Vladimir Putin

10 things you need to now today: April 19, 2015

Darren McCollester / Getty Images

The Week

1.Hundreds of migrants feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck 
An estimated 500 to 700 people went missing on Sunday after a boat ferrying migrants to Italy capsized north of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. The 65-foot-long fishing boat sent a distress call overnight, but when another vessel approached the migrants huddled to the far side of the ship, causing it to capsize, according to the Italian Coast Guard. Close to 20 ships raced to rescue survivors, pulling 28 people from the water so far. Roughly 900 people are believed to have died this year trying to make the crossing.

Source: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

2.FBI admits to exaggerating forensic hair evidence for two decades
Almost every examiner in the FBI’s hair analysis unit repeatedly overhyped evidence to aid prosecutors over a two-decade period ending in 2000, according to The Washington Post. The finding comes from an ongoing review of cases conducted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project in conjunction with the federal government. Per the review, 26 of 28 forensic hair analysts overstated evidence in 95 percent of the 268 trials examined so far. The FBI and Justice Department acknowledged the errors, saying in a statement they were “committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance.”

Source: The Washington Post

3.Republican presidential hopefuls woo New Hampshire voters
A slew of declared and potential Republican presidential candidates trekked to New Hampshire this weekend for the two-day Republican Leadership Summit. Close to 20 prospective candidates — ranging from establishment types like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, to bottom-tier hopefuls like Donald Trump and John Bolton — used their stage time to discuss policy, ding the president, and assail presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “When Hillary Clinton travels, there’s going to need to be two planes,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. “One for her and her entourage, and one for her baggage.”

Source: CNN, Politico

4.Poland summons U.S. ambassador over FBI head’s Holocaust remark
Poland on Sunday summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest FBI Director James Comey’s recent comment casting some blame on Poland for the Holocaust. “The murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil,” Comey said in a speech last week, which was then adapted as an opinion piece in The Washington Post. “They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do.” Poland’s ambassador to the U.S. called the comment “unacceptable” and a “falsification of history.”

Source: Reuters

5.Senior Revolutionary Guard rejects weapons inspections
A high-ranking member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturdayinsisted weapons inspectors would be barred from visiting military sites under any final nuclear agreement. “Iran will not become a paradise for spies,” Gen. Hossein Salami said. “We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy,” he added, saying that inspections would amount to Tehran “selling out.” Under a framework agreement reached last month between the U.S., Iran, and five world powers, international inspectors would be granted access to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Source: The Associated Press

6.Putin walks back anti-U.S. rhetoric
Speaking on Russia’s state-run Rossiya channel on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin admitted that Moscow and Washington have “disagreements,” but that “there is something that unites us, that forces us to work together,” according to Reuters‘ translation of the remarks. “I mean general efforts directed at making the world economy more democratic, measured and balanced, so that the world order is more democratic,” Putin said. “We have a common agenda.” Putin’s comments came two days after he told a Russian phone-in show that the United States wants “not allies, but vassals,” and is behaving like the former Soviet Union in its overreaching foreign policy.

Source: Reuters

7.ISIS claims to kill Ethiopian Christians
The Islamic State on Sunday released a video purporting to show the execution of two groups of captured Ethiopian Christians. The 29-minute video claims to show ISIS affiliates at two separate locations in Libya beheading or shooting to death prisoners, though a death toll was not immediately clear. Though the video has yet to be authenticated, it closely resembled previous ISIS propaganda videos depicting executions.

Source: CBS

8.California water board releases revised drought restrictions
California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Saturday released modified proposed conservation restrictions, adjusting the planned cuts based on water-saving efforts already underway. A former draft divided water suppliers into four tiers; the new framework places them into one of nine tiers — where water usage must be cut by anywhere from 8 percent to 36 percent — to “more equitably allocate” the restrictions. Water suppliers that do not meet their cuts could face fines of up to $10,000 per day. The board is expected to vote on the revised framework proposal in early May.

Source: The New York Times

9. Warriors open NBA playoffs with win
The NBA playoffs tipped off Saturday with the Golden State Warriors, owners of the best record in basketball, holding off the New Orleans Pelicans. Also Saturday, the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, and Washington Wizards won the opening games of their first-round series. The playoffs continue Sunday with four more games.

