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The Death of Venezuelan Democracy

Tomas Bravo/Reuters

Barely a year after the death of the charismatic, problematic President Hugo Chávez, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, is flailing and the military is gaining.

In the dark before dawn one night last February, Colonel Googlis Martín Caballero was driving a white Ford Explorer through the Venezuelan countryside not far from the Colombian border. With him were his wife, his daughter and roughly half a ton of cocaine. He probably felt sure nobody would question him, a ranking officer in the country’s National Guard, but, then, that much coke is hard to hide.At a routine checkpoint, other members of the National Guard detained the colonel.

War

Life Inside a Syrian Refugee Camp

AFP/Getty

For Syrians displaced by their country’s war, homeless in their own land, life inside refugee camps is a desperate existence.

The refugee camp in the Turkish city of Kilis has been called “a five-star hotel.” Residents have access to electricity, playgrounds, and schools. They receive money for food, and satellite dishes adorn many of the housing units. Crime is low, and gratitude is high. Indeed, for the approximately 14,000 people living there, the Turkish government has built—in the words of the New York Times—the “perfect refugee camp.”Ever since the uprisings against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad exploded into civil war in 2011, the UN estimates (PDF) that over 9 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Ground Zero

Inside Occupied East Ukraine

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

On Saturday, pro-Russian militants seized several government buildings in the Eastern town. Now they’re holed up waiting for Kiev to respond.

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine—The mood on the ground here was electric today. On Saturday, uniformed, armed men stormed and occupied the city’s central police station, demanding secession from Ukraine or at the least a referendum on joining the Russian Federation. Many of the people here, who are largely Russian-speaking, watched Russia’s annexation of Crimea in February with joy, and are determined to get their wish, even if it means violence. Meanwhile, the Kiev government accuses Russia of orchestrating the protests that have erupted across this region and says it will take action against the protestors.

Upping the Ante

Obama Preps Hit on Russian Markets

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The Obama administration had been holding off on new Russia sanctions, but with Russian troops now in Eastern Ukraine, the U.S. government is moving fast to punish Putin.

The Obama administration is moving quickly to levy new sanctions against Russia, hoping to stop what the U.S. government now sees as a Crimea-style incursion by unmarked Russian troops in several cities in Eastern Ukraine. But so far, America and its European allies can’t agree on how to hit the Vladimir Putin regime for its latest move onto Ukrainian territory, senior Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast.This weekend, pro-Russian gunmen seized government buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, and ringed the town with barricades.

Crisis in Ukraine

Russia’s Gun-Toting ‘Tourists’

Olga Maltsseva/AFP/Getty

Moscow now offers a how-to guide for Russians who want to raise hell in Ukraine, and it’s working.

Ukrainian businessman Volodymyr Ryabov has decided to improvise his own checkpoint between the Russian border and his home town of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. He’s pulled concrete blocks from the foundation of his half-built house and turned them into roadblocks. He fashioned a homemade boundary sign warning: “Attention! State border of Ukraine. No trespassing!” He even dug an anti-tank ditch, and set up one of the rooms in the house to feed border guards.

Translator

Don’t Abandon This Brave Afghan

Ann Scott Tyson ,

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, Ibrahim Khan is just one of thousands of Afghan interpreters who helped U.S. forces, often under fire, and are still waiting for visas.

As the United States brings tens of thousands of troops home from Afghanistan this year and attention shifts from the battlefield to care for the wounded, there is another group of veterans the country must not forget.Thousands of Afghan interpreters who have risked their lives alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan now face death threats from the Taliban and other insurgent groups—and so qualify for U.S. visas. But the U.S. government has proved disappointingly slow in granting those visas.

Sex Sells

The Enduring Myth of ‘Sex Jihad’

© Amit Dave / Reuters

Despite facts to the contrary, the salacious stories of Saudi women trading sex for extremist expansion continues to taunt.

It had all the elements of a sensational news story: Sex! War! Romance! Extremism! Hypocrisy! Jihad! It was almost too sensational. And too good to check.It started last March, when Tunisia’s Minister of Religious Affairs Nourredine al-Khademi claimed well-known Saudi cleric Muhammed al-Arifi (who urges his followers to “shed blood, smash skulls, and sever limbs for the sake of Allah”) had issued a fatwa legitimizing “sex jihad.” It was perfect click-bait: Muslim women travel to Syria to satiate the sexual desires of jihadists fighting Bashar Assad’s regime and—fingers crossed!—come home pregnant.

Don’t Give In

The Archbishop’s Gay Rights Fail

Ben Curtis/AP

Justin Welby said the Church of England can’t rush on gay marriage because it could could become a rationale for violence against Christians in Africa. But that lets the murderers win.

I admire Justin Welby. The committee to nominate the next Archbishop of Canterbury was obviously thinking outside the box when they went beyond the usual deep-thinking, theological wizards and academicians to nominate this thoroughly 21st-century Christian to lead the Church of England. Welby spent most of his adult life in the business world, getting ordained as a middle-aged man, and serving as the Bishop of Durham for just over a year before becoming Archbishop.

Crisis in Ukraine

How Putin Will Take Ukraine

Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty

Andrei Illarionov, a Putin advisor turned critic, has been predicting the twists of the Ukraine crisis. Now he says Putin will be able to achieve his goals without firing a shot.

A former top advisor to Vladimir Putin says the Russian president probably thinks at this point he can whip Ukraine back into line without having to resort to a full-blown invasion. Although it appears no Western power is willing to take military action to defend Kiev, overt Russian military action would risk deeper and more disruptive Western economic sanctions. So Putin’s willingness to play a longer-term game rests on his “cynical recognition” that he has three years to accomplish his objective before there is a change of leadership in the White House and the possibility of a more resolute American response.

Poster Child

Is Malala A Puppet of the West?

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Humaira Awais Shadid, a leading campaigner for women’s rights in Pakistan, argues that Malala Yousafzai is being used by the West to criticize Islam.

One of Pakistan’s leading women’s rights campaigners says Malala Yousafzai is a victim of the West.Humaira Awais Shahid, a former politician, Harvard fellow, and newspaper editor, said the schoolgirl has been badly damaged by Britain and America, who are taking advantage of her survival story. Malala is now a hate-figure in certain quarters in Pakistan while some secular Westerners have used her traumatic experience in the Swat Valley as an avenue to criticize Islam.

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