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  • Frenemies: U.S.-Middle East Relations Over the Centuries

    It was a little more than two years ago that a street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest a lack of job opportunities. His death sparked a people’s revolt in Tunisia that quickly spread to neighboring countries in the Middle East. And so the Arab Spring was born, igniting protests in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. As people took to the streets en masse, long-standing political regimes in many of those countries crumbled.

    In the revolutions across the Arab world, people demanded more democracy. And it left Americans wondering whether it would bring more instability, more terrorism or if it would stabilize the region -- in short, “Is the Arab Spring a threat to us?”

    The Arab Spring came a decade after 9/11, which thrust relations between America and the Muslim world into the height of crisis. But for centuries before that, the United States has had a deep relationship, a deep involvement in the Middle East and the greater Arab world. It’s been a vital relationship

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  • International Adoption Rates Plummet in U.S.

    Just as the new year began, Russia banned American citizens from adopting its orphaned children. The adoption ban was a tit-for-tat, politically motivated move in response to the Magnitsky Act, a new U.S. law that imposes sanctions for human rights abuses in Russia. It meant instant heartbreak for hundreds of Russian orphans and the American families currently in the process of adopting them. U.S. families adopted more Russian children than any other country, about 60,000 since the late 1990s.

    Russia’s adoption ban puts a further dent in the number of international adoptions overall in the United States. Since 1999, Americans have adopted more than 233,934 children, mostly from China, Ethiopia and Russia – an average of 17,995 children per year. International adoption reached a high in 2004, when 22,991 adoptions were processed. The numbers have fallen precipitously since then. In 2011, only 9,319 children found new homes with American families. Worldwide, adoptions of children from

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  • Global Gay Rights, from Marriage to the Death Penalty

    A lawmaker called it “a Christmas gift to the people.”

    But the proposed law late last year in the East African nation of Uganda was not a reprieve on taxes or better social services. It would add harsher punishments for convicted homosexuals, even up to a life sentence in prison.

    Uganda’s treatment of homosexuals is one end of a wide range of approaches to gay rights around the world. Even as several U.S. states recently voted on same-sex unions, and the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in two different cases, rights for the LGBT community differ from country to country, from full recognition of same-sex marriages, even up to the death penalty for homosexual acts. As gay rights supporters push for more acceptance, the issue is increasingly being framed worldwide as one of fundamental human rights.

    The Netherlands was the first country to recognize gay marriage about a dozen years ago, and now 12 countries, mostly in the developed world, recognize same-sex unions. But a

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