Burned
March 3, 2014
AP Photo/Michael Sohn

After Russia's military occupation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea over the weekend, a lot of analysts are trying to gaze into Russian President Vladimir Putin's psyche. (A senior Obama administration official unkindly told The Hill that "we in this administration have made it a practice not to look into Vladimir Putin's soul.") But at least one world leader seems to think Putin isn't firmly anchored in reality. Here's Peter Baker at The New York Times:

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. "In another world," she said. [New York Times]

The world of modern diplomacy is premised on the belief that, saber-rattling and propaganda aside, world leaders are basically rational actors whose behaviors are subject to incentives and credible threats. A lot of what happens next in Ukraine may be riding on whether or not Merkel is correct. Or maybe some nuance was just lost in translation. Peter Weber

hollywood 411
2:58 a.m. ET
Facebook.com/Avengers

Avengers: Age of Ultron brought in $187.7 million over the weekend, the second-biggest domestic opening in history.

The movie has earned an estimated $627 million worldwide over the last 12 days, Variety reports, and is on track to pass $1 billion after it opens in China on May 12. Despite competition from the Kentucky Derby, NBA playoffs, and the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight, moviegoers flocked to the film — about 59 percent of the audience was male, 41 percent were over the age of 25, 12 percent were teenagers, and 22 percent were families. Coming in a distant second place this weekend was Age of Adaline with $6.3 million. Catherine Garcia

giving homes to the homeless
2:10 a.m. ET
David McNew/Getty Images

Over the last 10 years, the number of chronically homeless people in Utah has dropped dramatically — down from 1,932 in 2005 to just 178 in 2015. The decline started once the state decided to try something new: Giving homes to the homeless.

"We call it housing first, employment second," Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah's Homeless Task Force, told NBC News. "It's a philosophical shift in how we go about it. You put them in housing first ... and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless." The chronically homeless — defined as a person who lived on the streets for more than a year, or four times in three years, with a debilitating condition — make up 10 percent of the state's homeless population, but use more than 50 percent of its resources.

On average, the state was spending $19,208 every year for one person, until Pendleton discovered it cost only about $7,800 to set a person up in a home with a case worker. "It's more humane, and it's cheaper," he said. "I call them 'homeless citizens.' They're part of our citizenry. They're not them and us. It's 'we.'" Participants in the program say as soon as they received the keys to their house, their lives turned around and they were able to hold down jobs. "It was a blessing," veteran Don Williams, who had slept under a bush for 10 years, told NBC News. "A real blessing." Catherine Garcia

Boko Haram
1:50 a.m. ET

Last week, Nigeria's army rescued about 700 women and children abducted by the Islamist militia Boko Haram, and the first contingent of 275 arrived late Saturday at a government refugee camp near Yola, the capital of northeastern Adamawa state. The women and kids are receiving medical care, and on Sunday they told reporters sad and harrowing stories about their capture, captivity, and rescue.

Many of the women said that when Boko Haram abducted them, the militants first killed their husbands and older male offspring in front of them. Some of the women were forced to marry Boko Haram fighters, and one women told Reuters that they were fed only dried ground corn in the afternoons, leading to widespread malnutrition and death. Also, "they didn't allow us to move an inch," explained Asabe Umaru. "If you needed the toilet, they followed you. We were kept in one place. We were under bondage."

The assaults didn't end when the Nigerian forces drew near. "Boko Haram came and told us they were moving out and that we should run away with them. But we said no," Lami Musa, 27, told The Associated Press. "Then they started stoning us. I held my baby to my stomach and doubled over to protect her."

Musa and other survivors of the stoning said they didn't know how many women died, but Musa said her 5-day-old baby — born the night before the rescue — saved her from forced marriage. "They took me so I can marry one of their commanders," she said, and they told her than once she delivered, "within a week we will marry you to our commander." Some of the women, hiding, were accidently crushed by Nigerian government tanks coming to rescue them, and at least three others died when they stepped on a land mine en route to the refugee camp.

Nigeria and neighboring countries have been capturing ground from Boko Haram since February, pushing them into the Sambisa Forest, where the captured women and children were all found. Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to leave his successor a country "free of terrorist strongholds" when he leaves office later this month. Reuters has a slideshow of the women reaching camp below. —Peter Weber

what's in a name
1:11 a.m. ET
WPA Pool/Getty Images

We know that she's a girl and fourth in line for the British throne, but there's still one lingering question about the new Princess of Cambridge: What's her name?

Thousands of people have made their bets in the UK, with Alice and Charlotte the frontrunners, followed by Olivia, The Guardian reports. It may still be awhile before the world finds out if her royal parents went with a historically-significant name like Alexandra or threw everyone for a loop with a Toddlers & Tiaras-inspired moniker like Makynli — they waited until her big brother met Queen Elizabeth two days after his birth to announce his full name of George Alexander Louis, but the Queen isn't expected to see the princess until the family goes to their country estate.

If the baby is named Charlotte, it could be an homage to her grandfather Charles, or George III's wife, Queen Charlotte, born in 1744. Alice was the name of Queen Victoria's second daughter, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh's mother, and there's also the possibility they will somehow incorporate a name that honors William’s late mother or her relatives. My fake British money is on Victoria Diana Elizabeth. Catherine Garcia

changes
May 3, 2015
Facebook.com/SmithCollege

Beginning in the fall, Smith College will change its policy and accept transgender women.

The women's college spent the past year studying the issue, and decided to change its policy of just accepting applicants who have identified as female since birth, The Associated Press reports. President Kathleen McCartney and board chairwoman Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard made the announcement on Saturday, saying that over time, "concepts of female identity have evolved." Smith, the largest of the Seven Sisters schools, will not admit students who were born female but identify as male. Catherine Garcia

crisis in yemen
May 3, 2015

In Yemen, new pro-government forces have arrived in the port city of Aden, leading some to believe that they are ground troops from the Saudi-led coalition brought in to fight the Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia says it has not sent any ground forces to Yemen, the Los Angeles Times reports. The unit, thought to be made up of about 50 people, including special forces operatives, joined up with members of the Southern Resistance Committees, an anti-Houthi armed group. A spokesperson for the pro-government committees in Aden told the Times the fighters were "engaged in the fights and confrontation in areas near and around Aden airport."

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch also said that the coalition likely used cluster bombs, which are banned in most countries, against the Houthis. Saudi officials have yet to comment on the allegation. Catherine Garcia

election 2016
May 3, 2015
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Dr. Ben Carson is the latest Republican to announce he is entering the presidential race.

"I'm willing to be part of the equation, and therefore, I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States of America," the retired neurosurgeon told WKRC in Ohio on Sunday. "Many people have suggested to me that I should run for president, even though I'm not a politician."

Carson told WKRC he believes people want him to enter politics because "we are in a severe problem... a problematic situation." He says he is a "reluctant warrior" and thinks it's important to "have enough humility to be able to work with others to recognize you're not necessarily the expert in everything. But you can, with very good advice, make good decisions." He will make an official announcement on Monday. Catherine Garcia

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