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April 12, 2014

Various sources are reporting that several dozen men took over a police station in eastern Ukraine this morning, raising a Russian flag and barricading the building:

Ukrainian police say the point of the takeover was the station's gun cache; Kiev claims the militants seized at least 400 handguns and 20 automatic weapons to distribute to pro-Russia protesters. A Reuters photographer on the scene, however, said he had not yet seen any guns distributed.

"(We have) only one demand — a referendum and joining Russia," a militant who gave his name as Sergei told The Associated Press. "We don’t want to be slaves of America and the West. We want to live with Russia."

While the militants appear to be Ukrainian, the headquarters takeover comes in the wake of a buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine's border, which Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains is part of a military training exercise. Sarah Eberspacher

10:01 a.m. ET
Dragunov1981

Americans have very little confidence in the major institutions of democracy, including the courts, political parties, presidency, and fourth estate, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll has concluded. Of all the institutions, though, Americans had the least faith in Congress, with just 8 percent saying they have a "great deal" of trust in the lawmaking body.

The Republican Party followed closely, with only 29 percent of respondents saying they have a level of confidence in the political party that controls the House, Senate, and presidency, while a not-much-more-impressive 36 percent of respondents have confidence in the Democratic Party. Sixty-eight percent of Americans have not much or no confidence in the GOP, and 62 percent did not in the Democrats.

On the other hand, Americans have enormous faith in the military, with 87 percent of respondents reporting a degree of trust in the institution. In 1977, that number was 30 points lower, with just 57 percent of Americans having some or a great deal of confidence in the military. "There have been some big changes in the last 40 years," points out NPR, "including the draft being abolished and fewer and fewer Americans knowing someone serving in the military."

Other institutions that instill only limited confidence in Americans are organized labor (winning the confidence of 49 percent of adults), courts (winning the confidence of 51 percent of adults), and public schools (winning the confidence of 43 percent of adults). The media faired as poorly as the Republican Party, with an entire 68 percent of Americans having not much or no confidence in the press.

The poll reached 1,350 adults on Jan. 8-10 and has a margin of error of 2.7 percent. Read the full results here. Jeva Lange

9:12 a.m. ET

Eric Trump defended his father against charges of racism Wednesday, claiming President Trump sees just one color — and it isn't exactly a natural human shade.

The president came under fire last week after he reportedly dismissed immigrants from "shithole" places such as Haiti, El Salvador, or Africa during a meeting with lawmakers. He then allegedly offered up immigrants from Norway, a country that is 94 percent white, as a favorable alternative.

Eric Trump nevertheless dismissed such reports, suggesting on Fox & Friends that the demographic differences between Norway and the continent of Africa have nothing to do with it. "My father sees one color: Green," said the president's second son. "That is all he cares about. He cares about the economy."

Eric Trump went on to add that his father "does not see race. He is the least racist person I ever met in my entire life. It is total nonsense." President Trump, for his part, has denied using the specific vulgarity that has been attributed to him and told The New York Times on Sunday night: "I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you."

Watch Eric Trump's interview, below. Jeva Lange

8:28 a.m. ET
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House Republicans and Democrats are polling their caucuses Wednesday on a House GOP proposal for short-term spending extension to avert a government shutdown on Friday at midnight, but with Democrats insisting that the next spending package include a solution for the 700,000 DREAMers and Republicans balking, a government shutdown is a distinct possibility.

President Trump and his fellow Republicans have already started framing a government shutdown as the fault of Democrats, "but Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, as well as veterans of past budget battles and campaigns, say that argument isn't likely to fly — not while the GOP runs the House, Senate, and White House and a deeply unpopular president sits in the Oval Office," Politico reports. Adding credence to that assumption is a new poll by Hart Research Associates of 12 battleground states, where 42 percent of respondents said they would blame Trump and congressional Republicans for a shutdown while 31 percent would blame Democrats. The same poll found that 81 percent of voters in those states support adding a DREAMer fix to the spending bill.

