Need To Know

Putin gets poetic with accusations. Three separatists were reportedly killed at a national guard base in Mariupol last night, the worst bloodshed yet in the tense standoff in eastern Ukraine.

While a representative for the separatists claimed they held a peaceful rally urging the police to join them, the deputy commander on the base said they came with demands that the guards surrender their weapons. He said the crowd then used a truck to break through the gate and fired shots.

Meanwhile, diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union prepared to meet in Geneva and talk about the situation for the first time since the crisis began in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to back the talks, urging leaders in Kyiv to compromise. He said using troops against separatists was a "grave mistake" and accused the leadership of dragging the country "into an abyss."

While admitting the presence of Russian forces in Crimea, Putin called claims that Russian forces had infiltrated eastern Ukraine "rubbish."

"There are no kinds of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. No special forces, no instructors. They are all local citizens," Putin said.

Few breakthroughs are expected at the talks, but you can follow the developments here.

Want To Know

Israelis out, tourists in. Though the Jewish holiday of Passover is meant to mark the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, every year some half a million Israelis leave their own country during the holiday.

Why? The reasons abound, from the tyranny of pre-Passover cleaning and scrubbing, not to mention the plague of visiting family members and the almost absolute impossibility of finding a slice of real bread.

The holiday also heralds the arrival of thousands of tourists, many of them Jews coming to observe the pilgrimage in the place where it all started.

The irony is this: Passover has become a holiday in which foreign Jews come to revel in the very experience native Israelis flee. Noga Tarnopolsky gives us the view from Jerusalem.

No girls allowed. Edinburgh University’s Old College harbors a secret: For almost 200 years, a clandestine society with connections that run across the upper echelons of Scottish society has held regular meetings in its rooms.

Founded in 1764, the Speculative Society — known to its select members as “the Spec” — holds private black tie soirees where wine is quaffed in candlelit rooms specially designed by the Scottish engineer William Playfair, after whom Old College’s famous library is named.

The room in which they meet contains the death mask of Sir Walter Scott and the flag wrapped around Robert Louis Stevenson’s body after he died.

The society counts among its members powerful people from Scottish and British public life — but no women. That's right... an all male secret society that includes the likes of Queen Elizabeth II's husband (but not the queen) — and it's rekindled a debate about sexism.

 

Strange But True

Instead of confetti, water. Fill those buckets up with water, load up your supersoakers and hit the streets in for possibly the world's biggest water gun fight.

Much of Southeast Asia is celebrating the New Year this week, and Thailand and Malaysia mark the occasion with the water festival called Songkran or Thingyan respectively.

The water festival actually has its roots in Buddhism. It symbolizes cleansing. Splashing water on someone is a way of showing respect and is supposed to bring good fortune.

Once upon a time it was a dignified, elegant ceremony involving temple visits or blessings from your elders.

Now, it looks more like wearing a tank top and sunglasses while wielding a neon green and hot pink water gun.

Happy New Year!