According to Tikhon Dzyadko, a deputy editor with the independent Russian TV station DozhdTV, even Vladimir Putin doesn't know the answer to that question. In an insightful analysis of the Russian incursion into Ukraine over at The New Republic, Dzyadko writes:
It's enough to make your head spin, especially if you're trying to think of it as of a coherent policy. But it isn't. And there's been no logic in it, either. When it comes to Ukraine, there hasn't been any for years. [...]
There is a Russian proverb: "To spite mom, I will freeze my ears off." It refers to a child who won't wear a hat in the cold simply for the sake of disobeying his mother. Russian foreign policy functions exactly in this way: Again and again, Moscow makes decisions that are most detrimental to Moscow itself. Elegantly juggling various principles of international law, the Russian government has been steadily spoiling its relations with its international partners. [The New Republic]
Psychoanalyzing Putin's decision to send troops to Crimea has become the topic du jour in the last few days. But Dzyadko makes an interesting case that Putin more or less aimlessly blundered his way into this mess — and that his actions could backfire spectacularly. Jon Terbush
On Friday or next week, the Obama administration will formally unveil new clean-water regulations aimed at giving the federal government greater authority to curb pollution in lakes, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater, The New York Times reports. The rule, known as Waters of the U.S., isn't a surprise: The Environmental Protection Agency proposed it a year ago, and has spent months holding public meetings, reading public comments, and finalizing the language.
"Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies," EPA chief Gina McCarthy wrote in an April blog post. "We have a duty to protect it. That's why EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction."
The federal government had broad authority to regulate the nation's waters under the 1972 Clean Water Act, but Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 created confusion over smaller waterways. The new rule would cover about 60 percent of U.S. waters, The Times reports. Farm and some business groups oppose the rule, and Republicans are trying to stop it through legislation — the House has already passed a bill blocking the rule, and Senate Republicans are working on their own measures. Peter Weber
It's not clear if Friday's referendum to allow same-sex marriage in traditionally Catholic Ireland will pass, but the fact that it might signals a pretty rapid turnaround for a country that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993. If the Irish approve the gay-marriage proposal, the Republic of Ireland will be the first country to do so by popular vote. The polls suggest the measure has a good chance of passing, though it's unclear if conservative sections of rural Ireland will turn out in large numbers to defeat the referendum.
The Catholic bishops of Ireland are opposed to the measure, but some parish priests publicly support it, as do some conservative political parties. "In many ways, Ireland hasn't changed because the Irish people have always been tolerant, decent, and compassionate," Sen. David Norris, 70, told The New York Times. "But you've still got to say that it's extraordinary to have once been considered a criminal and now I might be able to marry — if anyone would have me, that is!"
In majority protestant Northern Ireland, the government has voted down three recent proposals to join the rest of the United Kingdom in allowing same-sex marriage. Peter Weber
If you shut off the TV or switched from CBS after David Letterman's final sign-off Wednesday night, you missed Late Late Show host James Corden's car trip with Justin Bieber. Don't worry, they posted it to YouTube. It's billed as "carpool karaoke" — which, not to quibble too much, is wrong both because the music has the original vocal tracks and only one of the dudes is going to work (Corden) — but the singing to the radio is the least interesting part, anyway.
The reasons to watch are Justin Bieber's impressive Rubik's Cube skills and the conversation — specifically, Bieber's reaction when Corden laid out a fairly elaborate fantasy involving a woman, a bed, some Bieber tunes, and a cutout of Bieber's silhouette on the bathroom door. Lesser pop stars might have jumped out of the car; Bieber agreed to swap clothes. You can watch below. —Peter Weber
Among the trove of documents and book titles newly declassified and released from the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 was a letter bin Laden wrote to one of his wives in Iran around December 2010. In the three-page letter he discusses routine domestic issues, like his wife's dental work, and says he was thinking about leaving for another hideout.
"I have been living for years in the company of some of the brothers from the area, and they are getting exhausted — security wise — from me staying with them and what results from that," he wrote. "Sadly, I came to realize that they have reached a level of exhaustion that they are shutting down, and they asked to leave us all." He had been with the hosts for so long, he added, "I think that I have to leave them," though it would take a few months "to arrange another place where you, Hamza, and his wife can join us."
As The New York Times notes, "it is impossible to know how any change in location by bin Laden might have altered the ability of American intelligence agencies to accurately track him to his secret compound." If he had escaped before the May raid, he might still be alive.
Whether or not you're a Deadhead, you'll want to check out Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann's madcap and highly entertaining story that he told on Conan about the time the Dead played a Hugh Hefner TV show on CBS, Playboy After Dark. As the band was setting up, Kreutzmann told Conan O'Brien, he started to hear crazy things from the TV crew, about cameras out of focus and mics not on. After looking around, "I had this strange suspicion," he said, and he finally figured out that famed LSD maker Owsley Stanley had dosed the 150-cup crew coffee pot. The entire crew was tripping on acid. "It wasn't illegal in 1967," Kreutzmann said when Conan suggested that must be some kind of crime.
Kreutzmann, who has a new memoir out, also discussed how Jerry Garcia came up with the name for The Grateful Dead, how everybody hated it, and geeked out on Dungeons & Dragons with Patton Oswald. Watch below. —Peter Weber
Sgt. Craig Harrison, a retired British army soldier, killed two Taliban fighters more than 1.5 miles away in 2009, making him one of the most accurate known snipers in the world. But his decades as a sniper have left a deep mental scar, and he has "flashbacks all the time" of "the people that I've killed," he told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire in an interview, his back turned to the camera. Harrison said he is on a lot of medication, has trouble sleeping, and is suffering from PTSD related to being shot in the helmet and being injured in an anti-tank mine explosion.
"Anyone who says they don't feel anything for the people they've killed are not telling the truth," he told Derbyshire. And that's doubly true for snipers, who see their victims up close. "You see them spit on the floor, you see them talking," he said. "You own their life, basically. You're their god for that split second, and then you take them out." Watch below. —Peter Weber
The ubiquitous Pyrex measuring cup in your kitchen made its debut in 1925, but the first Pyrex dish hit the market 10 years earlier, after a Corning scientist brought home a sawed-off industrial-glass jar to his wife, who baked a sponge cake in it. At least that's Corning's story, and they're sticking to it at a Pyrex centennial celebration at the Corning Museum of Glass, starting June 6. Pyrex is still around — and still "hot," as Associated Press reporter Michael Hill notes in the video below — but Corning hasn't made the iconic heat-resistant glass since it sold its consumer products division in 1998; it's now made by World Kitchen, based in Rosemont, Illinois. For more Pyrex facts, watch below or read AP's fact sheet. —Peter Weber