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Courtroom Drama

‘Say I Shot And Killed Her!’

Themba Hadebe/AP

The prosecution pounded Oscar Pistorius with a withering cross-examination today, forcing him to confront a picture of Reeva Steenkamp moments after her death.

It has been a riveting day of testimony at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria as state prosecutor GerrieNel launched a dramatic assault on Oscar Pistorius, who has been on the witness stand since Monday. Nel, who up until now had appeared to be a relatively unassuming figure during the state’s case, today demonstrated exactly why he is known as ‘The Bulldog’ within South African legal circles.“You are a model for sportsmen, disabled and abled bodied sportsmen, all over the world?” Nel asked as he initiated his cross-examination of the six-time Paralympic gold medalistaccused of killing his 29-year-old girlfriend, ReevaSteenkamp.

False Flag

Sy Hersh Gasses Turkey

Ammar Dar/Reuters

The veteran reporter blames Ankara for a horrific Syria chemical weapons attack. That’s unlikely—but he’s right that Turkey is increasingly frustrated at Western foot-dragging on Assad.

ISTANBUL— Analysts and diplomats in Turkey may doubt that Ankara orchestrated the deadly August poison gas attack near Damascus, as Seymour Hersh claims, but they insist that at least one important aspect of the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter’s new article is true.In the latest issue of the London Review of Books), Hersh writes that Turkey organized the August 21 attack, which killed more than 1,000 people, to provoke a U.S. intervention in Syria.

Afghanistan

Telling My Kids I'm Going to War

Sandy Huffaker/Getty

Before he leaves on another deployment to Afghanistan, a military officer has to break the news to his family.

Editor’s Note: Nick Willard is the pen name of a service member heading to Afghanistan on one of the final deployments in the closing days of America’s longest war. He will write what he sees in an ongoing feature for The Daily Beast that will appear as regularly as his schedule allows. Biographical details have been changed to protect his identity.  I’d known about the deployment to Afghanistan for three months, but made a deal with my wife to not tell the kids until after the holidays.

HOLY ROLLERS

Vatican Bank Rises From the Dead

The Daily Beast

After accusations of money laundering and corruption, Pope Francis was ready to close the institution. So why is he giving it a second chance?

VATICAN CITY—The Vatican bank, which says it’s not really a bank despite offering many services normally associated with banking has been given a reprieve from Pope Francis who has decided to reform the financial institution so it can “serve with prudence”, rather than closing it down as many thought he might.  Formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, or IOR, the non-bank does not have any branches outside Vatican City where its offices take up the better part of a 15th century tower that once housed the papal prisons.

South Africa

Pistorius’s Courtroom Sobbing Fit

Pool photo by Themba Hadebe

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius broke down in court once again during his turn on the witness stand, as he remembered the night that he shot his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The public has waited for over five weeks for a glimpse into the mind of South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who is currently in the witness box in Pretoria’s North Gauteng High Court to provide evidence and defend himself in the murder trial of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot and killed on Valentine’s Day last year. The six-time gold medalist was scheduled to be sworn in at the beginning of March, but the trial was postponed due to the illness of one of the judge’s assessors.

Finders, Keepers

US Won’t Give War Intel to Ukraine

Spencer Platt/Getty

American spies have spotted all the signs of an all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine. Why won’t they tell the Ukrainians about the forces on their border?

U.S. intelligence agencies now have detailed information that Russia has amassed the kind of forces needed for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But the Obama administration hasn’t shared with Ukraine the imagery, intercepts, and analysis that pinpont the location of the Russian troops ready to seize more Ukrainian land, The Daily Beast has learned.President Obama has repeatedly and publicly expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people—and warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin that there will be consequences if he takes over any more Ukrainian territory.

Crisis in Ukraine

Russia’s Riot-Backed Diplomacy

© Stringer . / Reuters

Moscow is offering a six-point plan for peace on its terms. The pro-Russian protestors who took buildings in Eastern Ukraine are part of that game.

On Tuesday, the website of Ukrainskaya Pravda published a video address by the Russian-speaking activists who have occupied the state security service building in Luhansk. In the video, several militiamen armed with Kalashnikov rifles and wearing black balaclavas denied there were any Russians among them.  Their commander introduced their unit as the “South-East Headquarters of Afghan Veterans and Border Control Unit.” The only demand they had was to hold a referendum, the commander said, “But if you are preparing to storm the building against us, war veterans trying to run a referendum, welcome to hell.

Crisis in Ukraine

They Wanna Be Back In The USSR

Maks Levin/Reuters

After the a takeover of public buildings and a “declaration of independence” in major East Ukraine cities, the streets are quiet, but the mood is ugly.

DONETSK, Ukraine—If you stand on Shevchenko Boulevard outside Donetsk City Hall, which was stormed by around a thousand pro-Russian activists on Sunday, you start to question the reality of modern geopolitics. Has the Cold War really ended? The scene is a vista of Soviet flags and iconography; Stalin smirks at me from flags banners; the color red dominates my eye line while the blue and yellow of Ukraine is barely in evidence. Just around the corner a huge bronze statue of Lenin looms over the city’s main square.

Embattled

I Survived the Nazis. And Soviets.

Isolde Ohlbaum/laif

Norman Manea grew up doubly cursed: first he had to survive the Nazis and then the communist dictators in his native Romania. His dire experience forged a writer.

When Norman Manea was five years old, he was shipped to a concentration camp in Transnistria, Ukraine. In 1941 Jews from Northern Romania were deported there, via freight trains, on the order of Marshal Ion Antonescu, the country’s far-right dictator and an ally of Hitler. Technically, in the camp you were not killed, you were left to die slowly. Chronic starvation, overwork, disease, and freezing temperatures were as effective as the bullet, only slower and crueler.

Reconciliation

Rwanda Mourns 100 Days of Terror

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Two decades on, Paul Kagame praised his nation’s efforts at forgiveness and reconciliation—and made a pointed jab at France for its alleged role in the bloodbath that left 800,000 dead.

Sorrowful screams and wails filled the air of Kigali’s Amahoro National Stadium on Monday morning, as genocide tributes and performances incited hysterics in the crowd gathered to mark the beginning of 100 days of systematic slaughter that left 800,000 Rwandans dead 20 years ago.Small processions of formally dressed mourners made their way through the capital city’s shuttered streets, past banners reading “Kwibuka 20: Remember, Unite, Renew” draped over many of the buildings, and towards the stadium, which had once held more than 10,000 Tutsi refugees during the war.

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Crisis in Ukraine

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