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March 4, 2014
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Russia has defended its takeover of Crimea on the grounds that it is protecting the majority of Russians who live in the region. This is the same thing Russia claimed upon occupying and annexing the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at United Nations meetings in Geneva, said, "This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life."

But actually, the most recent poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology shows that a majority of Crimeans are against a union with Russia, and that no region of Ukraine wishes to be reunited with the Russian Federation.

Just 41 percent of Crimeans in the poll taken between February 8 and 18 wanted to become part of Russia.

In the Donetsk region, just 33 percent supported joining Russia. The numbers are even smaller in other parts of the country. In Ukraine as a whole, only 13 percent said they wanted unification with Putin's Russia.

On the other hand, having 40 percent of the population wishing to leave suggests that a referendum on the matter is appropriate. Scotland, for example, is having a referendum this year on independence from Britain, even though polls show just 32 percent support for independence. But with the might of the Russian army already occupying Crimea, can any referendum on the matter be seen as legitimate? I doubt it — if Russian soldiers with machine guns were standing outside your house, would you feel comfortable voting against their presence there?

The fact that the majority of Crimeans and the vast majority of Ukrainians are against reunification with Russia really undermines the attempts of the Putin regime to justify their occupation of Crimea. This is a baseless land grab, nothing more. John Aziz

6:13 a.m. ET
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On Monday, President Trump is unveiling a new office, headed by senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, that will attempt to draw on the business world to revamp the federal bureaucracy, potentially by privatizing some government roles. The White House Office of American Innovation has been meeting informally twice a week and reaching out to top business leaders since shortly after Trump's inauguration, and Kushner's list of targets is ambitious: Overhauling the Veterans Affairs Department, modernizing the IT infrastructure of every federal agency, transforming workforce training programs, and tackling America's heroin and opioid problem, among other goals.

"Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants," The Washington Post says, "the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind, and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements." Kushner, a 36-year-old former real estate and media executive, will add the role of innovation SWAT team leader to his already substantial portfolio, which includes acting as a key adviser on foreign and domestic policy and White House personnel, and point man on relations with Mexico, China, Canada, and the Middle East.

The innovation office includes White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, strategic initiatives adviser Chris Liddell, technology adviser Reed Cordish, deputy National Security Adviser and economic adviser Dina Powell, and Domestic Policy Council director Andrew Bremberg. Kushner will report directly to Trump, and he describes the council as a non-ideological innovation factory, with a focus on technology and data. "We should have excellence in government," Kushner told The Washington Post, adding a novel twist to the idea that the government serves the public. "The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens." Peter Weber

2:51 a.m. ET
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This week, the Trump White House and Republican-led Congress plan to dust themselves off from a bruising self-defeat on a GOP health-care bill and begin work on reforming the tax code, something that hasn't been done in some 30 years. The failure of the health-care plan will likely curb the ambition of the tax overhaul, for both political reasons and because of their decision to use the filibuster-proof Senate budget reconciliation process. "They have to have a victory here," Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist and Trump adviser, tells The New York Times. "But it is going to have to be a bit less ambitious rather than going for the big bang."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his lieutenants have been working on a tax plan since at least last summer, but it's not clear that, after the health-care debacle, the White House will follow Ryan's lead this time. One positive sign for Ryan is that the deficit hawks on the House Freedom Caucus, which helped sink the health-care bill, have expressed flexibility in accepting tax cuts that are not offset by spending cuts or some rise in revenue.

Before they embark on tax reform, however, Republicans have to pass a new spending bill, or risk a government shutdown. The big political fight is expected to be over the insistence by House conservatives to include defunding Planned Parenthood in the spending bill, a nonstarter in the Senate. The current government spending resolution expires April 28. Peter Weber

2:04 a.m. ET

Russians turned out on Sunday for anti-corruption demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and about 100 other cities throughout Russia, in the biggest show of force since a wave of anti-government demonstrations in 2011 and 2012. Anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, whose Foundation for Fighting Corruption called for the protests after publishing information about Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's allegedly ill-gotten luxury lifestyle and properties, was one of the 500-800 people arrested in Moscow alone. There were no overall numbers of arrests or official estimates of how many protesters turned out across Russia, and Russian state news TV channel Rossiya-24 ignored the protests completely on the evening news.

