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]
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency in Tunisia on Saturday, the state news agency reports. In June, a gunman killed 38 foreigners and injured 39 others in a beachside terrorist attack. Security officers killed the gunman after the attack had stopped.
It's the second terrorist attack Tunisia has seen in three months, The New York Times reports. The state of emergency allows Essebsi to authorize military operations in Tunisia's own cities. Julie Kliegman
Eight-time defending champion Joey Chestnut met his match Saturday in Matt "Megatoad" Stonie, who won Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Stonie downed 62 dogs and buns in 10 minutes, two ahead of Chestnut.
"I trained hard for this, and I came prepared," Stonie said.
Chestnut still has claim to the contest record, though, since he polished off 69 dogs in 2013 — good news for those of you who worried the man famous for binge-eating fast food might've lost his dignity with his defeat. Julie Kliegman
The legal pot market began in Washington on July 8, 2014, and just one year later, it's making bank. The state's 160 stores earn $1.4 million per day. Between state and local governments, pot sales have rolled in about $70 million in taxes, The Associated Press reports.
Business might be good, but all those taxes — on top of federal ones — hurt growers.
"I'm basically doing this for free," James Lathrop, who owns Seattle's first legal shop, told AP. "Nobody's gone out of business, but I'm not driving a new truck either."
So next time you're in Washington, maybe you should think about kicking back with some weed — you know, just for the sake of supporting small business. Julie Kliegman
Donald Trump took to Fox & Friends to defend the comments on Mexican immigrants that landed him in hot water this week with companies like NBC, Macy's, and most recently NASCAR.
"The crime is raging and it's violent. And if you talk about it, it’s racist," he said, referring to accusations against his presidential campaign kickoff that many Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug users.
NASCAR joined a long list of companies cutting ties with billionaire and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump following his controversial remarks last month about Mexican people. The auto racing governing body will not hold its Xfinity and Camping World Truck series banquets at the Trump National Doral Miami as originally planned, USA Today reports.
"Our company will not stand to support any person or organization that associates with such beliefs and we feel strongly about distancing ourselves from any negative and discriminatory comments made against any gender, ethnicity, age group or so forth," said Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, who vowed to not attend the awards if held at Trump's hotel. "I would hope that the entire NASCAR organization would agree with my sentiments."
In his campaign kickoff, Trump classified most Mexicans immigrating to the U.S. as rapists and drug users. NASCAR joins companies like NBC Universal, Univision, and Macy's in denouncing the comments. Julie Kliegman
A Florida judge had one unusual question for the burglary suspect in her bond court: Did you go to middle school with me?
Arthur Booth, 49, was arrested in Hialeah on charges of burglary, grand theft, fleeing, and resisting arrest, NBC 6 South Florida reports. Judge and former middle school classmate Mindy Glazer's question shocked him. He immediately teared up, held his head, and repeated "Oh my goodness."
Glazer had some encouraging words for the man she called "the nicest kid in middle school."
"Good luck to you sir," she said. "I hope you are able to come out of this OK and just lead a lawful life."
JetBlue ran its first official direct flight from New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport to Havana's José Martí International Airport on Friday, the first in a planned series of weekly charter flights.
It's the first major airline to do so, though smaller outfit Sun Country was the first to start servicing the two cities, Time reports.
JetBlue also runs flights to Cuba from Florida cities following the easing of travel restrictions earlier this year as the two nations work to restore diplomatic ties after half a century without relations. Julie Kliegman