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March 20, 2014
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As Russian President Vladimir Putin works quickly to consolidate Russia's new hold on the Ukrainian province of Crimea, the West is trying to come up with a united and appropriate response. Most people are trying to find the right middle ground between sending in U.S. Marines to liberate Crimea and ignoring Putin's naked expansionist aggression. --Peter Weber

Kneecap Putin's cronies
The sanctions leveled against Russian officials by the U.S. and Europe are too weak and irrelevant to make any difference, says Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in The New York Times. To get to Putin, "Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin's cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West." After naming names, Navalny adds:

The invasion of Ukraine has polarized members of Russia's elite, many of whom view it as reckless. Real sanctions, such as blocking access to their plush London apartments, will show that Mr. Putin's folly comes with serious costs. [New York Times]

Meet Putin's fire with a thick blanket
The West needs to isolate Putin completely until he pulls out of Crimea, says Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in The Washington Post. "The Russian people should see that Putin's actions will bring about a decline of Russia's status as a global power, not a return to supposed Soviet glory." The U.S. and its NATO allies should also impose an arms embargo and open up NATO membership to "all interested partners in Europe." Finally, Rubio adds, Obama should up his reassurances to the former Soviet satellites nervous about Putin's neo-imperialist actions, providing "lethal military support" and deploying "additional military assets and even U.S. personnel to our allies, including Poland and the Baltic states."

Walk softly but carry a big stick
The point of U.S. and European actions should be to keep Putin out of the rest of Ukraine — Crimea is already in Russia's hands, says Fred Kaplan at Slate. But the key to boxing in Putin is understanding that his "actions have been driven less by a belief that the West is weak than his knowledge that Russia is." That doesn't mean the West can ignore Putin — "a bitter autocrat with a head full of grandiose daydreams can be a dangerous creature." What's needed is a ratcheting up of penalties while leaving room for diplomacy, he says:

Draw up plans for containing and countering Russian troops in the event of an incursion into Ukraine — not sending U.S. or NATO troops, but shipping arms, maybe some advisers and black-bag Delta forces — and talk about these plans with the allies, and Ukrainian officials, on open phone lines. Putin surely knows the limits of his army.... Over those same unencrypted phone lines, a senior official should also talk about some moves that would really isolate Russia from the rest of the world.... These are threats of actions to take place if Russia goes deeper into Ukraine — not reprisals for the seizure of Crimea, which would have no effect and probably wouldn't be enforced anyway. [Slate]

10:24 a.m. ET
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The tortoise is still in the race after a reasonably decent showing in New Hampshire, much to fellow Floridian Marco Rubio's chagrin. But as the Republican presidential hopefuls turn their attention to South Carolina's Feb. 20 primary, Rubio's campaign is apparently pretty hopeful they can bury Jeb Bush.

"South Carolina is gonna be a bloodbath," a Rubio aide told Politico. "Jeb and his people wanted to attack Marco in New Hampshire about abortion? Let's see how that plays down there. And then there's Common Core."

On the other hand, an internal Bush memo slammed Rubio, asserting he has "demonstrated no respect for the nomination process and expects this to be a coronation." Julie Kliegman

10:18 a.m. ET
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Americans are getting fatter as airplane seats grow narrower, but a new House bill could mandate a minimum seat size to accommodate our increasing average girth.

The descriptively named Seat Egress in Air Travel Act (SEAT Act), introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), would require the Federal Aviation Administration to determine minimum measurements for plane seats. In addition to issues of comfort, Cohen argues that bigger seats are safer in the event of an emergency and can help prevent deep vein thrombosis on long flights.

While seat widths have slightly shrunk over the years, new innovations tend to focus on the front-to-back space a seat takes up, and especially the padding bulk. Meanwhile, some airlines, most famously Southwest, already offer the opportunity to purchase two seats for "customers of size" who find a single chair too restrictive. Bonnie Kristian

9:43 a.m. ET

At first glance, you might think Donald Trump would be thrilled to be played by an Oscar-nominated actor like Johnny Depp in a biopic chronicling his life — but when that biopic turns out to be the latest Funny or Die project, the results are less than flattering.

Depp stars in Funny or Die's scathingly parodic The Art of the Deal, which presents itself as a long-lost, made-for-TV adaptation of Trump's 1987 bestseller of the same name. True to the era, The Art of the Deal features plenty of '80s icons, including Christopher Lloyd, ALF, and "Danger Zone" legend Kenny Loggins, who performs the theme song. Of course, the real draw is Depp, whose rubbery, mush-mouthed take on Trump is suspiciously similar to his take on gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass:

If you're ready for The Art of the Deal, you can watch the whole movie (which clocks in at 50 minutes) at Funny or Die. Scott Meslow

9:35 a.m. ET

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich's response to finding out who won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night was spot on — and he didn't even utter a word.

TNT reporter David Aldridge managed to slip in a political question at the end of a courtside interview with Popovich by asking if he wanted to know the election results. "Yeah, who is it?" Popovich asked. "[Bernie] Sanders and [Donald] Trump," Aldridge responded.

Popovich was silent. He looked at Aldridge, shook his head in utter disbelief, and then just walked away. Watch it. Becca Stanek

9:14 a.m. ET
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Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin will adapt Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for Broadway, The New York Times reports.

"It lives a little bit differently in everybody's imagination in the way a great novel ought to, and then along I come," Sorkin said. "I'm not the equal of Harper Lee. No one is."

Sorkin was signed by producer Scott Rudin, who attained the stage adaptation rights that Lee had apparently long been reluctant to grant. The two men have worked together on films including The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. The play is scheduled to open in 2017.

In a sentiment the entire world is bound to echo, Sorkin's teenage daughter has already advised him "not to blow it." Julie Kliegman

9:12 a.m. ET

Jeb Bush is heading into his next campaign stop in South Carolina with a little help from older brother George W. Bush. In what will mark George W. Bush's first-ever campaign ad for current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, the 43rd president will begin hitting the South Carolina airwaves Wednesday in a spot targeted at conservative talk radio stations. Take a listen:

"Jeb has dealt with crises as the governor of Florida, and he did so with steadiness, and a calmness necessary in a good leader," the former president says in the ad entitled "Steady Hand." "He respects the military — he honors their families. He can make the tough decision to keep Americans safe and our country free. And in a time of crisis, he will be a steady hand."

The ad marks the start of George W. Bush's increased involvement in his brother's campaign. He is also expected to make an appearance on the campaign trail in South Carolina sometime before next week's Feb. 20 primary. Becca Stanek

8:54 a.m. ET
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Coming off of a strong second-place showing in New Hampshire's Republican primary, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday he doesn't plan on slowing down.

"We're going to go through South Carolina, ultimately to the Midwest. This is a long, long race." Kasich said on Good Morning America. "Everybody always underestimates me."

Kasich also vowed to not only unite the Republican Party, but also to get some cross-party appeal should he beat the odds and make it to the general election.

"We can attract the Democrats," he said. "We're Americans before we're Republicans and Democrats." Julie Kliegman

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