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Crisis in Ukraine

Russia’s Imperial Hipsters

Thomas Peter/Reuters

Even before the crisis in Crimea, Moscow’s creative class was in trouble. Now the Russians who call themselves hipsters feel like strangers in their own homeland.

Every morning last week, public relations specialist Roman Fedoseyev dreaded going online, fearful he would find news that the Russian army had crossed the Ukrainian border. The crisis called Crimea haunts the dreams of Fedoseyev and his friends in Moscow’s creative class, or “hipsters” as they call themselves, using a word borrowed and made their own. But when they wake, they keep hoping life can go on as usual.  The sad thing is, it won’t.The authorities already have closed media outlets, attacked pro-Western theaters and cinemas and adopted laws aimed against any alternative opinions.

Ukraine

My Walk Through Maidan Square

Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

At the center of Ukraine's capital, the birthplace of the recent unrest, everyone waits for what happens next.

KIEV, Ukraine—The lingering smells of the aftermath of revolution tinge the air: burning trash, the exhaust of diesel generators, the cabbage soup of communal kitchens. The smells waft through the shantytown of tents and tires known as the Maidan, the main square in Kiev.The first things I saw were a large trade union building which was completely scorched and missing window panes, a McDonald’s restaurant, and a sea of people protected by tires joining in the weekly Sunday ceremony of remembrance for the 100-plus killed in the Ukrainian revolution that drove President Victor Yanukovych from office.

Faith

Chinese Christians Defend Church

Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

Christians have flocked to defend a church in eastern China after Communist Party officials claimed it was an "illegal construction" and announced plans to demolish it.

By Tom PhillipsWENZHOU, China—Thousands of Chinese Christians have mounted an extraordinary, round-the-clock defence of a church in a city known as the 'Jerusalem of the East' after Communist Party officials threatened to bulldoze their place of worship.In an episode that underlines the fierce and long-standing friction between China's officially atheist Communist Party and its rapidly growing Christian congregation, Bible-carrying believers this week flocked to the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou hoping to protect it from the bulldozers.

Overheard

The Russians Want Miami

The Daily Beast

A pair of Russian ambassadors allegedly joked about Moscow’s coming conquests. The Kremlin says the recording is phony. But there’s more than a grain of truth.

Which territory should Russia annex next? A couple of Moscow’s ambassadors in Africa allegedly joked about that on the phone, according to a leak that sounds like the latest skirmish in the battle of intercepts. Forget “all these limitrophes,” one said, referring to territories on the Russian border; they’re “shit.” And maybe the European Union would like to give back Romania and Bulgaria. No. Better for Russia to annex Venice, Catalonia or Alaska (all of which have well-publicized if improbable secessionist movements).

Lost Bling

Spain’s Bullsh*t ‘Holy Grail’

CESAR MANSO/The Daily Beast

Two historians claim they’ve identified the legendary cup—a relic made of gold and precious stones. But where’d a poor carpenter get that kind of money?

This week news emerged that two Spanish historians have identified the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank the night before he died. And wouldn’t you know it, they found the darned thing right before Easter, too! This is more than just your average Christian relic. According to some later legends, it was also used to catch the blood that flowed from his side at the crucifixion and bestows immortality on those who drank from it. The cup was “discovered” at a museum—on display—at the San Isidro Basilica León in northwestern Spain by Margarita Torres and José Manuel Ortega del Rio, who published the results of their study in the recently released book Kings of the Grail.

Death Watch

I Predicted My Own Death

Joseph Okanga/Reuters

The United States supports Nairobi’s fight against terrorists, but it’s getting very ugly.

MOMBASA, Kenya—“The state wants to kill me,” the 53-year-old jihadist Abubakar Shariff Ahmed, better known as “Makaburi,” told me in late February. He said he was sure that one day he’d be gunned down by “unknown assailants” on a street in Mombasa. That’s how so many controversial Islamic leaders have died in Kenya in recent months, he said. And then, earlier this week, the prophecy came true.On Tuesday, “unknown assailants” gunned down Makaburi as he was leaving a courthouse outside Mombasa.

Arab Spring

Her Scoop Saved Tunisia

Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

President Obama met the Tunisian prime minister on Friday and praised his country as one of the very few bright lights in the Arab world. Thank Olfa Riahi for that.

The most famous investigative reporter in Tunisia is a 32-year-old blogger named Olfa Riahi. She broke the country’s biggest post-revolutionary news story—known as Sheratongate –and  helped to save the country’s liberal revolution from the Islamists. When Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa met with President Barack Obama on Friday he was promised $500 million in loan guarantees and heard America’s enduring commitment to Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Game Over

How Obama Lost Afghanistan

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

He said it was ‘the right war.’ Then he did everything he could to screw it up.

Despite the violence and uncertainty surrounding this Saturday’s election for a new Afghan President, there’s one positive —Hamid Karzai, the sitting president and the architect of much of the country’s unrest, is not on the ballot this time. But while Karzai must cede power under the rules of the Afghan constitution, the other leader whose mismanagement helped tank Afghanistan abandoned his influence in what he once called “the right war” a long time ago.

TOO LATE

The Worst Place to Lose a Plane

Pool photo by Rob Griffith

Hope to find MH 370 was virtually destroyed by a month of bungled searching. The only saving grace was one lonely satellite company’s brilliance.

It’s now a month since Malaysian Flight MH370 became modern aviation’s greatest mystery. Certain things are clear and many of them are disturbing.First, the oversight of commercial air space in this part of Asia is chaotic.  Jealously preserved divisions of power within each state made it impossible to achieve the kind of open, rapid and efficient exchange of information between the states themselves that is essential in an emergency.  As s result, too much time has been spent chasing false leads, some of them dubiously motivated, and assessing data that turned out to be badly flawed.

Shady

The Taliban’s Shadow Invasion

Ishtiaq Mahsud/AP

On March 1, the Islamabad government cut a deal with the Taliban. And since then, all hell has been breaking loose in neighboring Afghanistan.

In the last month, the Taliban has killed dozens of people in a string of attacks timed to destabilize Afghanistan ahead of the presidential elections on Saturday.Most recently, a suicide bomber breached the heavy security at the Interior Ministry building and blew himself up, killing six police officers. And that may be just a preview, if local Taliban commanders are to be believed.“We told Afghans not to vote,” said Haji Shakor, a Taliban commander in central Afghanistan.

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