TIME ukraine crisis

Russia Will Allow International Monitors into Ukraine

Russia's President Vladimir Putin signs a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow March 21, 2014. Mikhail Klimentyev—AFP/Getty Images

The move could ease tensions in the region and allay Western fears that Russia plans to grab more Ukrainian territory

Russia will allow international monitors into Ukraine amid concerns from Western countries that Russia might make a grab at more territory after it annexed the southern Crimea peninsula.

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Friday that 100 monitors will initially be sent to Ukraine, Bloomberg News reports. But monitors will not be allowed into Crimea, which Russia said is now part of its territory.

Russia’s acquiescence could help cool international tensions after its annexation of Crimea, finalized Friday, spawned a tit-for-tat exchange of sanctions between the United States and European Union, and Russia.

But on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Lukashevich condemned the E.U.’s expanded sanctions—an additional dozen people were targeted by sanctions Friday–and threatened reprisal, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“It is a pity that the European Council took a decision that is divorced from reality,” he said. “We believe that it is time to return to pragmatic areas of cooperation that serve the interests of our countries. However, it should be understood that Russia reserves the right to give an adequate response to these actions.”

President Vladimir Putin signaled on Friday that he wouldn’t escalate the war of sanctions between Russia and the U.S., reports the New York Times, though he did joke in televised remarks that he would open an account at a Russian bank sanctioned by the U.S.

Meanwhile, Russia tightened its grip on Crimea. The Ukrainian defense ministry said Saturday that pro-Russian forces stormed another military base in Crimea on Saturday, driving out Ukrainian soldiers who threw smoke bombs as they departed.


TIME March Madness 2014

No One Won Warren Buffett’s $1 Billion Bracket Challenge

Exclusive Portraits Of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., Oct. 22, 2013. Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A group backed by Warren Buffett planned to hand out $1 billion for a perfect bracket but Friday's upsets eliminated all contestants. However, the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket is still offering $100,000 each to the top twenty performing brackets

It’s over already.

The group offering $1 billion for the perfect March Madness bracket said late Friday that no potential winners remain after two major upsets busted almost every submitted bracket.

The contest by Quicken Loans, backed by Warren Buffet, said that 99 percent of brackets were eliminated on Friday after Dayton beat Ohio State and Mercer beat Duke in the college basketball tournament.

The final three brackets were eliminated after only 25 games when Memphis defeated George Washington Friday evening, the Associated Press reports.

The Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket is still offering $100,000 each to the top twenty performing brackets.

“That’s still a heck of a payday for filing out a bracket,” Jay Farmer, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans, said in a statement.

TIME Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

New Lead In Hunt For Missing Jet As Chinese Satellite Spots Object

A Chinese satellite located an object near an earlier reported finding, but Australian search ships found no sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet

A Chinese satellite has identified an object in the Indian Ocean that could be a piece of debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in the latest potential clue to the whereabouts of the Boeing 777 airliner that has been missing since March 8.

The satellite spotted March 19 an object roughly 74 feet long and 43 feet wide off the coast of western Australia, close to where another piece of debris was believed to have been seen two days earlier, Reuters reports.

Malaysia’s Defense Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who was the first to reveal the latest information, said Chinese ships have been sent to the region, according to Reuters.

The area had already become a focus of the search, which now involves more than two dozen countries. Australia cautioned after the first satellite image that the object may have been a piece from a missing shipping container and also may have sunk since it was spotted. It said Saturday it had found no sign of the second object during searches that day.

Chinese state broadcaster posted an image of the suspected debris on Twitter:



Pope to Mafia: Repent!

Pope Francis Meets Relatives of the Mafia's Victims
Pope Francis, flanked by President of the Libera Foundation father Don Luigi Ciotti, left, arrives at St Gregory VII Church for a prayer vigil with relatives of the Mafia's victims on March 21, 2014 in Rome. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

About 1,000 people attended a vigil for mafia victims at the church of San Gregorio VII in Rome where Pope Francis warned mobsters: “Blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can’t bring it with you to your next life"

Pope Francis attended an annual vigil for mafia victims Friday and warned mobsters to change their ways or risk going to hell.

“This life that you live now won’t give you pleasure. It won’t give you joy or happiness,” he said, the Associated Press reports. “Blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can’t bring it with you to your next life.”

“Repent,” Pope Francis said in his most forceful denouncement of organized crime to date. “There’s still time to not end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.”

About 1,000 people attended the vigil at the church of San Gregorio VII in Rome, where the names of 842 mafia victims were read aloud.

It was the first time a pope has attended the vigil, organized by the anti-mafia group Libera for the past 19 years, Reuters reports.

“You had a father, a mother. Think of them,” the Pontiff said. “Weep a little. And convert yourselves.”



Judge Approves $218 Million JPMorgan Settlement for Bank’s Role in Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme

Bernard Madoff, founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Secu
Bernard Madoff is led out from Federal court Mar. 10, 2009 in New York. Jin Lee—Bloomberg/Getty Images

This class-action settlement worth $218 million is just a sliver of the more than $2 billion the bank has agreed to pay for its role in the Ponzi scheme. The judge said the deal provides “substantial and immediate” benefits to Madoff's victims

A New York federal judge approved Friday JPMorgan Chase’s $218 million class-action settlement over its role in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Judge Colleen McMahon said the deal with Madoff’s customers meets the standards for final approval and provides “substantial and immediate” benefits to his victims. The judge also awarded $18 million in legal fees to the law firms representing the plaintiffs.

