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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.

Help

Don't Give Malaysia the Black Box

Jason Reed/Reuters

Having wisely given up on using debris to determine the plane’s final location, the search team is being unusually optimistic about locating the data recorder based off pings.

The batteries in Flight MH370’s black box and cockpit voice recorder that power their locator beacons are at the end of their of their lives. How much longer they work beyond their allotted 30 days is now a matter of unpredictable chance. This coincides with the most optimistic reports yet heard from the search area—the man in charge of the search, retired Australian air force chief Angus Houston, allowed himself to say, “I’m much more optimistic than I was a week ago.

Trick Card

Russia’s Ace in the Hole: Iran

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

It’s Washington’s nightmare scenario: an aggressive Moscow deciding it’s time to arm Tehran with sophisticated weapons. And it may be closer to reality than you think.

Tensions between Russia and the West are hitting a new peak. And in this face-off, Moscow has an extraordinary piece of leverage: a super-sophisticated, bomber-killing missile that it once threatened to sell to Iran.Last week, Reuters first reported Russia was preparing an oil-for-goods deal with Iran worth up to $20 billion. An unnamed Iranian official told the news service that the barter would include Russian weapons. And that was before further signs of Russia’s shadow invasion of Ukraine emerged Monday, when crowds spontaneously appeared in three major eastern cities to welcome the troops amassed over the border.

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.

Grim Anniversary

Still a Problem From Hell

Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

Twenty years after Rwanda’s horrors, there are signs of hope for a more effective international response to future genocides—but only if we recognize the evolution in genocidal tactics.

Exactly 20 years ago, the sitting government in Rwanda commenced a genocide against minority Tutsi and moderate Hutu populations. Eight hundred thousand Rwandans perished in 100 frenzied days, the fastest rate of killing in recorded history, though most international actors did not name what was happening as genocide—and did not act before it was too late for most of the victims.Today most people’s understanding of what genocide looks like comes from the grainy footage of the Holocaust that will haunt and stain the human conscience until the end of time.

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Crisis in Ukraine

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