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US President Barack Obama listens to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) during a trilateral meeting with the South Korean president at the US ambassador's residence in The Hague on March 25, 2014. Obama hosted the much-anticipated first meeting between the Asian leaders.

- AFP/Getty Images

NEW YORK — In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first articulated the Obama Administration’s intention to “pivot” toward Asia, rebalancing its commitments and resources eastward. “Harnessing Asia's growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama,” wrote Clinton in Foreign Policy.

A little more than two years later, the administration has little to show. In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama devoted just one sentence to the region and the majority of that was to commend the Marines for disaster relief work in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. This came just a few months after he canceled a trip to the region to deal with the government shutdown in Washington – a public diplomacy signal of disinterest that United States allies were quick to criticize.

This wasn’t the first sign of trouble for the strategic pivot. Fallout from the Arab Spring, a war in Syria and Russian aggression in Eastern Europe have kept the administration tied down outside the region. Budgetary constraints in Washington continue to threaten the scale of the Pentagon’s plan to shift military assets to Asia and a transformational Pacific trade deal has stalled amidst domestic opposition.

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A Ukrainian student shouts slogans during a nationalist and pro-unity rally in the eastern city of Lugansk on April 17, 2014. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today announced a deal had been reached with Ukraine, the US and the EU to "de-escalate" dangerously high tensions in the former Soviet republic.

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LONDON — Vladimir Putin has been described as many things: tyrant, autocrat, villain, gangster. Few would call him a unifier. But by annexing Crimea that is exactly the role he has played in Ukraine.

Putin invaded Ukraine in part to embolden Russian national sentiment. The Russian president has suppressed any remnants of an independent press, revved up the state-sponsored PR machine, which churns out vicious propaganda in support of increasingly irredentist foreign policy.

He has justified the forced annexation of Crimea as a move to protect ethnic Russians, portraying the Euromaidan, the wave of demonstrations, civil unrest and revolution in Ukraine, as radical fascists sponsored by the United States government. But rather than expose the duplicity of Kyiv, his lies have revealed the truth about Ukraine.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank – As the media focuses on the latest efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, what is not being seen is the culture of entrepreneurship, small business creation and new investment vehicles that is accelerating on the West Bank, and to a lesser degree in Gaza.

It’s the story of two worlds: another round of decades-long negotiations is grinding along and a large part of West Bank remains poor, undeveloped and very traditional. But running parallel to this reality is one of a young, educated and tech-oriented demographic that is growing rapidly and is highly connected to the outside world, hungry to be part of it and barreling ahead to create their own opportunities and a brighter future.

Ramallah is the largest and most economically vibrant of the West Bank cities, with an international business-oriented culture embeded in a broader very traditional society. It has a lively café life, with twenty-somethings trading start-up ideas, creating business plans and often launching their companies from within these very cafes. One notable element of this community is the number of impressive and determined young women entrepreneurs.

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Photo taken on November 28, 2013 shows staff members of the Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg, the largest antiretroviral treatment site in the country, posing behind candles commemorating World Aids Day (December 1). South Africa has been hailed as a model for HIV treatment, but some now fear its very success may be breeding complacency and making people less careful about infection.

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WASHINGTON — News broke last week that South Africa has the fastest growing rate of new HIV infections of any country in the world, underscoring the urgency of the fight against HIV/AIDS and the fragility of our progress to date. It also underscores a perpetual truth: leadership matters and we need bold, innovative and affirmed commitment to end this disease.

Early this year, the Obama administration nominated Deborah Birx as the next US Global AIDS Coordinator and first woman to assume the role. Last week, the Senate voted to confirm her appointment. In this position, Birx will oversee the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment a nation has ever made to combat a single disease. Our hope is that she uses this leadership role to work with diverse groups to promote the health and rights of all people and to expand the integration of family planning and HIV services.

We have come a long way in the fight against HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR and other programs. Yet as South Africa’s news illustrates, troubling disparities, stigma, and discrimination persist and women often bear the brunt of the burden. These challenges require immediate programmatic and policy attention.

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A unit of Ukrainian border guards line up before starting their patrol on the Russian border, in the village of Veseloye, in the Kharkiv region, on April 4, 2014. With a reported 40,000 Russian troops gathered along the border just weeks after annexing Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers have been deployed to repel an invasion from invisible but feared troops amassed on the other side.

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LONDON — The key to understanding what’s going on in Ukraine and what’s likely to happen next is to pay more attention to what governments do rather than to what they say.

That’s a rule I learned many years ago as a foreign correspondent reporting events in Israel. An older and more experienced correspondent advised me to watch the Israeli bulldozers, see where they are building roads if you want to measure the government’s real intentions. He was right.

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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Long after saturation media coverage is over, disaster survivors carry on, with or without outside help, often with the kind of inspiring courage and resilience that we see in the Boston Marathon bombing survivors.

We also see this courage and resilience in survivors elsewhere, like in my country, Pakistan, where such violence is all too frequent. In Pakistan, however, there is no long-term institutional support, no organized follow-up for bomb blast survivors.

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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.

- AFP/Getty Images

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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