Still, "even though they're privately confident they have the upper hand, Democrats don't know for sure how it would play," Politico says. "The public supports DREAMers in the abstract, but would that support hold if the cost were a government shutdown?" In the last government shutdown, in 2013, Republicans took the blame — but still made gains in the next year's midterms, taking control of the Senate. "The clearest lesson from 2013 is that a government shutdown hurt Congress' popularity generally," Ed Kilgore writes at New York, with both parties taking a hit.

On the other hand, both parties would win if they passed a bill to protect DREAMers. A bipartisan Senate proposal was derailed by Trump's opposition and "shithole countries" comment, but Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) have a new "narrow and bipartisan" bill to protect DREAMers that could potentially break the logjam. Peter Weber

8:23 a.m. ET

A significant chunk of North Korea's 550-person delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics will be members of the nation's "cheering squad," The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Some 230 North Koreans are reportedly traveling to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the express purpose of root-root-rooting for the home team, a move Japan has dismissed as being nothing more than a "charm offensive," Reuters writes.

North and South Korea agreed earlier this month for the North to send a symbolic delegation to the Olympics, including the cheer team and a 140-member art troupe. On Wednesday, South Korea confirmed that the two technically warring nations will march together during the opening ceremony under a unified Korean Peninsula flag. South Korea is additionally appealing to the Olympic committee to allow for its women's hockey team roster to be expanded so North Korean players can join, a move that could potentially lead to the Koreas' first unified competitive Olympic team.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono wrote off the symbolic moves, claiming that "it is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea." Kono added, "The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working." Learn more about the North Korean cheerleading team below. Jeva Lange

8:20 a.m. ET
PIERRE TEYSSOT/AFP/Getty Images

Bitcoin plunged by 25 percent to a six-week low early Wednesday due to growing fears of a regulatory crackdown in South Korea. The cryptocurrency briefly dropped below $10,000. Rival cryptocurrencies also plummeted, some by even greater percentages than bitcoin. South Korea has walked back a vow to ban sales of bitcoin, but the country's finance minister, Kim Dong-yeon, said "the shutdown of virtual currency exchanges is still one of the options" open to the government. Reports last week said South Korea was working on discouraging speculative cryptocurrency trading behind their meteoric rise this year. South Korea said it wouldn't make a move until it had time for "sufficient consultation and coordination of opinions." Harold Maass

7:49 a.m. ET
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are reportedly poised to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented immigrants in the region around the Bay Area in California in a maneuver apparently intended to send a signal to sanctuary cities across the country, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed statewide sanctuary legislation for California in October, leading acting ICE Director Thomas Homan to tell Fox News that the state "better hold on tight." The upcoming sweep will target "people who have been identified as targets for deportation, including those who have been served with final deportation orders and those with criminal histories," the Chronicle reports based on conversations with someone familiar with ICE's plans, although "the number could tick up if officers come across other undocumented immigrants in the course of their actions and make what are known as collateral arrests."

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) responded to the news Tuesday, blasting the administration for "carrying out its enforcement actions to make a political point and not based on the security of the country." Santa Clara University School of Law professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram, who specializes in immigration, told the Chronicle the raid is likely to "tear up a lot of lives" but won't have a "meaningful outcome on public safety."

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that the Justice Department is also considering hitting local leaders who implement sanctuary city laws with criminal charges, Newsweek reports. Homan had also told Fox News: "We gotta take [sanctuary cities] to court, and we gotta start charging some of these politicians with crimes." Jeva Lange

6:36 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would take the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to step in and overturn U.S. District Judge William Alsup's ruling blocking President Trump's decision to wind down the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, bypassing the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "It defies both law and common sense" that a "single district court in San Francisco" can halt Trump's plan, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "We are now taking the rare step of requesting direct review on the merits of this injunction by the Supreme Court so that this issue may be resolved quickly and fairly for all the parties involved."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who filed one of the federal lawsuits that led to Alsup's injunction, said he was confident that higher courts will uphold the decision to block "the unlawful action by the Trump administration to terminate DACA." The fate of the roughly 700,000 DREAMers covered by DACA is a central sticking point in negotiations to fund the federal government. The Justice Department isn't requesting a stay of Alsup's ruling, The Washington Post notes, and as soon as it files its petition with the Supreme Court, the justices can take the case or wait for the 9th Circuit appellate court to weigh in first, as would normally happen. Peter Weber

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