Source: Sports Illustrated

10.Ringo Starr inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday as a solo artist, making him the fourth and final member of the seminal band enshrined for his solo work. “As all the other drummers say, he just is something so special,” bandmate Paul McCartney said at the induction ceremony. The Hall’s 2015 class also included newcomers Lou Reed, Green Day, and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, among others.

Source: Rolling Stone

Obama’s Had a Helluva Good Month Since the Midterms

Mother Jones

So how have things been going for our bored, exhausted, and disengaged president? He’s been acting pretty enthusiastic, energized, and absorbed with his job, I’d say. Let us count the things he’s done since the November 4th midterm elections:

  • November 10:Surprised everyone by announcing his support for strong net neutrality.
  • November 11:Concluded a climate deal with China that was not only important in its own right, but has since been widely credited with jumpstarting progress at the Lima talks last week.
  • November 20: Issued an executive order protecting millions of undocumented workers from the threat of deportation.
  • November 26: Signed off on an important new EPA rule significantly limiting ozone emissions.
  • December 15: Took a quiet victory lap as Western financial sanctions considerably sharpened the pain of Vladimir Putin’s imploding economy.
  • December 16: Got nearly everything he wanted during the lame duck congressional session, and more. Democrats confirmed all important pending nominees, and then got Republican consent to several dozen lesser ones as well.
  • December 17: Announced a historic renormalization of relations with Cuba.

I guess you can add to that a non-event: In its second year, Obamacare signups are going smoothly and ahead of target. Am I missing anything beyond that? Maybe. It’s been quite the whirlwind month for our bored, exhausted, disengaged president, hasn’t it?

All of these things are worthwhile in their own right, of course, but there’s a political angle to all of them as well: they seriously mess with Republican heads. GOP leaders had plans for January, but now they may or may not be able to do much about them. Instead, they’re going to have to deal with enraged tea partiers insisting that they spend time trying to repeal Obama’s actions. They can’t, of course, but they have to show that they’re trying. So there’s a good chance that they’ll spend their first few months in semi-chaos, responding to Obama’s provocations instead of working on their own agenda.

Was that part of the plan? Beats me. But it seems to be working pretty well so far.

 

10 things you need to know today: November 15, 2014

Pro-democracy student leaders leave the airport after Chinese officials barred them from a Beijing-bound flight.

Pro-democracy student leaders leave the airport after Chinese officials barred them from a Beijing-bound flight. | (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

The Week

Second sign-up season begins for HealthCare.gov, Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders denied entry to Beijing, and more

1. Second sign-up season begins on HealthCare.gov website
A little more than a year after ObamaCare’s rocky rollout, the federal health insurance exchange website opened on Saturday for its second sign-up season. President Barack Obama used his weekly video address to urge Americans to get covered, or re-enroll if they had already used HealthCare.gov. “In part because this law is working, health care prices have grown at their slowest rate in nearly 50 years,” Obama said. [The Associated Press]

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2. Chinese officials deny Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders entry to Beijing
Hong Kong student leaders Alex Chow, Eason Chung, and Nathan Law planned to take their demands for free, local elections to the mainland on Saturday, but Chinese authorities instead revoked the men’s return-home cards, barring them from boarding a Beijing-bound flight. The trio represents the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which, along with several other groups, is protesting the Chinese Communist Party’s decision that all candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive position in 2017 must pass a vetting process. [Time]

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3. Defense Department to boost nuclear spending by nearly $10 billion
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Friday that the Defense Department will increase spending on nuclear forces by 10 percent per year for the next five years, which comes out to nearly $10 billion. Hagel ordered two reviews of the U.S. nuclear forces in February, one by Pentagon officials and one by outside experts following reports alleging lapses in leadership, morale, and safety. “The… reviews show that a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses,” Hagel said. [The Associated Press]

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4. Vladimir Putin stations warships off Australia’s coast ahead of G-20 summit
Russian President Vladimir Putin directed four warships to be stationed off the northeastern coast of Australia, in advance of his scheduled attendance at a G-20 summit this weekend in Brisbane. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded by sending three warships of his own to monitor the Russia ones, which are technically in international waters. Abbott accused Putin of “trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism.” [The Associated Press]

