Foreign affairs
March 24, 2014
SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images

There's a vigorous debate going on about whether President Obama badly misjudged his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, which then encouraged Moscow's newfound expansionist aggression. Critics have in particular seized on the awkward "reset" moment as proof of the administration's allegedly misguided attempts to rein in Russia by drawing it closer. But Peter Baker, in a refreshing analysis over at The New York Times, writes that Obama's predecessors also struggled to understand and work with the former KGB agent, and that all three men mistakenly "assumed they could manage a man who refuses to be managed."

Eric S. Edelman, who was undersecretary of defense under Mr. Bush, said American leaders overestimated their ability to assuage Mr. Putin's anger about the West. "There has been a persistent tendency on the part of U.S. presidents and Western leaders more broadly to see the sense of grievance as a background condition that could be modulated by consideration of Russian national interests," he said. "In fact, those efforts have been invariably taken as weakness." [New York Times]

There are a number of other revealing passages from Baker's conversations with former White House advisers and foreign policy experts. And there are a few other interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits, such as:

* President George W. Bush privately called Putin "one cold dude," and complained that dealing with him was like "arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong."

* Dick Cheney's inner monologue when he thought of Putin went, "KGB, KGB, KGB."

* Hillary Clinton liked to mimic Putin's macho "man's-man, legs-spread-wide posture."

Give the whole thing a read here.

show some respect
7:04 p.m. ET

Three Republican lawmakers in Idaho refused to attend the state Senate's daily invocation because it was being given by a Hindu guest chaplain.

On Tuesday, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, shared a prayer in English and Sanskrit that focused on selflessness and peace and was well-received by the senators who listened, The Associated Press reports. The three who sat out — Sens. Steve Vick, Sheryl Nuxoll, and Lori Den Hartog — did so because of their belief that the United States is a Christian nation, Nuxoll said. "Hindu is a false faith with false gods," she told AP. "I think it's great that Hindu people can practice their religion but since we're the Senate, we're setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe." She also stated that she thought a Christian prayer should have been said along with Zed's Hindu prayer.

When the Senate and House in Idaho convene, a prayer is said by the chamber's chaplains from Christian denominations, AP reports, and guest chaplains are also often invited to speak. Zed has delivered Hindu prayers to the U.S. House and Senate as well as several state legislatures.

Girl Power
3:44 p.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

Women make up only five percent of the U.S. Border Patrol's 21,000 agents, yet last year the number of females trying to cross into the U.S. illegally rose by 173 percent, Fox News reports.

According to agent Yesenia Leon, having a female agent pat search another female is "not necessary... but it is preferred." Fellow agent Marcella Benson added that with more female agents, "we kind of are able to relate to a female [immigrant] a little easier than it would be for a male to relate."

By September, Fox reports, the U.S. Border Patrol plans to hire 1,600 new female agents, and 5,700 women have already applied. The hiring process can take months, and 13 weeks of rigorous training at the academy is required.

$$$$$
3:35 p.m. ET

Don't have a cool $26 million to buy Lauren Bacall's three-bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park? There's still a chance to get your hands on something owned by the legendary movie star, who died in August. 

Items from "The Lauren Bacall Collection" will soon be auctioned off at Bonhams on March 31st and April 1st at their New York galleries. Among the most interesting items available to the public are a statue of late Bacall's late husband, Humphrey Bogart, and a well-traveled steamer trunk engraved with Bogart's initials.

Also included among the 740 items to be auctioned over the course of four sessions are a large collection of jewelry and various pieces of art, including a painting done by late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Bacall donated many of her iconic fashion pieces to the Fashion Institute of Technology before her death, and several will be on display there til April 4. Watch a video detailing the Bacall collection below. —Teresa Mull 

This just in
3:21 p.m. ET
Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images

After months of drama, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security with no strings attached targeting President Obama's executive action on immigration. The "clean" bill, which funds DHS through Sep. 30, passed by a 257 - 167 vote.

