Lawmakers in Ukraine's Crimea region voted Thursday in favor of leaving Ukraine for Russia, which already has the Black Sea peninsula under de facto control, and set a referendum on the move for 10 days' time.
Citizens of Crimea will face a simple choice: Stay in Ukraine or join Russia.
It's not clear how easily the region could split off if the referendum endorses the move.
The autonomous region has a 60% ethnic Russian population, having been part of Russia until it was ceded to Ukraine in 1954 by the Soviet Union.
But not everyone may be as keen on coming under Moscow's direct influence. A quarter of the peninsula's population is Ukrainian and about 12% Crimean Tatars, a predominantly Muslim group.
The parliament in Crimea installed a new, pro-Moscow government late last month. It had previously said a referendum would be held at the end of March on greater autonomy for Crimea.
Citizens will now be asked on March 16 if they want an autonomous republic of Crimea within Russia; or within Ukraine.
Michael Crawford, a former long-serving British ambassador in Eastern Europe, cautioned that whatever the result, it may be meaningless.
"It does not follow that if Crimea votes to join Russia, that anyone will accept it," he said.
"For Russia to start cherry-picking bits of the former Soviet Union, cranking up referenda in Kazakhstan or Latvia or wherever you like, to try to carve off bits, would be against international law, and it would be something Vladimir Putin has said he doesn't want to do."
Putin, the Russian President, has insisted Russia has the right to use military force in Ukraine if necessary to protect ethnic Russians.
But he has denied claims by Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats that Russia has sent thousands of troops into the region in recent days. Russia says the heavily armed troops, in uniforms without insignia, are local "self-defense" forces.
The deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament, Rustam Temirgaliev, said Thursday at a news conference that the only forces allowed in Crimea are the Russian military - and that all others will be considered to be occupying forces.
He said he'd advised Ukrainian troops to swear allegiance to the Russian army or leave Crimea under safe passage.
In the regional capital, Simferopol, residents have demonstrated this week against the interim government in Kiev, with crowds chanting in favor of Putin.
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Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair - once one of the U.S. Army's top commanders in Afghanistan and accused of "sodomy ... by force" and other military crimes - is to set to plead guilty Thursday to some charges but not the most serious levied against him, his lawyer said.
Sinclair will plead guilty on three of the eight charges he's facing in military court, according to the office of lawyer Richard Scheff. These include "wrongfully engaging in ... inappropriate relationships" with three women soldiers from 2009 to 2012 overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany as well as domestically at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Hood, Texas.
He'll also admit to having requested and possessed "pornographic and sexually explicit photographs and movies," having "sexually explicit communications with a female Army captain, and trying "to engage in an inappropriate relationship" with another woman. And the brigadier general will plead guilty to impeding the investigation into him by deleting nude photographs and an e-mail account, his lawyer said.
But Sinclair will not admit to the most serious accusations against him, including the sodomy charge and that he threatened "to kill (one of the soldiers) and her family if she told anyone about their relationship, or words to that effect."
He is also charged with "using his rank and authority to coerce and compel" a woman "subject to his orders ... to maintain a sexual relationship with him and prevent her from ending (that) relationship."
"The government now has a big problem: It took pathetically weak assault charges and put a fancy wrapper around them," Scheff said. "We just tore the wrapper off. The prosecution team no longer gets to distract us with salacious details about acts that aren't even criminal in the civilian world."
Yet Sinclair could still be found guilty on all the charges against him.
It's up to a military judge to accept the guilty pleas as is, though Scheff's office indicates that they expect he'll do so. Moreover, the full trial is still set to proceed as planned with opening arguments kicking off at some point Thursday.
Sinclair was sent to Fort Bragg from Afghanistan in 2012, the same year the last alleged incidents occurred and when he was originally charged. He had been deputy commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.
Scheff said Wednesday that his client "has consistently admitted his shortcomings and taken responsibility for them."
