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Nobel Peace laurate Aung San Suu Kyi attends a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta at Palazzo Chigi on October 28, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the honorary citizenship in 1994 but had been prevented from receiving it after being kept under house arrest until November 13, 2010, by Burma's former military junta.

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CHICAGO — For the past 18 months, the US Government and the American people have been buoyed by optimism about Myanmar. And, as a scholar of social justice leadership and the work of Aung San Suu Kyi,  the beloved voice of Burma’s freedom movement, so have I.

The other week, that changed. But I still see hope, somehow.

Hope against odds has been a longtime theme for Myanmar-watchers. Amidst the violent chaos of Libya, Egypt and Syria, Myanmar seemed exceptional: 1,100 political prisoners gradually released; draconian restrictions on press freedom lifted, and prohibitions on public gatherings eased.

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NEW YORK— One of the most powerful women in the United States says the most powerful women in America now look nothing like her. She is Cecile Richards, daughter of famed Texas governor Ann Richards and current president of Planned Parenthood. She is tall and thin with a naturally blond pixie cut.

The women she says have the power to form a new narrative about American women look more like me—petite, light brown skin, and dark, long and unruly hair.

Latino women, says Richards, will lead the conversation about reproductive rights in the US from here, into the futuro. And though Richards says that for the majority of Americans the discussion is over about the unequivocal right to an abortion, sex education or birth control, there is a loud conservative minority who are trying to legislate away these rights.

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Syrian refugee girl Mashaael, 7, looks at an old exercise book as she waits inside her makeshift house before heading to school on September 26, 2013 in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. UN children agency UNICEF said 257,000 Syrian children were seeking education in Lebanon in 2013, a number that could rise up to 400,000 next year. Mashaael was not able to register at school as she didn't meet the Lebanese public school system's standards.

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BERUIT — Nelson Mandela once said there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. When kids are living in school buses instead of riding them to school, it’s time to reevaluate.

Syrian refugee children are enduring an unimaginable crisis. Traumatized by war and separated from their families, they have little hope for the future.

Many of them watched as their families were killed and their homes destroyed in front of their eyes. They are forced to cope with the realities of war. They struggle to survive with economic and psychological hardships that even a grown adult would find overwhelming. To make matters worse, many are alone.

Unaccompanied Syrian children who have no parents face even longer odds of being registered, let alone attending a school.

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U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande during a welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House on February 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Hollande who arrived yesterday for a three day state visit, visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate and will be the guest of honor for a state dinner tonight.

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OWL’S HEAD, Maine—The pictures of President Obama and President Hollande of France, touring Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, "The Age of Mediocrity.”

The contrast, between today's two living presidents and that earlier epoch of French-US relations, when our first president and the Marquis de Lafayette were close friends, when Jefferson was the US minister in Paris, is such that the White House staffer who suggested the Monticello excursion must be lacking a sense of history.

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A gold miner displays a piece of gold after it was burned down to remove the mercury along the Madre de Dios River in the Amazon lowlands on November 14, 2013 near Puerto Maldonado, Peru. Small-scale miners are drawn to the area in hopes for higher pay but often face abysmal conditions. Gold is usually amalgamated with mercury during the process of informal mining in the region, which is discharged into the water supply and air, poisoning fish and sickening people in the area.

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NEW YORK—The global fight for environmental health got a boost recently: the World Health Organization urged governments to provide health care for people suffering from mercury exposure. It also called for speedy ratification of the new international mercury treaty. Countries around the world should take their cue from the WHO.

Mercury causes brain damage and other debilitating conditions, and is particularly harmful to children, whose systems are still developing.

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Activists from The Bajrang Dal and Visva Hindu Parishad (VHP) shout anti-Bangladesh slogans in New Delhi on March 6, 2013, during a protest against recent attacks against minority Hindus in Bangladesh. Bangladesh?s main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has condemned recent attacks on Hindus in different parts of the country allegedly by activists of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, demandING punishment to perpetrators of the attacks.

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LONDON—For anyone who has followed the news from Bangladesh since the country’s January elections, the last few weeks’ headlines have made for grim reading. Dozens have been killed in the street protests that raged across Bangladesh as the voting neared, and with the opposition boycotting the elections and questioning the legitimacy of the new government, the political crisis shows no sign of letting up.

