THS IS A TEST THIS FIELD WAS EMPTY!!!!THS IS A TEST THIS FIELD WAS EMPTY!!!!THS IS A TEST THIS FIELD WAS EMPTY!!!!THS IS A TEST THIS FIELD WAS EMPTY!!!!THS IS A TEST THIS FIELD WAS EMPTY!!!!THS IS A TEST THIS FIELD WAS EMPTY!!!!PRAGUE—The tragic murder of a young Slovakian journalist investigating ties between the Italian mafia and the nation's political establishment is rocking Slovakia.

Amid conspiracy theories and protests, Prime Minister Robert Fico's coalition government could fall apart, analysts said.

"This murder put political corruption into focus,” said Aneta Világi, a political scientist with Comenius University in Bratislava. “Many are of the point of view that this is too much. People actually lost their lives because somebody tried to hide this level of corruption. The effect is quite tremendous. It's like an earthquake.”

On Feb. 25, 27-year-old investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kursnirova were found shot dead in their home outside Bratislava.

At the time of his death, Kuciak – an enterprising journalist whose use of public data to reveal corruption within the Slovakian government made him one of the nation's most promising reporters – was about to publish a story revealing ties between the Calabria, Italy-based crime syndicate 'Ndrangheta and officials within the prime minister's office.

Kuciak's story began as an investigation into why Prime Minister Fico, whose tenure has been plagued by corruption scandals within his cabinet, hired a young former Miss Universe contestant, Maria Troskova, as one of his assistants despite her lack of experience.

Kuciak, working with an international team of journalists, traced Troskova to an Italian businessman with close ties to 'Ndrangheta. Their research revealed that the crime group had infiltrated impoverished parts of the country and forged relationships with local politicians to misappropriate European Union funds.

Martin Turcek, an investigative journalist who worked closely with Kuciak at the digital outlet, told the Washington Times that uncovering corruption is "business as usual" in Slovakia, a former communist stronghold where Soviet-backed apparatchiks used to run the country without regard for civil rights.

In the past, Kuciak had uncovered cases of multimillion-dollar tax fraud between business interests and government officials without receiving threats of violence, said Turcek. However, Kuciak's latest investigation was of a different caliber.

"He's a person who devoted his life to making this country better," said Turcek. "Unfortunately, that's what probably ended his life."

Prime Minister Fico denounced the "attack on the freedom of press and democracy in Slovakia" shortly after the bodies were found and offered $1.24 million for information about the killings.

Two days after the announcement, and their international partners published Kuciak's report linking the prime minister's office to the Italian mafia. Police quickly arrested seven individuals named in the article on suspicion of murder – including an Italian business associate of the prime minister's allies. But authorities later released the suspects due to lack of evidence.

That only provoked an electorate already reeling from both the murders and the corruption allegations that had come to light.

On March 3, protests erupted in 25 cities, including the capital Bratislava, where around 20,000 citizens led by President Andrej Kiska marched on the government's headquarters chanting "enough of Fico" and "an attack on journalists is an attack on all of us."

The calls were heard at the highest levels of government.

Culture Minister Marek Madaric stepped down on Feb. 28, saying he couldn't "identify with the fact that a journalist was killed during my tenure." Additionally, two top officials in Fico's government resigned due to allegations of their ties to the Italian crime syndicate.

"There's a huge public distrust of the state," President Kiska told reporters March 4. "This distrust is justified."

Kiska has demanded that the prime minister call snap elections or expel suspected corrupt politicians from his government. Fico refused, accusing Kiska and other critics of playing politics and seeking to "dance on the graves" of Kuciak and his slain fiancée.

Fico also implied that the president was colluding with billionaire Hungarian philanthropist George Soros to dismantle the government, citing an alleged meeting between the two in September of last year as proof of the theory.

"I really wonder why no foreign ministry official took part in this meeting," he said, adding that the pressure on his government after the murder was "an attempt at total destabilization” by foreign forces.

Slovakian opposition parties are now calling for a vote of no confidence in parliament, while one of Fico's coalition partners, the liberal Most-Hid party representing Slovakia's Hungarian minority, is reportedly considering departing Fico’s ruling coalition over the controversy.

"It's impossible for this party to sustain in a ruling coalition with a prime minister who is praising these toxic, absolutely silly narratives," said Grigorij Mesežnikov, a political scientist and president of the Institute for Public Affairs in Slovakia, referring to Most-Hid. "Fico wants to survive at any price. But without this party, the government is over."

In the meantime, investigative journalist Turcek and his colleagues at said they have banded together with other prominent journalists in the country to continue Kuciak's work.

"There's still a lot more storylines that haven't been published that we are working on right now," he said. "It's only the beginning of this story."

A version of this story can be found in The Washington Times.
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_RWA161616aa001.jpegKIGALI, Rwanda — Raking through the knee-high grass on his tea farm to clear fallen tree branches, Ezekiel Shinga marvels at how life has changed in his country in the 22 years after the genocide that made this tiny east African county a watchword for horror and brutality around the world.