Even though he can't set foot in the United States for fear of arrest, fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has joined the speakers' roster at this year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival.
Snowden, who fled the United States in June with thousands of top-secret documents, will appear via teleconference Monday from Russia for a discussion about how the tech community must defend itself against mass surveillance.
Snowden will chat with Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
"The conversation will be focused on the impact of the NSA's spying efforts on the technology community and the ways in which technology can help to protect us from mass surveillance," an SXSW news release says.
Audience members will be allowed to ask questions, andThe Texas Tribune, a nonprofit media organization, intends to livestream the session.
Josh Baer, a tech entrepreneur who has been attending the festival for more than 15 years, said he is excited to hear what Snowden has to say.
"The news and the government each have so many different perspectives," Baer said. "It's always refreshing to get it straight from the source."
Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive, said it took more than three months to secure Snowden's participation and called it an essential part of this year's programming.
"The growth of social media has fueled so much of the growth of the online ecosystem, but the revelations from the summer of 2013 expose the costs and downsides of this growth," he said.
Forrest added that Snowden "wants to talk to a tech-focused audience about the importance of building the next generation of online tools that protect user privacy."
Privacy and government surveillance is a subplot of SXSW Interactive's programming this year, with other slated speakers to include journalist and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald as well as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange and Greenwald helped Snowden disseminate stolen NSA documents, and both will also appear via teleconference.
Greenwald moved to Rio de Janeiro, the hometown of his domestic partner, David Miranda, and Assange was granted diplomatic asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after Sweden sought to question him in connection with a sexual assault investigation.
Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who fled the United States after leaking details of the American government's spy programs, was granted temporary asylum in Russia last year.
He faces felony charges of espionage and theft of government property in the United States, and has said he won't return until the U.S. changes its whistleblower-protection laws.
"Surveillance and online privacy look to be one of the biggest topics of conversation at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival," a festival statement says. "As organizers, SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem."
SXSW annually hosts film, music and interactive festivals, drawing tens of thousands of attendees to Austin. This year's 10-day affair begins Friday.
Russia does not want to take over Ukraine's Crimea region, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, but he showed no signs of backing down on Russia's presence in the region despite Western pressure.
Putin labeled what had happened in Ukraine an "anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power," and he insisted that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of the nation.
He called the parliament in Ukraine "partly legitimate" but said the country's acting President is not.
At the same time, he said he saw no political future for Yanukovych, who resurfaced in Russia on Friday after fleeing Kiev 10 days ago.
Appearing at ease as he addressed a handful of reporters in Moscow, Putin said only the people of Crimea, a Russian-dominated autonomous region, could determine their future.
Putin said that there was no need for the use of the military so far, with not a shot fired, and that any use of military force would be the last resort.
But if Russian-speaking citizens in the east of Ukraine ask for Russia's help, Russia has the right "to take all measures to protect the rights of those people," he said. He repeatedly cast any such intervention as a humanitarian mission.
Military action, he said, would be "completely legitimate" because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia's duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic.
"Firstly, we have a request of the legitimate President Yanukovych to protect the welfare of the local population. We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites in parts of Ukraine, including Kiev," Putin said.
Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea, he said.
Putin pointed out what he sees as a double standard by leaders in the United States and other Western countries, saying that the U.S. acted in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya without a U.N. resolution authorizing that action or by "twisting" U.N. resolutions.
And he warned that any damage from sanctions imposed by the West against Russia over its actions in Ukraine would be multilateral.
See more at CNN.com
Parents: You want your baby to sleep soundly so that you can sleep too, right?
So maybe you bought a machine that will play soothing sounds in the nursery. And maybe you crank up the volume so that your kid doesn't hear sirens outside or household noises.
But how loud should these machines be? How long should you keep them running? Should you put them close to your baby's ears, or on the other side of the room?
A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that some noise machines have the ability to produce sounds so loud that they exceed safe levels for adults, let alone infants, and therefore could potentially damage infants' hearing and hinder auditory development.
