Yonkers, N.Y., is home to many Ukrainian immigrants and home to the Ukrainian Youth Center, which, despite its name, also has a full bar. It's where Rostyslaw Slabicky is glued to the news.
"The mood right now is extremely apprehensive," Slabicky says. "There's part that's fait accomplis, that Putin is basically doing what he wants and the entire world is basically standing by, not doing anything."
Around the corner at a Ukrainian credit union, branch manager Maria Zakotiria says the U.S. must help Ukraine. She comes in each morning and finds her tellers reading the news.
"They either cry [or] go, 'Oh my god, look what's happened now, look what's happening now,' " she says.
Zakotiria and her parents spent the middle of the 20th century fleeing Ukraine, becoming displaced persons and eventually settling in New York City in 1954. She grew up in the U.S., but her heart is in Ukraine, and when it comes to Russia's actions and Vladimir Putin, Zakotiria does not hold back.
"Nobody could do this to another country," she says. "Nobody. Unless he's total evil, and I feel he's total evil."
A few miles north lives the Krebs family. Since 2006, William and Stefanie Krebs have adopted seven children from all over Ukraine. As dinner approaches, the kids play video games and piano. On the menu this night, traditional borscht.
Borscht runs deep. Stefanie's father is first-generation Ukrainian, and William knows Ukraine well through the complicated adoption process. Many of their children still have relatives there.
William says there's a lot of uncertainty, and like many Ukrainian immigrants in the United States, he wonders if Russia's intervention in Crimea is just the beginning.
"If Russia gets away with this, will they push for a little more more of the pie," he says. "It's a country divided," He says.
His kids have their own ideas. Patrick, 10, is ready to fight.
"When I grow up, I'm going and join the Marines and I'm going to go and teach the Russians a lesson," he says.
But Stefanie says Patrick's 9-year old brother, Peter, is just glad to be in the U.S.
"He said to me, 'Mom, I'm so thankful that you got me out of Ukraine," Stefanie says.
The Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn is home to many Russian and Ukrainian immigrants. On a recent frigid day, few wanted to talk politics. One man, Alex Sergei, thinks Crimeans want to be part of Russia.
"Everybody wants to go to Russia again," Sergei says. "That's like, statistics show."
Gregory Davidzon, who owns a popular Russian-language radio station in the Northeast, hosts a talk show and says his listeners are very engaged in the conflict. The phone lines light up during his call-in shows, and he often runs unscientific polls of his listeners and finds they're more split than he expected.
"I could say 65, 70 percent of people support Ukraine, and 30, 35 percent of people support Russia," he says.
For those who support Russia, he says, few want war.
"Some people say, you know, Crimea, it's a part of Russia historically," Davidzon says. "Even they more concerned about intervention."
But like many worried about escalation, Davidzon warns his audience that Crimea could just be the beginning. Who's to say, he adds, that Alaska isn't next?
Alvaro Villarueda starts his morning the same way every day — putting in a call to his friend who has a friend who works at a Caracas, Venezuela, supermarket.
Today, he's looking for sugar, and he's asking his friend if he knows if any shipments have arrived. As he talks on the phone, his wife Lisbeth Nello, is in the kitchen.
There are 10 mouths to feed every day in this family — five of them children. The two youngest are still in diapers.
"The things that are the scarcest are actually what we need the most," Nello says. "Flour, cooking oil, butter, milk, diapers. I spent last week hunting for diapers everywhere. The situation is really tough for basic goods."
Student-led demonstrations have been roiling Venezuela for more than a month. At least 28 people have been killed and dozens wounded in confrontations between security forces and those who have taken to the streets.
The list of grievances — rising crime, inflation — is long, but the main one for many is the scarcity of basic foodstuffs.
As with everything in Venezuela, the reasons given for the food shortages depend on political affiliation. The government says it's the result of unscrupulous businessmen waging an economic war and hoarding by regular people afraid of shortages.
Those in the opposition blame a system that imposes price controls, the lack of money to buy imports and problems in the supply chain after the expropriation of farms and factories by the socialist government.
Whatever the reasons, the shortages have meant that Nello spends a lot of time in long lines. It's usually the women who have to go to the shops and her house is no exception.
"When we find out there is something we need in one of the supermarkets, we have to jump and get up very early to get down there," she says.
The family lives on a hillside with only makeshift stairs to get to their home. It's a long way to the market, and once there, the lines often take hours, with hundreds of people standing in them. She says she feels they have become like ants, always carrying supplies home.
An informal barter system has developed as well, Nello says. If she has extra coffee, she can trade it for cooking oil. It's a way of avoiding the long waits for staples.
"We are always helping each other," she says. "We are sending messages to other members of the family when we find out something is in the market."
All supermarkets these days have security to make sure that customers stay in line and obey government-imposed limits on what they can buy, and that no one causes a riot.
In the slum of Antimano, women are standing in line in front of a shop. They say they don't know what's on offer, but they are queuing anyway, a sign of how worried people are that they won't get what they need.
Inside the market, the manager, Roger Escorihuela, takes me around and points out that the shelves are not bare.
There are cereals, eggs and pastas and fancy jams, but the staples that are subject to price controls — black beans, butter, corn meal, the list goes on — are missing, he says.