On Sunday evening, the U.S. State Department condemned the crackdown on the peaceful, unsanctioned protests. "The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. The department also tweeted that it "condemns detention of 100s of peaceful protesters" in Russia, calling it "an affront to democratic values."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer retweeted the State Department's condemnation, but so far President Trump has remained silent. Protests and arrests were reported in Siberian towns, the far-east port of Vladivostok, Dagestan, and large cities like Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and Krasnoyarsk. You can watch CNN's report of the Moscow protest below. Peter Weber

12:58 a.m. ET

On CBS Sunday Morning, veteran TV news journalist Ted Koppel presented a 10-minute segment on the fracturing of the news media and how that has contributed to the widening, chasmic political divide in America. One of the people he spoke with was Fox News host Sean Hannity. Hannity argued that Koppel was selling the American public short in not being able to distinguish between news programs and opinion shows like Hannity. "Do you think we're bad for America?" he asked Koppel. "You think I'm bad for America?" "Yeah," Koppel said.

When Hannity looked surprised, Koppel began to explain, saying, "In the long haul I think you and all these opinion shows..." Hannity cut in and called that "sad," and amid a few more interruptions, Koppel told Hannity that "you're very good at what you do" but what he does features attracting "people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts."

Hannity hit back on Twitter later on Sunday, slamming CBS News for only showing what was probably the most interesting two minutes of a 45-minute interview and "daring" the network to release the entire video.

None of the other guests Koppel spoke with — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, New York Times editor Dean Baquet, and AEI scholar Norm Ornstein — complained on Twitter about their edited interviews. The whole 10 minutes is worth a watch, and you can view Koppel's report at CBS News. Peter Weber

March 26, 2017
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Around 70 people, including children and teachers from multiple schools, are believed to have been climbing in an area of the Nasu Osen Family Ski Resort hit by an avalanche Monday morning. Rescue efforts are underway, the Kyodo news agency said, with six people showing no vital signs and three missing. The resort is in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo. Catherine Garcia

March 26, 2017

Some critics of President Trump and the news media argue that political commentators have set an unusually low bar for Trump. At 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, the news division of Fox News sent out this "news alert":

In fact, Trump spent Saturday and Sunday at his golf course in Sterling, Virginia. His staff said he was in meetings, but social media posts showed he was wearing golf attire and spending time on the links. "Normally, I'd suggest that everyone cool it with the golf snark," notes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. "We've now had four consecutive presidents who have taken endless grief every time they hit the links, and it's pretty stupid." But not only was this Trump's 13th trip to one of his golf clubs in 10 weeks in office, "like an embarrassed drunk, he's now trying to hide his golf addiction."

At The New York Times, Eric Lipton and Noah Weiland have a more substantive critique of Trump's frequent visits to Trump-branded properties, including another meal at his hotel in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night — the only restaurant he's eaten at in D.C. while president. For Trump, "it was just another weekend with a presidential-size spotlight on his family's business outlets," they write. "White House officials have said Mr. Trump goes to his clubs and restaurants because he is comfortable there, but critics increasingly argue that the visits are priceless advertising and that Mr. Trump and his family are using the presidency as a way to enrich themselves."

"It is normal for presidents to get out — and it can be a boost for small businesses across the city and the country," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, told The Times. "But with President Trump, he spends his down time as a walking advertisement for his businesses. It is a major departure from historic norm and degradation of the office."

Again, Trump had a tough week, and a few rounds of golf is a healthy way to blow off steam. But while Trump did not travel to his Florida club this weekend, and he may have spent part of his golf outings holding meetings, he clearly did not spend the "weekend working at the White House." And even if he had, outside of CNN, it's doesn't usually merit a "news alert" when somebody does his job. Peter Weber

March 26, 2017
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South Korean prosecutors will ask a court to issue an arrest warrant for former President Park Geun-hye, the Yonhap news agency reported Monday.

Park was impeached three months ago and removed from office by the Constitutional Court earlier this month on allegations of corruption; Park was interrogated by prosecutors last week on suspicion she let a friend covertly interfere with state affairs and worked with an imprisoned confidante to extort certain companies. Park has denied the allegations. Catherine Garcia

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