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YANGON — Once poised to become a world economic power after gaining independence in 1948, Burma — also known as Myanmar — instead became one of the poorest, most repressed societies in the world. In 1962, military general Ne Win took power and implemented policies that isolated Burma from the rest of the world. It became illegal to criticize the government. Newspapers were censored and anyone that spoke out in opposition was arrested and tried by a military court.

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South Sudan president Salva Kiir (L) and Chinese president Hu Jintao toast each other during a signing ceremony at Great Hall of the People on April 24, 2012 in Beijing, China. President Kiir confirmed that he sees China as an important and strategic partner, while the meeting was held against a backdrop of recent violence between the the newly formed independent nation of South Sudan and Sudan, both countries from which China purchases oil.

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LONDON — Ten thousand people are believed to have been killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced since fighting broke out in South Sudan in mid-December.

The conflict between the government troops of President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar has continued despite concerted efforts by both African mediators and the United States – through Special Envoy Donald Booth – to implement a ceasefire.

There is a certain irony in the US inability to bring about a ceasefire. Not only is it a global power, but it also acted as midwife in the creation of South Sudan, providing extensive support and working closely with both President Kiir and Machar.

The fact that Washington has been unable to stop the two from fighting speaks volumes about the slow deterioration in the relationship, largely due to US displeasure over rampant corruption and support in Juba, the center of South Sudan’s government, for troublesome rebels in Sudan.

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Syringes filled with influenza vaccination are seen at a Walgreens Pharmacy on January 14, 2014 in Concord, California.

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ITHACA, New York — Recently, scientists in California discovered a new strain of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium responsible for the disease botulism.

This discovery made national headlines because the scientists purposefully withheld publishing the bacteria’s genetic sequence. The new strain produces a type of deadly botulinum toxin for which there is no antidote. For that reason, California scientists and public health officials decided to redact the bacteria’s sequence information to prevent it from falling into terrorist hands.

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An SPLA soldier stands in the ruins of a burnt out warehouse in Bor on January 27, 2014. UN aid chief Valerie Amos toured war-torn South Sudan amid a growing humanitarian crisis, with rebels and government accusing each other of breaking a ceasefire aimed at ending the conflict. The fighting has seen waves of brutal revenge attacks, as fighters and ethnic militia use the violence to loot and settle old scores, with the United Nations and rights workers reporting that horrific atrocities have been committed by both sides. Many fear the conflict has slid out of the control of political leaders, with ethnic violence and revenge attacks between the Dinka people of Kiir and the Nuer of Machar, the country's two largest groups.

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LONDON—Massacres, ethnic anger and rumors of civil war: the latest news from the world’s newest country. But South Sudan is not Rwanda. The latest cycle of conflict in the East African state is not about race or religion. It is about money.

South Sudan became an independent country following a referendum in 2011. Hopes were unusually high that after several decades of civil war, one of Africa’s troubled children was set to achieve some of its enormous potential.

For South Sudan not only had fabulously fertile lands, the likelihood of great mineral wealth and proven reserves of oil, it also had the goodwill of most of the world.

Today, South Sudan is in chaos. The vice president, removed from office last year, is leading a rebellion that has taken control of much of the oil-producing region and threatens a civil war.

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US Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks to members of the press as she is on her way for a vote January 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

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Dear Senator Collins,

You have served Maine well, establishing yourself as one of only two or three moderate Republicans in the Senate. Mainers are particularly glad to have you representing us in Washington.

So it was a surprise to find out that you are supporting the diplomatically disastrous Iran Sanctions Bill. The proposed legislation would torpedo the best opportunity in 34 years for a rapprochement with Iran. Worse, it would wreck the possibility, as a New York Times editorial expressed it, of "the most significant restraint ever on a program that has threatened international stability" for over 10 years.

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A flag of the presidential candidate of Costa Rica's leftist Frente Amplio (Board Front) party, Jose Maria Villalta is seen in a car in San Jose on January 30, 2014. Presidential elections will take place next February 2.

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica—Unless you live here, chances are you probably haven’t heard much about this country’s presidential and congressional elections on February 2.

Costa Rica is a small, politically stable country, with a proud history of fair and open democratic governance. It doesn’t attract much attention in international politics when there is so much turbulence elsewhere to report on.

Its reputation for plain-vanilla politics and governance could be upended, if current trends in the polls hold. The radically divisive and aggressively leftist party of Frente Amplio and its candidate, Jose Maria Villalta, are running strong in the polls and appear to have momentum.

