March 4th, 2014
09:56 AM ET

Ukraine Crisis: What's Happening? Depends on Whom You Ask

Tensions are mounting as Russian troops step up their presence in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and world leaders push for a diplomatic solution to the escalating crisis.

As ideological battle lines are drawn around the world over the situation, leaders are painting vastly different pictures of the realities on the ground.

Here are some of the questions at play, with a look at how key players are weighing in:

Who's in charge of Ukraine?

Russia's take: Viktor Yanukovych remains Ukraine's elected leader, and Ukraine's new government is illegitimate. Russian United Nations envoy Vitaly Churkin called it an "armed takeover by radical extremists."

Ukraine's take: Ukraine has a legitimate government and is set to have new presidential elections on May 25. "Let's give an opportunity for that to work," Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Yuriy Sergeyev said.

United States' take: Yanukovych abandoned his post last month, fled the country and was then voted out of office by Ukraine's democratically elected parliament.

How many Russian troops are inside Ukraine?

Russia's take: Russia hasn't said how many troops it's sent into Ukraine.

Ukraine's take: Russia has sent military ships, helicopters and cargo planes to deploy 16,000 troops into Crimea since February 24, Sergeyev told the United Nations on Monday.

United States' take: Russian forces "have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula," a senior U.S. administration official told CNN on Sunday, with estimates of 6,000 Russian ground and naval forces in the region

Do Russian troops have a right to be in Crimea?

Russia's take: Yes. A treaty between the neighboring nations allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops in Crimea, Russia's U.N. envoy said Monday, adding that Yanukovych requested that Russia send military forces.

Ukraine's take: No. Russian troops amassing in Crimea and near the border with Ukraine are an "act of aggression."

United States' take: No, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a dangerous game. The consequences of military action "could be devastating," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said Monday.

Why is the tense standoff unfolding now?

Russia's take: Russia has said its parliament approved Putin's use of military force to protect Russian citizens in the Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine's take: There's no evidence of any threat to Russians inside Ukraine. Russia wants to annex Crimea.

United States' take: Russia is responding to its own historic sensitivities about Ukraine, Crimea and their place in Moscow's sphere of influence, a senior White House official told CNN Monday. Russia fears that Ukraine is falling under European or Western influence, the official said.

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March 4th, 2014
09:49 AM ET

'Chicago is the Quintessential American City'

In the aftermath of a countrywide economic collapse, Chicago faces the challenges of improving its schools, neighborhoods and safety.

Can the city's leaders, communities and residents come together or will differences pull them apart?

CNN's Kate Bolduan interviewed filmmaker Marc Levin to ask him why the creators of the CNN Original Series "Chicagoland" picked that city to highlight.

Levin responded: "Chicago is the quintessential American city."

See the full interview above and be sure to tune in to CNN at 10p ET as "Chicagoland" premieres March 6.

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March 4th, 2014
09:42 AM ET

Oscar Pistorius Neighbor Ends Her Time on the Stand with Emotional Testimony

A defense attorney tried to poke holes in highly emotional testimony Tuesday of the first witness in the murder trial of Olympian double-amputee Oscar Pistorius.

Testimony continued with the questioning of Pistorius' neighbor, Michelle Burger, who said in Monday's first day of testimony that she was awakened by screams, followed by gunshots, when Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day last year. On Tuesday, defense attorney Barry Roux attacked Burger's credibility, accusing her of using her husband's statement to craft her own.

Paragraph by paragraph, Roux pointed out similarities between their two statements. Burger repeatedly explained that the statements were similar because they both heard the same thing. "I'm as honest as I can be to the court," she said.

Pistorius has admitted he killed Steenkamp but pleaded not guilty Monday, saying that he mistakenly believed he was shooting a burglar. He only realized after firing four shots that his girlfriend was not in bed but in the bathroom he was firing at, his defense team said on his behalf Monday.

Burger broke down in court when she described Steenkamp's screams. Through her tears, she said, "It was awful to hear her screams."

At one point, Pistorius clutched his head in his hands as an expert described how bullets struck Steenkamp's head.

On Monday, Burger testified that, "Something terrible was happening at that house. She called the shouts and screams "petrifying."

Finally, after brief questioning by prosecutor Gerrie Nel, Burger was excused.

The case has fascinated South Africa and much of the world, with its high-profile defendant, the double-amputee track star so talented that he competed not only in the Paralympics but against able-bodied runners in the Olympics two years ago.

Burger lives several hundred yards from where the killing took place.

During Nel's questioning Monday, Burger told the court that she heard a woman's screams and a man yelling for help.

"Just after 3, I woke up from a woman's terrible screams," she said. "Then I also heard a man screaming for help. Three times he yelled for help."

She assumed a nearby home was being invaded by criminals.

She later told her husband that she feared the woman had witnessed her husband being shot "because after he screamed, we didn't hear him."

Roux spent hours hammering Burger with questions in Monday's cross-examination, asking repeatedly if there could have been shots before she woke up, if she was sure about the sequence of events and about her knowledge of guns.

He asked if the "bang" sounds she heard might not have been gunshots, but rather a cricket bat bashing at a bathroom door.

She answered that she had clearly heard gunshots, testily answering Roux's questions about how much time had elapsed between them, saying she "didn't sit there with a stopwatch and take down the timing of each shot."

See more at 

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March 4th, 2014
09:29 AM ET

Paying it Forward. Then Paying it Back

In today's edition of the "Good Stuff," a Minnesota cop gets a kidney and takes to social media to help his donor. CNN's Chris Cuomo reports.

Carlos Baires Escobar spent two years waiting for a kidney when his prayers were answered in the form of 20-year-old Sebastian Rivera responding on social media.

“Without any reservations, he just decided to help somebody who he didn’t know,” Baires Escobar said

Rivera says he doesn’t regret the decision at all.

“Helping someone out, just because…it should be a normal thing, you know.”

Well, unfortunately Rivera  had to go through something other than just losing his kidney.

Shortly before he donated, he crashed his car in the awful Minnesota weather.  And then, with his recovery came an inability to work to pay to get it fixed.

That's when the man carrying his kidney decided it was time to step up for him.

The Facebook page where the police officer once asked for an organ, now includes a plea to help Rivera.

If you’d like to help, you can donate to any US Bank branch under the Help a Hero fund.

See the full story at CNN affiliate WCCO  and if you have #GoodStuff news, let us know! Leave a comment, post on Facebook, or tweet to @ChrisCuomo & @NewDay using #NewDay and submit your story on iReport.

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