Foreign affairs
March 7, 2014
Pool/Getty Images

As Crimea barrels toward a referendum that would in all probability make the peninsula a part of the Russian federation, the Kremlin is falling back on the principle of self-determination to justify the move. Russia says it is equivalent to Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008, which was opposed by Russia and supported by the West.

Let's set aside for a moment the fact that Vladimir Putin's government has violently squelched autonomy movements within the federation, and has been a zealous proponent of the notion that sovereign states have wide authority to resolve internal disagreements. (You can bet that China, Putin's longtime ally on these matters, is a little alarmed at his change of heart.) Would Crimea's vote be legitimate?

To be generous, it is badly compromised. The referendum was set in motion by the Crimean parliament, whose leader, Sergei Aksyonov, was installed by force in the wake of the fall of the government in Kiev. Furthermore, the referendum will take place with Russian troops in control of Crimea's state institutions, which hardly screams a free and fair vote.

Crimea has genuine cultural and historical ties to Russia. But the referendum is coming at the end of a gun. Ryu Spaeth

This week in Washington
8:04 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The Senate is likely to vote this week on a bill giving senators some oversight of the Iranian nuclear deal being negotiated by Iran and the U.S., plus five other world powers. The bill passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a 19-0 vote, but last week Republicans filed a number of amendments that would strip away support from Democrats, depriving the measure of not only its sheen of bipartisanship but also enough votes to overcome a filibuster or, if 60 senators still vote in favor, enough to overcome a veto from President Obama.

"It's important that this stays bipartisan," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "We should not intermingle emotional amendments with this bill. I’m appealing to people, 'Don't throw this bill in a ditch.'" The bill, as it stands now, would prevent Obama from waiving sanctions on Iran for 30 days while the Senate votes on the underlying bill. Some Democrats suggest that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants Obama to veto the legislation. Peter Weber

This just in
7:53 a.m. ET
Facebook.com/CorinthianCollegeCareers

Just weeks after being hit with a $30 million fine from the U.S. Department of Education, Corinthian Colleges has closed all 28 of its remaining schools. The department had fined for-profit Corinthian for providing students with false job placement rates.

Corinthian announced the closure on Sunday in a statement and an email to its 16,000 students. According to NBC News, Corinthian's closure marks the "biggest shutdown in the history of higher education in the United States."

"What these students have experienced is unacceptable," the Education Department said in a statement. "As Corinthian closes its doors for good, the department will continue to keep students at the heart of every decision we make." Meghan DeMaria

Noted
6:58 a.m. ET
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Lee Wan Koo, two months after Lee took office and a week after he submitted his resignation in a bribery scandal. A businessman, Sang Wan-jong, said that he paid Lee about $27,000 in bribes in 2013; Sang committed suicide earlier in April. Lee denied the allegation. In South Korea, the president holds most of the levers of power. Peter Weber

nepal earthquake
6:31 a.m. ET

The devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled Nepal and parts of India has killed at least 3,700 people, including a confirmed 3,617 deaths in Nepal. Residents and visitors to Kathmandu are camping out on the streets or fleeing due to fear of aftershocks or because the hotels are full and the airport is in disarray. And at least 18 of the confirmed deaths are on Mt. Everest, where an avalanche swept through base camp. For people not familiar with the topography of the world's highest peak, BBC News has this explainer of the avalanche and where it hit, complete with 3D graphics. Everest is dangerous, but none of the climbers expected this. —Peter Weber

Same-sex marriage
3:56 a.m. ET

The line to watch Tuesday's oral arguments for and against gay marriage started forming outside the Supreme Court on Friday. The justices will decide two main issues: Should states be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and should they be required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other U.S. jurisdictions? The court will preside over 90 minutes of arguments on the first question and an hour on the second.

If the justices seem skeptical about the first question, and ultimately side with the plaintiffs — there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, essentially — the second question won't matter much, explains Associated Press supreme court reporter Mark Sherman in this video preview. And the most important justice to watch is probably Anthony Kennedy, the conservative who has written the last three cases expanding gay rights. Sherman has a more detailed analysis below. —Peter Weber

Johnsplaining
3:05 a.m. ET

For the first four minutes of John Oliver's main story on Last Week Tonight, it's all good news: "Trendy clothes are cheaper than ever, and cheap clothes are trendier than ever," and clothing executives get rich while consumers get great deals. Then Oliver asks the obvious question, about how clothing brands make so much money on cheap fashion? "Let's be honest: You know the answer to that," he added, taking a trip down memory lane to the 1990s and the intermittent outrage over sweatshops and child labor and garment factory deaths since.

"Look, this is going to keep happening as long as we let it," Oliver said. "So we need to show clothing brands not just that we care, but why they should." Toward that end, he announced that he's bought lunch for the heads of Gap Inc., H&M, Walmart, and a few other brands with cheap clothes, to be delivered on Monday. And if that sounds like a nice gesture, well, watch until the end. —Peter Weber

l' odeur de la mort
2:07 a.m. ET
iStock

The inspiration behind Katia Apalategui’s new business came from her mother, who held onto her late husband's pillowcase so she could always remember his distinctive smell.

Apalategui, an insurance saleswoman, thought it would be better to have an actual perfume made of the scent, and set about finding a way to make it happen. Eventually she wound up at France's University of Le Havre, where they came up with a technique to reproduce a smell. "We take the person's clothing and extract the odor — which represents about 100 molecules — and we reconstruct it in the form of a perfume in four days," Geraldine Savary of the University of Le Havre told Agence France-Presse.

It's instant "olfactory comfort," says Apalategui, who plans to launch the business in September with a chemist. While she plans to offer her services at funeral homes, she wants the living to feel included, too, and said a vial of her perfume (cost: €560, or $600) would be perfect as a Valentine's Day gift, or for a child who has a parent that travels often. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads