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March 8, 2014
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Another round of takeovers and skirmishes re-upped tensions in Crimea overnight, as Russian forces gained control of a military office and seized an armory, kicking the officers and their families who live there out of apartments. The moves came on the heels of Russia’s parliament signaling it would annex Crimea if the region votes to break away from Ukraine in a hastily scheduled March 16 referendum.

It’s not the forceful troop tactics that have pro-Moscow Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov worried, though:

There are many hotheads who are trying to create a destabilized situation in the autonomous republic of Crimea, and because the life and safety of our citizens is the most valuable thing, we have decided to curtail the duration of the referendum and hold it as soon as possible. [Reuters]

Indeed, there do appear to be hotheads creating a destabilized Crimea, Aksyonov just may be among them. Sarah Eberspacher

7:57 p.m. ET
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Anyone looking to become an instant millionaire should grab a few dollars and head to the closest retailer selling Powerball tickets — the estimated jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing has reached $700 million.

This is the second-largest Powerball jackpot in U.S. history. Tickets are $2 each, and the odds of winning are 1 in 292.2 million. If anyone wins the whole shebang, they can choose an annuity option, receiving the jackpot in 30 payments over 29 years, or take the cash, which significantly reduces the amount of money (in this case, it would be $443.3 million). The winner will also have to pay federal taxes (25 percent), and possibly state taxes (Californians and Texans are among the exempt). Good luck! Catherine Garcia

7:17 p.m. ET
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Just hours before Marcellus Williams, 48, was scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) issued a stay of execution, in light of attorneys saying DNA evidence proves Williams did not stab to death Felicia Gayle, a 42-year-old former reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in her home nearly 20 years ago.

In a statement, Greitens said a "sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt." Greitens is going to appoint a five-person Board of Inquiry, which will review the case and offer a recommendation to him, CNN reports. Williams' attorneys said they did not have the DNA evidence during his 2001 trial, and a forensic DNA expert and biologist hired by the legal team found that hair sample found at the crime scene do not match Williams and none of his DNA is on the murder weapon.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office said there is still plenty of non-DNA evidence proving Williams' guilt; Williams sold Gayle's husbands laptop and some of the victim's personal items were found inside the trunk of Williams' car. From the beginning, Williams has maintained his innocence, and said he was convicted based on testimony from convicted felons. Catherine Garcia

5:58 p.m. ET
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President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have "not spoken to each other in weeks," The New York Times reported Tuesday. The Republican president and the top Senate Republican have apparently entered a "political cold war," the Times said, made all the more fraught by the fact that the GOP faces a tough legislative battle in the fall, as well as the presence of Elaine Chao — McConnell's wife — in Trump's Cabinet as transportation secretary.

The resentment and mutual hostility is so grave, apparently, that McConnell has reportedly taken to privately confessing that he's not sure the Trump administration can be saved:

Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump's regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump's understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump's presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year's elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly. [The New York Times]

Earlier this month, Trump repeatedly attacked McConnell on Twitter, spurring the majority leader's Senate colleagues to rally around him. Trump has also attacked Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R), calling him "toxic" and endorsing his primary challenger, Kelli Ward; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), whose refusal to vote for her party's health-care proposal prompted Trump to say she "really let the Republicans, and our country, down"; and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), whose critical comments about Trump's controversial response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, prompted the president to label him "publicity-seeking."

Trump needs McConnell as an ally to rally those same Republicans around his agenda, but "angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict," the Times wrote. Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters

5:31 p.m. ET

A Trump-branded Scion hotel is coming to the Mississippi Delta, and details of the project are already raising some eyebrows:

At the Trump family's suggestion, the Cleveland, Mississippi, hotel is "changing course mid-construction" in order to install "a resort-caliber pool, place decorative balconies on the main building, and construct a hill for another building — a faux Southern mansion," Bloomberg reports. "The property's 17 acres will have a spa, bars, and a meeting hall styled as a cotton gin."

The romanticization of a "replica Southern plantation" sounded some alarm bells. "The Onion might as well just go out of business now," one Twitter user wrote, while another responded: "Tone. Deaf."

Attn: has reported on antebellum nostalgia, especially as it pertains to the wedding industry, and explains that "the word 'plantation' has been normalized despite its racist history" and that "a Southern plantation is a large estate that was historically used to grow crops with African slave labor before the Civil War." Liz Susong, the editor-in-chief of Catalyst Wedding Co., told Attn:, "I think a lot of the history of properties has been really white-washed."

President Trump, while no longer the head of the Trump Organization, defended monuments to the Confederacy last week. "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted. "You can't change history, but you can learn from it." Jeva Lange

1:40 p.m. ET

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley had a "personal conversation" with President Trump about how he handled the aftermath of Charlottesville, Politico reports.

Both Republicans and Democrats skewered the president for blaming "both sides" for the violence that erupted out of a neo-Confederate, white nationalist rally. Haley told CNN on Tuesday that afterward, she "had a personal conversation with the president about Charlottesville, and I will leave it at that." She added to Good Morning America that the conversation "was taken very well."

Haley was serving as governor of South Carolina in 2015 when a gunman killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston. Five days later, she called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol in a speech that acknowledged that "people were driving by and [feeling] hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”

Trump, however, has defended Confederate monuments, claiming: "This week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

Haley says Trump has "clarified" his stance "so that no one can question that he's opposed to bigotry and hate in this country." Jeva Lange

12:40 p.m. ET

The highly anticipated fight between undefeated boxing world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the current UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, could hit a snag if McGregor doesn't lose 10 pounds by Saturday, Mayweather warned FightHype.com on Tuesday. The limit for the light middleweight class is 154 pounds.

"Conor McGregor is extremely heavy right now, extremely heavy," Mayweather said. "I think he's like 164. So he's still got 10 pounds to go." It's unclear whether Mayweather knows definitively that McGregor is overweight or is just adding fuel to the publicity fire.

Mayweather added that McGregor "better get them extra millions ready or somebody's going to pay a fine. You gotta get that weight down. A true champion is disciplined and very responsible." He said that if McGregor didn't make weight, there'd still be a fight, "but it's going to be a heavy fine. Give me that money." Jeva Lange

12:15 p.m. ET
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George and Amal Clooney's Clooney Foundation for Justice has donated $1 million to fight hate groups in the U.S. after violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Clooneys joined forces with the Southern Poverty Law Center to "increase the capacity of the SPLC to combat hate groups in the United States."

"Amal and I wanted to add our voice (and financial assistance) to the ongoing fight for equality," said actor George Clooney in a statement. "There are no two sides to bigotry and hate." The couple added: "What happened in Charlottesville, and what is happening in communities across our country, demands our collective engagement to stand up to hate."

The SPLC follows more than 1,600 extremist groups across the country, including the neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and neo-Confederate groups that rallied in Charlottesville. Jeva Lange

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