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5. House passes bill approving Keystone pipeline construction
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday 252-161 allowing the federal government to go ahead with building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would move petroleum from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. But the Democrat-controlled Senate is not expected to give the 60 votes necessary on Tuesday, and even if the bill did reach President Barack Obama’s desk, he has indicated he’d likely veto the legislation. [The New York Times]

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6. USPS names first female Postmaster General
The United States Postal Service announced on Friday that Megan Brennan will take over for retiring Patrick Donahoe as Postmaster General in February. Brennan began working for USPS in 1986 as a letter carrier and rose to chief operating officer in 2010. Brennan will be tasked with leading an agency that suffered a $5.5 billion net loss this fiscal year. [Time]

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7. Top U.S. general arrives in Baghdad to review ISIS operations
General Martin Dempsey arrived in Iraq on Saturday, his first trip there since President Barack Obama approved U.S. troop deployments to the region. “I want to get a sense from our side about how our contribution is going,” Dempsey said, referring to the U.S. military operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. In addition to air strikes, U.S. forces are carrying out training for Iraqi troops. Obama authorized sending up to 1,500 more U.S. troops to the region, in addition to the roughly 1,500 that are already deployed. [Reuters]

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8. Four out of 10 new marriages involve remarriage
A new study from the Pew Research Center found that 42 million adults married in 2013 had been married before, almost double the number from 1980. Forty percent of all new marriages include at least one previously married spouse. The study credited the results to a rise in divorce rates, but also an aging population, “which not only increase the number of widows and widowers available to remarry, but means people quite simply have more years in which to make, dissolve, and remake unions.” [Pew Research Center]

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9. Extreme storms on Uranus baffling astronomers
A team at the University of California, Berkeley reported on Wednesday that eight storms over the course of two days in August unexpectedly took place on Uranus. One of the storms was the brightest ever captured on the planet, lighting the usually “boring blue dot” up. “Why we see these incredible storms now is beyond anybody’s guess,” Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, said. [UC Berkeley News Center]

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10. Conde Nast settles lawsuit with former interns for $5.8 million
Conde Nast agreed on Thursday to pay $5.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of former interns who say they were underpaid during their time at the company. Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib, the lead plaintiffs, could receive about $10,000 each, while about 7,500 former interns dating back to June 2007 could receive payments ranging from $700 to $1,900. The company canceled its internship program in June 2013 after the lawsuit was filed. [Reuters, Deadline]

WORLD LEADERS NOMINATED TO TAKE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE

No attribution

When the entire world latches on to a cause via social media…anything is possible.

The Huffington Post

All across social media, celebrities and regular citizens seem to be dumping ice water on their heads to raise money for and awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In fact, the vast majority of Americans have avoided the ice bucket challenge so far, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows, though they’re willing to suggest other individuals get wet.

Sixty percent of Americans said they had “heard a lot” about the challenge. Far fewer said they had actually participated: Just 4 percent said they had donated money, and a mere 3 percent said they had dumped ice water on their heads. Another 2 percent said they’d done both.

Knowledge about ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, remains limited as well. Only 21 percent of Americans said they are “very familiar” with ALS, while another 49 percent said they’re “somewhat familiar.” Twenty percent were “not very familiar” with the disease, and 10 percent were “not at all familiar.”

According to the ALS Association, as many as 30,000 Americans have the progressive neurodegenerative disease at any given time. New cases are diagnosed at a rate of about 15 a day.

Recently, the ice bucket challenge has been criticized by some observers as frivolous if the real point is to raise money for research. After all, by the terms of the challenge, dumping cold water on your head is a way out of donating.

But the survey shows most Americans aren’t buying the bad rap. Sixty-one percent said the ice bucket challenge is “a fun and effective way to raise money and awareness of ALS,” while only 28 percent said that “it’s silly and it would be better if people just donated money.”

Many public figures have posted videos of their cold showers already. Others face limits on their participation. Members of the House of Representatives and the military have been warned that government rules prohibit the use of official resources to promote or references to current military service in ice bucket videos. High-profile State Department diplomats have been barred from participating.

Those rules don’t bar us, however, from asking Americans which politicians they’d most like to see doused with ice cold water.

Asked to pick from a list of potential 2016 presidential candidates who they’d most like to see take the ice bucket challenge, Americans made former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the runaway winner, with 51 percent choosing her. Sixteen percent opted for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), 15 percent for Vice President Joe Biden, 8 percent for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), 6 percent for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), and 5 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Support for Clinton didn’t vary much along party lines, though the motives may have differed widely. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats chose Clinton as the potential candidate they’d most like to see dump freezing water over her head.