This is notable because most of their goals and plans are a locally spiced blend of communism with a bit of socialism thrown in. Their platform is being compared to that of Hugo Chavez when he first came to power in Venezuela in 1999.

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner arrives at the National Hotel in Havana on January 25, 2014 where she will attend the II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The summit, to be held on January 28-29 in the Cuban capital, will bring together leaders and representatives of all nations from across the Americas (except the United States and Canada) with previous meetings starting on Saturday.

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WASHINGTON — Argentines have given so much to the world, yet have so little to show for it.

The second largest country in Latin America has given birth to music (tango), soccer stars (Maradona and Messi) and popular icons (Eva Peron) that have mesmerized the world for decades. Its people are known to be exciting, passionate and predisposed to living in the moment; qualities which endear them to the millions of tourists that grace its shores each year.

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Defendant Beate Zschaepe arrives for her trial in a courtroom in Munich, on August 6, 2013. The trial negotiates against a previously unknown neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is accused of murdering nine Turkish and Greek immigrants and a policewoman from 2000 to 2007. The focus of the trial is 38-year-old woman, Zschaepe, who is accused of being an NSU founder member and faces charges of complicity in the murders, two bombings in Cologne and 15 bank robberies. Four suspected male accomplices are also on trial. The existence of the NSU emerged in November 2011 after Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos of the NSU were found dead in a burnt-out mobile home and the third Zschaepe, gave herself in to police.

- AFP/Getty Images

MUNICH —The prosecution of five members and associates of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), now at its midpoint in a courtroom here, is one of Germany’s longest and most historic trials.

Despite the trappings of an ordinary legal proceeding, the crimes for which it has been convened are anything but ordinary. The five defendants are accused of a decade-long spree of bombings, bank robberies, and murder of a police officer and nine others of Greek and Turkish origins.

The case is a brutal reminder of the tumor of hate that metastasized here more than 70 years ago and still lingers in parts of the German social fabric.

The NSU’s mere existence as a right-wing terrorist group and the years it took to uncover it has been cause for reflection and collective soul searching. Least of all, it is a major embarrassment for a country that strives to confront and overcome its Nazi past.

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(L-R) Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, Revolution LLC CEO and AOL co-founder Steve Case, Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, John Doerr and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings participate in a panel discussion during the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness High Growth Business and Entrepreneurship Listening and Action Session at the VMware headquarters on August 2, 2011 in Palo Alto, California. Jobs Council members, administration officials and Silicon Valley leaders spoke with entrepreneurs about how public and private sectors can partner to create jobs through innovation.

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President Obama’s sit-down with Silicon Valley in Washington before the holidays fittingly highlights a trend that dominated the headlines in 2013 and will only continue to grow in 2014.

While the plight of Edward Snowden and his revelations’ impacts on staunch US allies around the globe ruled the headlines, along with the visiting technology CEO’s concerns about privacy, an emerging sub-current with greater implications for the global economy laid right below the surface for government leaders.

With global e-commerce now topping $1 trillion a year, these companies like countries need to come together on how to broaden access to the digital marketplace for their businesses, even as they compete with each other. Of all the issues for the world’s nations, how to work together to expand internet freedom—access to the web, and being able to surf it freely—will define the future of the global economy.

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Hog farmers demonstrate in front of the German federal chancellery with their free-range pigs on January 15, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. The pigs, which are not treated with hormones or antiobiotics except in medical emergencies and are only fed with non-genetically-modified food, were brought to the demonstration as a symbol against industrial farming and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement to be negotiated between the European Union and the United States that organic farmers see as a threat to environmental protection, health and safety standards as well as consumer rights.

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WASHINGTON — The prospect of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) constitutes a signal policy opportunity between the United States and the European Union.

Hailed by some as potentially the largest trade agreement in history, TTIP would reduce trade barriers by enacting a non-tariff paradigm in which myriad public- and private-sector players could spur growth, create jobs, and do business in markets previously inaccessible.

TTIP’s promises have not won all hearts, however. Detractors see the deal as a menace to their own interests, even to national sovereignty. TTIP could also fail on purely procedural grounds: given recent resistance to legislation on the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) framework, the US Congress inspires only mild confidence.

A dose of cautious optimism is therefore appropriate about the chances of success for the proposed TTIP trade regime.

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