However, it's important to note that the goal of the study was to measure the maximum effective output levels - not to observe direct effects on children. Experts disagree on what recommendations should be given on using these machines.
"These machines are capable of delivering enough of a dose over a period of time to theoretically cause hearing loss, but that's not been tested," said the study's senior author Dr. Blake Papsin, who is affiliated with the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Researchers tested 14 infant sleep machines at maximum volume, analyzing the noise level production from distances of 30, 100 and 200 centimeters. The 30-centimeter measurement resembles a typical distance from a baby's head to the crib rail; 100 centimeters would be near a crib and 200 centimeters would be across the room from a crib.
The particular machines are not named in the study, but researchers said they are "widely available in the United States and Canada." Papsin declined to reveal which products were used.
These machines play a total of 65 different sounds, including white noise, "nature" sounds, mechanical sounds and heartbeat sounds.
Hospital nurseries and neonatal intensive care units have set a noise equivalent of 50 decibels on average over the course of an hour, according to the study. Canadian and U.S. occupational health and safety authorities have recommended a workplace limit of 85 decibels over eight hours for adults.
Three of the infant sleep machines in this study had outputs greater than 85 decibels, which exceeds that recommendation. Additionally, if these sound devices were played continuously for an eight-hour period, the researchers wrote, "infants would be exposed to sound pressure levels that exceed occupational noise limits" for that time period for adults.
The study authors recommend manufacturers be required to limit maximum sound output levels of such machines, print warnings about noise-induced hearing loss on the packaging and include a timer that would shut the device off after a given period.
They also recommend families place these infant sound machines as far away as possible from the infant - never on the crib rail or in the crib, the study said. The machines should be played at a low volume and for a short time, study authors say.
But wait a minute! Don't we want unwanted noises blocked from infants' ears all night long?
Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of books including "The Happiest Baby on the Block" and "The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep," says he has concerns about some of the study's conclusions.
It's true that intensity of sound is important to consider, he said. Concretely, parents should look to make these machines as loud as "a soft shower," he said, and keep them at least a foot (30 centimeters) away from the child's head.
But as far as only using an infant sleep machine for a short time, that recommendation is misinformed and is" not supported by the data in the study," he said.
Karp instead recommends keeping the noise going for the entire duration of sleep, because otherwise the baby will have more disturbances in the middle of the night.
"The white noise is there as a continual presence, just like a teddy bear," Karp said. "It's like a teddy bear of sounds."
Papsin stands by the opposite recommendation in the study, saying that using infant sleep machines over eight-hour stretches is not supported by scientific evidence.
Karp points out the Pediatrics study did not directly address this question with data, nor does it give an overall assessment of risk. Papsin and colleagues were not able to give an estimate of how those risks would weigh against the benefits of the noise devices, either.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, a trade organization representing manufacturers of 95% of prenatal to preschool products, responded to the study in a statement: "JPMA encourages parents to follow manufacturer guidance and instructions, and to use products as designed and intended. The safety and care of children is JPMA's highest priority."
So what's a parent supposed to do?
There just hasn't been a lot of research into this question of what effect these infant noise machines have, says Patti Martin, director of speech pathology at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Her bottom line: The issue with the machines is how loud they are, not the amount of time they are used. She also likes the idea of keeping the machines out of the crib because closer noises sound louder to the developing auditory system.
An infant's ear canal is smaller than an adult's, so in babies higher-frequency sounds are amplified, the study said. Evidence from animal studies suggests that risk for age-relating hearing loss may result from early exposure to noise.
Low-pitched, rumbly sounds are better for a baby's sleep, Karp says, as they are "reminiscent of the experience in the womb." Exposing the infant to very loud sounds in short spurts is fine - a baby's own cry is 10 times louder than a hair dryer! - but for promoting sleep, he says, aim for softer and lower-pitched.
Of course, there are other ways to soothe your child to sleep, such as swaddling or holding a baby close, Martin says.