He acknowledges he never knows what will be delivered each day by his trucks which is why people have to phone around to find out what's available. But he insists there is no shortage, and everyone gets what they need, eventually.
At least this day, he's proven right. A woman walks in looking for toilet paper, but the shelves are bare.
Then she spots the last roll, fallen behind the shelf. She gleefully grabs it and rushes to pay.
Tensions have risen in Ukraine this month, as its military has confronted heavily armed pro-Russian forces that took control of Crimea. But as of now, the most serious attacks to be alleged are ones hitting websites on both sides of the disagreement.
The strategy the various groups of hackers used was reportedly a distributed denial-of-service attack, a common approach that seeks to overload a server with huge traffic demands from a variety of sources.
Voice of Russia goes on to quote organizers of today's vote, which asks people in Crimea to decide whether to join Russia:
"A new wave of a massive D-Dos attack hit our site at 1 o'clock pm last night.
"Our IT safety experts managed to find out where those attacks came from. It is University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. The most powerful scanning of servers before the attack was carried out exactly from there."
The agency says of Urbana, "the technological and technical potentialities of this city exceed by thousands of times the needs of its residents."
News of that attack came after NATO reported its main homepage and other websites were attacked Saturday and Sunday.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said on Twitter that a "significant DDoS attack" had hit the organization's website. She added that while the attack crippled several websites, it had not affected the integrity of NATO's systems or data. The attack continued into Sunday afternoon, she said.
From German newspaper Deutsche-Welle:
"A Ukrainian group claimed responsibility for the DDoS attacks on the www.cyber-berkut.org website, a claim that could not be verified immediately. The authors, writing in Russian not Ukrainian, said patriotic Ukrainians were angry with NATO for interfering in its affairs."
The newspaper explains that "Berkut" is the name of Ukraine's special police, which was disbanded after President Viktor Yanukovych fled his post and traveled to Russia.
Recent attacks also struck websites in Russia. On Friday, the Kremlin's site was brought down.
From a Reuters report:
"'A powerful cyber attack is under way on the (Kremlin) site,' a spokeswoman for the Russian president's press service said by telephone as security experts struggled to curtail disruption."
Sites of the Central Bank of Russia and the foreign ministry were also attacked Friday, with at least one of those denial-of-service attacks exceeding capacity by more than 10 times, according to the state-run Itar-Tass news agency.
The agency quoted a Kremlin source saying that the attack had nothing to do with events in Crimea.
"Such spamming happens regularly, but to varying degrees of activity. It is not right to link it with developments in Ukraine," the source is quoted as saying.
The hacking attacks followed an order by Russian regulators Thursday that blocked access to several websites that have criticized President Vladimir Putin and his policies regarding Crimea and the Ukraine.
Russians who tried to access the website Grani.ru, which Radio Free Europe calls "a popular opposition news portal," were met with this message: "Dear users! We apologize, but access to the requested site is restricted."
The top story on the Grani site today describes the referendum in Crimea as taking place under occupation and in violation of Ukraine's constitution.
"Putin has taken the next big step, both in his crackdown on Russian liberty and, possibly, the next phase of his preparations for war on Ukraine," opposition figure and former chess champion Garry Kasparov wrote on his Facebook page. Speaking of his own news portal and several other sites, Kasparov added, "The last source of truth available in Putin's police state is going dark."
Get ready for St. Patrick's Day with these 25 lucky love songs from NPR R&B. And if you want to stay up all night, check out hundreds of more soul, funk, disco and slow jams on our NPR Music Radio channel, I'll Take You There.
NPR Music Staff
Saturday at SXSW, things go over the edge. Language fails. The mind shimmies free from its moorings. Maybe it's the fatigue. Maybe it's the crowds. You could argue that the constant waves of sound that rattle eardrums over five days in Austin jars something loose inside a person's brain.
Whatever it was, as the final night of SXSW drew to a close, any attempts by our All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton to hide their exhaustion and loopiness were unsuccessful. In one club, Robin heard music from 20 years in the future (played by a band called Marijuana Deathsquads). On the dirty floor of another venue, Bob Boilen found a bracelet inscribed with the word "Dream" that convinced him he's just a brain in a jar being injected with chemicals to make him happy. Take heart Bob, a fellow traveler had the same idea.
Thankfully, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and Frannie Kelley helped to keep things tethered to reality, maybe because they finally got to see performers they'd been pursuing all week. Stephen caught a breezy, 12-song, 13 minute set by Tony Molina and Frannie saw Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates, whose energy and aggression were palpable. Robin caught his SXSW white whale in Ages and Ages, who he's been trying to see without success since the 2011 festival.
Bob caught up with Kishi Bashi and The Kite String Tangle, but his moment of revelation was the U.K. group Melt Yourself Down. One night after seeing the saxophone and drum trio Moon Hooch, this was a group with a similar setup plus a singer, and the effect was "Moon Hooch times ten." We're not sure we trust Bob's brain-in-a-jar to do that kind of high-level math, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
You can hear that whole conversation in the audio player on this page, and read highlights from our staff in Austin below. Listen to our discoveries in a playlist of music by the best bands we heard at SXSW 2014 at the bottom of this page. And you can find a lot more of our SXSW coverage on Twitter, (@nprmusic), Instagram and Facebook.