Asked separately to pick a world leader for an international edition of the challenge, a 35 percent plurality of Americans rallied behind President Barack Obama, including 34 percent of both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately for them, Obama hasalready declined to dump ice water on his head, opting instead to give money.

Second and third place went to the leaders of countries with which the U.S. already suffers icy relations: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, with 24 percent, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with 19 percent. Queen Elizabeth II was fourth with 17 percent, narrowly missing a challenge from America, since three nominations are the usual limit. (Both Putin and the queen have been challenged by others, though neither has responded.)

Germany’s Angela Merkel and Cuba’s Raul Castro took just 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in the HuffPost poll.

Remember When Vladimir Putin Was The Right-Wing’s Favorite World Leader?

Liberaland

Steve Marmel

 

Now read this:

John McCain Finds a Way to Blame ‘Cowardly’ Obama for MH17 Crash

Sen. John McCain | Screenshot

This simply sounds like sour grapes directed toward Obama supporters, but McCain and his ilk are not saying these things to upset Obama’s base.  Right-wing politicians are trying to stir up their Obama-hating base so they will come to the polls in 2014.  They’ll worry about 2016 after the mid-term elections.

Mediaite

When he appeared on MSNBC and CNN Thursday afternoon, shortly after news broke of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that had been shot down over Ukraine, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) warned that if Russia turned out to be responsible, there would be “hell to pay.” But by the time he joinedSean Hannity on Fox News last night, he had turned his outrage directly at President Barack Obama.

“It’s just been cowardly,” McCain said. “It’s a cowardly administration that we failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves.” He speculated that the Russian separatists who allegedly shot down the plane “may not even have occupied and had access to these weapons, which apparently they got at an airfield,” if the U.S. had intervened earlier in the Ukrainian conflict with Russia.

McCain then told Hannity what he would do in response to the deadly crash:

“First, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory. Second of all, move some of our troops in to areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, in other countries like the Baltics and others. Move missile defense into the places where we got out of, like the Czech Republic and Poland and other places. And impose the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia. And that’s just for openers.”

And just like that, the likely accidental shooting down of a Malaysian plane carrying mostly Dutch passengers by Russian separatists in Ukraine is President Obama’s fault.

Watch video below, via Fox News:

NRA comes out against #BringBackOurGirls campaign

attribution: None Specified

If the Obama’s are for it, then their detractors are against it…no matter how sensible the issue.  Once again, it’s called Obama derangement syndrome

Daily Kos

The NRA outrage of the moment.

Jeebus, NRA, isn’t there anyone left in your organization who realizes how nutty you sound?

“[T]his month, in response to terrorists kidnapping 300 girls in Nigeria, First Lady Michelle Obama locked and loaded for battle with her own ‘selfie,’ with the unconditional surrender demand #BringBackOurGirls,” the NRA’s lobbying arm wrote in an editorial on its website. “Tyrants and terrorists, like murderers, rapists and robbers, understand only one thing: force. They laugh at, and are emboldened by, weakness. That is why it is important topreserve and promote the right to keep and bear arms. An armed citizenry deters violence.” […]

“Ms. Psaki’s and Mrs. Obama’s naiveté–thinking that Vladimir Putin or Boko Haram terrorists will change their ways because of tweets–would provide ample fodder for their ridicule, were we so inclined,” the NRA said. “But while we appreciate the value of maintaining a sense of humor in the face of things that are disagreeable, we do so only within reasonable limits. There is nothing funny in this instance.”

So how would we fix this? Should First Lady Michelle Obama have been packin’ heat in her photo? Holding up a sign in one hand and an assault rifle in the other, maybe chomping down on a cigar while tigers ride orcas in the background?

Anyway, the NRA thinks that hashtags embolden terrorists, because of course they do.

Tyrants and terrorists, like murderers, rapists and robbers, understand only one thing:  force.  They laugh at, and are emboldened by, weakness. That is why it is important to preserve and promote the right to keep and bear arms.  An armed citizenry deters violence.

Well, then get your heavily armed asses over there, fella. Them freedom bullets ain’t gonna fire themselves. Oh right, I forgot you don’t actually give a damn.