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NEW YORK—In 1951 my grandfather immigrated to the United States, fleeing the Soviet occupation of his home country, Ukraine. He instilled in my two brothers and me a love for Ukraine and a never-ending hope that one day it would emerge from the communist totalitarian regime imposed by Moscow.

He strongly believed that, with the help of the United States and others, Ukraine would eventually claim its freedom and take its place as an equal among the other democracies in Europe.

He was right. In 1991 our family celebrated the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Ukraine as an independent state. While my grandfather has since passed away, for the past two decades we have joyfully accepted Ukraine’s democracy, not perfect under any measure, but still a democracy that allowed for the freedom of the press, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

However, for the past four years, under President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has been spiraling toward totalitarianism and a return to Moscow’s clutches. Early signs of this direction came with the arrest and imprisonment of opposition leaders. Then, in November, President Yanukovych abruptly turned away from Europe, refusing to sign a widely supported trade agreement with the European Union, and instead linking Ukraine more closely – economically and politically – to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

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Harlem residents choose free groceries at the Food Bank For New York City on December 11, 2013 in New York City. The food bank distributes dry, canned and fresh food to needy residents and works with community based member programs to provide some 400,000 free meals per day throughout the city. Need increased in November when 47 million low-income people nationwide saw their food stamps cut as the federal SNAP program expired.

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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — Congressional Democrats believe, and are right to believe, that even anti-government Tea Party Republicans like what government does. Complain as they might about taxes, they value Medicare and Social Security.

So while a few red-state Democrats are going to distance themselves from the Democrats' identity as the party of governance, most others are going to carry it proudly as they gear up for the fight ahead in this year's midterm elections.

But campaigning on the idea, as New York Senator Charles Schumer suggested in a recent speech, that government can be a "force for good" is only a start. Democrats understandably want to be seen as impartial arbiters of pragmatic policy and ideologically neutral decision-making. But that won't win the hearts of workaday Americans. Democrats should declare "loudly and repeatedly" that government is necessary for the preservation of liberty.

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Pakistani supporters of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf carry placards and banners during a rally in Karachi on February 9, 2014. Musharraf has been in a military hospital since falling ill with heart trouble while traveling to court on January 2. A court trying Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for treason ordered him to appear on February 18, the latest postponement in the long-delayed case.

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HYDERABAD, Pakistan — On October 12, 1999, Army chief of staff, Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif-led elected government in a military coup. He imprisoned Sharif, ruled Pakistan for almost nine years and resigned in 2008 after the newly elected parliament threatened to impeach him.

Musharraf went into self-imposed exile, created a new political party called All Pakistan Muslim League and returned to the country planning to run in the May 2013 general elections.

Today, Nawaz Sharif is in his third term as prime minister and Gen. Musharraf is facing a charge of high treason under Article Six of the 1973 Constitution. He may face death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted.

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BANGKOK, Thailand—The shrinking numbers of visitors still coming to protest-riven Thailand may well be surprised to hear that this troubled nation remains one of the most unequal places in Asia. But in many ways that inequality—and most critically unequal access to essential infrastructure, education and opportunity—lies at the heart of the challenges facing not just Thailand but nations across the Asia and Pacific region.

Thailand is only surpassed in Asia by Hong Kong in terms of income inequality, according to the CIA World Factbook’s latest rankings by Gini Coefficient—a common measure of inequality.

By some measures, Thailand ranks as the 12th most unequal place worldwide. Among other Asian nations or regions for which data is available, the worldwide rankings in order of most unequal to least unequal distribution of family income include Hong Kong (11th), Papua New Guinea (18th), Singapore (26th), China (29th), Malaysia (33rd) and the Philippines (42nd).

Drill down further into the data and it is clear that although Asia’s ascent has helped drive the global economy in recent years, the region remains home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. An estimated 1.7 billion people struggle to live on less than two dollars a day, according to the Asian Development Bank.

But someone living outside of the region would have to skip the tourism promotions airing on CNN and other international channels to see this.

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