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
While Trump celebrated his firing, McCabe slammed the president's 'false, defamatory, and degrading' attacks
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
Trump has repeatedly targeted McCabe for criticism over his wife's Democratic congressional run, alleging corrupt campaign practices linked to McCabe's position. The FBI has released documents showing Trump's allegations are unfounded.
McCabe, meanwhile, issued a lengthy statement slamming the "false, defamatory, and degrading" allegations to which he and his wife have been subject, and which Trump's "tweets have amplified and exacerbated."
"The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people," he argued, labeling his firing "part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of [Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia] investigation," as well as evidence of the investigation's necessity. Bonnie Kristian
The engineer who oversaw construction of the footbridge that collapsed in Florida Thursday, killing multiple people, left a voicemail with the state Transportation Department two days prior reporting cracks in the structure. The employee the engineer called was out of the office and thus did not hear the message until Friday.
However, it is not clear that the tragedy would have been prevented even if the voicemail were received more quickly: The engineer said the cracking would be repaired but was not a safety risk. "We've taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done, but from a safety perspective we don't see that there’s any issue there, so we're not concerned about it from that perspective," said the message from engineer W. Denney Pate. "Although obviously the cracking is not good and something's going to have to be, you know, done to repair that."
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers pulled off a historic upset win against the top-seeded University of Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday night. UMBC's 74-54 win is the first time a No. 16 seed has bested a No. 1 team in the championship's history.
March 16, 2018
11:33 PM eastern
#16 The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
#1 University of Virginia
It's even better with Titanic music! (@UMBCAthletics with the upset to end all upsets)
— UMBC MADNESS (@TitanicHoops) March 17, 2018
"We didn't know what seed we would be when we won the America East championship," said UMBC guard Jairus Lyles, who scored 28 points in Friday's game. "Once we saw that No. 16 seed we knew we had a chance to make history. It's a very surreal moment."
UMBC next faces No. 9 Kansas State on Sunday for a shot at the Sweet 16. Bonnie Kristian
Moscow on Saturday announced 23 British diplomats have one week to leave Russia, a retaliation for the United Kingdom's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats and cut off high-level communications with Russia earlier this week.
The first expulsion came in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripaland, who now live in England. Both remain in critical condition. The U.S., U.K., France, and Germany have blamed the nerve gas attack on Moscow, which denies the accusation.
Russia's Saturday announcement also said the British Council in Russia, a cultural liaison, and the British Consulate in St. Petersburg will be shut down. The U.K. Foreign Office said it "anticipated a response of this kind." Bonnie Kristian
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was fired from the Justice Department on Friday, just two days before he was set to retire and receive his pension. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he'd dismissed McCabe "effective immediately," saying McCabe "lacked candor."
STATEMENT FROM AG SESSIONS on McCabe firing: pic.twitter.com/vj2C8FtW4x
— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) March 17, 2018
McCabe had become a frequent target of President Trump because of his wife's congressional run as a Democrat, though most recently he was accused of an "unauthorized disclosure to the media," detailed in a yet-to-be released report that allegedly accuses McCabe of trying to hide a conversation he arranged between FBI officials and The Wall Street Journal. He was set to retire Sunday, at which point he would have been eligible to receive a pension after 21 years of service; it is unclear how the preemptive firing will affect that benefit.
McCabe defended his integrity after the news broke, telling The New York Times: "The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong." He additionally tied his firing to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion by the Trump campaign, saying in a statement: "The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized ... I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."
McCabe added that his dismissal is "part of [the Trump administration's] ongoing war with the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day." Read McCabe's entire statement — in which he fiercely defends his honor — below. Kimberly Alters
McCabe statement: pic.twitter.com/32vsbf6XWZ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 17, 2018
Black Mirror has come to life in China.
A bad social ranking could affect every aspect of someone's life, The Verge reports, thanks to the country's forthcoming "social credit" system. The system, set to launch in May, will allow the Chinese government to establish rules that will judge citizens' behaviors and financial backgrounds in order to determine Citizen Scores, which will affect a person's access to high-speed internet, restaurants, and travel. Citizens with low scores will also be banned from buying train or plane tickets.
The scores, on a scale of 350 to 950, ding people for failing to pay a phone bill on time, but get a boost if friends and acquaintances rate a social interaction positively, Rachel Botsman writes in her book Who Can You Trust?, published in part by Wired.
Travel restrictions are the newest addition to the burgeoning system, The Verge reports. Government documents show a plan to block poorly scored citizens from air or rail travel for up to a year, though perhaps less for minor infractions like leaving a bike parked on a footpath. More than 7 million citizens have already been blocked from travel, Human Rights Watch reports, for offenses like "insincere" apologies.
The big-data endeavor has already partially launched in China; volunteers have been participating in the program since 2014. But Botsman writes that by 2020 the social credit system will be mandatory, ranking and rating all 1.379 billion citizens of China. Summer Meza
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett didn't want to be best friends. They didn't even want to meet.
A Business Insider story details the friendship between Gates and Buffett — the second- and third-richest people in the world, respectively.
It all began when Gates' mother invited the late Washington Post reporter Meg Greenfield and Buffett to her home back in 1991. Gates didn't want to take a day off work, but he did want to meet the late Post publisher turned The Post movie subject Katharine Graham, who was coming as well.
Buffett simply recalled wondering, “How long do we have to stay to be polite?”
But after some small talk imagining how they would've built IBM if they were at the helm, Gates and Buffett stuck together.
Since then, the multi-billionaires have swapped books, tried out mattresses, and pledged to donate more than half of their fortunes via The Giving Pledge. You know, just your normal, everyday best friend things. Take a closer look at the pair's 27-year friendship at Business Insider. Kathryn Krawczyk