As they did in Crimea, gun-wielding pro-Moscow militants are taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine, posing something of a dilemma for the interim government in Kiev. Without a forceful response, it could risk a repeat of Russia's near-bloodless takeover of Crimea, starting with eastern cities like Donetsk and Slavyansk, or it could fight back and risk giving Russia a pretext to send troops in ostensibly to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. With the militant activity expanding, President Oleksandr Turchynov chose the former course.
"The Council of National Security and Defense has decided to carry out a large-scale anti-terrorist operation with the use of armed forces of Ukraine," Turchynov said Sunday afternoon. "We won't allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern region of Ukraine." He softened the news a little bit, promising amnesty to protesters to leave peacefully without firing shots and offering greater local governance to eastern provinces.
Russia responded by calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday night, where Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin argued that the world's powers should stop Ukraine from using force. The U.S. incited the anti-Moscow demonstrations in Kiev that led to the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, Churkin alleged, "so now the U.S. is going to encourage this criminal use of force?.... In just a few hours' time things might take an irreversible turn for the worse."
The U.S., Europe, and Ukraine countered with evidence that the well-armed militants leading the takeover of Ukrainian government buildings are Russian commandos. But forget about that for a minute.
The idea that Russia would argue that a government doesn't have the right to quell uprisings within its own borders would be darkly comical if the situation weren't so serious. Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that no other countries interfere as he brutally crushed Islamic separatist movements in Checnhya and Dagestan — though, to be fair, the U.S. at least wasn't overly sympathetic toward Russia's Islamist militants in the post-9/11 Chechen crackdowns. And it was right after meeting with Putin at the Sochi Olympics that Yanukovych started his ill-fated crackdown on the Ukrainian protesters camped out in Kiev's Maidan square.
If any other country were dealing with an armed separatist movement within its borders, Russia would applaud its strong hand and warn other countries to back off. I wouldn't be surprised if Turchynov chose his words — "anti-terrorist operation" — primarily for Russia's benefit. Peter Weber
President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Linda McMahon, co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and one-time Senate candidate, to head the Small Business Administration, transition team officials said Wednesday. "Linda has a tremendous background and is widely recognized as one of the country's top female executives advising businesses around the globe," Trump said in an announcement, noting McMahon's success in growing WWE from 13 people to 800.
McMahon called small businesses "the largest source of job creation in our country" in a statement, and said her goal would be to ensure those businesses "grow and thrive," Reuters reported. Trump also mentioned she would be vital to his push to reduce federal regulations.
Aside from her failed 2010 bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, McMahon has not had extensive government experience. However, her ties to Trump go way back: She was a supporter of Trump's presidential campaign from the start, and her husband, Vince McMahon, once got his head shaved by the now president-elect at Wrestlemania XXIII — right after Trump bodyslammed him to the ground and pretended to punch him in the head. Becca Stanek
On Wednesday, Ohio lawmakers passed the "heartbeat bill," a piece of legislation that would ban abortions in the Buckeye State as soon as a fetus' heartbeat can be detected. The heartbeat is typically detectable around the sixth week of pregnancy, but many women are unaware they're pregnant until about the eighth week, when they have likely missed two periods.
If passed, the measure would "effectively be the nation's strictest time-based abortion law," CNN reported. The bill does not offer exceptions, even in instances of incest or rape. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) — who has articulated a strong pro-life stance — will now have 10 days to either veto the bill or sign it into law.
Though the bill has been considered before and rejected by the Senate, Ohio legislators said this seemed like the right time to raise it again. "A new president [and] new Supreme Court justice appointees change the dynamic, and ... there was a consensus in our caucus to move forward," said Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, explaining the timing. He noted he thinks the bill "has a better chance than it did before."
The American Civil Liberties Union has already vowed to challenge the law if it is passed. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) said Wednesday he believes the bill has "been shown to be unconstitutional." Becca Stanek
Two juveniles have been charged with aggravated arson in connection with starting the East Tennessee fires that killed 14 last week, The Washington Post reports. "During the course of the investigation, information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in their announcement.
The fire started in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and burned 10,000 acres due to a severe drought in the region. Additionally, more than 14,000 people had to evacuate the tourist town of Gatlinburg and an estimated 1,750 structures were damaged or destroyed. Nearly 150 people were additionally injured by the blaze.
The suspects are in custody at a local juvenile detention center, authorities reported. Jeva Lange
Last month, the U.S. exported more natural gas than it imported for the first time in almost 60 years. The country exported 7.4 billion cubic feet of liquefied gas a day in November, compared to the 7 billion cubic feet it imported daily, The Wall Street Journal reports.
American gas exports have jumped more than 50 percent since 2010, and the Department of Energy expects the U.S. to become the third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas by 2020, behind Australia and Qatar. The two biggest U.S. customers are Canada and Mexico, who are partnered with the U.S. through the North American Free Trade Agreement. Plans to export to other partners, like South Korea and Singapore, are already in the works.
There's at least one thing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has remained faithful to throughout the presidential election: his love for cheese. While at a queso competition in Texas on Wednesday, Cruz spent nearly a minute professing his unwavering love for the delectable melted dairy beloved in the Lone Star State. "It speaks to the soul," Cruz said. "Good queso relaxes you."
While Cruz has previously said he loves cheese in general, he indicated Wednesday that queso ranks top cheese in his book. While your run-of-the mill cheese can be served on anything from a cracker to "one of those tiny Vienna sausages," Cruz argued that queso is something special. "Queso is made to be scooped up with tortilla chips, dribbling down your chin and onto your shirt," Cruz said.
Catch Cruz's entire queso monologue below. Becca Stanek
— Jordan Rudner (@jrud) December 7, 2016
On Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, radio station WNYC shared its original broadcast aired on Dec. 7, 1941. The station, which was reportedly the first in New York City to report the attack, offered play-by-plays of American retaliation against the Japanese and of the Hawaiian governor's reports to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt over the phone as a "second wave of Japanese planes began flying over Hawaii."
Take a listen below. Becca Stanek
WNYC was the first radio station in NYC to report the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago today. Hear the original broadcast: pic.twitter.com/vFZrWDvEtJ
— WNYC (@WNYC) December 7, 2016
A three-mile deep, 70-mile long crack in Antarctica could soon cause a chunk of the continent to break off and float away as a massive, state-sized iceberg, Popular Science reports.
The piece of ice threatening to snap off comes from a region called "Larsen C" and only makes up about 12 percent of the ice sheet's total area. Still, it would create an iceberg the size of Delaware if it were to detach. Larsen C would then go the way of ice sheets Larsen A and B, both of which broke off the continent in a similar fashion over the last 20 years.
— Rachel Feltman (@RachelFeltman) December 7, 2016
Usually ice sheets break up in much smaller pieces, but giant rifts such as the one growing in Antarctica now are becoming more and more likely due to what scientists believe are effects from climate change. Jeva Lange