However, those of us who understand and value the Second Amendment will not forfeit the right to keep and bear arms, and we will not stake our personal safety on “#PleaseDontHurtMe” tweets.  Instead, we will exercise our right to arms, by acquiring the best arms for defensive purposes and becoming proficient in their use. And we will do everything possible in 2016 to help elect a president who understands the importance of maintaining strength, whether dealing with common criminals here at home, or with international criminals on the world stage.

Sigh. Again—there’s nobody on staff who might pipe up with a “you know, maybe let’s not open our mouths on this one? I think we’ll just look like asses.”

Oh, while we have the NRA’s attention: A suggestion. It seems like the becoming-proficient-in-their-use part could use some work. That’s supposed to be your actual day job, right?

Bummed George Bush laments how Putin ‘changed’

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush (R) talk during a dinner at the NATO summit in Bucharest April 3, 2008.(Xinhua Photo)

In my opinion Putin never changed.  President George W. Bush was a lot like Putin back then.  Their national security methods were quite similar.  When the Bush administration ordered water boarding and other forms of torture, it was already the norm for Russia at the time.  No, Putin hasn’t changed…Bush simply retired and is no longer required to give those orders.

Bush has famously said that he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his “soul”.  I suspect Bush simply saw a kindred soul back then…dark and evil.

The Week

Former President George W. Bush once remarked that he’d peered into Vladimir Putin’s and eyes and seen his soul. That soul, he now says, has “changed” for the worse.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Bush said he truly believed Putin wanted to mend fences with the West when he was still in office. Bush pursued a closer relationship with Moscow during his tenure, and the Obama White House continued that effort in the early years of Obama’s presidency, too. But Bush said a spike in the price of oil convinced Putin to take a more militaristic, confrontational approach to the rest of the world of late, culminating with the situation in Ukraine.

“I think it changed his attitude,” Bush said. “And I think it emboldened him to follow in his game that pretty much zero-sum, you know, I win and you lose and vice versa.”

Bush did not say whether he would as a result be painting a new portrait of the Russian leader to jibe with his new assessment of the man.

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10 things you need to know today: April 29, 2014

Putin's former chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin is on the U.S. Treasury's sanctions list. 

Putin’s former chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin is on the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions list. ! (AP Photo/ RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool, File)

The Week

The U.S. hits Putin allies with sanctions, sponsors flee the Clippers over racist comments, and more

1. Putin allies hit with sanctions over Russia’s support of Ukrainian separatists
The U.S. cranked up pressure on Russia for what the White House called its “continued illegal intervention in Ukraine” by imposing sanctions on seven individuals and 17 companies connected to President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle.” Among the individuals affected were oil magnate Igor Sechin and tech executive Sergei Chemezov. The European Union on Tuesday also targeted 15 people, including Russian military leaders, with new sanctions. [BBC NewsThe Associated Press]

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2. Sponsors abandon the Clippers over racist comments attributed to owner 
Several major sponsors — including CarMax, Virgin America, Kia, State Farm, and Red Bull — have ditched the Los Angeles Clippers over racist comments attributed to team owner Donald Sterling. The loss of revenue could give the National Basketball Association the ammunition it needs to suspend Sterling, who has become an overnight pariah. The statements “can negatively impact the business of the NBA,” one sports attorney said. [Los Angeles Times]

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3. More deadly tornadoes bring two-day death toll to 28
Tornadoes killed at least 11 people in Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi on Monday, bringing the death toll to 28 over two days of severe weather across the central U.S. and the South. Mississippi state Sen. Giles Ward (R) said he, his wife, four other family members, and their dog huddled in a bathroom as a tornado pulverized his two-story brick house. “For about 30 seconds, it was unbelievable,” Ward said. [The Associated Press]

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4. McAllister declines to run again after kissing scandal
Rep. Vance McAllister (R-Louisiana), who was caught on surveillance video kissing a married member of his staff, announced Monday that he would serve out his term but not seek reelection in November. “The past few weeks have been a trying time for my family,” said McAllister, who won the seat in a special election last year. “As I’ve said before, there’s no doubt I’ve made a mistake.” His wife, Kelly, said she was “behind him 100 percent.” [Daily World]

