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Up for reelection, US representatives remember less wealthy constituents

New ‘inequality’ calculus has GOP concerned about cutting jobless benefits.
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People looking for work stand in line to apply for a job during a job fair at the Miami Dolphins Sun Life stadium on May 2, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Election years have a way of focusing the mind, particularly in Washington.

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Row over Indian diplomat’s treatment of maid became a matter of status, national pride

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade has flown home after weeks of escalating friction between the US and India about the handling of her case.
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A group supporting domestic workers rights demonstrate across the street from the Indian Consulate General on December 20, 2013 in New York. Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested in the US on visa fraud charges in connection with a domestic worker she hired named Sangeeta Richard. The arrest has created a diplomatic uproar, with punitive steps taken against US State Department officials in New Delhi. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian diplomat who allegedly mistreated her live-in maid and may have abused her own diplomatic status has left the United States after her case became a matter of extreme contention in India's relationship with the US.

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A new frontier: The story of a Syrian seeking asylum in Sweden

Fewer than 5 percent of fleeing Syrians have sought asylum outside of the Middle East, but that number is changing as Sweden begins granting Syrian refugees permanent residence.
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A snowman stands at the entrance of the hotel where the Swedish Migration Board temporarily accommodates asylum-seekers for free, located two hours north of Stockholm, Sweden. (Yermi Brenner/Courtesy)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Standing in the snow outside his hotel room, Khassan breathed in the cold Swedish air and tried to calm himself down. He had been Skyping with his family, who are back in Aleppo, where the internet connection is unstable. The call disconnected just as his 5-year-old daughter asked him when he would come home.

Khassan, whose identity is being concealed here for the safety of his family, is one of more than 23,000 people from Syria who have applied for asylum in Sweden since the beginning of 2012.

The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has resulted in the deaths of more than 120,000 people, and 2.3 million people have left the country, mostly to refugee camps in nearby countries. Less than 5 percent of those who escaped Syria have sought asylum outside of the Middle East, but that number is growing since Lebanon and Jordan, overflooded with Syrians, are struggling to handle new arrivals.

Khassan arrived in Sweden in the first week of November 2013. He is part of a growing wave of Syrians who have sought refuge in the Nordic country in the past three months, following the Swedish Migration Board’s Sept. 2 decision to grant all Syrian refugees permanent residence and allow family reunifications. An average of 1,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in Sweden every week since that decision — double the weekly average in the first eight months of 2013.

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People searching for rape porn are ending up on a women's rights site

The ultimate irony: In studying its online traffic, women's rights group Women Under Siege learned a number of people are landing on their website by searching for rape pornography.
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A computer keyboard is displayed in Sydney on July 9, 2012. (GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Women Under Siege—a project devoted to investigating violence against women as a weapon of conflict—regularly posts research, personal accounts and articles on women’s injustices around the world. Many times, those stories are about rape.

One might think, then, that the kind of people drawn to the site are  socially aware individuals, highly conscious of women’s issues.

But a quick study of the site’s Google Analytics by the project director, Lauren Wolfe, revealed a disturbing trend in how some other kinds of visitors land on their pages.

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In Dominican Republic, a T-shirt factory sets the highest bar for workers’ rights

One group of workers who earn a high wage and unusual benefits is helping others earn the same.
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Elvira Juan Chale sews t-shirts at Altagracia Apparel, where workers earn three times the Dominican Republic's minimum wage. Now, Altagracia workers are inspiring other textile employees here to demand higher wages and better working conditions from their own companies. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

VILLA ALTAGRACIA, Dominican Republic — On a recent Sunday morning, four workers sip coffee with sugar as they share stories of injuries at the clothing factories where they’ve worked.

Carlos, who asked his real name be withheld to avoid possible repercussions from his company, recounts the accident that hospitalized him just two weeks after he began packaging baseball caps at a Santiago factory in 2012. As he left work one day, a woman who was learning how to drive ran him over in the street.

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How beer explains 20 years of NAFTA’s devastating effects on Mexico

Analysis: The North American Free Trade Agreement was the poster child for the wonders of free trade. The reality is another story.
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Employee Angel Rodriguez checks the beer during the bottling process in the Cervecería Calavera, on July 20, 2012, in Tlanepantla, Mexico State. Producers of handcrafted beer are making their way in Mexico following the emergence of new breweries in crowded neighborhoods of the capital and as large emporiums producing traditional brands like Corona stopped being Mexican-owned. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Mexico’s largest agribusiness association invited me to Aguascalientes to participate in its annual forum in October. The theme for this year’s gathering was “New Perspectives on the Challenge of Feeding the World.”