JPMorgan, Madoff’s primary bank for more than 20 years, has agreed to pay a total of $2.25 billion to Madoff-related cases, including a $1.7 billion civil settlement with the U.S. government and $325 million settlement with Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Madoff’s former company, Reuters reports.

Madoff, who lost an estimated $17.3 billion of customers’ investments, is serving a 150-year prison term.



Michigan’s Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Judge

April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse
In this March 5, 2013, file photo, April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse pose at their home in Hazel Park, Mich. The two nurses who've been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Paul Sancy—AP

A federal has judge struck down Michigan’s gay marriage ban that was approved by voters in 2004. The decision paves the way for same-sex unions in the state barring an emergency hold on the judge's ruling

A federal judge Friday struck down Michigan’s ban on gay and lesbian marriage, paving the way for the state to become the 18th in the nation to allow same-sex matrimony, the Detroit News reports.

Judge Bernard Friedman did not allow for a waiting period to give the state time to appeal or implement the ruling, and couples are expected to receive marriage licenses from county clerks offices as soon as they open Monday morning.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would file an emergency request for a stay pending an appeal. During the trial, the state called for the judge to respect the decision of voters in 2004 approving the ban.

The judiciary has overturned gay marriage bans in four other states since December—Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virgian—but appeals have put each of those cases on hold, according to the AP. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

[Detroit News]


Long-Term Unemployed Face 1 in 10 Odds of Getting Hired Each Year

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A new Princeton study reveals that 1 in 10 people who have been unemployed for six months or longer are hired annually, which underscores the struggles of those seeking to re-enter the job market after being laid off

Only one in 10 long-term people who have been unemployed for six months or more are hired every year, according to a Princeton study that affirms the bleak outlook for many long-term job seekers.

With the unemployment rate near five-year lows amid a post-recession recovery, the long-term unemployed are still struggling to find jobs. Even in regions with the strongest job markets, the rate of hiring for the long-term jobless is no better.

Alan Krueger, lead researcher and a former chief White House economic advisor, told CNBC that long-term job seekers are prone to becoming discouraged and putting less effort into finding a job. Meanwhile, employers can be skeptical of potential hires who have not worked for six months.

“A concerted effort will be needed to raise the employment prospects of the long-term unemployed, especially as they are likely to withdraw from the job market at an increasing rate,” Kreuger wrote in the paper.


TIME Heart Disease

Study: Salt Accelerates Aging in Overweight Teens

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The lead author of a new study that was presented at the American Heart Association conference says that lowering sodium intake could slow down cellular aging and prevent heart disease in overweight teens

Salt can increase the rate of aging and the risk of heart disease in overweight teenagers, according to a study presented this week at an American Heart Association conference in San Francisco.

Overweight teenagers who reported higher sodium intakes had telomeres—protective ends of chromosomes that shorten with age—that were significantly shorter than those in overweight teenagers with lower sodium intakes.

“Lowering sodium intake, especially if you are overweight or obese, may slow down the cellular aging process that plays an important role in the development of heart disease,” Haidong Zhu, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia, said in a statement.

The study divided 766 teenagers between ages 14 and 18 into groups of lower and higher reported sodium intakes—though both groups reported consuming significantly more on a daily basis than the two-thirds of a teaspoon recommended by the American Heart Association.

Normal weight teens with high-sodium intakes did not have shorter telomeres.

“Lowering sodium intake may be an easier first step than losing weight for overweight young people who want to lower their risk of heart disease,” Zhu said in the statement.

TIME Syria

Syria Loses Internet, Again

Syria was cut off from the Internet, marking the second time in a month that the war-torn country has gone dark, according to monitoring groups. Internet blackouts have in the past coincided with Syrian military operations

Multiple monitoring groups reported Thursday that Syria was cut off from the Internet, marking the second time in a month that the war-torn country has gone dark.

The Internet monitor Renesys said 95% of Syria’s networks went down beginning at 8:26 ET. Google also shows traffic from the country dropping around that time and picking up only around 3:30 p.m.

Internet blackouts occur with some frequency in Syria—the last reported instance was Feb. 20, according to Mashable—and have in the past coincided with Syrian military operations, though the government typically blames technical problems.

A Renesys researcher, Doug Madory, told Mashable that the link from Aleppo to Turkey was the only working connection, which “is consistent with outages over the past few months.”

TIME Afghanistan

Gunmen Storm Luxury Hotel in Kabul

An Afghan policeman stands guard near the security perimeter setup around the Serena hotel in Kabul late on March 21, 2014. Shah Marai—AFP/Getty Images

Authorities say four assailants were killed and there were no known other deaths. The Kabul hotel, which regularly houses foreign delegations, is hosting United Nations staffers in the country to monitor upcoming elections

Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul on Thursday in the most recent attack on foreigners, but authorities say four assailants were killed and there were no known other deaths.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters that two guards were injured at the Serena hotel, in the center of the capital. He said the attackers, who appeared younger than 18, entered with pistols in their socks and waited three hours before firing their weapons.

The hotel regularly houses foreign delegations and is currently hosting United Nations staffers in the country to monitor upcoming elections, according to BBC.

In January, a bomb killed 21 people at a restaurant popular among foreigners, shattering a sense of relative security for foreigners in the Afghan capital. Earlier this month, a British-Swedish journalist was shot dead in broad daylight in Kabul.


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