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5. Major search effort ends for Washington mudslide victims
Officials of Snohomish County, Washington, announced Monday that they were ending the “active search” for the two people still listed as missing after a March 22 mudslide that killed at least 41 people near Oso. About 30 people, down from as many as 1,000, will keep searching a limited area. Frank Hadaway, whose brother Steve is one of the missing, said he understood. “Reality is reality,” he said. “We knew this day was coming sooner or later.” [The Seattle Times]

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6. North Korea announces more live fire drills near disputed sea border
North Korea conducted live fire drills Tuesday on a disputed maritime border with South Korea. The artillery blasts were expected to be similar to those Pyongyang fired in late March near the Northern Limit Line, a sea border that has been a matter of contention since the 1950-53 Korean War. Ahead of the drills, South Korean military leaders told residents in the area to go to shelters. [Reuters]

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7. Year’s first solar eclipse wows… penguins
The first solar eclipse of the year appeared Monday night, although the only inhabited places where it was partially visible were in the southern Indian Ocean and Australia. The event occurred while the moon was slightly closer to the Earth than normal, so it could not completely block out the sun, leaving a glowing, fiery ring around the moon’s edges. The best view was in an entirely uninhabited part of Antarctica, which is why some called it the “Penguin Eclipse.” [Wired]

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8. Roughly 1 in 25 death row inmates don’t belong there
About one in 25 people sentenced to death in the U.S. is innocent, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The researchers said that at least 4.1 percent of death row inmates are innocent, making it all but certain that innocent people have been executed. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

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9. Heat win first-round series in bid for third consecutive NBA crown
The Miami Heat got a step closer in their bid for a third straight NBA championship Monday night by defeating the Charlotte Bobcats to complete a four-game, first-round sweep. The Heat won 109-98 thanks in part to a game-high 31 points from star LeBron James, who went on a 19-point scoring spree after suffering a thigh bruise in the third quarter. The Heat await the winner of a Brooklyn-Toronto series, now 2-2, that could last until Sunday. [The Associated Press]

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10. Ferguson says he is leaving CBS’ Late Late Show
Craig Ferguson announced Monday that he would step down as host of CBS’ Late Late Show in December. “CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are ‘consciously uncoupling,'” Ferguson said during taping of the show, making a reference to the way actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin described their recent split. No word yet on who will replace Ferguson. [Deadline]

Putin Escalates: Gets Permission To Move Russian Troops Into Crimea

Main Entry Image

A soldier without identifying insignia mans a machine gun outside the Crimean parliament building shortly after several dozen soldiers took up positions there on March 1, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. | Sean Gallup via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine and also recommended Saturday that Moscow’s ambassador be recalled from Washington over comments made by President Barack Obama.

The unanimous vote in an emergency session formalized what Ukrainian officials described as an invasion of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea. With pro-Russian protests breaking out in other parts of Ukraine, Moscow now could send its military elsewhere in Ukraine.

“I’m submitting a request for using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country,” Putin said before the vote.

Putin’s call came as pro-Russian demonstrations broke out in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, where protesters raised Russian flags and beat up supporters of the new Ukrainian government.

Russia’s move sharply raised the stakes in the conflict following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last week by a protest movement aimed at turning Ukraine toward the European Union and away from Russia. Ukraine has accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” — a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis, and raised fears that Moscow is moving to intervene on the strategic peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.

President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Friday “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily. In Saturday’s parliamentary session in Moscow, one Russian legislator said Obama had crossed a “red line” and the upper house recommended the Russian ambassador in Washington be recalled. It will be up to Putin to decide whether that happens.

In Crimea, the pro-Russian prime minister who took office after gunmen seized the regional Parliament claimed control of the military and police there and asked Putin for help in keeping peace, sharpening the discord between the two neighboring Slavic countries.

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said the election of the election of Sergei Aksyonov as prime minister of Crimea was invalid.

It was the latest escalation following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last week by a protest movement aimed at turning Ukraine toward the European Union and away from Russia.

Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and Europe, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support. Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine, is mainly Russian-speaking.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk opened a Cabinet meeting in the capital, Kiev, by calling on Russia not to provoke discord in Crimea.

“We call on the government and authorities of Russia to recall their forces, and to return them to their stations,” Yatsenyuk was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “Russian partners, stop provoking civil and military resistance in Ukraine.”