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President Obama said Wednesday that the Islamic State is a cancer that threatens all governments in the Middle East. But that raises the question of what the U.S. could or should do.

Two former U.S. ambassadors to Syria, Robert Ford and Ryan Crocker, have advocated different approaches to a conflict where there are many different options. But none is appealing and there's no guarantee, or even a likelihood that U.S. action would ultimately determine the outcome.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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The U.S. and Russia seem to have fallen into a pattern over the crisis in Ukraine. When Washington ratchets up the pressure on Moscow, Russia doubles down on its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

That has been the case even after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over a separatist held region, and many wonder if it's time for a new approach to Vladimir Putin's Russia.

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Now to Cairo, where Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats are trying to bring an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Kerry made a brief public statement today. He said the talks have been constructive but there's more work to do.

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The death toll continues to climb as Israel presses on with its ground operation in Gaza.

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The U.S. state department has issued its annual report on human trafficking. According to the report, Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela have not been doing enough to combat modern slavery. And the report includes a warning to American importers of seafood: Clean up supply chains that include Thailand, where fish may be caught or processed using slave labor.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama is once again exercising his executive authority for an environmental cause. Today he announced plans to create the world's largest marine preserve. His proposal came in a video shown at the State Department's "Our Ocean" conference. The White House says it will seek input from fisherman, scientists, and other experts before setting boundaries for the preserve. NPR's Michele Kelemen has our story.

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Iraq seems to be breaking apart at the seams. Sunni extremists have taken more territory as government troops abandon their posts. Today, President Obama said Iraq needs help to counter the extremist group known as ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

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Russia holds the presidency at the United Nations Security Council at the moment. That role rotates monthly. And this is shaping up to be a month of high diplomatic drama. Russia's ambassador is trying to keep the council focused on Ukraine. He's calling for humanitarian corridors to provide aid the east of the country. The U.S. and other council members accused Russia of hypocrisy. And they plan to focus on other humanitarian concerns like Syria. Here is NPR's Michele Kelemen.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. The conflict in Syria now in its 4th year, and a diplomatic solution seems as far off as ever. The international diplomat who's been trying to lead negotiations announced he's stepping down. It's a new sign of just how bad things are Syria. And as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, there doesn't seem to be a plan B.

Nigeria is offering a $300,000 reward for anyone who can find the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram. The U.S. is also pitching in with hostage negotiators and intelligence experts. President Obama says the U.S. will do everything it can to provide assistance to Nigeria.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. won't sit idly by while Russia fans the flames of instability in Ukraine. But so far, U.S. and European sanctions haven't changed Russia's calculations. Kerry blames Russia for failing to calm the crisis. Russia says Ukraine should stop its offensive against separatists in the east. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that the diplomatic options during these tense days look limited.

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This is a challenging time for Secretary of State John Kerry. His Middle East peace process has collapsed. He's also taking a lot of heat for suggesting that Israel could become an apartheid state if it doesn't negotiate with the Palestinians on two states for two peoples. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on how Kerry is trying to dig out.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The Obama administration's recent efforts to try to steer Israel and Palestine into - and the Palestinians into a lasting peace accord have failed. President Obama isn't giving up, but as he acknowledges, it may be time for a pause. He says Israelis and Palestinians have both taken unhelpful steps in recent weeks and neither side looks ready to compromise. This is a major setback for Secretary of State John Kerry, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

Iran's reported decision to name Hamid Aboutalebi as its ambassador to the United Nations has ignited anger in the U.S. That's because the diplomat was part of the student group that held Americans hostage in 1979. Now, dozens of lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to deny him a visa.

It's the latest sign of just how difficult it will be for Washington and Tehran to overcome decades of mistrust.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin moved today to overturn recent history by reclaiming Crimea for Russia. Putin signed a treaty to annex Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and gave a rousing speech to parliament laying out his case. He is also blasted the West for trying to frighten him with sanctions.

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