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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

2:37 p.m. ET
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The Supreme Court confirmed Friday that it will consider the legality of President Trump's travel ban, which restricts travel to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, and for certain government officials from Venezuela, The New York Times reports.

Six of the eight nations targeted by the ban are predominately Muslim. A lawsuit filed by Hawaii legally challenged the ban, which was issued in September, and succeeded before a Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Supreme Court has signaled it could be amenable to Trump's ban, which is the third of its kind to be issued by the Trump administration. Oral arguments could begin as soon as April. Jeva Lange

2:09 p.m. ET
Courtesy image

Compared to a pet rock, a marimo moss ball ($14 for six) might strike you as a lively companion. Each small green orb is made of living algae that grows in a sphere, and when cared for, it will grow larger ever so slowly and can live 100 years. Though marimo, or "ball seaweed," grows in lakes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Japanese led the way in bringing the balls home and nurturing them. Legend has it that the first marimo balls were the hearts of two star-crossed lovers, and every one since supposedly has the power to discern true love. "All you need is one touch of the plush, velvety surface to get hooked." The Week Staff

1:47 p.m. ET
Stephen Salpukas/Courtesy William & Mary

James Comey has a new job.

CNN reported Friday that the former FBI director has accepted a professorial gig at William & Mary College, where he will teach a class on ethical leadership. The class starts this fall and will also be offered in the spring and summer semesters of 2019.

Comey was abruptly fired by President Trump last May while overseeing the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In a statement about the upcoming class directed at no one in particular, he explained that "ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or partisan, and with a loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth." Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:47 p.m. ET

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcomed their third child earlier this week, and on Friday the baby girl's name was at last officially made public:

Kanye West grew up in a suburb of the city of Chicago, which features prominently in his work, so presumably his daughter's name was inspired by the city and not the 2002 musical. "Chi," as Kardashian indicates Chicago will be called, joins her siblings North and Saint in a household full of unusual names. Jeva Lange

12:31 p.m. ET
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Forget surreptitious jaunts to Manhattan's Trump Tower — if you want to meet Donald Trump Jr., consider investing in Indian real estate.

The Guardian reported Friday that the first 100 buyers of luxury apartments in a new Trump building in Gurgaon, India, will be flown to the U.S. to hang out with President Trump's eldest son. The Guardian reports that the project's developers, Tribeca Developers and M3M, are not being subtle about their offer either, having adopted the phrase: "Buy a flat, meet Trump Jr."

The pitch has apparently worked, as the director for India-based M3M revealed in a statement last week that 20 apartments in the building had been sold — worth roughly $15 million in total. The Trump Towers in Gurgaon — which is about 20 miles south of Delhi — is the fifth Trump-branded property in India, The Guardian notes.

The Indian website for the project boasts that Trump-branded buildings have "become the most prestigious address that the most deserving people can get." But that's exactly the problem, former White House ethics chief Norm Eisen said. "Making Donald Jr. available to those who can afford it in a foreign land based on purchasing a property is an ethics atrocity," Eisen told The Guardian.

For those who can afford it, the apartments at the Trump Towers in Gurgaon are reported to cost between $500,000 and $1 million. Read more at The Guardian. Kelly O'Meara Morales

12:31 p.m. ET

Olympic gold medalists and former teammates Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber issued powerful impact statements in court Friday at the sentencing of former Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. In total, Nassar, 54, is accused of having sexually abused more than 130 of his patients during medical exams between 1998 and 2015. He was sentenced in December to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes, one of his three criminal cases.

Wieber, 22, had not previously revealed her abuse, saying for the first time Friday that Nassar began touching her inappropriately at the age of 14. "This was when he started performing the procedure that we are all now familiar with," Wieber said, adding: "Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of."

Raisman, 23, addressed Nassar directly: "Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice," she said. "Well you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them."

Raisman also issued a scathing criticism of the institution that allowed Nassar to abuse her and her teammates. "Your abuse started 30 years ago," she said. "But that's just the first reported incident we know of. If over these many years just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided."

For his sexual conduct charges, Nassar has agreed to a minimum of 25 to 40 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of life. On Thursday, it was reported that more than a dozen Michigan State University employees knew of their colleague's serial sexual abuse. Watch Raisman's powerful testimony in full below. Jeva Lange

11:02 a.m. ET

Concerns over an injury to Tom Brady's throwing hand are apparently very, very real. After the New England Patriots quarterback missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, the betting line for Sunday's AFC championship game against the underdog Jacksonville Jaguars dropped from favoring the defending Super Bowl champs by as much as 10 points against the Jags to about 7.5, Covers writes.

Lines don't swing that much and that swiftly by accident. Some oddsmakers and sharps were clearly worried that Brady might actually miss the game.

The line's move worried sportsbook Bookmaker.eu enough "to take the game off the board entirely, meaning they weren't accepting wagers on this matchup until receiving more clarity regarding the severity of Brady's injury," The Action Network writes. Super Bowl futures bets were also yanked.

Reactions from fans ranged from panic to yawns. After all, this isn't exactly the first time Brady's health has been in apparent jeopardy before an important game. "Remember Brady's 'flu-like' symptoms before the 2014 AFC championship game in Denver?" Sports Illustrated writes. "Or the boot he was spotted in before Super Bowl XLII? In January 2005, he had a 103-degree fever the night before the AFC title game."

By 10:15 a.m. ET, the Patriots-Jags game was back on the board at Bookmaker at -7 with an over/under of 46, The Action Network reports, although the Super Bowl futures "remain off the board." Brady is scheduled to speak to the media later Friday. Jeva Lange

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