Foreign affairs
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

Special Elections
2:08 a.m. ET

The voters of Staten Island have traded in their admitted federal tax-fraudster congressman, Michael Grimm, for Daniel Donovan Jr. (R), the district attorney best known nationally for not convincing a grand jury to indict the officers caught on video choking Eric Garner, who subsequently died.

Donovan easily beat Councilman Vincent Gentile (D), 60 percent to 39 percent, according to unofficial results, in a rare conservative bastion of New York City. The victorious DA still touted his win as a "message to President Obama, to Nancy Pelosi and, yes, even to Bill de Blasio, that their policies are wrong for our nation." National Democrats, after sinking millions into an unsuccessful 2014 attempt to unseat Grimm (R) — then under federal indictment but before he pleaded guilty — declined to support Gentile in this special election. Peter Weber

boy are her fingers tired
2:04 a.m. ET

The extravagant yellow ensemble Rihanna wore to the Met Gala on Monday that ended up spawning multiple memes was two years in the making.

The singer told Vogue's André Leon Talley that "it was a miracle" how the Guo Pei-designed dress was put together. "I saw this beautiful beast on the internet," she said. "I was researching Chinese couture.... It's so well-made. It's handmade by one Chinese woman. It took two years to make this." Get a closer look at the elaborate get-up in the video below. —Catherine Garcia

don't mess with arthur
1:27 a.m. ET

A would-be robber in Manchester, New Hampshire, picked the wrong man to mess with over the weekend when he tried to take the wallet of a 95-year-old World War II vet, who ended up whacking the criminal repeatedly with his cane, forcing him to flee.

Arthur Kamberis was walking home after he picked up his wife's prescription from the pharmacy when a man confronted him and attempted to get his wallet out of his pocket. Kamberis said he offered him some change, but the man was adamant about getting the wallet, something Kamberis refused to hand over. "I had my credit card, my license, my grandchildren's pictures in there and all sorts of stuff it would have been wicked for me to replace," he told WMUR.

That's when Kamberis began to clobber the man with his cane. "I was very nervous," he said. "I hit him three or four times on the arm, and then, you know, what the cop told me, 'You should have hit him on the head.'" A bystander came up to help and the wannabe robber ran off, but police say they were able to get a picture of him from a surveillance camera, and they are actively searching for him. The incident took place just a block away from a police station, and Kamberis said he thinks if he had his cellphone with him that day to call 911, "we could have nailed that guy." Catherine Garcia

Watch this
1:14 a.m. ET

The joke is pretty obvious from the beginning: Seth Meyers is doing a terrible bit called "Seth the Snoop," where he digs through packages purportedly left in a 30 Rockefeller mail graveyard, and Jack Black gets all outlaw-country on him with a song ridiculing the skit. It's still funny, and if we're trying to be high-minded, a nice meta-commentary on some of the more tired conventions of late-night comedy. Maybe let's stick with "funny." You can watch below. —Peter Weber

music brings us together
12:42 a.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The secret's out: Prince will play a surprise concert in Baltimore on Sunday, with proceeds from the event going to youth charities based in the city.

The "Rally 4 Peace" concert will take place at Royal Farms Arena, and tickets will go on sale Wednesday at 5 p.m. Other major artists are set to join Prince and his band 3RDEYEGIRL, and it's expected he will debut the protest song he wrote last week, entitled "Baltimore." In a statement, organizers said they hope the concert will be a "catalyst for pause and reflection following the outpouring of violence that has gripped Baltimore and areas throughout the U.S.," and asked attendees to "wear something gray in tribute to all those recently lost in the violence." Catherine Garcia

last night on late night
12:30 a.m. ET

David Letterman, for some reason, decided to pay Reese Witherspoon a compliment by showing a picture of her and her 15-year-old daughter on Tuesday's Late Show. "Actually, coincidentally, she was born the first year I was on this show," Witherspoon said. Letterman immediately started clearing his throat and pulling a face, but it took a few moments for Witherspoon to get the implication. Finally, after Letterman deadpanned, "Well, that's an interesting coincidence," she said "no" a lot of times, adding: "I was having a blonde moment. I have a lot of them lately." Well, that or Letterman and his band members have dirty minds. Watch. —Peter Weber

Germanwings Crash
12:11 a.m. ET
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The co-pilot suspected of purposely crashing his Germanwings plane into the French Alps March 24, killing everyone on board, practiced a controlled descent on a flight earlier that day, the German newspaper Bild reports.

Sources close to France's BEA crash investigation agency told the paper that on Wednesday, BEA plans to publish an interim report that states the incident lasted a few minutes during a flight from Dusseldorf to Barcelona. The source said there was "no aeronautical justification" for this action, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia

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