No one knows the long-term implications of masking environmental sounds in infants, in terms of how they will learn later in a noisy environment, Martin says.
On the other hand, a good night's sleep for baby is critical for the health of both parent and child.
"From a safety issue, from a nutrition issue, from a growth issue, all of those sorts of things - sleep is critical for them," she says. "There will always be a group of babies that require a little extra something."
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are running again. But this time, not for office.
Demanding jobs aside, the two jogged around the White House in their ties to highlight the need to keep in shape.
"Mr. President, are you ready to move," Biden asked as he entered the Oval Office.
"Absolutely, let's do this thing. Let's move," Obama responded.
The two taped the video as part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative, which aims to reduce childhood obesity.
The video shows the pair running a lap through the hallways of the White House and outside by the rose garden.
At one point, the first family's Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, watched the two leaders run by.
To celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Let's Move initiative, the first lady asked Americans nationwide to use social media to show how they move.
While making an appearance on Jimmy Fallon's "The Tonight Show" last week, she said if the turnout was large, she had something fun planned.
"If we get enough response we'll have a little surprise. The President and maybe the Vice President will show us how they move," Obama said.
While exercising in a shirt and tie may not be ideal, the President and Vice President did stretch at the end of their lap and drink some water, another part of the Let's Move program.
"After a good workout, you got to drink up," President Obama said in the video.
"Otherwise we are going to be in trouble with Jill and Michelle," Obama added.
Well, home crisis averted.
New Orleans police have issued arrest warrants for former NFL star Darren Sharper and another man in connection with the alleged rapes of two women.
Sharper, 38, and Erik Nunez, 26, each face two counts of aggravated rape, the Orleans Parish district attorney's office said in a statement.
Sharper and Nunez face the possibility of life without parole if convicted.
CNN reached out to an attorney for Sharper and to Nunez, but neither immediately returned messages seeking comment.
Sharper has also been charged in California with two counts of rape by use of drugs and other charges, according to Los Angeles County prosecutors.
He pleaded not guilty last week.
"Mr. Sharper must stay in Los Angeles County," a judge said at a bail hearing.
Judge Renee Korn set Sharper's bail at $1 million and ordered him to stay away from venues that sold alcohol as a primary item.
Prosecutors in Louisiana said the two alleged rapes occurred on September 23 in a New Orleans apartment.
The alleged rapes in California occurred in October and last month, authorities said.
Prosecutors there said the five-time Pro Bowl player, who became an NFL Network analyst, is also under investigation in Arizona and Nevada.
Tempe, Arizona, police say they expect to file charges against Sharper soon.
"We have nothing yet. We anticipate filing charges very shortly and we are still waiting on a couple of results from the crime lab," said Sgt. Mike Pooley.
In addition, a Florida woman last month filed a sexual battery complaint in Miami Beach against Sharper relating to a 2012 incident, a police report said.
According to the report, the woman was with two friends at a Miami Beach club in September or October 2012 when she met Sharper. The woman, her friends and another person went to Sharper's condo, where the woman claims the battery took place.
Miami Beach police are investigating the case, Miami Beach Detective Vivian Hernandez said last week.
One of Sharper's lawyers disputed all the rape allegations last week at his hearing.
"It was all consensual contact with women who wanted to be in his company," Leonard Levine said.
Sharper played for the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints from 1997 through the 2010 season.
The smell of smoke was reported in a plane that landed at California's Oakland International Airport late Wednesday, officials said.
SkyWest Flight 4454 arrived from Los Angeles International Airport on time, landed and taxied to the gate normally. There were 75 passengers and 4 crew members on board the CRJ 900 aircraft at the time.
The reported smell of smoke was noticed shortly after landing, said Delta Air Lines spokesman Russell Cason. SkyWest is a Delta subsidiary.
There were no injuries or damage reported, and passengers disembarked at the gate, airport spokesman Scott Witner said.
