Russia continues to wrest control of Crimea from Ukraine and now has an estimated 20,000 troops there, Bloomberg News reports.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again deflected the concerns of Western leaders. Reuters reports that, according to the Kremlin, Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday that Russia's actions in Crimea are "based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula's population."
This latest news comes after Sunday's reports about pro-Russian groups using whips to attack pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Sevastopol, the key port city on the Crimean Peninsula.
As of Monday afternoon in Crimea, there had been no confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian troops. The critical question now, as NPR's Emily Harris reports from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, is whether serious violence will flare up — either between civilians or the Ukrainian and Russian forces — before diplomacy can bring about some sort of resolution to the crisis in Crimea.
While it is part of Ukraine, Crimea is a largely autonomous region with its own parliament. The majority of its people are Russian-speaking. Russia maintains a large naval base on the Black Sea peninsula.
Since last month's ouster of Russia-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, after several months of protests over alleged corruption and his decision to reject closer economic ties to the European Union, Crimea has been at the center of an international crisis.
On Wednesday, interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is due to meet with President Obama at the White House. He says he will address the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.
Putin has said he believes the current leaders in Ukraine seized power illegally. The White House has said Yanukovych effectively abdicated his right to lead Ukraine and believes the interim government is legitimate because it was put in place by an elected parliament.
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Ned O'Gorman, poet and founder of the Children's Storefront, a tuition-free school in Harlem created to combat what he saw as "the pervasive lack of imagination" in children's education, died Friday at age 84. "These children need more than reading, writing and arithmetic," O'Gorman told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. "They need a whole universe presented to them that they can live in and hope in." A former Benedictine brother, he tried to become a priest, was refused twice, and so was "wounded into poetry," he said. His poems are lush and exultant, as seen in these lines from "The Spring," in a 1959 issue of Poetry magazine:
"My rector comes in the runes and spells of spring
when the dew falls low in the grass
and the morning-glory storms the garden walls.
In the zodiac of April, God, being my Governor
falls in the mint and flowers of the sun."
- Prominent Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan said he was hospitalized after being injured by pro-Russian protesters in the city of Kharkiv. Zhadan, whom the New Yorker called "Ukraine's most famous counterculture writer," was reportedly among a group of people occupying the regional state administration building. According to the magazine, Zhadan posted on his Facebook page that he is OK and listed his injuries: "Cuts on the head, eyebrow dissected, concussion, broken nose suspected."
- Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Adam Johnson talks to The Washington Post about trying to bring a human aspect to writing about North Korea for his book The Orphan Master's Son, which is set there. Johnson said, "When I interviewed defectors, I always tried to ask: What do you do for fun? I interviewed one just this morning: He said 'I loved to go bowling. I was a great bowler in North Korea.' We don't hear those stories. I think those are elusive."
The Best Books Coming Out This Week:
- Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn. Kirn found out that his friend Clark Rockefeller was actually a murderer named Christian Gerhartsreiter, who had been conning people for years under a string of aliases. In this introspective and incisive memoir, Kirn recounts how he was dazzled by the appearance of wealth and class into believing Gerhartsreiter and explores the relationship between journalist and subject as he tries to work out the truth from the lies, which he calls, "a swan dive through a mirror into a whirlpool." Kirn spoke to NPR's Scott Simon about one of Gerhartsreiter's most ambitious lie — that he had George W. Bush's private phone number: "It was brilliant! He knew I'd never dial that number. ... But I put the number in my pocket and kept it there and walked around with it. You know, lies like that stun the mind. You don't question whether they're true or not, because you could never imagine making one up yourself."
- Louise Erdrich's elegant Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country, published as a part of a National Geographic series in 2003, is being reissued a decade later. With her baby daughter, Erdrich travels through Ojibwe Country in southern Ontario, describing the landscape and history. She writes, "I've heard that Ojibwe refers to the puckering of the seams of traditional moccasins, or makazinan. Or that the Ojibwe roasted their enemies 'until they puckered up.' Gruesome. I've heard that Anishinaabe means 'from whence is lowered the male of the species,' but I don't like that one very much. And then there is the more mystical Spontaneous Beings. The meaning that I like best of course is Ojibwe from the verb Ozhibii'ige, which is 'to write.' Ojibwe people were great writers from way back and synthesized the oral and written tradition by keeping mnemonic scrolls of inscribed birchbark. The first paper, the first books."
We'll be updating this post throughout the day on Monday.
Nearly three days after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, there's still no definitive trace of the Boeing 777 or the 239 people who were on board.
As of Monday evening in Malaysia, none of the clues so far had led searchers to the plane.
There was a flurry of activity after one search plane spotted a rectangular object Sunday in the South China Sea off Vietnam. That prompted speculation about whether it might be one of the plane's doors.
The Associated Press reports that Vietnamese ships searched through the night and into Monday, but did not come across the object.
Also, "helicopters were scrambled on Monday to a floating 'yellow object' that rescue teams believed could be a life raft from the missing Malaysian Airlines plane — but it turned out to be a false alarm," NBC News writes. "Officials later said it was a 'moss-covered cap of a cable reel.' "
Oil slicks in Vietnamese and Malaysian waters are being tested, authorities say, to determine whether they might be jet fuel.
But USA Today's latest headline sums up where things stand: "We Still Don't Know What Happened To Flight MH370."
The flight, as we reported starting on Friday evening, took off from Kuala Lumpur around 12:30 a.m. local time on Saturday. The flight to Beijing should have taken about six hours.
Instead, within the first hour or two of the flight, "the plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam," as the AP says. Authorities say the pilots did not issue any sort of distress signal.
The investigation has turned up evidence that two passengers were traveling with stolen passports. "The missing passports raised concerns about the possibility of terrorism," CNN notes, but no officials have publicly made such a link and there has been no credible claim of responsibility from any terrorist organization.
NBC News adds that intelligence officials say "no electronic 'chatter' has been detected indicating any known terror group was behind the aircraft's mysterious disappearance."
While border control authorities are supposed to stop travelers using false passports from boarding any flights, they don't always do so. The Financial Times notes that:
"In 2010, when an Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the runway and crashed in Mangalore, southern India, killing all 158 passengers and crew on board, accident investigators identified 10 individuals on the flight who had been travelling with forged or stolen documents. The incident raised serious concerns at the time about the reliability of Dubai's security checks.
"Though terrorism is often the highest concern for authorities when seeking to identify fake travel documentation, those using it are more likely than not to be engaged in illegal immigration, or criminal activity, rather than political violence.
"In December, 74 Syrian refugees boarded a Portuguese TAP flight to Portugal from Guinea-Bissau using fake documents. They were caught only on landing in Lisbon, where the Turkish documents they were travelling with were exposed as forgeries."
It's also been revealed that five passengers who checked in for the Malaysia Airlines flight never got on board, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing. Malaysian aviation officials say those passengers' bags were taken off the jet before its departure.
All in all, this is an "unprecedented aviation mystery," says Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Authority.