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Pope’s Plea

Francis Asks for Forgiveness

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

Pope Francis asked forgiveness Friday for the sins of priests who abused children. But victims’ groups say it is too soon for apologies—because the abuse and cover-ups haven’t stopped.

VATICAN CITY—The Easter season that begins on Palm Sunday this weekend is traditionally a “good news” moment for the Catholic Church. So it makes perfect sense that Pope Francis would kick off the festivities with criticism-busting headlines in the one area where he has been criticized the most—his seeming reluctance to apologize for the actions of predator priests.On Friday, at an audience with members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a Catholic NGO based in France known as the BICE, Francis asked forgiveness for the sins of the church’s worst sinners.

The Wall Cracks

Obama, NATO Chief Split On Ukraine

Hazir Reka/Reuters

The commander of NATO is insisting that the West do more to protect Ukraine from a possible Russian invasion. But the Obama administration has other plans.

Late last month, as the world was still reeling from Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO was warning Congress that Moscow was preparing to make another move.During classified briefings on March 26 and March 27, Gen. Philip Breedlove painted for members of the House Armed Services Committee a bleak picture of Russia’s actions—and warned that the United States was not taking steps it could to help Ukraine better defend itself.

Bunny Boiler

The Murderess in a Gold Hummer

Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters

Slovakian police have arrested the jealous 24-year-old model accused of killing her former 48-year-old lover. He had dumped her for a Russian woman who was 20.

Let this be a warning for rich men who have a penchant for younger women—they can be quite jealous. When Andrew Bush, a 48-year-old multi-millionaire gold trader from Bristol in the United Kingdom, arrived at his love nest on the Spanish Costa del Sol on April 5 with his new 20-year-old Russian girlfriend, he had a surprise visitor waiting for him: his 24-year-old ex with a shotgun.Bush had taken his new lover to the lavish villa for a romantic weekend when his former girlfriend Mayka Marica Kukucuva, a 24-year-old Slovakian model who often graces the swimsuit ads for the H&M retail chain, allegedly blasted him twice in the head.

Killer Ops

Did Putin Kill a Polish President?

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

A plane crash at Smolensk in Russia four years ago wiped out the Warsaw leadership. It used to be seen as an accident. Now, after Putin’s games in Ukraine, people aren’t so sure.

Four years ago this week, Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed in a plane crash near the Katyn Forest in Russia where he was flying to honor the 22,000 Polish officers, lawyers, priests and professors slaughtered there by the Soviets 70 years before. Ninety-five other military, political and public figures including his wife died on that plane. One of the more heartbreaking details to emerge was that First Lady Maria Kaczynska’s body could be identified only by her nail polish and the inscription inside her wedding ring.

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.

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Crisis in Ukraine

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U.S. NEWS

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