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March 11, 2014
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The key to solving the Ukraine tinder box almost certainly lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That's led a lot of people — including the White House, America's European allies, esteemed members of Congress, and even late-night comedians — to try and figure out just what makes Putin tick. Here are four columnists with some connection to Russia or Ukraine offering their insights into the wily Russian president, and their advice on how to deal with Putin's aggression in Crimea.

Emperor Putin has no clothes
"Vladimir Putin is a man obsessed with an idea: Russia was, is, and always will be a great power," says Mark Nuckols, who teaches law and business in Moscow, at the San Francisco Chronicle. He has publicly mourned the end of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century," and his passion to "ensure that Russia regains its imperial greatness" outweighs all other considerations, including "the well-being of Russian citizens," Nuckols adds. That's why he invaded Georgia, then Ukraine.

[Putin] is driven by misplaced pride, domestic politics, and well-justified fear. His pride and desire to see a Great Power Russia impel him to military adventures and political interference in neighboring states. And these adventures appeal to Russian public opinion, still smarting from the humiliations of the 1990s. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Putin's worldview is simply incompatible with America's
"Putin has enjoyed a stunning variety of incarnations in the American imagination in his nearly 15 years as Russia's leader," and marauding authoritarian dictator is just the latest, says Russian American journalist Masha Gessen at the Los Angeles Times. But he's not insane, and he's not Hitler, she adds.

History's dictators have generally tried to convince themselves and others that they were good people fighting the good fight. But Putin has no positive spin for his aggression — or his actions in general... He believes that all governments would like to jail their opponents and invade their neighbors, but most political leaders, most of the time, lack the courage to act on these desires... For American culture, which relies heavily on a belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity, this is an impossible world view to absorb. It is another world indeed. But that does not make it crazy. [Los Angeles Times]

Putin needs an exit strategy
John McCarron, writing at the Chicago Tribune, offers an opinion based on his time in the Navy during the Cold War. McCarron's solution: "Give Russia a way out."

Let them save some face. After all, it's Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama, who is caught in a wringer.... It would be a huge mistake to try to back the Russian bear into a corner, to bluff and to bluster, to escalate Cold War-style with increasingly harsh economic and diplomatic sanctions... Putin needs — Russians need — a nonembarrassing way around this mess they've made for themselves. [Chicago Tribune]

Putin's advantage is temporary
Putin didn't invade Ukraine because he thinks Obama is week, says Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times. He doesn't much care. "We don't have much leverage because Putin cares far more about Ukraine than he does about being in the G-8." But instead of panicking about Russia's resurgence, "let's also recognize that, in the long run, it's Putin who has stumbled here." Crimea will just be a headache for Russia, and the rest of Ukraine is now solidly in "the West's orbit."

[W]estern Ukrainians look across the border at a thriving Poland, now firmly embedded in Europe, and see that as a far better model for the future. Likewise, in a couple of decades, Russians may well look over the border at a thriving, European Ukraine and want that model for themselves as well. So be strong, Senators Graham and McCain: Putin's advantage is temporary. [NY Times] Peter Weber

8:31 a.m. ET

Drummer Vinnie Paul, a founding member of the metal band Pantera, has died, the band's Facebook page announced late Friday. He was 54. "Paul is best known for his work as the drummer in the bands Pantera and Hellyeah," the brief statement said. "No further details are available at this time. The family requests you please respect their privacy during this time."

Paul cofounded Pantera with his brother, known as Dimebag Darrell, and vocalist Terry Glaze in 1981, and their work proved widely influential for heavy music in the following decades. The Texas-based group split in 2003. Bonnie Kristian

8:15 a.m. ET
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The military said Saturday it is delivering more than 200 caskets to the North Korean village of Panmunjom, close to the South Korean border, in preparation for the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers missing since the Korean War in the 1950s.

The return was part of the agreement reached by President Trump at his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. About as many soldiers' remains were returned between 1999 and 2005.

