March 12, 2014
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Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in self-imposed exile in Russia, insisted Tuesday that he is still the leader of Ukraine. Acting President Oleksandr V. Turchynov disagrees, arguing in Wednesday's New York Times that when the Russia-backed Yanukovych "crossed the line and unleashed gunfire against his own people... he lost his legitimacy as the president."

But besides denouncing Yanukovych as "a dictator who had been groomed for the role of a puppet ruler" controlled by Russia's Vladimir Putin, and darkly warning that further military incursion will create a bloody crisis and "put an end to the global security system," Turchynov makes a bolder claim: Putin has already lost Ukraine, and with it his last hope to "prevent the final demise of the Soviet empire." He continues:

We choose Western standards and reject this neo-Soviet imperialism. We will no longer play the game of "older and younger brothers." Moscow must understand what we discovered at the Maidan in Kiev: The use of force will backfire and, more often than not, yield the opposite of what was intended. Ukraine and Russia are two sovereign states, and the Ukrainian people will determine their path independently. [The New York Times] Peter Weber

4:20 p.m. ET

Choreographer Ryan Heffington has a talent for putting together some unusual, breathtaking dances — remember the video for Sia's "Chandelier"? This time, Emma Stone is Heffington's leading lady in the music video for "Anna," by Arcade Fire's Win Butler.

Filmed on the supposedly haunted Queen Mary ocean liner, Billboard reports that the music video was partly inspired by stories of the Lady in White, "a young and beautiful woman who, it has been reported, likes to dance to unheard music in the Queens Salon." While you really need the sound on for the full effect, Stone's performance is mesmerizing just about any way you look at it. Watch it in full below. Jeva Lange

a sob story
3:05 p.m. ET

Everyone had just finished saying the Pledge when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stood up and announced he would be withdrawing his bid for speaker of the House — a decision that has thrown a wrench into the plans of the confused and scattered GOP Congressional leadership. In fact, McCarthy's announcement came as such a surprise that Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said some members were actually sobbing afterward. "The person next to me was crying," Rooney told The Hill.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) had the same story for The Washington Post's Robert Costa:

Likewise, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told The Hill that fans of McCarthy's were in shock. "They lined up to give him a hug," Huelskamp said. "I saw tears in eyes. It's the strangest thing I've seen in a long time." Jeva Lange

Fed cred
2:46 p.m. ET
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The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its September meeting today. We learned the results of that meeting the day it ended, but the minutes can still provide a window into what's going on in the heads of the Fed officials who vote on monetary policy. Take this quote:

To some [members], the continued subdued trend in wages was evidence of an absence of upward pressure on inflation from current levels of labor utilization. Several others, however, noted that weak productivity growth and low price inflation might be contributing to modest wage increases. A number of participants reported that some of their business contacts were experiencing labor shortages in various occupations and geographic areas resulting in upward pressure on wages, with a few indicating that the pickup in wages had become more widespread.

Consider that line against something you'd never read in the Fed minutes. Something like: "Other members responded that their contacts amongst the unemployed and low-income workers saw no evidence of rising wage pressure at all."

Fed officials understandably rely on their contacts throughout the world of business owners to gauge regional changes in the economy. Those contacts have vested interests in having monetary policy prioritize low inflation over low unemployment. That doesn't mean the stress and worries they're under are not genuine. But with the exception of recent activism efforts, people who desperately need job growth to continue have no equivalent access to Fed officials' ears. Cold aggregate data is all that speaks for them.

That's bound to have an impact on how the Fed weighs it priorities. Hearing from people on the ground may be qualitative, not quantitative, but it can help parse the quantitative data. Human beings are social creatures, after all, and Fed officials are only human. Jeff Spross

This just in
2:45 p.m. ET

U.S. officials reported Thursday that Russian missiles aimed at Syria fell short of their target and crashed in a rural area of Iran. Intelligence estimates that at least four missiles crashed, though it remains unclear where they landed. Russian ships were positioned in the South Caspian Sea, and officials say that missiles' flight path would have "taken them across the northern sections of Iran and Iraq on the way to Syria," The New York Times reports.

Though one official said there "may be casualties," CNN reports that another official said that still remains unknown. Becca Stanek

This just in
2:04 p.m. ET

Facebook will be adding some flexibility to how users choose to "like" a post — but it won't be a "dislike" button, as some people have speculated. Instead, Facebook is testing emoji "reactions," where users can pick emotions such as "sad," "haha," "love," and "wow" to express how they feel about a post. "As you can see, it’s not a 'dislike' button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly," Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox wrote in a post introducing the feature.

The experiment is limited to Spain and Ireland for the time being, but after a short test run, it will likely expand worldwide on both mobile and desktop devices. Jeva Lange

1:30 p.m. ET

It's still a bit of a mystery what happened behind closed doors on Thursday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unexpectedly decided to drop out of the race for speaker of the House. Though details are scarce, McCarthy elaborated in a tweet:

McCarthy also held a short news conference, part of which you can watch below. Jeva Lange

Republicans in disarray
1:24 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday shocked the political world by suddenly dropping his bid to replace John Boehner (R-Ohio) as speaker, with the initial speculation focusing on his inability to win the support of hard-core conservatives who for years have made life miserable for the House Republican leadership.

But could there be another reason McCarthy dropped out?

Conservatives, like Erick Erickson at Red State, are buzzing that McCarthy may have dropped out because of rumors that he was having an extramarital affair with Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) of North Carolina:

There's a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.

A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) of North Carolina. It is worth noting that the two deny a relationship. [Red State]

Both Erickson and Matt Lewis also note that Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina this week mysteriously called on candidates who had committed "misdeeds" to drop out of the race.

"It is again worth noting that both parties deny it," Erickson writes. "But the rumor itself may have led to McCarthy's collapse." Ryu Spaeth

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