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Past As Prologue

Passover Hell Week

Julie Denesha/Getty

The events in Ukraine and Kansas City that occurred around Passover week offer tragic reminders of the heritage of Jewish oppression.

Even during the best of years, Passover, with all that Seder plate symbolism and forbidden grains, is usually a tough holiday for Jews. But this year was different from other years, where a subplot marred the happy ending of the Exodus story and where the bread of affliction (matzo to most people) was not the most distasteful reminder of Jewish suffering. For Jews living in the United States and Ukraine, this year’s Passover painfully recalled the terror and relief of having the angel of death pass over them, yet again.

Shotgun Politics

Venezuela’s Killer Elite

Jorge Silva/Reuters

As violent protests return, the death toll is down, but families are struggling hopelessly to find justice for their loved ones killed in demonstrations earlier this year.

Longstanding tradition in Venezuela calls for “Judas burning” on Easter Sunday. People make giant dolls out of old clothes and set them ablaze, remembering the betrayal of Christ. Often, Judas is given the face of a contemporary politician, and this year effigies of President Nicolás Maduro went up in flames amid resounding cheers in the opposition bastions of Caracas, Carabobo, Táchira and Mérida.After a few weeks of relative calm, once again those streets are filled with teargas and the police are blasting away at demonstrators with plastic and metal pellets.

HEIGHT OF VANITY

Everest's Sherpas Right To Revolt

Desmond Boylan/Reuters

The death of 16 Sherpas last week on Everest—the biggest single loss of life in the mountain’s history—has led to a threatened strike. Why, the Sherpas demand, should they risk their lives, while being excluded from the income generated by the rich, inexperienced climbers they look after?

“What is economics? A science invented by the upper class in order to acquire the fruits of the labor of the underclass.” 
August Strindberg, 1884

Sherpas on Everest have said they will abandon this year's climbing season, in honor of sixteen of their colleagues who died on the mountain last Friday. Their announcement today came after Nepal agreed to set up a relief fund for Sherpas who are killed or injured in climbing accidents. Everest’s Sherpa guides and support staff had threatened to strike if a list of demands they presented were not met following the deaths of the sixteen Sherpas.

Crisis in Ukraine

Battle-Ready Rebels in Ukraine

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The anti-Kiev rebels are getting ready for battle by arresting “spies” and interrogating reporters while looking over their shoulders for support from Moscow.

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine—When he threw his head back, shaking it in disbelief that such a question could be asked, the real menace of the former Soviet military officer came through. One of his gold teeth glinted in the light as he sneered. Why was he holding a pro-Ukrainian woman activist? She who had been led blindfolded into detention on Sunday evening.“I have information she is a spy,” said Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the pro-Russian militant leader in Slovyansk, a rust-belt industrial town on a tributary of the Donets River an hour’s drive from the Russian border.

Backfired

Germany Helped Prep Russia for War

David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

Over the past few years, NATO countries have helped Russia revolutionize its armed forces. Now questions are arising about a German defense contractor that trained the Russian military.

The world was shocked when Russian special operations forces invaded Crimea with advanced technology, drastically improved operations, and with so much operational security that even agencies in the U.S. intelligence community didn’t see it coming. In Washington, government and congressional leaders are wondering how the Russian special operations forces got so good, so fast, without anyone noticing. Some are wondering how much help Russia had from the West.

SAY WHAT?

Brunei Returns to the Stoning Age

Dean Kassim/AFP/Getty

The tiny sultanate is planning a return to medieval modes of shariah law, with vicious punishments for extramarital sex and anti-Muslim defamation. And nobody’s blinking an eye.

Remember when we all thought historical events would push us toward greater rationality, moderation, and liberalism?Well, on Tuesday, April 22, the tiny sultanate of Brunei planned to put into effect a new penal code that provides “stoning to death” as the penalty for rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations (for Muslims), defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim.

Villains

Chickens of the Sea

Yonhap/AP

Whatever happened to ‘women and children first’? The captains of the capsized South Korean ferry and the Costa Concordia have set a new bar for maritime cowardice.

If there is something oddly familiar about the news that the erstwhile captain of the ill-fated South Korean ferry—which capsized and sank just a few hundred meters from dry land—botched the evacuation order and jumped ship before his passengers were safe, it’s because we’ve heard about this sort of maritime cowardice before. It happened in 2012, when Italian captain Francesco Schettino rammed his Costa Concordia luxury cruiseliner into the rocks off Giglio island.

’90s Chaos

Blame This Drunken Bear for Putin

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Bill Clinton had to call Russia’s first president early in the day to catch him sober. But the U.S. could work with Yeltsin—though he chose a successor who would ‘repudiate his legacy.’

As the first president of the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin’s biggest mistake was picking Vladimir Putin as his seventh or ninth prime minister. Russian expert Strobe Talbott can’t remember exactly which one, there were so many. “It was like spin the bottle, and the bottle stopped spinning at Putin,” he says.Putin was actually Yeltsin’s sixth prime minister, for those keeping count. Named in August 1999 by Yeltsin, who was deeply unpopular, in failing health, and whose heroic stand atop a tank in defiance of a communist-led coup eight years earlier had been forgotten, replaced by anger over food shortages and rampant corruption.

Crisis in Ukraine

God Chooses Sides in Ukraine

Getty

All factions are told God is on their side as Ukraine continues spiraling toward the hell of a partisan war.

YENAKIYEVO, Ukraine—Followers of the Orthodox faith spread Easter treats on newspapers and towels in front of their church in eastern Ukraine on Sunday: painted eggs, sticks of smoked sausages, sugary “kulich” pies and holiday dishes made of ricotta cheese and raisins. All the food was there to be blessed by Father Andrei Boikov, archpriest of Sviato Pokrovsky Church in Yenakiyevo, the hometown of deposed President Victor Yanukovych. It was a day of religious celebration, to be sure, but the priest said his congregation faced “hostile” times.

Missing Teens

Poster Girls for Jihad

Interpol

They disappeared from their homes in Vienna 10 days ago. Then pictures of them started to appear on Facebook dressed in long black veils among Syria’s ‘Holy Warriors.’

They may or may not have gone to fight in Syria. They may or may not have married jihadis there. They may or may not be carrying guns in Facebook pictures, and in the later ones they may or may not be the women staring at the camera through slits in the full-face veil called a niqab. But there’s no doubt at all that the teenagers Sabina Selimovic, 15, and Samra Kesinovic, 16, from Vienna are now the poster girls for holy war against the Assad regime in Damascus.

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Crisis in Ukraine

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