Foreign affairs
March 16, 2014

Despite warnings from the United States and its allies that they would not recognize the outcome of the referendum, Crimean voters on Sunday voted almost unanimously to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. Preliminary tallies showed more than nine in ten voters backed a union with Moscow, according to multiple reports.

The U.S. maintained that the election was illegal and illegitimate, siding with the interim Ukrainian government that has taken over since the country ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich. And with Russian troops already positioned in Crimea, there's reason to wonder just how fair such a tectonic vote could be.

But talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart on Friday proved fruitless — Kerry said there was no "common vision" between the two sides — with Russia refusing to recognize the interim government in Kiev as legitimate. Then on Saturday, Russia vetoed a proposed U.N. resolution that would have rejected the outcome of the referendum.

In a phone call with President Obama Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the vote, saying the election was "completely in line with the norms of international law."

Watch this
4:06 a.m. ET

Van Halen, with David Lee Roth back as frontman, is releasing a new album, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, on Tuesday. On Monday, they shut down part of Hollywood Blvd. to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live. If you're wondering why Roth's nose is bandaged, he smacked it with a microphone in their first take of "Panama." He makes a joke about it halfway through the version below, but his bloodied nose doesn't stop the 60-year-old rocker from kicking and singing his way through the song. And Eddie Van Halen's guitar work is pretty close to the same as it was when Roth left the band in 1985. Watch below. —Peter Weber

RIP
3:23 a.m. ET

On Sunday, police found the body of Spence Jackson, the media director for Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, about a month after Schweich apparently killed himself hours before a planned news conference to accuse the head of the Missouri Republican Party of waging an anti-Semitic smear campaign against him. Jackson, 44, was discovered inside his locked apartment in Jefferson City, shot dead in an apparent suicide, according to Jefferson City Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker.

Police are treating Jackson's death as a suicide, though they aren't ruling out other causes of death, and they aren't releasing the contents of a note found near Jackson's body. Schweich, a Republican, was running for governor, and after his death, Jackson called on Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock to resign. Shoemaker has more information about the case in the news conference below. —Peter Weber

News you can use
2:36 a.m. ET

If you're looking for a brief recap of why people are getting worked up over Indiana's new "Religious Freedom Restoration" law, preferably with some jokes thrown in, Seth Meyers has you covered. On Monday night's Late Night, Meyers explained the controversial law, why people think it will lead to anti-gay discrimination, how it differs from similar federal and state laws, and why Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is an ineffective spokesman for the bill he signed last week. Or, you could just watch for the jokes. —Peter Weber

Bieber Roast
1:59 a.m. ET

Justin Bieber threw some pretty good barbs of his own at his Comedy Central roast, which aired Monday night, but after sitting through an hour of mercilessness mockery, Bieber took the stage and apologized for being a jackass. "Let's get serious for a moment," he said, noting that nothing prepared him for being a teen mega-star. "There's been moments I'm really proud of and a lot of moments I look back and I’m pretty disappointed with myself for, but the things I've done don't really define who I am." Bieber sort of undercuts his perceived sincerity by licking his lips repeatedly, but his apology earns him a hearty round of applause — which he follows up with a Selena Gomez joke. You can watch some of the night's jokes at Comedy Central, and Bieber's coming-of-age speech below. —Peter Weber

Bieber Roast
1:16 a.m. ET

"I bet you're wondering why I'm here tonight," Martha Stewart said in the middle of her bit during Comedy Central's roast of Justin Bieber. But by that point, nobody was wondering. Stewart had everyone in the audience — as well as roastmaster Kevin Hart and the other objects of her barbs on stage — gasping with laughter and shock. Her best joke — no, not the one about making pot brownies with Snoop Dogg — involves both Hart and Bieber, and you can watch it below. Warning, Stewart gets a little salty at times, so probably NSFW. —Peter Weber

Fallon Games
12:23 a.m. ET

"I haven't done this since I was about 11," Helen Mirren tells Jimmy Fallon when he offers her a helium balloon to inhale from on Monday night's Tonight Show. "Welcome to The Tonight Show," Fallon responds. And so it begins, your chance to hear a proper British accent — not The Queen proper, but proper enough — say "spotted dick," among other delightful things, on television. —Peter Weber

POTUS abroad
12:05 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Monday, the White House announced that President Obama will co-host a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya in July, his first trip to his father's homeland as president. It will be Obama's "fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa and the most of any sitting U.S. president," note National Security Council staffers Grant Harris and Shannon Green, comparing the Kenya visit to "President Kennedy's historic visit to Ireland in 1963."

At The New York Times, Peter Baker plays up the silly number of Americans who say they believe that Obama himself was born in Kenya, rather than Hawaii. But he also adds the substantive diplomatic problem that Kenya's president has been under a legal and ethical cloud since ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections left more than 1,200 dead and 600,000 displaced.

"Now, the case against the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been dropped, and the perennial talk about Mr. Obama's birth has faded in the United State," Baker concludes. "So Mr. Obama seems to have concluded that a Kenya trip is acceptable at home and abroad." Obama has visited Kenya twice before, as a young man — a visit chronicled in his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father — and again as a U.S. senator in 2006.

See More Speed Reads