Smart takes
March 22, 2014
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Less than a year ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stood side-by-side, laying out a joint plan to rid Syria of its dangerous chemical weapons stores.

That, of course, was before Russian troops invaded the disputed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which voted to secede and join Russia a week ago. Subsequent sanctions from Western nations, the United States included, have eroded Russia-U.S. relations but have not stopped Moscow from continuing its push for Crimean control.

So where does that leave the plan to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria, asks Geoff Brumfiel over at NPR.

It’s a valid question, as disposal of the weapons relied on joint measures by Russia and America. A United States naval ship was supposed to destroy the chemicals while being escorted by cooperating Russian naval vessels. That plan is now on hold, and Syria may read the situation as a prime time to stall its shipments, with the superpowers otherwise occupied, says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

I think what you're likely to see is that the Assad regime will comply just enough, at a slower pace, as it consolidates its hold over the country militarily...The usefulness of the Assad regime drops off significantly after those chemical weapons are destroyed, because we no longer need the Assad regime to secure their safety. [NPR]

Give the whole story a listen over at NPR. Sarah Eberspacher

campaign 2016
5:38 a.m. ET

Newly official Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was on Tuesday's Late Night, and along with amusingly informing Seth Meyers that she just purchased the domain name SethMeyers.org (well-played, Fiorina), she acknowledged that she believes climate change is caused by humans. "I'm prepared to take the scientists at their word," she said, "but the problem is we never finish the scientists' sentence.... A single nation acting alone can make no difference at all."

Lest you think Fiorina is backing President Obama's push to enact an enforceable global pact on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions or cheering his landmark deals with China and India, fear not. "Why would we destroy all these jobs with regulation when the answer to climate change is innovation, not regulation?" she asked. There follows a short but interesting conversation on when and how the U.S. can and should lead in the world, and then Fiorina changes the subject to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is both "a bad dude" and funny. —Peter Weber

ISIS
4:44 a.m. ET
Ben Torres/Getty Images

Islamic State appears to have taken credit for the attack on a cartoon-drawing contest in the Dallas suburb of Garland on Sunday, calling gunmen Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi "soldiers of the caliphate." Simpson had been interacting with ISIS figures on Twitter, the FBI says, but intelligence analysts are skeptical that ISIS ordered the attack. It's likely the attack was less directed by ISIS than "inspired by them," says Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, citing intelligence officials.

That's not necessarily something to be happy about. "ISIS and its caliphate is becoming a brand, looser even than a network like Al Qaeda," Omer Taspinar, an expert on political Islam at the Brookings Institution, tells The New York Times. "It's a kind of spiritual belonging. Claiming credit does not necessarily indicate any kind of organizational link." That suggests more lone-wolf ambushes like the Garland one and fewer big operations like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Unlike Al Qaeda, says terrorism scholar J. M. Berger, ISIS "can retroactively ratify attacks that they like and ignore those that don't serve its purpose." In that sense, the Garland attack is an odd one to try and own: Despite firing assault rifles, wearing bulletproof vests, and having the element of surprise, Simpson and Soofi were apparently shot dead by a traffic cop with a pistol, after incurring only one minor injury. Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
4:01 a.m. ET

"There are so many hopefuls in the Republican race, we've got to start narrowing the field," Jon Stewart said on Tuesday's Daily Show. He had a helpful suggestion, too. "Let's do it with a game I call 'Let's Get Rid of Ted Cruz.'" The game show isn't just out of personal or policy animus, Stewart insisted. It's that "Ted Cruz cannot live up to the extremely high standards set for a candidate by... Ted Cruz.” Over the next 5 minutes, Stewart laid out his case, using Cruz's words against him, Daily Show–style. Surely, um, Republican primary voters will be persuaded. —Peter Weber

last night on late night
3:47 a.m. ET

The star of Sunday's Met Gala — a fundraiser for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's costume wing — was probably Rihanna, with her elaborate yellow dress designed by China's Guo Pei. After providing some unabashedly snarky color commentary on the Met Gala fashion choices of various celebrities, Jimmy Kimmel got down to business on Tuesday night's show: poking fun at Rihanna's gown. (Maybe he's still sore about being woken up at midnight?)

Kimmel said that although designers spend so much time making these dresses — Rihanna's took two years — they never capitalize on that by selling them to the public. Until now. "One thing about the Chinese, they know how to get products made and onto the shelf here in America," he said, setting up a faux late-nite infomercial for the "Rihanket," and also a much smaller product inspired by Kim Kardashian's dress. You won't believe all the amazing things you can do with your Rihanket! Watch below. —Peter Weber

Special Elections
2:08 a.m. ET
Facebook/DanDonovanS

The voters of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn have elected District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. (R) to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Michael Grimm (R), who resigned after pleading guilty to federal tax-fraud changes. Donovan is best known nationally for not convincing a grand jury to indict the officers caught on video choking Eric Garner, who subsequently died.

Donovan easily beat Councilman Vincent Gentile (D), 60 percent to 39 percent, according to unofficial results, in the rare Republican-leaning district of New York City. The victorious DA still touted his win as a "message to President Obama, to Nancy Pelosi and, yes, even to Bill de Blasio, that their policies are wrong for our nation." National Democrats, after sinking millions into an unsuccessful 2014 attempt to unseat Grimm (R) — then under federal indictment but before he pleaded guilty — declined to support Gentile in this special election. Peter Weber

boy are her fingers tired
2:04 a.m. ET

The extravagant yellow ensemble Rihanna wore to the Met Gala on Monday that ended up spawning multiple memes was two years in the making.

The singer told Vogue's André Leon Talley that "it was a miracle" how the Guo Pei-designed dress was put together. "I saw this beautiful beast on the internet," she said. "I was researching Chinese couture.... It's so well-made. It's handmade by one Chinese woman. It took two years to make this." Get a closer look at the elaborate get-up in the video below. —Catherine Garcia

don't mess with arthur
1:27 a.m. ET

A would-be robber in Manchester, New Hampshire, picked the wrong man to mess with over the weekend when he tried to take the wallet of a 95-year-old World War II vet, who ended up whacking the criminal repeatedly with his cane, forcing him to flee.

Arthur Kamberis was walking home after he picked up his wife's prescription from the pharmacy when a man confronted him and attempted to get his wallet out of his pocket. Kamberis said he offered him some change, but the man was adamant about getting the wallet, something Kamberis refused to hand over. "I had my credit card, my license, my grandchildren's pictures in there and all sorts of stuff it would have been wicked for me to replace," he told WMUR.

That's when Kamberis began to clobber the man with his cane. "I was very nervous," he said. "I hit him three or four times on the arm, and then, you know, what the cop told me, 'You should have hit him on the head.'" A bystander came up to help and the wannabe robber ran off, but police say they were able to get a picture of him from a surveillance camera, and they are actively searching for him. The incident took place just a block away from a police station, and Kamberis said he thinks if he had his cellphone with him that day to call 911, "we could have nailed that guy." Catherine Garcia

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