Mitt Says
March 18, 2014
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As Russia claims Crimea for its own, it's no surprise that members of the Republican Party are piling on President Obama for "losing" Crimea in a Cold War-esque face-off with Vladimir Putin. The most prominent attack this week came from Mitt Romney in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, which one would assume would borrow from Romney's 2012 campaign in claiming that Obama's wimpy apologizing for America had allowed the thuggish likes of Putin to play Nelson to Obama's Milhouse.

But Romney tries a far more modest tack instead, blaming Obama for failing to act at the "propitious point" that would have magically paved the way for American triumphs in a series of foreign policy events ranging from the protests in Tahrir Square to the protests in Kiev's Maidan. Obama has too often been caught in an "analysis paralysis," Romney suggests, while Romney's ideal president — himself perhaps? — would have been able to "anticipate events, prepare for them, and act in time to shape them."

This is, of course, a hindsight-is-20/20 argument of the highest order, and virtually useless in prescribing a better foreign policy other than blandly requiring that America's leaders be decisive. However, it is a useful insight into a GOP that is struggling to find a unified message on foreign policy. Romney has clearly adopted a less belligerent line than, say, John McCain, a recognition that voters have no interest in an interventionist foreign policy of the Bush variety. Meanwhile, Romney's argument is to the right of Rand Paul, who has come to represent the budding isolationist wing of the party and is struggling mightily to remain relevant (and coherent) amid the drama in Ukraine.

But in seeking middle ground, Romney ends up in a weird no man's land in which he fails to offer any real alternative to Obama's policies. "Timing is of the essence," Romney concludes — which doesn't have quite the stentorian ring of "peace through strength." Ryu Spaeth

Really?
2:00 p.m. ET
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A proposed U.K. bill, expected to be published later this week, includes a "blanket ban" on legal highs, and the current legislation is worded so that alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee are included in the ban.

Queen Elizabeth announced the legislation on Wednesday, and the bill would ban "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect." The legislation would carry a maximum seven-year prison sentence for offenders, The Guardian reports. The bill would first ban all psychoactive substances and then explain which substances were government-permitted.

Ireland and Poland have similar bans, but their legislation stipulates that substances must produce "significant" effects, so the laws don't include caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. The U.K. legislation is designed to prohibit chemically engineered drugs that are legal until explicitly banned, The Guardian explains. Meghan DeMaria

Quotables
1:46 p.m. ET
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There are plenty of things in this world that are undeniably cool — leather jackets, motorcycles, rebellious teens in rock bands, for example. But if you're Scott Walker, you can add mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women seeking abortions to that list.

In an interview that surfaced on Talking Points Memo Tuesday, Presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) defended his support of a 2013 bill which required women to get ultrasounds. The governor said, "I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound," whether they're pro-life or not. "It's just a cool thing out there."

"We just knew if we signed that law," Walker continued, "more people [...] would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child."

You can listen to audio from the interview here.

Stephanie Talmadge

This just in
1:00 p.m. ET
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Despite the world's population growth, global hunger has declined in the last 25 years, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

In 1990, about one billion people worldwide were declared hungry, compared with 795 million — about one in every nine people — today. The U.N. also found that of the 129 nations it monitored, 72 countries had met the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of halving their percentages of hungry people.

East Asia, Southeast and Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean saw the most progress in hunger elimination, The New York Times reports. The U.N. credits the reduced numbers to economic growth and stable political conditions.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime," Food and Agriculture Organization director general Jose Graziano da Silva told the Times. Meghan DeMaria

Extreme weather
1:00 p.m. ET
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El Niño may be wreaking havoc in Texas and Oklahoma with deadly floods, but the climate cycle, which brings warmer-than-average temperatures to the Pacific Ocean, will likely suppress the hurricanes that typically hit the coastal areas in the southern and eastern parts of the country. El Niño is already affecting wind and pressure patterns and is expected to last through the season that runs June 1 through November 30.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls it a "below-normal" hurricane season, which means there is only a 70 percent likelihood that six to 11 named storms will develop.

But that "doesn’t mean we're off the hook," a NOAA administrator cautions. As many as six of those storms could become hurricanes and even tropical storms can cause serious destruction. Experts also point out that the "below-normal" 1992 season had only seven storms, but the first was Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida. Lauren Hansen

Faux Paws
12:10 p.m. ET

Have you ever woken up, looked at your pet husky and thought, "Man, you'd look even better with two gold Apple watches on those furry paws"?

Me neither.

But Wang Sicong, the son of China's richest man — Wang Jianlin, who is worth an estimated $34 billion — has a bit more money to blow than the rest of us. Husky Wang Keke, who has her own Weibo account (China's version of Twitter) posted a series of photos in which she's sporting not one but two gold Apple watches.

(Weibo)

"I have new watches!" the caption, translated, reads. "I'm supposed to have four watches since I have four long legs. But that seems too tuhao [nouveau riche], so I kept it down to two, which totally fits my status."

The Daily Mail notes that the post prompted heavy backlash from other Weibo users: One gold Apple watch retails for $10,000 to $17,000. Time to step up your social media game, Wang Keke, and here's lesson one: Know your audience. Sarah Eberspacher

The Name Game
11:59 a.m. ET
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If you know a Jennifer, she's probably in her late 20s or early 30s, while Aunts Linda and Carol are likely turning 65 this year. Thanks to this name/age calculator, it's easy to see when a given name peaked in popularity, a measure which is often a reliable indicator of someone's age.

But names also correlate with professions, states, pop culture events, and even your political leanings:

  • Jobs: Luigi and Bobby are disproportionately likely to drive race cars, while I (Bonnie) apparently missed my calling as an interior decorator.
  • States: Thanks to uneven immigration patterns, Arizona has a lot of Garcias and Montoyas, while my state of Minnesota is packed with Scandinavian surnames like Peterson and Hansen.
  • Culture: Shirley Temple on screen means more Shirleys; Game of Thrones on screen means more Khaleesis. (It's a title, guys! Come on!)
  • Politics: Malik and Natasha lean the furthest left, while Delbert and Brittney are most likely to vote GOP.

Click over to the Washington Post to figure out how well your name fits with your life. Bonnie Kristian

going postal
11:54 a.m. ET
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In light of a recently released white paper that suggested the Post Office (USPS) get into the banking business, the banks are pushing back hard against the idea, which would involve USPS using its ubiquitous outposts to offer a limited selection of banking services.

While supporters of the idea, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), argue that USPS could provide low-income customers an alternative to payday loan and check-cashing businesses, critics have pointed out that the Post Office has no experience in banking and is perceived by many as being incompetent in the responsibilities it already has.

“It seems crazy," Francis Creighton, executive vice president of government relations, said at the Financial Services Roundtable. "These people are not that good at managing how to deliver the mail and they want to get into this business?"

Perhaps a more significant long-term consideration is that a USPS bank could well be classified as "too big to fail," meaning Post Office bailouts —which are regularly suggested given the organization's steady record of losses — could potentially balloon in scale. Bonnie Kristian

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