Authorities could not find the source of the smoke, and fire officials have left the scene, he said.
It was supposed to be a fun family outing to the movies, but then Nair Rodriguez' 19-year-old daughter got under her skin. They fought, she said, and she slapped her daughter.
Moments later, police arrived on a domestic dispute call at the Moore, Oklahoma, theater and confronted - not Nair Rodriguez - but her husband Luis. They took him down, and after the encounter on February 15, he was dead.
Cell phone video taken by his wife and released this week shows the final minutes of the takedown.
Nair Rodriguez accuses officers of brutality. Police say they were following protocol and used no undue force.
The mother-daughter spat upset the mother so badly that she bolted for the family car. Her husband Luis followed her to calm her down, family attorney Michael Brooks-Jimenez told reporters.
That's when a group of police and theater security officers turned up, he said.
What happened next is disputed.
His wife has said officers beat Luis Rodriguez, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. But Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings calls the actions of his officers "reasonable."
He would not go in to much detail and said an investigation is underway. But he mentioned that police used pepper spray, CNN affiliate KOCO reported.
Luis Rodriguez ended up on the ground with five men pinning him down, and wife Nair pulled out a cell phone.
Her fearful cries fill the recording.
"Luis! Luis!" she calls out frantically. Her husband does not respond, does not appear to move.
She calls to the officers to assure her that he is alright.
"Please somebody tell me that he is alive," she implores. "He is not moving."
The officers appear calm. One tells her that he will talk to her, once they are finished securing her husband.
Then one walks over to the camera. He tells her that police have called in a medical unit to check on her husband.
It wasn't him
The officer says police received a call about domestic violence before confronting her husband.
It wasn't him, Nair Rodriguez tells him. "I hit my daughter," she says. She wants to know why they have pinned down her husband.
"He refused to give his ID," the officer said. "He got combative."
She notices blood on the officer. "Is he bleeding?" She demands to know.
"I'm bleeding; that's me," the officer says.
An ambulance can be seen in the background, and Luis Rodriguez is lifted onto a stretcher.
The video ends shortly afterward.
Cause of death
An autopsy may reveal more about why Luis Rodriguez died, and surveillance camera footage of the encounter in the movie theater parking lot may reveal what happened before his wife pulled out her cell phone camera.
What police describe as normal procedure, lawyer Brooks-Jimenez describes it as something brutal and possibly deadly.
Pepper spray to the face and the weight of five men on top of him.
CNN has reached out to Brooks-Jimenez for further comment and has placed calls to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.
Had it not been the debut night for Seth Myers as the new host of NBC’s “Late Night,” Vice President Joe Biden may have revealed his plans for 2016.
The “Saturday Night Live” alum asked the Vice President if he would share his thoughts on a potential presidential run in 2016.
“I was planning on making a major announcement tonight, but I decided tonight’s your night,” Biden joked. “So I hope you’ll invite me back.”
The Vice President wasn’t ready to make any announcement but Myer’s other first-night guest was quick to respond.
“I’m going to run for president,” said former “SNL” co-star Amy Poehler.
It wasn’t the first time Poehler and Biden have appeared together in front of cameras. Vice President Biden made a cameo on Poehler’s NBC small-town government sitcom “Parks and Recreation” in 2012.
Biden did share some details about the much discussed moment from this year’s State of the Union Address, when he was seen emphatically pointing to an unnamed individual on the House Floor.
“A senior senator said, ‘Look Joe I know you and Barack are friends but don’t stand up on every damn thing he says,’” said the Vice President. “I counted 17 times this particular senator stood up in front of the president. So I went like this to point to him. Talk about a suck up.”
The late night talk shown scene isn’t unfamiliar territory for Biden with this being his third appearance.
He appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno in 2010 and read the Top 10 List on “The Late Show” with David Letterman in 2012.
Biden has not forgotten about daytime television either.
Tuesday he will tape an appearance on “The View.” It will be his fourth time visiting the daytime talk show.