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April 17, 2014

In an inauspicious start to talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Geneva on Thursday, Ukrainian troops killed three masked pro-Moscow militants during a Wednesday night attack on a Ukrainian National Guard base in Mariupol, a Black Sea port town in eastern Donetsk province, not far from the border with Russia. According to a Facebook post by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the Guardsmen also wounded 13 of the roughly 300 attackers and captured 63. No Ukrainian troops were reported killed.

"After the attackers threw fire grenades and Molotov cocktails into the territory of the unit and opened fire on soldiers on guard, the National Guard troops opened warning fire and then... as the attack was repeated they began shooting to kill," Avakov wrote. Speaking to parliament on Thursday, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the pro-Russia gang tried to take the base three times, with some of the attackers carrying automatic weapons.

Earlier Wednesday in Kramatorsk, about 100 miles due north of Mariupol, a unit of Ukrainian paratroopers surrendered several armored vehicles after being surrounded by unarmed protesters, then armed pro-Russia militants. "After the shocking setbacks in Kramatorsk," Dmitry Tymchuk, head of the Kiev-based Center for Military and Political Research, tells the Los Angeles Times, "the actions of our soldiers in Mariupol demonstrate that the anti-terrorist operation in the Donetsk region is still continuing and may yet gain momentum." Peter Weber

12:02 p.m. ET

Mass bleaching caused by global warming and El Niño has killed 35 percent the coral in the northern and central parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef in just the past few months, scientists said Monday. The southern section of the 1,400-mile reef has seen only minor damage. Warming waters have been causing bleaching in reefs around the world for two years, but the damage in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's east coast has occurred over just two months. Bleached coral that hasn't died can recover if the water temperature drops. You can learn more, including how the report is affecting Australian politics, in the Associated Press report below. Harold Mass

11:24 a.m. ET

Mexican police rescued international soccer star Alan Pulido hours after he was kidnapped in northeast Mexico. Pulido, 25, appeared at a brief news conference on Monday and told reporters he was "very well." He had a bandage on his right hand. Pulido, a striker who has played for Mexico's national team several times, was leaving a party with his girlfriend on Saturday night in Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state when their car was surrounded by several trucks. Pulido was taken away, and his girlfriend was left unharmed. You can watch Pulido's news conference below. Harold Mass

10:35 a.m. ET
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An estimated 700 Libyan migrants died last week as their boats capsized in the Mediterranean during an attempted crossing to Italy, adding to a swelling death toll of more than 8,000 migrants to Europe since 2014. In September 2015, those deaths were encapsulated in a photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy whose drowned body washed up on the coast of Greece.

Another such photo came out of a rescue effort off the coast of Libya on Sunday organized by a German humanitarian organization called Sea-Watch. It shows a German rescue volunteer named Martin cradling a drowned baby who appears to be sleeping.

Seeing the child's body floating in the water, "I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive," Martin said. "I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive."

You can view the sad, unsettling photo here. Bonnie Kristian

10:26 a.m. ET

Last Week Tonight occasionally does a segment called "How Is This Still a Thing?" where a narrator pokes holes in a real thing that John Oliver and his writers think should disappear, like daylight savings and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. On Sunday night, "in the interest of innovation," Oliver posted a twist on this idea, proposing "non-things that should absolutely be thing-afied," as he explained. Some proposals, like an all-dog Blue Man Group and a universal key word to get out of awkward small-talk, are kind of silly. The search engine for parents, crying house key, and biodegradable home treadmill are all great ideas. And his biggest innovation? Well, you can decide for yourself: "Why do we not yet have bread pants — which are, of course, sweat pants made of bread?" If that sounds unsanitary, well, yes, but watch below to see if Oliver can sell you on the idea anyway. Peter Weber

10:13 a.m. ET
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service" in exposing the agency's surveillance secrets, former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a CNN-produced podcast reported Monday.

"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did," Holder conceded, but maintained that Snowden made a positive move in "raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made."

That said, Holder is hardly jumping on the anti-NSA bandwagon. He argued that Snowden broke the law and "harmed American interests" by revealing classified government secrets, actions Holder suggested deserve jail time. He encouraged Snowden to return to the United States to cut a deal with the feds, something the former NSA contractor has said he is willing to do if he is guaranteed a fair trial. Still, Holder added, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m. ET

Texas authorities have found six bodies of people killed in Memorial Day weekend flooding, and an 11-year-old boy washed away in a swollen creek is missing and presumed dead in Kansas, as heavy rains caused flash flooding around the U.S. Torrential rains in central and and southeastern Texas prompted several evacuations and rescues, along with the six confirmed deaths, and near Houston, prison officials evacuated some 2,600 inmates. Separately, Tropical Depression Bonnie has reached South Carolina and is expected to continue dousing North and South Carolina with rain and strong winds, according to the National Weather Service. You can see some of Bonnie's impact on South Carolina in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

7:51 a.m. ET
Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Early Monday, Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces started moving into southern Fallujah, one of two remaining large Iraqi cities controlled by the Islamic State, according to Brig. Haider al-Obeidi. He described the ISIS resistance as "fierce," with snipers, mortars, and car bombs. Iraq announced the offensive last week, but has so far been encircling the city and capturing the surrounding areas. There are an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, and the Iraqi government is telling those who can't escape to stay indoors. In Baghdad, meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for several bombings on Monday that have killed at least 24 people. The car bombings in Baghdad are widely seen as an attempt to divide and distract Iraqi security forces. Peter Weber

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