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]
Police in Indiana are hopeful that the public will recognize the man heard in a grainy cellphone video taken by a young murder victim.
Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13, disappeared on Feb. 13, and their bodies were found a day later in a wooded area outside Delphi, near the trail they planned to hike. During a press conference Wednesday, Indiana State Police announced there is a $41,000 reward for finding the killer, and played a clip from the video shot by German, featuring a man saying "Down the hill."
"She had the presence of mind to have the phone on and to capture video as well as audio," Capt. David Bursten said. Investigators are not certain if the man heard in the video is the same man seen in a photograph German also snapped from her phone; police say the man in the photo is the main suspect in the murders. Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, the Trump administration reversed a directive issued in May 2016 by former President Barack Obama, which said transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms at public schools that match their chosen gender identity.
Obama's guidance was not legally binding, but advocates said it was needed to protect transgender students from being discriminated against. The Justice and Education departments sent letters to schools on Wednesday saying the earlier directive led to confusion and lawsuits, but anti-bullying measures won't be affected. Now, states and school districts will decide if federal anti-discrimination laws apply to gender identity. Catherine Garcia
Thousands of emails made public on Wednesday by an Oklahoma judge show that Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, had close relationships with oil and gas producers and electric and fossil fuel companies, as well as political groups backed by the Koch brothers, while serving as the Republican attorney general of Oklahoma.
Pruitt sued the Obama administration's EPA 14 times during his tenure, and emails show that his office worked with these companies to put together drafts of letters for Pruitt to sign, seeking to stop new regulations. One email sent to Pruitt from an executive at the Koch-supported Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, thanked him and his bosses for all they did "to push back against President Obama's EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states." Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate 52-46 on Friday, despite protests from Democrats and environmentalists. The emails were released as part of a lawsuit filed against Pruitt by the liberal watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy. Catherine Garcia
During an unannounced visit Wednesday to the recently vandalized Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, Vice President Mike Pence declared there is "no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism." More than a hundred tombstones were damaged or toppled over the weekend at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery, located just outside of St. Louis, part of a trend of increasing acts of anti-Semitism across the nation.
"We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those that perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms," Pence said, noting the vandalism is a "sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate." Pence was in Missouri on Wednesday for a meeting with executives at a Fabick Cat plant.
The vice president's condemnation of anti-Semitism came just a day after President Trump vowed the "horrible" and "painful" anti-Semitic threats are "going to stop."
Catch a snippet of Pence's remarks below. Becca Stanek
— CNN (@CNN) February 22, 2017
Jay Z will become the first rapper ever inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers revealed Wednesday on CBS This Morning. "He's changed the way we listen to music, he's changed the way we have fun, the way that we cry," Rodgers said, calling Jay Z a "revolutionary."
The 21-time Grammy winner is in the 2017 class of inductees alongside Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Max Martin, Robert Lamm, James Pankow, and Peter Cetera. Madonna, George Michael, and Cat Stevens were among the nominated artists who didn't make the cut.
Jay Z — known for hits like "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Empire State of Mind," and "Big Pimpin'," as well as for being married to Beyoncé — was reportedly "so over the moon" about his induction. "He was flipping out, he was going crazy," said Hall of Fame President Linda Moran.
Artists become eligible for the Hall of Fame 20 years after their first hit; Jay Z's first was his 1996 album Reasonable Doubt. Though Jay Z was nominated last year, he wasn't selected. "To be honest with you, last year we talked about it a lot," Moran told The New York Times. "Our board and community wasn't ready. This year we felt that they had been educated enough."
The induction ceremony is slated for June 15 at the Marriott Marquis in New York. Becca Stanek
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once had his eyes set on the highest attainable office for a public servant: the Oval Office. When that didn't work out, he set his eyes on the second highest: the vice presidency. That didn't quite work out either.
After a couple false starts along the way (see: Christie as Trump's hostage; Christie as Trump's unwilling meatloaf-eating partner), Christie might finally be looking to do something a little more deserving of his signature "Jersey attitude." The divisive governor is reportedly among the candidates to replace Mike Francesa as the host of WFAN 660-AM's afternoon drive show, New York's biggest sports-talk radio program, NorthJersey.com reports.
"I would certainly at least want to consider him," said the station's program director, Mike Chernoff, of Christie last week. "If he's interested and we're interested, it's worth pursuing."
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) February 22, 2017
Christie, by all indications, appears on board. "As my son said — he said, I can't believe I've been listening to you talk about sports my entire life and that someone might actually pay you to do that," Christie explained.
Philadelphia sports fans might not quite believe it either. Get a taste of what could be in store for WFAN below. Jeva Lange
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) February 16, 2017
As life expectancies around the world continue to rise, the United States finds itself with the lowest life expectancy of all high-income countries, a new study published in the Lancet has discovered. While women in South Korea are projected to live to an average age of 90.8 years by 2030, American women are only expected to live 83.3 years, similar to what's expected in Mexico or Croatia.
Researchers blamed a number of factors for Americans' unimpressive outlook, including greater obesity rates, homicides, road accidents — and a lack of universal health care. Majid Ezzati, a professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London, said part of why South Korea is so successful, on the other hand, is the country's investment in childhood nutrition, education, and technology, and also widespread access to good health care.
In 2015, the global life expectancy was 71.4 years. "This [study] shows that even if there is a limit to longevity, we are nowhere near it," Ezzati said. "We should be planning for more life." Jeva Lange