But it was unclear why Mexico, which now imports 42 percent of its food, would be worried about feeding the world. It wasn’t doing so well feeding its own people.

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11 human rights groups to support if you're looking for better karma in 2014

This year, why not commit to learning more about human rights movements around the world? You can start here.
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Patrick Bova (R) and Jim Darby share a kiss at a ceremony where Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois marriage equality act into law making the state the 16th to allow such unions on November 20, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

If you've resolved to do more good deeds in the new year and find yourself short of ideas on how to do that, allow us to suggest some human rights organizations you might consider supporting.

The choices are vast, from women’s rights groups who threw themselves into conflict to reveal the use of rape as a weapon of warto those who fought against their own cultures and legislative bodies in the name of justice; to LGBT advocates who stood against abuse in countries like Russia and Uganda and witnessed victories in Uruguay, the United States and France. There are groups that focus on the health of the planet’s children and the health of the planet itself. Here are 11 organizations to consider watching and supporting this year:

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Back-to-back terrorist attacks in Russia shake up Olympic security plans

The 2014 Winter Olympics are barely a month away, and violence in Russia's North Caucasus is unsettling many.
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Russian firefighters and security personnel inspect the destroyed trolleybus in Volgograd on December 30, 2013. Ten people were killed in a bombing that destroyed a packed trolleybus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, the second attack in the city in two days after a suicide strike on its main train station, officials said. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

With the 2014 Winter Olympics just weeks away, world leaders, including President Barack Obama, have announced that they will not be attending the Games in the Russian city of Sochi. But while reports indicate that the absences are in response to Russia’s ongoing LGBT rights abuses, this week’s terrorist attacks in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, may be pointing at an alternative—some very real security concerns.

Russia’s southern city of Volgograd, located in the Federation’s unstable North Caucasus region, was targeted in a second suicide bombing on Monday when an explosion hit a trolleybus during the morning rush hour. The first attack, which killed 17 people at the city’s main train station, took place only 24 hours earlier.

At least 32 people have been killed in the two bombings over the last day.

Authorities have labeled the events terrorist attacks, according to Russian media, and have launched a security mission of more than 260 search groups and 142 investigative squads working to secure the city. So far, over 80 people have been detained in the “whirlwind anti-terror sweep.” No groups had claimed responsibility for the attacks as of Monday night, but reports have said that suspicion has largely fallen on Chechen separatist groups.

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2013: The year income inequality went mainstream

After decades of sitting on the back burner, the data — and the pain — became too much to ignore.
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A man smokes a cigarette outside a restaurant in Hong Kong on September 28, 2013. The same day, Hong Kong announced its first benchmark to measure poverty and found almost 20 percent of residents live in such conditions, a move hailed as a step towards tackling worsening inequality (Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Viewed from the towering heights of America’s financial capital, there are reasons aplenty to celebrate the coming new year.

The official unemployment rate — which peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 — fell to 7 percent by the start of December, a level that prompted President Obama to claim the US economy is “ready for lift off” in 2014.

Perhaps, but Spaceship USA seems intent on leaving an awful lot of people behind on the launch pad.

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Three years later, Tunisian youth push the revolution forward

Tunisia touched off the Arab Spring, but has fallen out of the international spotlight. Here's how the country's youth are taking its future into their own hands.
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Tunisian children wave the national flag as they gather to mark the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Sidi Bouzid's Mohamed Bouazizi square on December 17, 2013. The square was named after the fruit seller whose self-immolation sparked the revolution that ousted the long-standing dictator and ignited the Arab Spring. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been three years since the Arab Spring began with the revolution in Tunisia, which ultimately led former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia. A lot has happened since then, and while the country has yet to find its footing, new hope is emerging for Tunisian youth.

Although Tunisia remains fragile and deeply divided, with troubled economic and political realities, a new uprising of young political revolutionaries is growing — led by young, educated Tunisians who are volunteering to join the interim government for free.

With Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain all showing signs of failure to bring about fundamental change, Tunisia has been called "the last hope of the Arab Spring." 

If you haven’t been paying attention to Tunisia, here’s what you’ve been missing:

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