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MONEY TALKS

Inside Putin's Recession

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The Russian leader may have won some accolades for his decisiveness, strength, and overall toughness, but it’s hard to be an assertive global power when yours is the only major economy that’s shrinking.

This a pretty benign time for the global economy. Interest rates are uniformly low. The U.S., China, and Japan—the three largest economies in the world—are all growing. Developing markets in Africa are surging. The European debt crisis seems to have ended. In this climate, one of the only ways to get a recession is to engineer one.Which is precisely the trick Vladimir Putin may have just pulled off with Russia’s $2 trillion economy. And his adventurism may already have cost the Russian economy about $40 billion.

Honor Revoked

Ayaan vs. Campus Thought Police

Michel Baret/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty

Why is Brandeis University giving in to the growing hordes who believe they have a right to not be offended?

It is difficult to conceive of a braver woman alive today than Ayaan Hirsi Ali.Born in Somalia, she was subjected to genital mutilation—a practice commonly inflicted on young girls in Muslim communities—at the age of 5. Fleeing a forced marriage, Hirsi Ali eventually made her way to the Netherlands, where she became a member of parliament, defender of women’s rights, and an outspoken (and, at times, unduly harsh) critic of the religion in whose name she was violently subjugated.

STAND-ING BY

Can Pistorius Dodge the Details?

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Between sketchy Whatsapp messages and mysteriously moved household items, the prosecution won’t rest until even the little things make a big difference.

“You’re trying, and it’s not working. Your version is so improbable that nobody would ever think it is reasonably possible.”A fan, a duvet and a plug adapter could mean the difference between freedom and life in prison for South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who is currently on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, 29-year-old model and law graduate, Reeva Steenkamp.State prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who has been relentless in his vicious cross-examination of the accused, cornered Pistorius in the final minutes of today’s proceedings by demonstrating that the placement of one of the fans, the adaptor it was connected to, the duvet and the drawn curtains all suggested that Pistorius never went to retrieve two fans from the balcony as stated in his affidavit.

Star Wars

Shooting Down North Korea Missiles

Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service, via AP

Pyongyang may fire ballistic missiles in Japan’s direction this month, but Tokyo believes it’s ready to knock down whatever North Korea sends its way … as long as there aren’t too many of them.

Like a batter waiting for a wicked pitch that might just hit his head, the Japanese are on alert—full scale military alert—waiting for the nuclear-armed crazies in North Korea to throw a missile in their direction. The Japanese think it’s coming soon, and they’re letting it be known (but quietly and in contradictory leaks) that they plan to knock it out of the park.The question is: Can they? The other question is: Why don’t they want to talk about it publicly?The answer to the second question might just be related to the first.

R.I.P.

American Jihadist Dies of Overdose

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The Eric Harroun I knew wanted to fight for justice in Syria, but went into combat alongside Al Qaeda. The United States jailed him as a potential terrorist, and now he has died.

I first met Eric Harroun, better known as “The American Jihadist,” over cocktails at a rooftop martini bar in one of Cairo’s Nile-side 5-star hotels. It was July of 2011, and Harroun was recovering from a recent arrest by Egyptian security forces following his involvement in the summer’s anti-military protests. The conversation was one of fervent indignation and outrage, but also one of paralyzing powerlessness in the face of impunity and injustice.

Art Mysteries

Lost Masterpieces Found in Kitchen

Andreas Solar/AFP/Getty

A retired Italian autoworker unwittingly bought two stolen art masterpieces worth millions for $32 and kept them on his kitchen wall for nearly 40 years.

It was just after sunrise on a June morning in 1975, when “Nicolo,” whose real name cannot be revealed because of Italy’s privacy laws, finished working the night shift on the assembly line at the FIAT auto factory in Turin.  As he often did, he stopped by the “after work auction” run by the Italian state police where items found on the trains were sold to the highest bidder.  There, among the watches, radios and lost coats, Nicolo spotted two paintings he thought would look nice above his dining room table.

Crisis in Ukraine

Deadline Time in Ukraine

Alexander Khudoteply/AFP/Getty

With thousands of Putin’s troops ready to support them, pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk mock the authorities’ vows to use force against them.

DONETSK, Ukraine — The Ukrainian government in Kiev has given all protestors occupying government buildings across the country 48 hours to withdraw or face being forcibly evicted. “For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution,” Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, announced on Wednesday. “For the minority who want conflict, they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities.”The threat has been greeted with derision here around the barricaded city hall festooned with Russian and Soviet flags.

Smash

MH370 in a Million Pieces?

Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters

The search area needs to shrink dramatically before the black boxes can be retrieved. It could take years to pick up the rest of the pieces.

Nobody has said it in so many words, but those searching the Indian Ocean for Flight MH370 would appear to be driven by the principle that failure is not an option.The public voice of the search, retired Australian air chief marshal Angus Houston, speaks in carefully scripted and measured tones. He has explained that four separate acquisitions of ping signals made by the Australian vessel Ocean Shield have resulted in “better defining a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor.

Security

Can Rent-a-Cops Protect US Troops?

Erich Schlegel/Reuters

After 9/11 more private contractors took over security responsibilities on military bases as troops headed overseas. Recent veterans weigh in on the impact of that shift.

The most recent catastrophe at Fort Hood has Congress asking questions: how can we prevent this from happening again? Along with talk about treating and screening for service members with mental health issues, the focus has been on the security procedures at military bases and how it might be improved.As CNN reported April 6th, lawmakers are examining how the military secure its installations, and whether current controls are sufficient. Along with looking at physical security measures to prevent the transport of illegal firearms on base another issue being reviewed is whether the military should return to using troops to guard checkpoints, rather than the private security contractors common today.

Backsliding

Iraq’s Horrific Child Marriage Law

Karim Kadim/AP

A new law would approve marriage to girls as young as nine in a bid to appease the nation’s conservatives ahead of parliamentary elections.

In a bid to please the nation’s Shi’a Muslim majority ahead of parliamentary elections, Iraq’s Council of Ministers has drafted a law that would legalize marital rape, as well as grant men the authority to marry girls as young as age nine. The Jaafari Personal Status Law was approved by the Council of Ministers in February, and now awaits likely passage in the Iraqi parliament in the last days before the April 30 election.The chaos in neighboring Syria, a domestic electricity crisis of demand, and yet another “Battle for Fallujah” have all set a geopolitical tone for what will likely be contentious parliamentary elections.

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Crisis in Ukraine

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