House Republicans had sought to hold DHS funding hostage in an attempt to scuttle Obama's immigration move. But Senate Democrats refused to give in and, with a partial DHS shutdown looming, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) finally cut loose the right wing of his caucus and agreed to bring the Senate's bipartisan DHS bill up for a vote.

This just in
2:48 p.m. ET

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, displayed an overt bias against African-Americans in the course of their law enforcement duties, according to a Justice Department investigation.

The DOJ review found that Ferguson's police department routinely violated the constitutional rights of blacks, disproportionately targeted them for arrest, and often used excessive force against them, according to leaked details of the report. The report also uncovered a 2008 email between police and court employees joking that President Obama would not be president for long because, "what black man holds a steady job for four years?" 

The full report, which arose after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager last summer, is due out Wednesday.—Jon Terbush

Look at this
2:46 p.m. ET

Ah, the land of stock photos. It is a unique place, filled with people in ill-fitting business suits, lots of firm handshakes, and okay, plenty of cute puppies, too.

Over the next three weeks, you may notice some more familiar faces in stock photo land, courtesy of a promotion for Vince Vaughn's new movie, Unfinished Business. Twentieth Century Fox teamed up with iStock by Getty Images to create a series of photos featuring Vaughn, along with his co-stars Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco, Adweek reports. The results are disturbingly good — or bad, depending on how you look at it — and should fit right in when you search for terms like "synergy."

Take a look at three of the frames, complete with their iStock captions, below. —Sarah Eberspacher


Mike Pancake and the team celebrate some unfinished business on a white background. | (iStock)


Dan Trunkman and the team from Apex Select. See Unfinished Business in theaters starting on March 6, 2015. | (iStock)


Mike Pancake from Apex Select attends a business presentation in a boardroom. | (iStock)

Really?
2:44 p.m. ET

It's one thing for a historic landmark to contain, say, a time capsule, like the one found in a statue at Boston's Old State House. But what happens when a monument is filled with bird poop?

The 14th-century Landgate Arch in Rye, East Sussex, was filled with 25 tons of pigeon droppings. The cleanup took four days and required a custom-built pressure tanker to suck the waste out of the arch's towers.

The Rother District Council, which owns the monument, discovered the droppings last month. The buildup was apparently bad enough that the CountyClean Environmental Services workers had to force the monument's doors open.

"Whilst we've removed other massive blockages, such as giant fatbergs in sewers, we have never seen such a monumental mass of festering feces before," Mike Walker, CountyClean Environmental Services' managing director, said in a statement. "Once inside, it was like walking on a giant chocolate cake and the smell was awful — even through a facemask."

This just in
2:03 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Obama on Tuesday shrugged off Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fiery speech criticizing the ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations, saying the foreign leader "didn't offer any viable alternatives."

"As far as I can tell, there was nothing new," Obama said, adding that Netanyahu gave a nearly identical speech last year full of dire predictions that have not come true.

In his controversial address to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu claimed the Obama administration's nuclear negotiations would "pave Iran's path to the bomb."

Coming Soon
1:43 p.m. ET

Forget about keeping your phone charger on your bedside table — soon, the table itself will be the only charger you need.

Ikea's new "Home Smart" collection, out in April, features tables and lamps that can wirelessly charge mobile devices. And if you already have your fair share of Ikea tables, the line will also include "charging pads" that can be attached to regular furniture.

The Home Smart furniture features Qi, a wireless charging standard found in Windows and Android phones. While iPhones don't support wireless charging, Ikea will also sell charging covers for iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S, and 6 models so they will work with the furniture.

#sixseasonsandamovie
1:28 p.m. ET

Despite creative shakeups, cast shakeups, and outright cancellation from NBC, Community is the sitcom that just can't be killed. For its fabled sixth season, the series is moving online to Yahoo! Screen.

The trailer for the new season riffs on the ultra-serious trailer for this summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron. (Abed would undoubtedly approve.) But while Pierce, Troy, and Shirley have all moved on, things are looking reliably zany at Greendale:

Community season 6 premieres on Yahoo! Screen on March 17.

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