, to ensure that the country stays on the path to stability, peace and brings prosperity to its people.

- AFP/Getty Images

HARGEISA, Somaliland — In the quest for independence, there are good days and there are bad days. On our Independence Day, May 18, the people of Somaliland were filled with hope and renewed determination. It was a good day.

Our Independence Day serves as a token of all that we’ve achieved thus far on the road to sovereignty, and as an aching reminder of our aspiration for recognition of our independence — an aspiration that remains unfulfilled.

In 1960, Somaliland gained its independence from Great Britain and was recognized as a sovereign state by 35 nations, including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Five days later, the government of Somaliland chose to unite with Somalia to create a “Greater Somalia.” But this union proved to be catastrophic. The central government in Mogadishu brutally repressed the people of Somaliland, killing 50,000 of its citizens, displacing another 500,000, bombing its cities and laying over 1 million land mines on its territory.

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Two men walk on March 2, 2014 near the Paloch oil fields in Upper Nile State, the site of an oil complex and key crude oil processing facility in the north of the country near the border with Sudan. The area hosts the sole pipeline export route. Fighting in South Sudan has cut production from the country's lifeline oilfields by about 29 percent, the press secretary to President Salva Kiir said in Khartoum. In late February, rebels loyal to Machar captured Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state where most of the South's oil is produced.

- AFP/Getty Images

WASHNINGTON — After a decade of focusing on the Middle East, the Obama administration has promised a “pivot to Asia” that would increase diplomatic and economic attention on US interests in the Pacific region.

This pivot is a result of Washington’s increasing concerns about the rising military and economic power of the People’s Republic of China. President Obama’s recent tour through Asia, which took him to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, was a traditional measure of reassuring regional allies of the US commitment to the region.

To truly counter China’s growing economic power, however, the US should be looking to Africa.

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Armed uninformed militants block access to a Ukrainian border base.

- AFP/Getty Images

The good news is that there’s a vague agreement to find a way out of Ukraine’s deepening crisis.

Now the bad news: Neither of the major parties in the conflict is willing to talk to the other.

As talks began in Kyiv Wednesday, the interim government of Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk is refusing to deal with separatists from eastern Ukraine who “have blood on their hands.”

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Animal rights activists lay down in cardboard boxes - covered in fake blood, wrapped in plastic, and with bar code labels - as they take part in a protest action against meat overconsumption, against cruelty to animals in livestock raising and for the closure of slaughterhouses, on April 24, 2014, in Toulouse, southwestern France. The protest by a handful of French animal rights activists was called by the 'Mouvement pour la cause animal' activist group.

- AFP/Getty Images

NEW YORK — In February and March, 2,500 Hasidic Jews from Eastern Europe, North America and Israel undertook a yearly pilgrimage to the small town of Lezajsk in southeastern Poland for the 228th anniversary of the death of one of the movement’s founders, Tsadik Elimelech Weisblum, who is buried in a tiny Jewish cemetery.

As they do every year, the pilgrims arrived on tour buses, rented rooms in private residences, prayed and drank kosher vodka from the town’s supermarket. But this year, the carnivores among them were out of luck. Long a major exporter of kosher meat, Poland followed other European countries in January to ban ritual slaughter.

The conflict over shechitah and dhabihah practices, as they are called in Hebrew and Arabic, center on one aspect of the process.

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US President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in the Crimea region of Ukraine during a statement in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 17, 2014.

- AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — As journalists seek to understand the crisis in Ukraine and Putin’s next moves, they find themselves turning time and again to the same experts for insights and quotes.

In the media, these same talking heads have bemoaned the dearth of junior peers and dwindling resources available to educate them; the State Department recently cut Title VIII funding, which supported study of the former Soviet Union.

Longtime Russia scholar Angela Stent has written that “only a very brave or dedicated” doctoral student would become a Russia expert if he or she wants an academic job.

But these are symptoms, not the disease. The disease is a double whammy: a disregard for regional expertise and the disappearance of key rungs in the career ladder.