Trump has celebrated the return of the "hero remains" and, implausibly, claimed the soldiers' parents begged him to make this happen. Most parents of American soldiers old enough to have fought in Korea would be well over 100 years old were they still alive today. Bonnie Kristian

June 22, 2018
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Residents in Puerto Rico were left without power for months after Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, and experts estimate that around 4,640 people died. But the Environmental Protection Agency thinks it did an A-plus job responding to the disaster.

The EPA is creating "challenge coins" to congratulate itself on its "response excellence," CNN reported Friday.

The agency will spend around $8,500 on a set of coins that will be handed out as collectable awards to EPA officials who were involved in responding to the 2017 hurricane season. The coins will feature the EPA Emergency Response logo and will read "HURRICANES HARVEY, IRMA AND MARIA — THE CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES" as well as "PROTECTING HUMAN HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT ALL ACROSS AMERICA."

Officials asked the contractor who is creating the coins to "convey the sentiment that EPA staff from all across the country worked together to respond to the incidents from Puerto Rico to California (and regions in between)," reports CNN. Despite environmental advocates calling the EPA's response to Hurricane Maria "lacking," an EPA spokesperson defended the coins, saying "the dedicated public servants who worked tirelessly throughout the 2017 disaster relief efforts should be commended for their service." Summer Meza

June 22, 2018
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World Cup viewers are hearing "GOAL!" and "GOL!" in almost equal measure.

NBC Universal's Telemundo subsidiary reported Friday that through the first seven days of the World Cup, about 48 percent of viewers are watching the Spanish-language network, while 52 percent are tuning into Fox Sports 1 for the English broadcast. The numbers are comparable to previous World Cups; in 2014, 49 percent of fans watched in Spanish and 51 percent in English, while in 2010, 47 percent opted for Spanish and 53 percent for English.

The 2018 World Cup has drawn an average of 1.75 million Spanish-language viewers and 1.91 million English-language viewers. Telemundo additionally pointed out that in previous tournaments, Mexico had played in multiple matches by this point, but the team has only played one game so far this year. Summer Meza

June 22, 2018

An audio recording of immigrant children recently separated from their parents circulated the web after it was published by ProPublica, but Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wanted to be completely sure that his fellow lawmakers heard it, too.

Lieu played the recording on the House floor Friday, despite Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.) repeatedly trying to shut it down, footage from CNN shows.

"If the Statue of Liberty could cry, she would be crying today," said Lieu. "As I stand here there are 2,300 babies and kids who are ripped away from their parents by our government and are in detention facilities across America."

After about 40 seconds, a scuffle began. Handel said that Lieu was "in breach of quorum," and told him repeatedly to "suspend" the audio while she banged the gavel. Lieu insisted that there were no House rules that prohibited playing audio, and said that "the American people need to hear this." After about five minutes of play, the tense moment came to an end and Lieu ended the recording — but not before he had demanded that members of the House imagine if it was their own children detained in a faraway facility. Watch the display below, via CNN. Summer Meza

June 22, 2018

President Trump hosted an immigration event Friday with "Angel Families" whose relatives have been killed by undocumented immigrants. While Trump was standing with the "permanently separated" families, as he called them, reporters noticed something strange about the pictures of the victims in parents' hands:

Trump told those in attendance that "we cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections." He also made several other surprising comments, including remarking that the law enforcement officers in attendance were "good looking people" and holding up the photograph of one victim and observing that he resembles "Tom Selleck, except better looking." Watch below. Jeva Lange

June 22, 2018
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Fox News host Sean Hannity reportedly used a burner phone while he was in Singapore covering President Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un out of fear that China might try to bug his personal device, BuzzFeed News reports. "He talks to the president regularly, so I'm sure it's a target," said Ryan Duff, formerly of the U.S. Cyber Command.

Part of the fear stems from the lack of security on Trump's own device — he allegedly finds it "too inconvenient" to use a properly secured phone. Fox News said that it is "standard operating procedure … to secure communications whenever our teams are overseas covering major events," although BuzzFeed News writes that "the paranoia runs so deep that Fox sources say they are also cautious when talking to Hannity himself — because you're never sure who may be listening." Jeva Lange

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