As Russia mourns, Putin blames Ukraine

Russia lowered flags to half-staff on Sunday for a day of mourning after more than 130 people were killed Friday at a concert outside Moscow.

The terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but when Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation on Saturday, he did not mention ISIS or refer to the likely failure of intelligence services to prevent the assault. Instead he suggested that Ukraine had aided the attackers by helping plan their failed escape. Kyiv has staunchly denied any role in the attack.

For Putin, who has sold his seemingly lifelong leadership on maintaining order, the massacre could weaken his ironclad rule, particularly after he dismissed American warnings that such an attack might be imminent, some experts say.

On Sunday morning, a Russian long-range cruise missile heading for western Ukraine briefly entered Polish territory as blasts were reported in Kyiv and Lviv, the latest in a wave of attacks portrayed by Moscow as revenge for Ukrainian attacks during its recent presidential election.

Murkowski signals openness to leaving the GOP

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, at a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Nov. 8.Stefani Reynolds / AFP – Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, signaled that she would be open to leaving the Republican Party in an interview that aired on CNN Sunday.

Pressed on whether she is considering becoming an independent, Murkowski replied, “I’m very independent-minded,” adding, “I just regret that our party is seemingly becoming a party of Donald Trump.”

The Alaska Republican also reiterated her stance against voting for Trump in the 2024 presidential election.

A late-season snowstorm

A high-impact winter storm is forecast to bring rain and snow to an area spanning from California through the northern Plains to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. About 14 million people are under winter weather alerts Sunday, including in Tahoe, California; Denver; Minneapolis; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In the Northeast, about 360,000 households were without power Sunday morning after heavy rain and strong winds battered the tri-state area and a fast-moving storm blanketed northern New England with snow.

And on Saturday, Philadelphia recorded 3.06 inches of rainfall, making this the wettest March since the state began keeping records in 1872.

Kate’s diagnosis puts speculation in a new light

Catherine, Princess of Wales, announced Friday in a video released by Kensington Palace that she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.
BBC Studios

For weeks, hundreds of people online have spread conspiracy theories, posted memes and cracked jokes in an attempt to answer one question: Where is Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales?

Many people who had partaken in the online frenzy found themselves expressing regret after the princess broke her silence on Friday to announce that she is undergoing treatment for cancer. Actor Blake Lively was among the first to make a statement online apologizing for her now-deleted Instagram post, a Photoshop joke inspired by the manipulated Mother’s Day photo released by Kensington Palace.

Outside Buckingham Palace, the speculation has given way to a wave of warm wishes. Vicky Daniels, 49, from Gloucestershire in southwest England, said the princess had been “really brave to speak out like that.” Asked about the online speculation, Daniels said it was “absolutely horrible.”

“I just wish they would leave them alone. I wish they’d leave all the royals to just get on with it,” she said. “What really gets on my nerves is it’s often people who don’t know what they’re on about anyway.”

One town’s complicated relationship with migrants

Aerial shot of Fremont.
An aerial shot of Fremont, Neb.Wirestock / Getty Images / iStock

For more than a decade, the town of Fremont, Nebraska, has had a controversial law on the books that tries to bar undocumented migrants from living within city limits.

But Fremont is home to three massive meat-processing plants that need workers, and with young locals leaving, Central American migrants have kept the slaughterhouses humming and transformed the community.

By 2022, a town that was once nearly all white had become 16% Latino, according to census data.

“We need these people,” said Mark Jensen, president of the city council. “We need this work done. This is what feeds the nation and the world.”

‘Meet the Press’

Former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer joined Kristen Welker on “Meet the Press” for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Breyer said that its possible the Supreme Court could one day overrule its 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which itself overruled Roe.

The former justice also spoke about the leak of the majority’s decision to overturn Roe, which preceded the official ruling by several weeks, calling it “unfortunate.”

Breyer said that he had a “theory” about the motivations of the leaker but declined to share any names. “I’d be amazed if it was a judge,” he added.

You can watch the full interview here.

Politics in brief

  • Brief, technical shutdown: After a year of haggling and four stopgap measures, Congress passed the last bill to fund the government through September. It did so after briefly breaching the midnight deadline.
  • Jan. 6 split: Former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told Meet the Press that she disagrees with former President Donald Trump’s plan to free those charged and convicted of crimes in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
  • Abortion pill ruling: If the Supreme Court endorses a challenge to abortion pill mifepristone, the pharmaceutical industry fears the ripple effects could cause chaos over other drugs.
  • Silent on Trump’s trials: The president’s advisers and allies say Trump is in enough difficulty without Biden appearing to meddle in his trouble for political gain.
  • Gen Z politics: A 24-year-old Democrat quit his job protecting elections to run against a state senator who was indicted last year alongside Trump for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election results.

Boeing spooks off nervous flyers

News of issues on Boeing aircraft in the past few months has some travelers opting to avoid flying on its planes, even if it means rebooking flights.

Travel search engine Kayak, which offers the option to include or exclude certain plane models from flight searches, said there has been a spike in people seeking information about types of aircraft since the Alaska Airlines door-plug blowout.

“I just can’t step on that plane,” said Leila Amineddoleh, an art lawyer who lives in New Jersey. “Even if the chance of getting hurt on a Boeing flight, even with all these incidents, is slim.”

Amineddoleh and three others told NBC News that the headlines about Boeing have made them uneasy, even though it’s not clear whether the problems were the result of manufacturing, maintenance or other issues.

The little cherry blossom tree that could

"Stumpy" the cherry tree at the Tidal Basin
“Stumpy” the cherry tree at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., on March 19.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images

Stumpy is on its last limb. The cherry blossom tree with sparse branches and a hollow trunk, which has become a sort of icon in Washington, D.C., throughout the years, is currently making its last bloom.

The National Park Service will remove Stumpy and about 150 other trees that line the banks of the Tidal Basin reservoir in the coming months as part of a $113 million sea wall repair project prompted by climate change. As word about Stumpy’s fate has gotten out, many fans have made their way to see it one last time.

“I think with Stumpy, it’s almost like the ugly duckling, but it’s beautiful,” said Emily Vickers, a photographer from Atlanta. “It’s by itself, and it just stands out. I think when you look at the history of everything, it’s kind of magical, and it’s saddening that it’s going to be taken down.”

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