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Japanese State Minister in charge of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Akira Amari (C) speaks to reporters before his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his office in Tokyo on April 25, 2014. Amari said Japan had not reached a basic accord with US over a Tarns Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal despite intense talks after a bilateral summit. There had been hopes that Tokyo and Washington might break an impasse in the stalled talks during US President Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo.

- AFP/Getty Images

OWL’S HEAD, Maine — Judging the success of presidential trips is a tricky process. Even if the results aren't immediately obvious — or if they seem less than positive — an opportunity to spend serious face-to-face time with key world leaders is inherently valuable.

Nevertheless, President Obama’s trip to the Far East certainly wasn't a triumph, whether with him in Tokyo or looking from afar to Ukraine or the Middle East. As the The New York Times headlined it, "Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast."

The setback in the Mideast was hardly a surprise and hardly Obama's fault: it's been nothing but a series of failures there, for whoever has been in charge.

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People lay flowers at the Chernobyl victims' memorial in the Crimean capital Simferopol, on April 25, 2014. The world marks tomorrow the 28th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl nuclear pant in Ukraine.

- AFP/Getty Images

NEW DELHI — In response to the US missile defense system in Poland, Russia is reported to be planning to field a tactical nuclear weapon, called the Iskander, in the region of Kalingrad, in westernmost Russia.

Many view Iskander missiles, with a range of 400 km, as a weapon that could have military and political influence.

Historically, Kalingrad was German territory until World War II and was known as Konigsberg. Germany lost the territory to the Soviet Union in 1945; at the Potsdam Conference, it became a part of the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Kalingrad was heavily militarized, forming a “strategic outpost” designed to avert attack from West, check on the Baltic States and exert influence over the Baltic Sea.

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Mourners place National League for Democracy (NLD) flags besides Win Tin's body during his funeral in Yay Way cemetery on April 23, 2014 in Yangon, Burma. The Burmese journalist who helped Aung San Suu Kyi launch a pro-democracy movement against the junta military regime, died April 21 in Rangoon.

- Getty Images

CHICAGO — The touching funeral in Rangoon for Win Tin, the intrepid journalist who spent 19 years in prison for refusing to kowtow to his military captors, revealed the quiet undertow in Myanmar/Burma. The threat to a free press is real.

As up to 100,000 people, including senior dissidents, international dignitaries, and ordinary citizens passed the cortege or stood vigil at headquarters of the NLD, the opposition party Win Tin helped found, two ominous realities filled the air: since December, five journalists had been arrested; and in March, Parliament passed a law authorizing the Ministry of Information to ban reporting it believes could “incite unrest,” “insult religion” or “violate the Constitution.”

These actions confirmed what Win Tin shared with me in an interview last March: freedom is not something that can be metered out in controlled bits by a reluctantly retreating military.

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An Afghan woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif April 5, 2014.

- Reuters


See no evil. (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

We may never know exactly what happened in Afghanistan on April 5, when voters went to the polls to elect a new president. We may not be able to assess with any degree of certainty the true level of violence, the incidence of fraud, or the voter turnout.

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NEW YORK CITY — All Americans should applaud you, President Obama, for wanting to tackle head on the inequality of the justice system with the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which aims to help young men and boys of color reach “their full potential.”

Part of your challenge is to address the inequalities of our justice system when it comes to these young men of color and our law enforcement.

Too many communities fall victim to what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” — a “disturbing national trend” in which children, often with “learning disabilities, histories of poverty, abuse or neglect,” are “funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

While your initiative is a nice step in the right direction, the ugly truth is that the United States of America has the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world.

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House May 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama and Merkel emphasizied their continued support for the new government in Ukraine and their critisism of Russia after the failure of last month's Geneva Agreement. The Ukranian military said Friday that pro-Russiaon militants in the eastern part of the country had used sophisticated weapons to shoot down two of its helicopters.

- Getty Images

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina — The crisis in Ukraine is the product of many causes, but US foreign policy mistakes have been important factors.

