Early Friday, Ukraine launched an "anti-terrorist" offensive to retake Slovyansk and other eastern Ukraine cities it has lost to pro-Russia militias. Moscow sharply criticized Ukraine's decision to try to reassert control over its own territory; Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitri Peskov warned ominously that Ukraine's "punitive operation" essentially destroys "all hope for the viability of the Geneva agreements" to halt the violence.
The Geneva agreement, of course, required the pro-Russia militias to lay down their arms, too, and instead they've just taken over more cities. Russia has amassed troops along the Ukraine border, for military "exercise," and denies that its special forces are in Ukraine guiding the separatist uprising. There's a growing body of inconclusive evidence suggesting otherwise, but if not Russian "green men," who exactly is organizing the well-armed, well-coordinated capture of eastern Ukraine?
Ukraine's invasion, launched early Friday morning, isn't going well so far: Pro-Russian militants shot down two Ukrainian attack helicopters with shoulder-fired missile launchers, killing two Ukrainian servicemen, and shot at a third helicopter carrying medics. The expert use of anti-aircraft missiles is proof that "trained, highly qualified foreign military specialists" are operating in Slovyansk and elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, the domestic intelligence agency SBU told Reuters, "and not local civilians, as the Russian government says, armed only with guns taken from hunting stores."
The SBU is hardly a disinterested source, but Russia doesn't seem to have an answer for that. Earlier this week, The Daily Beast reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a group of world leaders last Friday that "intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language." Kerry added: "It's not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine," and Russia's denial of involvement "is insulting to everybody's intelligence."
That, or Russia just doesn't care what we think. Peter Weber
TV show reboots are dropping left and right, and NBC just hopped on the bandwagon.
Will and Grace will return for a 10-episode limited run in the 2017-18 season, NBC announced Wednesday. The show's four stars — Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally — will reprise their original roles. Director James Burrows and creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan will also return, per The New York Times.
Will and Grace joins a growing number of 1990s and 2000s TV favorites getting a new life, including recent reboots of Full House and Gilmore Girls. But unlike a lot of other shows revived on Netflix and other networks, Will and Grace will return to its original home on NBC.
Reboot rumors started in late 2016, when the original cast reunited to film a scene about the 2016 election. For a flashback to the show's eight-season run, check out the video from NBC below. Kathryn Krawczyk
Inauguration weekend kicked off Thursday afternoon with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. As their families looked on, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without being officially identified.
Pres.-elect Trump, Vice Pres.-elect Pence lay wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. pic.twitter.com/Oq7ThPL8B2
— ABC News (@ABC) January 19, 2017
The ceremony, which was slated to last roughly 20 minutes, instead wrapped up in just a few minutes as Trump and Pence placed the wreath. Hours earlier, Trump and his family arrived in Washington, D.C., from New York City.
Trump's first order of business in the nation's capital was a luncheon meeting at his D.C. hotel, which was attended by transition officials and incoming White House staff. Later Thursday, Trump will stop by a celebratory concert at the Lincoln Memorial and attend a reception and dinner at Union Station.
Trump's official inaugural ceremony begins Friday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Becca Stanek
On his last day in office, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 330 federal inmates serving time for non-violent drug offenses. This latest round of commutations, likely Obama's "last major act as president," marks the "most any U.S. president has issued in a single day," The Associated Press reported.
To date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, 568 of whom were serving life sentences, a total that far surpasses that of any other U.S. president. Earlier this week, Obama commuted the sentences of 209 people, including former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Obama's record number of commutations comes as part of his push for criminal justice system reform. Becca Stanek
President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, did not necessarily find friendly faces among each and every Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. During Mnuchin's hearing Thursday, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) repeatedly pressed Mnuchin, specifically on the issue of the tax cut that comes with repealing ObamaCare.
Mnuchin did not directly commit to an answer: "I haven't been as involved in the 'repeal and replace,'" he said, when asked who would benefit from the tax cut that would come with repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Mnuchin ducks on ObamaCare: "I haven't been as involved in the repeal and replace."
— Pete Schroeder (@peteschroeder) January 19, 2017
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also pressed Mnuchin on whether any taxpayer making under $200,000 a year would see even "a dime" of the ObamaCare tax cuts. Mnuchin admitted most of the ObamaCare taxes currently in place are on the wealthy — who would then stand to benefit if they were repealed — but asserted that tax reform "overall" will be scrutinized. Jeva Lange
A golden retriever named Kelsey was credited with saving her owner’s life after he slipped and was left temporarily paralyzed in the snow. The Emmet County, Michigan, man — identified only as Bob — was collecting firewood on New Year's Eve when he fell, herniating multiple discs in his back and neck. For 20 hours, with temperatures plummeting to just 20 degrees, Kelsey kept any frostbite at bay by licking Bob's face and hands, and barking for help until a neighbor discovered the fallen man. "She kept me warm and alert," says Bob. Christina Colizza
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) held nothing back while grilling President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, on Thursday. McCaskill used the entirety of her time to press Mnuchin on the issue of Trump's potential conflicts of interest due to his global business, wondering aloud if Trump would fire the government ethics officer in order to install someone more favorable to his organization's interests.
At one point during the questioning, McCaskill asked: "Do you agree your boss is famous for firing people?"
Mnuchin, cornered, admitted: "Well, he has a show about it."
— Peter Stevenson (@PeterWStevenson) January 19, 2017
McCaskill continued, asking Mnuchin, "Isn't it true that a lot of [Trump's] debt is held by foreign interests?" Mnuchin deflected: "I don't know, I've just read it in the papers."
"Do you think you should know that, as someone who runs the committee on foreign investments, if we're talking about the commander-in-chief?" McCaskill pressed.
Mnuchin mostly agreed: "I think you have a valid point," he said. Jeva Lange
I appreciate that Mr Mnuchin recognized the validity of my ?s about foreign investment in Trump's business as relates to nat'l security.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) January 19, 2017
Energy secretary nominee and former Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) deferred to scientists when asked Thursday during his Senate confirmation hearing if he would support the longstanding ban on nuclear testing. "I'm going to rely upon their observations of whether there is clear technical ability to use the technology that we have today," Perry said, referring to Department of Energy scientists and private-sector scientists. "I think anyone would be of the opinion that if we don't ever have to test another nuclear weapon, that would be a good thing — not just for the United States, but for the world."
Perry's answer came after some chiding from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who asked the question because of President-elect Donald Trump's interest in allowing more countries to get nuclear weapons, and the fact that "more than 60 percent" of the Energy Department's budget deals with nuclear energy. Initially, Perry answered the question by pointing to the importance of the U.S. having "a nuclear arsenal that is modern, that is safe." "The question," Sanders said, cutting in, was about "nuclear testing."
Perry was similarly circumspect about whether he would support the storage of nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, a site the U.S. government had once eyed for dumping nuclear waste. Trump's administration has reportedly discussed reviving that plan. "I will not sit here in front of you and tell you absolutely no way is Nevada going to be the recipient of high-level waste," Perry said. Becca Stanek