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Disappeared

Taliban Peacemaker Locked Up

AFP/Getty

A key voice for reconciliation in Afghanistan has been missing for weeks after an apparent arrest. Why the prime suspect is Pakistan—and the motive to sabotage any potential peace deal.

Everyone is a suspect when an ex-Taliban minister who broke with the group to lead peace talks goes missing under mysterious circumstances.Agha Jan Motasim has a long list of enemies. Taliban hardliners tried to have him assassinated a few years ago and left him with a bullet-riddled body as a reminder.Motasim, who served in the Taliban’s government before becoming a key voice for reconciliation in recent years, has been missing for weeks now.

Popeapalooza

The Seedy Side of Sainthood

Gabreiel Bouys/AFP/Getty

As the faithful descend on Rome for the double canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII, critics say the two popes were pushed through to sainthood without a thorough vetting.

VATICAN CITY—On a narrow cobblestone street about a block away from St. Peter’s Square, religious pilgrims and tourists crowd around a wicker basket with a sign advertising “Two For One.” The basket is full of metal keychains with the likenesses of John Paul II and John XXIII, the two dead popes who will be elevated to sainthood in a massive “popapalooza” ceremony on April 27. You won’t find the current Pope Francis in the bin, though. His likeness adorns the more expensive posters, calendars and tea towels inside the store.

Crisis in Ukraine

Ukraine Surrenders Without a Shot

Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty

If the paratroopers Kiev sent to Donetsk and Sloviansk are any example, armed resistance to Russia is doomed.

DONETSK, Ukraine—A few dozen exhausted looking Ukrainian paratroopers, mostly young draftees, had been sitting on top of their armored vehicles for several hours and, yeah, they confessed their butts hurt like hell. A week ago, after a couple of months of field exercises in southeastern Ukraine, their 25th Paratrooper Brigade was sent to the Donetsk region for “an anti-terrorist operation” against what they’d heard were Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms.

Power Play

Has Putin Picked His Next Targets?

Alexey Kravtsov/AFP/Getty

There are increasing signs that the unrest in eastern Ukraine is spreading, and Odessa, the country’s third-largest city, could be the next to fall.

Crimea is in Moscow’s hands. Deadly fighting has broken out in parts of Eastern Ukraine. And now there are signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have picked his next targets: First a small breakaway state in Moldova, west of Ukraine, where thousands of Moscow’s troops are already stationed; then its close neighbor Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and its largest remaining port, where pro-Russian and pro-government groups are tangling.

ROYAL MADNESS

Calm Down, He’s Just a Baby

EPA

His romper suits sell out. He’s happy with his toy wombat, but not being held by his nanny. Can nothing stop the insane, over-the-top coverage of Prince George?

When Prince George was born, the satirical magazine Private Eye attempted to throw a welcome bucket of cold water over the florid, gushing press coverage that followed with a banner headline unfurnished by pictures: “Woman Has Baby.”The cover would turn out to be a lone, sane beacon. Another day of the Royal tour Down Under, another 20 pictures of the same stunned, chubby-cheeked infant’s face. Here is Prince George, with his parents Prince William and Kate Middleton in Australia, being carried by his mother down the steps of a plane looking like, well, a baby.

Terrorists

Boko Haram’s Sick Hatred of Girls

STR/AFP/Getty

The abduction of 200 female students from northern Nigeria was not the first attack on girls’ education by the al Qaeda-linked group—and it won’t be the last.

The numbers were shocking: “Nigerian Unrest: Gunmen abduct ‘about 100 schoolgirls’” headlined the BBC after guerrillas believed to belong to the al Qaeda-allied group Boko Haram attacked a boarding school late Monday in the Nigerian state of Borno. But this is not the first time that these radical Islamist rebels have abducted girls en masse, and it almost certainly will not be the last.In mid-February, according to local press reports, about 400 members of the group, some of them wearing military uniforms and traveling in military-style trucks, attacked the town of Konduga, also in Borno state, near the borders of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Crisis in Ukraine

The Fear Beyond the Barricades

Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters

The people of Donetsk are clinging to normality, trying to enjoy the spring, but their anger, disillusionment and fear runs deep.

DONETSK, Ukraine—Stroll along an allée of forsythia bushes in bright yellow bloom, take a look at groups of moms with strollers chatting on the veranda of Barberry restaurant, and you would hardly believe that around the corner hundreds of protestors gathered around rusty barricades with Russian flags and “USA Go Home!” signs were ready, they said, to die in a police onslaught.  Spring is taking hold in Donetsk, the capital of Ukraine’s mining region, and, exhausted by living on the verge of what some here think will by a much wider, bloodier confrontation, the city longs for normality.

Spooking Russia

U.S. to Putin: This Could Get Ugly

Itar Tass/Reuters

If Russia’s really thinking about invading Ukraine, it should think about the cost of fighting a prolonged guerrilla war there.

The White House and CIA Director John Brennan knew full well that his “secret” visit to Kiev on Sunday would be “leaked.” That was the point. Foremost, the trip was conceived as a message to Putin—that he should start contemplating the unhappy possibility that a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine might well face a guerrilla war like the nightmarish one that drained Soviet forces in Afghanistan decades ago.But the underlying turn of the screw is that Brennan’s visit might not be ALL message.

Behind the Scenes

Inside CIA Chief’s Mission to Kiev

The Daily Beast

The head of the CIA just made a secretive journey to Ukraine—to do what, he won’t say. But the answer could change the power equation in the hottest of geopolitical hotspots.

The Obama administration is now considering a new policy to share more real-time intelligence with the interim government in Kiev after pressure from some in the U.S. military, Congress and U.S. allies in Ukraine.Over the weekend, CIA Director John Brennan met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema to discuss the formation of new, more secure channels for sharing U.S. intelligence with the country now fighting pro-Russian secessionists in its eastern cities, according to U.

South Africa

Reeva’s Tragic Valentine

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

In court today, Oscar Pistorius read aloud a whimsical card that his girlfriend intended to give him on the night he shot and killed her.

“I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you,” Reeva Steenkamp wrote to Oscar Pistorius in the Valentine’s Day card she intended to give the Paralympic gold medalist on the night he shot her through his bathroom door, allegedly believing her to be an intruder.They had been dating only three or four months at the time of the shooting, and it was the first mention of the word “love” for either of them. Pistorius has since told the court that he considered Steenkamp to be the “love of his life,” that he was “besotted” with her, and that he had planned to buy a house for them, despite telling a South African newspaper one month before the shooting that he was  “not ready for anything serious.

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