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March 4, 2014
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Much of the commentary in the U.S. over the crisis in Ukraine has presented the conflict as a throwback to the Cold War, with the U.S. and Russia facing off as the two principal foes. But the most important actor in this drama may be a third party, Germany, which as the largest economy in Europe has far closer ties to Russia and has a keen interest in resolving the dispute with as little fuss as possible.

Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already pushed back against the idea of booting Russia from the Group of Eight, a punitive measure that is seen in the U.S. as one of the least aggressive moves the West can make. According to Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy, Merkel hopes to defuse the situation with a face-saving measure for Vladimir Putin that would entail sending monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Crimea to ensure no Russian-speaking citizens are in danger, which is the ostensible reason for Russia's incursion into the peninsula in the first place.

There are plenty of reasons to think Russia would reject such an offer, or try to take Germany on a diplomatic detour while consolidating its control of Crimea and beyond. What then? Germany has a reputation for being almost China-like in its reluctance to shoulder responsibility for the global security that undergirds its economic success. But as Der Spiegel notes, since winning a historic third term in September, Merkel has suggested that Germany is prepared to play a more assertive role in foreign affairs. It remains to be seen whether the woman who grew up in East Germany at the height of the Cold War will do just that. Ryu Spaeth

11:58 a.m. ET

If President Obama is allowed to play golf, 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 duties. "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 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. "And if this is one of the approved activities, then perhaps he'll consider staying on."

Catch a snippet of Conway's interview below. Becca Stanek

11:04 a.m. ET
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A top White House official told reporters Friday morning that President Obama has ordered a "full review" of reports of hacking during the presidential election. "We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened, and to impart some lessons learned," Obama counterterrorism and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said at a reporters' breakfast.

The report will be shared with "a range of stakeholders," but Monaco did not say whether the findings would be made public. Obama plans to have the review completed before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.

U.S. intelligence officials have blamed Russia-sponsored hackers for the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee. Other Democratic committees and officials, including Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chair John Podesta, also faced hacks during the election. Since his win, Trump has openly suggested that voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Clinton, alleging without evidence that "millions" voted "illegally." Becca Stanek

11:00 a.m. ET

The Federal Reserve has for months toyed with the idea of raising interest rates, repeatedly suggested rate hikes are forthcoming, and then backing off when economic forecasts offer a less sunny context than the central bank would prefer for its next move. But if the Fed does move ahead with its plans, the United States might also experience a bump from its current crime rates, which are at a historic low.

There's no direct causal relationship, of course, but crime rates offer a remarkably consistent mirror of interest rates over the past six decades. Social scientists argue that higher interest rates lead to economic stress, including job losses, and that in turn makes crime more likely. Increased divorce, suicide, and alcoholism are also correlated with greater economic stress.


(The Crime Report)

For more on whether the Fed can or should go through with its rate hike promises, check out these analyses from The Week's Jeff Spross. Bonnie Kristian

10:55 a.m. ET
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Conservative pundit Glenn Beck is a changed man. While he invoked references to Nazism and the Holocaust 487 times during President Obama's first 14 months in office, he's now advising America against stirring the pot under President-elect Donald Trump. In an interview with The Atlantic's Peter Beinart, Beck warned that if people don't put ideology and racial tensions aside — a suggestion he once called Obama "racist" for making — things could get ugly quickly in America:

The day after Trump's victory, I checked in with Beck again. He said he saw "the seeds of what happened in Germany in 1933." The question was whether the American people would "water them" with "hatred and division." Did he feel partly responsible? "I'll not only take my share of blame, I'll take extra," he answered. "If you want to blame me for him, that's fine; I don't believe it's true, but it's fine with me. Please just listen to the warnings now so we don't continue to do this." [The Atlantic]

The problem, Beinart argues, is that Beck's last-minute change of heart might not be enough to change the strengthening tide. After "years and years" of calling "sheep wolves," Beinart writes, "now that the wolf is here, it may be too late."

Head over to The Atlantic to read the story in full. Becca Stanek

10:29 a.m. ET
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On Nov. 15, Georgia's voter registration database was hit with an unsuccessful hacking attempt. The weird part is Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp says an investigation has traced the attack to an Internet Protocol (IP) address in the federal government.

"Recently, I was made aware of a failed attempt to breach the firewall that protects Georgia's voter registration database by an IP address associated with the Department of Homeland Security," Kemp wrote in a post on Facebook. "On Thursday morning, I sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why."

DHS acknowledged and promised to look into the allegations in Kemp's letter, which noted that Georgia has not authorized the agency to "conduct penetration testing or security scans of our network," nor has the federal government notified the state that any such tests were required or ordered. Before the election, Kemp specifically rebuffed DHS offers of cybersecurity assistance, arguing that they represent an unwarranted federal intrusion of states' authority to manage their own elections. Bonnie Kristian

9:58 a.m. ET
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Just days after President-elect Donald Trump publicly criticized Boeing, it was announced that the aircraft manufacturer has pledged $1 million to help cover costs for Trump's inaugural events. Boeing, notably, donated the same amount to President Obama's inaugural events in 2013, and it committed its donation to Trump prior to this week's events.

Still, the donation suggests Trump's tweeting hasn't soured relations between Boeing, which has a contract with the government to develop the next Air Force One, and America's next president. Trump on Tuesday criticized Boeing for the "out of control" costs of its Air Force One project, and even suggested the government "cancel" the order.

That prompted Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenberg to reach out to Trump later that same day to assure him costs would be kept under control. The next day, Trump said in an interview with MSNBC that Muilenberg is a "very good man," and that he is certain they were "going to work it out."

Muilenberg confirmed in an email to USA Today that Boeing is "pleased to continue our tradition of supporting presidential inaugurations." Becca Stanek

9:21 a.m. ET
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The man who could be America's next secretary of labor has a penchant for putting bikini-clad women in fast food restaurant ads. Andy Puzder, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee, is CEO of the company that owns burger chains including Hardee's and Carl's Jr., the latter of which has taken a lot of flak in the last decade for its racy TV advertisements.

To promote its "Bacon 3-Way" burger over the summer, Carl's Jr. released a spot featuring three bikini-clad blondes feeding each other strips of bacon in slow motion while the song lyrics "we havin' us a threesome" played in the background. Back in 2005, there was an infamous ad featuring Paris Hilton in a barely-there black swimsuit washing a Bentley and biting into a juicy burger. And aside from Hilton's ad and the "Bacon 3-way" spot, stars like Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, and countless Sports Illustrated models have appeared in Carl's Jr. commercials.

Though the controversial ads have led "women's groups, religious activists, and academics" to complain, The New York Times reported Puzder has shrugged off concerns. "I like our ads," Puzder told Entrepreneur in an interview published in May 2015. "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American."

Besides, Puzder argued, the complaints don't exactly hurt business. "What you look at is, you look at sales," Puzder said. "And our sales go up." Becca Stanek

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