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President Obama met with Pope Francis today in the capital of Roman Catholicism. Tomorrow, he'll be in Saudi Arabia, the heartland of Islam. We look at America's current relations with two traditional allies, important for very different reasons. Also the IMF pledges billions in loans to help ailing Ukraine, and a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that some college football players are employees with the right to form unions. What's the future of the student-athlete? 

Banner image: President Barack Obama talks to Pope Francis during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

IMF Pledges Billions in Loans to Help Ailing Ukraine 7 MIN, 50 SEC

After three weeks of urgent negotiations, the International Monetary Fund has agreed to provide $18 billion in loans to the interim government of Ukraine. President Obama welcomed the deal during his trip to Europe, saying it would bolster democratic reform. "So it's a concrete signal on how the world is united with Ukraine as it makes tough choices at an incredibly difficult time." Alexander Kliment is director of Emerging Markets Strategy for the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm in New York.

Alexander Kliment, Eurasia Group (@SaoSasha)

The President, the Pope and the Saudis 35 MIN, 38 SEC

Today, President Obama went to the Vatican for the first time since Francis was elected Pope a year ago. The President presented Pope Francis a gift of seeds today, perhaps suggesting his Administration wants a re-boot in relations with the Vatican. Can their shared emphasis on the plight of the poor overcome Obama's differences with American Bishops and give him a political boost at home? Tomorrow, the President will visit a more uncertain ally: Saudi Arabia, which fears that a nuclear deal might lead to detente with its regional adversary, Iran. With the US less dependent on Saudi oil, will this week's visit reaffirm a traditional tie or provide fresh insight into the new world order?

John Allen, Boston Globe (@JohnLAllenJr)
Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter (@MichaelSWinters)
Dennis Ross, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (@washinstitute)
Robin Wright, US Institute of Peace / Woodrow Wilson Center (@wrightr)

Allen on the growth of Catholicism in the Muslim world
Allen on the meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama
Allen's 'Against the Tide: The Radical Leadership of Pope Francis'
Cardinal Burke on President Obama's policies being hostile to Catholicism
President Obama's audience with Pope Francis
Ross' LA Times op-ed on the President's challenge, Saudi visit
Ross' 'Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East'
Vatican statement on meeting of Pope Francis and President Obama
Winters' 'Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats'
Winters on the Pope's exhortation on income inequality
Wright's 'Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World'

Against the Tide

John Allen Jr.

The First Step Toward Unionizing College Athletes 7 MIN, 35 SEC

College football is big business, and there's long been dispute about the status of so-called "student athletes." Peter Ohr, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, ruled yesterday that football players at Northwestern University are employees with the right to form a union and bargain collectively. What does that mean for the "student athlete" and the NCAA? Andrew Zimbalist is Professor of Economics at Smith College and author of the new book, The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball.

Andrew Zimbalist, Smith College

The Sabermetric Revolution

Benjamin Baumer

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