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Supporters of anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela salute during a mass rally of African National Congress (ANC), a few days after his release from jail, February 25, 1990, in the conservative Afrikaaner town of Bloemfontein, where ANC was formed.

- AFP/Getty Images

WESTERVILLE, Ohio —This week marks the twentieth anniversary of a rare achievement in the uncertain world of political struggle: the election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of South Africa and the birth of a new democratic nation.

In the outpouring of tributes to Mandela’s life and leadership upon his death several months ago, many people remembered this triumphant election and Mandela’s transcendent wisdom in negotiating the stormy transition from apartheid to democracy. What most people did not recall, however, was the remarkable set of events that followed.

In 1995, guided by President Mandela and mandated by an act of parliament, South Africa created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a massive, temporary institution whose mission was to reveal the specifics of widespread human rights abuses and to begin repairing the damage from nearly half a century of brutal repression known as apartheid.

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Shadows of Bangladeshi police officials are seen as they stand guard at the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka on January 21, 2013. Bangladesh's controversial war crimes court sentenced to death a top Islamic televangelists for genocide and other atrocities during the country's 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan, a prosecutor said.

- AFP/Getty Images

HOUSTON, Texas — Himmler. Heydrich. Hoess.

The very mention of these reviled names conjures up indelible images associated with the deliberate and coordinated murder of millions of innocent civilians by National-Socialist Germany during the Second World War.

The Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin used the term “genocide” to describe what had transpired in the German concentration camps — an organized and planned destruction of Jews, the Romani, the disabled, homosexuals and other groups targeted by Adolf Hitler and his regime.

After the end of that conflict and within a few years of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, civilized nations vowed never again to allow perpetrators of such horrors to escape justice with impunity by adopting a Genocide Convention through the United Nations Organization.

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MANAMA, Bahrain — In February of 2011, when the Bahraini government violently cracked down on peaceful pro-reform protesters in Pearl Roundabout, I immediately knew what I had to do.

As a nurse who had spent 18 years training and working in the United States, I decided to go and assist in the emergency room at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the main public hospital, which was flooded by injured protesters hurt by government forces during the demonstrations. Although, at the time, I was an assistant professor and head of an emergency nursing program, president of the Bahrain Nursing Society and not a staff member at Salmaniya, I saw that the doctors needed all the help they could get.

Many of my colleagues and I could not have known that our decision to uphold our medical duty would place us in danger. Several weeks later, I was blindfolded and handcuffed upon entering a government building. During the nightmare days of my five months of detention I was beaten, shocked with stun guns, sexually harassed and threatened with rape.

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NEW YORK — On this Mother’s Day, the 276 girls ferociously abducted from their boarding school in Nigeria are heavy on my mind.

The question has gripped me: what would it be like if someone at this exact moment stormed in, kidnapped me, burned down my house and threatened to sell me into slavery? This for the so-called crime of being a female who is working or reading or using a computer.

It’s not lost on me, it could have been me. I attended an all-girls boarding high school my sophomore year in Northern Nigeria, not far from Chibok where the girls were taken. I know those girls figuratively. They probably look a lot like the mixed ethnicities of my classmates from all over the country. When I went to school we fully expected to make it home that evening, which is exactly my experience today when I put my daughter on the bus every morning to a New York City suburban elementary school.

What’s happened in Nigeria is outrageously incomprehensible. Simply shocking. Even for someone like me who spent years as a journalist covering monstrosities all over the world.

I try to stop myself from imagining the horrors they have experienced. I have no idea what has or has not happened. But I do know it is catastrophic for them, their families, their mothers and the nation. I alternate among terror for their safety, sheer rage it happened, and tremendous sadness. And on this Mother’s Day, which is celebrated Sunday in the United States and in many other countries around the world, I think we all need to stop for a moment and reflect on this atrocity and join in a global expression of outrage and a commitment to justice that is coming together through the Twitter feed #BringBackOurGirls.

This is not the Nigeria I know.

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