Foreign affairs
March 2, 2014

With headlines like "Ukraine readies for an invasion by Russia" and "PM says Ukraine on the brink of disaster," media outlets in the U.S. and Western Europe have largely condemned Putin's military intervention in the Crimea. But Russians are hearing a very different story.

That's from Russia Today, the Kremlin's English-language news site, which went on to say that "contrary to expectations, security in Crimea has actually become more stable" since Russia invaded. For those of us who don't read Cyrillic, RT can give a taste of what Russians are seeing and hearing.

Here's a selection of other headlines from the site:

- "Ukrainian troops dispatched in Crimea switch to region's side - sources"

- "675,000 Ukrainians pour into Russia as 'humanitarian crisis' looms"

- "Will be a war crime to use force against Ukraine civilians, Russia warns self-proclaimed president"

- "Russia's UN envoy: Radical forces destabilising Ukraine must be stopped"

RT also has been running live footage of a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine.

As Reuters outlines, the Russian press — which research organization Freedom House has simply labeled "not free" due to Putin's stranglehold on it — has been swamped with the Kremlin's messaging of the invasion.

On Russian television, weeks of footage of wounded policemen and burning tyres have given way to sober pictures of politicians and Ukrainians predicting Ukraine will split after opposition forces took control in Kiev and the president fled.

In a sign the Kremlin is shaken by losing a struggle for influence with the West in its neighbor, the language has been set against the us-or-them background of the Soviet victory against Adolf Hitler — a source of national pride. [Reuters]

Of course, Putin's critics have also been quick to invoke comparisons to World War II, with one calling the invasion his "Sudetenland," a reference to Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia.

we dare you to eat it
9:56 a.m. ET

Is there any holiday treat as polarizing as marshmallow Peeps?

If you're in the pro-Peeps camp, you'll be thrilled to learn that starting this week, Prairie Farms is releasing a limited-edition collection of Peeps-flavored milk. The delicacy will be available in three flavors, "Marshmallow Milk," "Chocolate Marshmallow Milk," and "Easter Egg Nog."

Unfortunately, the milk will only be available at stores in the Midwest. And if you're lucky enough to get your hands on Peeps milk, be warned that it has 37 grams of sugar per serving, so you probably don't want to go overboard.

9:46 a.m. ET

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been under fire this week after the revelation that she and several of her top aides used private email addresses while at the State Department, a move which fails to comply with federal transparency regulations. In 2007, however, Clinton explicitly said that the use of similarly private email accounts by the Bush administration was an attack on the Constitution. The quote begins at the seven minute mark below:

Our Constitution is being shredded. We know about the secret wiretaps, the secret military tribunals, the secret White House email accounts....It’s a stunning record of secrecy and corruption, of cronyism run amok. It is everything our founders were afraid of, everything our Constitution was designed to prevent. [Clinton, via a Daily Caller transcript]

In a tweet published late last night, Clinton said she has asked the State Department to release her emails, but critics have noted the emails to be released have already been reviewed and culled by her staff.

Watch this
9:28 a.m. ET

It's been almost 20 years since the release of Happy Gilmore, but Adam Sandler and Bob Barker's feud is as red-hot as ever. In a promo for Comedy Central's charity event Night of Too Many Stars, the unlikely comedy duo rekindle the brutal feud they first acted out as golf partners in Happy Gilmore — and take their violent fight to its logical conclusion:

Night of Too Many Stars airs on March 8.

This just in
9:20 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Soon, elephants will no longer be a part of your visit to the circus.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will get rid of elephant acts by 2018, according to The Associated Press. The move comes after public concern about animal rights. Before the announcement, some cities had passed ordinances against circus elephants during performances.

Feld Entertainment, the circus' parent company, told AP the elephants will retire to the company's Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. "Things have changed," Kenneth Feld told AP. "How does a business be successful? By adapting."

The circus will still showcase other animals, such as camels.

Marvel-ous News
9:12 a.m. ET
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

To ring in the release of the blockbuster superhero sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, select AMC and Regal theaters will host a screening of every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — a marathon screening that will span about 27 hours. The full roster:

Iron Man

- The Incredible Hulk

- Iron Man 2

- Captain America: The First Avenger

- The Avengers

- Iron Man 3

- Thor: The Dark World

- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

- Guardians of the Galaxy

The marathon screening event will culminate with Avengers: Age of Ultron — not that any of the attendees will be awake to see it.

Cameo cancelled
9:05 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was slated to appear on Parks and Recreation but backed out at the last minute, according to the show's co-creator, Mike Schur.

"I think he thought we were making fun of him, or something, which we were not, at all," Schur told Hitfix. "We were in fact flattering him, by linking him to Ron."

Added Schur of the potential 2016 presidential candidate: "I get the sense that maybe interpreting writing and humor is not his strong suit."

8:34 a.m. ET
Michael B. Thomas/Stringer/Getty Images

Roughly 50 protesters gathered outside the police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday night following two landmark announcements from the Justice Department.

The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that white police officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, will not be charged. In a separate report released Wednesday, the department found that Ferguson's police department was guilty of routine racial discrimination.

Four protesters were arrested on Wednesday night, but reporters described the scene as relatively peaceful, with no accounts of violence from the demonstrators. The demonstrators held hands outside the police department, chanting and occasionally blocking traffic.

New Jersey
8:32 a.m. ET
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In late February, New Jersey quietly and unexpectedly settled its $8.9 billion lawsuit against Exxon Mobile for about $250 million, after more than a decade of hard-fought litigation and a finding that Exxon was liable for damages. And the driving force behind that pennies-on-the-dollar settlement was not the state attorney general but Gov. Chris Christie's (R) chief counsel, Christopher S. Porrino, The New York Times reported late Wednesday, citing "two people familiar with the negotiations."

One of those people spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity, but the other, former commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection Bradley M. Campbell, made his allegation in an op-ed in The Times. The leaders of the state legislature, controlled by Democrats, said they would hold hearings and try to prevent the deal from being approved.

"The reported settlement is appalling and disturbing," said Assemblyman John KcKeon, chairman of the judiciary committee. "The Christie administration appears more interested in rewarding Exxon Mobil — for whatever reason — than protecting taxpayers and our environment." Christie's office and Exxon declined to comment, when asked by The Times.

This doesn't look good
7:51 a.m. ET
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Statins can lower cholesterol, but their other health effects may not be so positive. A study published in the journal Diabetologia found that the drugs could increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes in white men by as much as 46 percent.

Researchers in Finland found that after six years, white men who were prescribed statins had a 46 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those not taking statins. The statins made patients resistant to insulin, and the patients worst affected were the ones who started the study with the lowest blood glucose levels.

"It's a good news-bad news scenario," Dr. Robert Eckel, the former president of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado's School of Medicine, told Time, adding that the benefits of the drug still outweigh the health risks.

7:28 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio officially added two holidays to the public school calendar — Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha — making New York the largest city to close schools on Islam's two holiest days. A handful of other cities around the U.S. have put those holiday on their calendar, but as The New York Times points out, "New York City, with its 1.1 million schoolchildren, dwarfs the others in its size and symbolism."

The move wasn't a huge surprise — de Blasio had pledged to add Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to the school calendar during his campaign. About 10 percent of New York public school students are Muslim, a 2008 Columbia University study estimated. De Blasio had also pledged to add the Lunar New Year to the school holiday list, as requested by the city's Asian community, and he said Wednesday that he'll "keep working on that." Next school year, Eid al-Adha is on Sept. 24, and Eid al-Fitr is during the summer.

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