“I think no one could have predicted the strides Rwanda has made in the past two decades,” said Mr. Shinga, whose farm is in the southern district of Nyaruguru. “Everything in this country has changed. People own businesses, and the majority here are tea farmers. At least everyone has income. There’s peace, and neighbors now love each other.”

Read more at The Washington Times

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_USAObama130222AA001.jpegATHENS — President Obama called for a "course correction" for the global economy Wednesday in an effort to stave off the nationalist impulses being felt in the United States and Europe.

In an address to the Greek people, Obama said growing distrust of elites and institutions demands that democratic governments work to become more responsive to the people they serve.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR150318aa001.jpegJERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party swept to a decisive victory results showed Wednesday in a general election that exposed Israel's rifts at home and abroad, including with the White House.

With the majority of votes counted, Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in the country's Knesset, or parliament. The center-left opposition Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog won 24 seats. Israel's Election Committee is expected to confirm the results Thursday.

Read more at USA Today

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party swept to a decisive victory results showed Wednesday in a general election that exposed Israel's rifts at home and abroad, including with the White House.

With the majority of votes counted, Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in the country's Knesset, or parliament. The center-left opposition Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog won 24 seats. Israel's Election Committee is expected to confirm the results Thursday.

Read more at USA Today
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_111111.jpegGAZA CITY — As the Palestinian death toll rose, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to continue to target members of Hamas with air strikes in Gaza until rockets the militant group has been firing into Israel from the southern border halt.

"I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet," Netanyahu said at a news conference.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_5410433581_8ae746d004.jpegBAGHDAD — Islamic militants Tuesday attacked areas in central Baqouba, a city just 30 miles northeast of Iraq's capital Baghdad, but were pushed back by security forces and tribal fighters.

In one incident, at least 44 Sunni prisoners died in an apparent foiled rescue attempt by Sunni Muslim militants from the al-Qaeda breakaway group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — referred to as ISIL or ISIS. The Levant is a traditional name for the region including Iraq and greater Syria.

Read more at USA Today


ABUJA, Nigeria — Frustration and despair over the fate of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria is forcing families to organize the rescue themselves.

"We are trying to search for our daughters on our own," said a mother of one of the girls, asking to remain unidentified out of fear of causing her daughter further harm. "Soon we will be heading to the forest.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130705aa003.jpegCAIRO - Violence persisted at Egypt’s universities this week as part of a broader conflict between authorities and student protesters that underscores rights’ activists concerns about obstacles facing independence of the nation’s universities.

On Wednesday, three blasts erupted outside Cairo University, apparently targeting riot police deployed to deal with protests staged almost daily by students. A senior police officer was killed and five others were wounded, Egypt’s state news agency reported. The protest movement Students Against the Coup distanced itself from the attack, cancelling a protest planned for midday at Cairo University. But the incident underscores wider anger at a security crackdown on government opposition.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media


Following the October 3 deaths of around 400 migrants off the Italian island of Lampedusa, European leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday have promised to put immigration on the agenda alongside scheduled discussions on growth, competitiveness and fighting unemployment. But as long they hold to the illusion that interests of migrants are at odds with those of "native" workers, their policies will continue to put lives at risk – and will do nothing to help the EU economy.

Over the past decade, Europe has invested more and more money on keeping non-Europeans out. Frontex, created in 2005 to police Europe’s external borders, saw its budget balloon from €19 million in 2006 to €85 million in 2012. But analysts say this approach does little to reduce overall immigration figures and merely plays into the hands of those ready to exploit irregular immigration, from people-smugglers to unscrupulous employers.



ATHENS - In crisis-ridden Greece, a network of volunteer-run crisis clinics is providing citizens with the medical care denied them by the state. 

Read more at Deutsche Welle


Whether by a harrowing boat trip across the Mediterranean, a mountain crossing over the Turkish border or a flight to Germany, more than 2 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country to take refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq as well as in the Gulf countries and in Europe.

Two million people have fled the war as of September, says the United Nations. Those who got away from the 30-month-old conflict share horror stories of snipers and aerial bombardment, of murdered loved ones and wounded friends. The problems they face in their new homes varies tremendously depending on the country.

Read more at USA Today


NEW DELHI — Eight young women dressed in red tunics and black scarves make their way along a narrow lane in Lucknow's Madiyav slum in northern India as young men move quickly out of their way, avoiding their eyes.

The girls reach a house at the corner of the lane: Two go in and emerge with a young man. Preeti Verma, 17, has a hand around his neck and pushes him toward the girls who then pummel him with slippers and their fists. No onlookers intervene.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130629aa001.jpegBERLIN - Germany takes in more refugees than any other rich country. But that does not mean it is easy for the hundreds of thousands of refugees stuck in limbo.

One year and eight months since Chima Oxumbor arrived at Düsseldorf's police station to appeal for asylum, he has a €1-an-hour (85p-an-hour) job cleaning the toilets and floors at the camp where he shares a room with four or five other people. His life in Germany is not what he expected.

Read more at The Guardian

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