Russia's primary response to the first round of Western sanctions against politicians and business leaders tied to Moscow's occupation of Crimea: laughter, mixed with razzing President Obama over Twitter.
When Obama and European leaders upped the ante on Thursday, freezing the assets and travel opportunities of more than a dozen billionaires and officials close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, plus one bank, Moscow banned nine members of U.S. Congress and Obama aides from entering Russia. It was America's turn to chuckle.
I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen http://t.co/TgwZneD4HY
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2014
Russia isn't laughing. On Thursday, "Russia's most powerful businessmen waited for over an hour" in Moscow to meet with Putin, whose decision to annex Crimea "has cost their companies hundreds of millions of dollars in market value," says The Associated Press' Nataliya Vasilyeva. And "when Putin finally showed up, he spoke to them for five minutes — and gave them no reassurances that they or their companies will get any respite from the uncertainty created by the takeover of a piece of land of little value to them beyond national pride."
Russia's stock market has fallen 10 percent this month, its economy's modest growth forecast has been cut to zero, the ruble has weakened, and two of the big three credit rating agencies — Standard & Poor's and Fitch — just switched Russia's credit outlook from stable to negative, citing the slowing economy and threat of sanctions. Peter Weber
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Sunday faulted Iraqi troops for allowing the Islamic State to conquer Ramadi, saying the homegrown forces lacked the "will to fight."
"What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said in an appearance on CNN. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."
Last weekend, ISIS captured Ramadi as Iraqi troops fled and left behind weapons provided by the U.S. Days later, ISIS overran the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra as well. Jon Terbush
Cleveland police over the weekend arrested 71 people who participated in largely peaceful protests following the acquittal of a police officer in the 2012 killing of two unarmed black people.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said protesters became more "aggressive" throughout the day, adding that officers only intervened when they "became violent and…refused to disperse."
On Saturday a judge acquitted officer Michael Brelo over a 2012 incident in which police, after mistaking the sound of a car backfiring for gunshots, fired 137 rounds into a vehicle, killing both occupants. Brelo climbed onto the car's hood and fired 15 times through the windshield, though the judge ruled prosecutors did not prove those shots killed the couple. Jon Terbush
John Nash, the famed Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who inspired the film A Beautiful Mind, died Saturday in a taxi crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. The 86-year-old Nash and his wife, Alicia, were both killed when the driver of their taxi lost control and slammed into a guardrail. Police said they believe neither Nash nor his wife, who were ejected from the vehicle, were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. Known for his work in game theory, Nash won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1994. Jon Terbush
At least one person died and dozens of states of emergency were declared following widespread flooding across Oklahoma and Texas over the weekend. A firefighter in Claremore, Oklahoma, died while trying to rescue a colleague who became trapped in a storm drain, though the trapped firefighter was able to make it out safely. Flooding in the region forced more than 1,000 evacuations, with officials warning that even more rain on Sunday could trigger potentially "historic" flooding. Jon Terbush
An international coalition of female activists led by feminist Gloria Steinem on Sunday crossed the highly militarized border between North and South Korea in an effort to spotlight the need for reconciliation between the two nations. The group, WomenCrossDMZ, consisted of about 30 participants including Steinem and two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee. "We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible," Steinem said. Jon Terbush
The leader of Burundi's opposition party on Saturday was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in the capital of Bujumbura. Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the party Union for Peace and Development-Zigamibanga, and a bodyguard were shot dead by unidentified gunmen just one day after a grenade attack killed at least two civilians in the same city. Burundi has been rocked by unrest — including a failed coup — for weeks since President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term. Jon Terbush
The Bank of England apparently needs a refresher on how to keep a classified project…classified.
An editor for The Guardian received an email on Friday, accidentally forwarded by the Bank's head of press, which details plans to research the financial repercussions of a British exit from the European Union. Nicknamed Project Bookend, the not-so-secret work was meant to be carried out by just a few senior officials, and examine how a "Brexit" would affect the country's export's and major cities' economies.
The email noted that any questions from the press should be answered by saying that "there is a lot going on in Europe in the next couple of months…that would be of concern to the Bank."
A note to the Bank's staff on the project: Take a good, long look at the "CC" field before you send any of Project Bookend's results. Also, consider a better name than Project Bookend. Sarah Eberspacher