Crisis in Ukraine
August 18, 2014

On Sunday, Ukraine's military entered the center of Luhansk, one of two rebel-held cities in Eastern Ukraine. Rebels reportedly still control parts of Luhansk, but Ukrainian forces posted photos of the Ukrainian flag flying at a city police station.

This is the latest setback for the pro-Russia separatists who declared autonomous "people's republics" in Luhansk and Donetsk, 90 miles away, in April but have been steadily losing ground over the past month. In besieged Donetsk, separatist fighters are reportedly starting to dress in civilian clothes and carousing drunkenly around at night; three senior leaders of the separatist enclaves, all Russian nationals, have resigned or left the country over the past week.

Western officials and analysts are nervous about Russia's response to the separatists' dwindling fortunes. If Russian President Vladimir Putin believes "the rebels are about to get routed, we do have a problem," Eurasia Group analyst Cliff Kupchan tells The New York Times. Moscow's purportedly humanitarian convoy of 280 trucks is still on the Russia side of the border, and Russia maintains that it is not arming the rebels.

The new separatist prime minister of Donetsk, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said in a statement that Russia was sending him reinforcements, including 150 armored vehicles and 1,200 troops who'd spent the summer training in Russia, however. "They are joining at the most crucial moment," he added. And last Thursday night, reporters for Britain's The Telegraph said they witnessed "a column of armored vehicles and military trucks" crossing from Russian into a remote area near Donetsk; they call this "the first confirmed sighting of such an incident by Western journalists."

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers met Sunday in Berlin with their French and German counterparts for talks on ending the fighting and paving the way for the Russian aid to make its way into Ukraine. "It was a difficult discussion but I believe and I hope that we made progress on some points," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Peter Weber

Oops
May 23, 2015
Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Bank of England apparently needs a refresher on how to keep a classified project…classified.

An editor for The Guardian received an email on Friday, accidentally forwarded by the Bank's head of press, which details plans to research the financial repercussions of a British exit from the European Union. Nicknamed Project Bookend, the not-so-secret work was meant to be carried out by just a few senior officials, and examine how a "Brexit" would affect the country's export's and major cities' economies.

The email noted that any questions from the press should be answered by saying that "there is a lot going on in Europe in the next couple of months…that would be of concern to the Bank."

A note to the Bank's staff on the project: Take a good, long look at the "CC" field before you send any of Project Bookend's results. Also, consider a better name than Project Bookend. Sarah Eberspacher

This just in
May 23, 2015
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Irish voters overwhelmingly said "yes" to same-sex marriage on Saturday, with 62.1 percent in support of amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage, The Associated Press reports.

The results make Ireland the first nation in the world to legalize gay marriage with a popular vote. John Lyons, one of just four openly gay members of the country's 166-member parliament, credited young voters with shifting Ireland's historically conservative constitution in a more liberal direction.

"This says something about modern Ireland," Lyons said. "Let's never underestimate the electorate or what they think." Sarah Eberspacher

Trailer Time
May 23, 2015

"If nobody sees it, it didn't happen."

Such is the advice Whitey Bulger gives his small son in the new trailer for Black Mass, a film promising to peel back the layers on "the most feared, the most wanted, the most notorious gangster in U.S. history." Johnny Depp stars as Bulger, who was arrested in 2011 at age 84 after more than a decade on the run. He was sentenced to two life sentences in 2013, for a string of murders and extortion and money-laundering schemes throughout the 1970s and '80s. Some of the families of Bulger's victims are unhappy with Hollywood's take on the criminal; one told Boston's CBS affiliate the trailer glamorizes Bulger's actions.

Watch Depp's take on Bulger in the new trailer, below. —Sarah Eberspacher

Space News
May 23, 2015
Courtesy NASA

It's a star-eat-star universe out there.

A group of astronomers published a new study with the Royal Astronomical Society this week in which they hypothesize that a star nicknamed "Nasty 1" is being subjected to "sloppy stellar cannibalism" by a second star buried in its hydrogen-dominated outer layers, NBC News reports.

Nasty 1 is a Wolf-Rayet, a huge type of star that begins its life with nearly 20 times the sun's mass. But those outer layers eventually disappear, leaving the star's core susceptible to space. So astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope were surprised to observe a unique gas disk nearly three trillion miles wide encompassing Nasty 1. The discovery is leading scientists to think a second Wolf-Rayet star located within that disk is causing a "mass-transfer process."

The study's authors say they hope to learn more about the process by "catching binary stars in this short-lived phase." Sarah Eberspacher

This just in
May 23, 2015
AP Photo/Tony Dejak, Pool

Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty on two counts of felony voluntary manslaughter on Saturday, The Washington Post reports.

He is the first of six officers to be prosecuted for their roles in the November 2012 fatal shootings of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, both of whom were unarmed at the time of their deaths. Russell and Williams led 62 police vehicles on a chase after the Chevy Malibu Russell was driving backfired in front of police headquarters, which officers mistook for gunfire.

When Russell finally stopped his car in East Cleveland, 13 police officers, including Brelo, shot at least 137 rounds into the vehicle. Russell was shot 23 times; Williams was shot 24 times. Sarah Eberspacher

Crisis in Iraq
May 23, 2015
John Moore/Getty Images

Two U.S. officials speaking anonymously with The Guardian on Friday said Iran has contributed troops to the Iraqi ground force operations against ISIS.

The U.S. military has previously stated that Iran's involvement would not be opposed, so long as its troops remain under the command of Iraqi government-led forces. Still, a U.S. statement released Friday detailing recent operations against ISIS made no mention of Iran's involvement.

The U.S. and its allies have staged a series of offensives over the past few days, in a bid to retake control of the Beiji refinery compound. U.S.-led airstrikes have also targeted the city of Ramadi, which was overtaken by ISIS earlier this week. Sarah Eberspacher

Foreign affairs
May 23, 2015
Brett Gundlock/Getty Images

A gunfight between federal forces and suspected cartel members in the western Mexico state of Michoacán left at least 42 people dead on Friday night, government officials told Reuters.

Most of those killed were suspected gang members; while federal officials did not name the cartel involved, Michoacán's Governor Salvador Jara told a news station that the criminals were likely from the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which specializes in producing and trafficking methamphetamine to the U.S. from the region.

The Wall Street Journal reports that New Generation has orchestrated several police killings over the past few months, most notably on May 1, when its gang members targeted an army helicopter, while also setting fire to banks, gas stations, and cars in Guadalajara. Sarah Eberspacher

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