First, in assuming that democracy and markets are desired and inevitable around the world, the US is blinded to nationalistic reactions in Russia. As NATO expanded through former Warsaw Pact countries, Russia felt increasingly encircled by the West and was not reassured when told these events were desirable and not threatening. Putin has clearly said he is determined to prevent such an outcome in Ukraine.

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People read Uganda's local dailies in Kampala on February 25, 2014. On Monday, President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill into law which holds that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.

- AFP/Getty Images

SALEM, Virginia — Uganda’s new anti-homosexual law has generated chatter around the world. Outside Uganda, and Africa in general, this legislation is seen as an outrage. It comes from a president who is past his prime, a man who has ruled Uganda since 1986 and whose mind seems impervious to change.

The narrative on social media leans toward the view that President Yoweri Museveni is deeply misinformed about sexuality in general. His idea that oral sex is abhorrent and that kissing his wife in public would cost him the presidency is as obsolete as his notion that homosexuality is abnormal and pathological.

Yet these very ideas about Musenevi’s state of mind may themselves flow from an international audience that is ignorant of Uganda’s political culture and, perhaps, uninformed about the nature and character of social change there.

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NEW YORK CITY — A year ago gays didn’t exist in Afghanistan. They were simply invisible — never mentioned in the national discourse — until I applied liberal constructivist theory from international relations when I spearheaded an ongoing queer narrative that eventually gained traction and cemented a gay Afghan identity.

As the election in Afghanistan came into full swing this year, gay identity politics gravitated into the mainstream. In an unprecedented move, the Afghan media has started outing closeted politicians; notably, accusing Wahid Omar, also spelled Waheed Omer, the former spokesperson to President Hamid Karzai, for engaging in extramarital homosexuality despite his persona as a pious family man.

As the gay commotion sizzles in Afghanistan, the full preliminary election results released on Sunday have narrowed the field to a runoff between the two leading presidential candidates. Many still wonder whether Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani is more gay-friendly and who is better suited to lead Afghanistan.

Six months ago, I endorsed Dr. Ghani while the LGBTIQ community of Afghanistan mobilized their underground network (which includes atheists, feminists and humanists) to vote en masse for the former academic. It remains to be seen if the rainbow coalition’s preferred candidate will win the election and what enduring momentum the gay bloc will have on Afghan politics.

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Supporters of Turkey's ruling AK party (AKP) cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara, on March 30, 2014. The party of Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a strong early lead in local elections, despite turbulent months marked by mass protests, corruption scandals and Internet blocks.

- AFP/Getty Images

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Whether out of lack of contact with ordinary Turks, an attempted self-fulfilling prophecy, or just pure wishful thinking, many both inside and outside Turkey had predicted a large drop in the vote for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the local elections.

Even the AK Party had lowered its threshold of success to 38 percent, a slump from its last general election figure of 46 percent. So when the party managed to snatch 45 percent and declare a resounding victory, many asked themselves the question: how could our guesses have been so wrong?

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Mourners gather over the body of dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva at his funeral, after he was shot and killed, on April 24, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Da Silva's body was discovered in the pacified Pavao-Pavaozinho community, just blocks from Copacabana Beach, on April 22. Protests and shootings broke out as a result after protesters alleged he was killed by police in the pacified 'favela'.

- Getty Images

NEW YORK –— The United Nations 2013 Global Study on Homicide once again ranks Latin America as the most violent region in the world with more than one-third of all global homicides.

The report by the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC0 identifies a correlation between insecurity and illicit economies, especially in Latin America, Afghanistan, and West Africa. Latin America’s illicit market is particularly lucrative in illegal drugs, the chemicals necessary to manufacture drugs and weapons.

The illicit economy’s ability to corrupt, destabilize and fuel disease, violence, and death has made it an issue synonymous with Latin America. Especially relevant is the balloon effect, in which loss of production and trafficking in one country leads to an increase in others.

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