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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]

December 9, 2016
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About 75 percent of companies plan to give their workers year-end bonuses this year, up from 67 percent last year, according to a survey of 500 HR executives at firms of various sizes. The average bonus is expected to be 25 percent larger than last year's offerings — about $1,081, up from $858 in 2015. The quarter of firms who said they aren't giving out holiday bonuses "had financial performance issues or were concerned about the U.S. economic outlook," The Wall Street Journal reports, but about half of that group still said they hope to give out other morale-boosting gifts like extra paid time off. The Week Staff

December 9, 2016

After two years without a new Taylor Swift single, the drought is finally over. The pop star surprised fans late Thursday night by releasing a single with former One Direction member Zayn Malik. Swift shared the news with her fans in this cryptic post:

The collaboration marked Swift's first new release since her Grammy-winning album 1989 dropped in the fall of 2014. Swift and Malik's song, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," will be featured in the movie Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The film is due out early next year.

BBC described the song as a "yearning, sultry ballad" that "finds the couple pulling at the unraveling threads of a relationship." After it popped up on the U.S. iTunes store shortly before 12 a.m. ET Friday, the tune soared to the top of the charts within an hour. It is available on iTunes and Apple Music. Becca Stanek

December 9, 2016
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This year, Amazon is adding 120,000 temporary workers at its U.S. warehouses for the holiday season, expanding its workforce by about 40 percent. The e-tail giant is also dramatically speeding up its orientation process, The Wall Street Journal reports. While conventional warehouse jobs usually require up to six weeks of training, the company has been using technology such as touchscreens, robots, and scanners to get new hires up to speed in as little as two days. While Amazon's newest warehouses are extremely automated and filled to the brim with robots that do much of the heavy lifting, "the greater efficiency allows them to process even more orders, a task that still requires humans."

A shorter training period saves Amazon a lot of money and could potentially allow the company to pay employees more during these hectic winter months — a crucial lure Amazon needs as it competes with rivals like Walmart and package delivery services like UPS who are also looking for seasonal help. Amazon's holiday temps typically make more than minimum wage. Kelly Gonsalves

December 9, 2016
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An Illinois high school is removing books from reading lists to shield students from "sexual" content. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy was the first book to be removed from the classroom after teachers expressed concern over some "questionable passages," reports the local Patch. After the school sent out a notice about the book's removal, parents called for the banning of any work that contains "literal, metaphorical, figurative, or allegorical" allusions to sex. They specifically urged the school board to remove Maya Angelou's classic autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and some parents openly referred to Roy's book as "smut" and "porn."

"We can't have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues," one parent said. "I don't care if it's from Dickens or who else." The Week Staff

December 9, 2016
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President-elect Donald Trump's transition team apparently wants the Department of Energy to send over a list of every employee and contractor involved in brokering international climate meetings in the last five years, The Washington Post reported Friday. The request is part of a 74-question questionnaire the transition team has asked Energy Department officials to fill out.

Other inquiries in the questionnaire — which The Washington Post noted one department official called "unusually 'intrusive" — are about "which programs within the DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan" and about the social cost of carbon, a metric the Obama administration has used to determine "the benefits of regulations and initiatives that lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions."

Coupled with Trump's environmental policy proposals and his past remarks about climate change, The Washington Post said the questionnaire "provides the clearest indication yet of how Trump’s administration would begin to dismantle specific aspects of President Obama’s ambitious climate policies." "My guess is that they're trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science," said Stanford climate and energy researcher Rob Jackson.

Department officials reportedly have not yet decided how to address the questions specifically relating to its climate activities.

For more on the story, head over to The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

December 9, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump on Friday selected Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn to be the director of the National Economic Council, CNBC reported. Cohn, also the bank's COO, will be the third person in Trump's White House to have ties to Goldman Sachs, following Trump's choice of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary and his appointment of Stephen Bannon, who worked for the bank in the 1980s, as chief strategist.

In the post, Cohn will help Trump dictate global economic policy. Critics on the left, however, were quick to point out that Trump's tripling-down on alums from the nation's most powerful bank for his administration did not align with his campaign rhetoric decrying the Wall Street ties of his rivals:

Also Friday, Trump tapped Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) to be his secretary of the interior, where she will be charged with advancing Trump's pro-fossil fuel agenda. McMorris Rodgers was elected to Congress in 2004, where she represents a largely rural district located in eastern Washington. In her time on Capitol Hill, The Wall Street Journal notes she has supported legislation to allow oil- and natural gas-drilling in the Atlantic Ocean; called for limiting the ability of the Interior Department to regulate fracking; and advocated for hydropower, a renewable source of energy popular in Washington state. She also serves on the House's Energy and Commerce Committee.

Trump has expressed a desire to undo much of President Obama's environmental policy. Obama has protected more public land than any other president. Kimberly Alters

December 9, 2016

If President Obama is allowed to play golf, then Kellyanne Conway doesn't see why it's a problem for President-elect Donald Trump to stay on as an executive producer for reality TV show The Apprentice. In an interview Friday on CNN's New Day, the top Trump aide pushed back against concerns Trump's involvement with the TV show would take away from time otherwise spent addressing presidential matters.

"Well, okay, but were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president? I mean, the presidents have a right to do things in their spare time or their leisure time," Conway said, arguing that the notion presidents "are going to be all work and nothing else all the time" is "just unrealistic."

But time isn't the only concern Trump's involvement with the show has raised. For every episode that airs, Trump will earn a sum "likely to be in the low five-figures, at minimum," Variety reported. Moreover, Trump's decision to stay involved with the show doesn't necessarily reflect the hard line between his past business endeavors and his present presidential duties that ethics experts have been pushing for.

But Conway argued Trump is "a very transparent guy." "Everyone can see what he's doing and the fact is that he is conferring with all types of experts to tell him what he is allowed to do and not to do as president of the United States," Conway said. Catch a snippet of Conway's interview below. Becca Stanek

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