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March 3, 2014

It's anyone's guess how Russia will act in Ukraine over the coming days and weeks. The New Yorker's David Reminick, who spent years reporting out of Russia, and who recently wrote a fascinating analysis of Putin's worldview, argues that the situation could get much worse before it gets better. To justify the invasion of Crimea, the Russian parliament "repeatedly echoed the need to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine — a theme consonant with the Kremlin's rhetoric about Russians everywhere, including the Baltic States," he writes. "But there was, of course, not one word about the sovereignty of Ukraine, which has been independent since the fall of the Soviet Union, in December, 1991."

If this is the logic of the Russian invasion, the military incursion is unlikely to stop in Crimea: nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking. Russia defines its interests far beyond its Black Sea fleet and the Crimean peninsula […]

It's also worth noting that, in 1968, Moscow was reacting to the "threat" of the Prague Spring and to ideological liberalization in Eastern Europe; in 1979, the Kremlin leadership was reacting to the upheavals in Kabul. The rationale now is far flimsier, even in Moscow's own terms. The people of the Crimean peninsula were hardly under threat by "fascist gangs" from Kiev. In the east, cities like Donetsk and Kharkov had also been quiet, though that may already be changing. That's the advantage of Putin's state-controlled television and his pocket legislature; you can create any reality and pass any edict. [The New Yorker]

So far, the U.S. and other Western powers have condemned the Russian incursion without calling for forceful consequences beyond sanctions. That could change if Russia indeed decides to solidify its grasp on Crimea, or push on into Ukraine. Jon Terbush

1:20 p.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination Sunday. He secured the win on the second ballot of the Orlando, Florida, convention with 55.8 percent of the vote.

Johnson, also the Libertarian Party's pick in 2012, has been polling in the double digits against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. To qualify for televised debates, he'll need to hit 15 percent. Julie Kliegman

12:53 p.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

The family of a Pakistani taxi driver, Mohammad Azam, who was killed in May by an American drone strike has demanded a criminal inquiry into the U.S. government. Following an investigative report filed by Azam's brother, Mohammad Qasim, local police are obliged to investigate the death.

Azam "was the sole breadwinner of our large joint family, [so] this was an attack on our family that hardly earns enough for two meals a day," Qasim said, noting that before he was killed Azam supported six family members, including a disabled brother. "Who will feed them now?" he asked, demanding compensation to maintain his relatives' livelihood.

There is some precedent for his effort: The families of some past drone strike victims who have been deemed innocent after the fact have received secret condolence payments from Washington.

The drone strike's target, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, happened to be Azam's taxi fare when the bombs hit. Bonnie Kristian

12:37 p.m. ET
Pete Souza/White House/Getty Images

Bo and Sunny Obama are apparently just as busy as the rest of the first family. First Lady Michelle Obama told The Associated Press on Sunday that she's in charge of managing their schedule of appearances each month.

But don't worry, when the Portuguese water dogs, ages 7 and 3, aren't greeting tourists, they have some time to unwind.

"They can sit on my lap, they sit on my chair, they cuddle with me," Obama said. "I like to lay on the floor with them and blow in their face. I like to make them run and chase each other. But they're so cute, I just love to just cuddle them and massage them."

The dogs also get up to their share of mischief around the house.

“You know what [Sunny] does sometimes?" Obama said. "She leaves the kitchen and she'll sneak and she'll go poop on the other end of the White House." Julie Kliegman

11:51 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Amish are a unique Christian community known for their radical forgiveness, pacifism, and eschewal of worldly goods. Donald Trump believes he needs no forgiveness from God, advocates bombing women and children, and lives in a penthouse that is entirely covered in gold.

But Trump allies with ties to Ben Carson and Newt Gingrich think it's a political match made in heaven. In fact, they've formed an Amish PAC in an attempt to persuade the 70,000 Amish people in Pennsylvania and Ohio, both swing states, to turn out for Trump this November.

The project faces an uphill battle. Though a few Amish voters do show up at the polls each election, most do not vote for theological reasons. Of course, the Amish have been spared Trump's Twitter feed thanks to their rejection of computer technology — but it is difficult to fathom that a religious group that considers buttons too ostentatious will be persuaded to back the king of ostentation. Bonnie Kristian

11:36 a.m. ET

A 4-year-old boy sustained serious injuries after crawling into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday, ABC News reports. A 17-year-old, 400-pound male gorilla named Harambe picked up the boy and dragged him around after he fell at least 10 feet into a moat.

A zoo employee fatally shot the gorilla so firefighters could enter the enclosure and rescue the child, whose name has not been released. The boy was hospitalized with injuries that are reportedly not life-threatening.

"The zoo security team's quick response saved the child's life. We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically endangered gorilla," the zoo director said in a statement. "This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide. Julie Kliegman

10:54 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Marco Rubio apologized to Donald Trump for making fun of his hand size, the former Republican candidate said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that aired Sunday.

"I actually told Donald — one of the debates, I forget which one — I apologized to him for that," Rubio explained on State of the Union. "I said, 'You know, I'm sorry that I said that. It's not who I am and I shouldn't have done it.' I didn't say it in front of the cameras. I didn't want any political benefit." Rubio recently indirectly indicated he will support Trump this November.

The Trump-Rubio tiff dates to February, when the Florida senator hit back at Trump after the presumed GOP nominee began calling him "Little Rubio." "You know what they say about guys with small hands," he quipped, adding after a pause, "You can't trust 'em!" Trump has been sensitive to suggestions that his hands are small since a 1988 magazine article called him a "short-fingered vulgarian." Bonnie Kristian

10:52 a.m. ET
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Top Donald Trump adviser Paul Manafort is gently walking back his Wednesday assertion that the presumptive Republican nominee wouldn't choose a male person of color or a woman as a running mate because that would be "pandering."

In an interview with ABC's This Week on Sunday, Manafort clarified that candidates from those groups wouldn't be omitted from Trump's list of potential running mates; rather, they just won't earn spots on the list solely because of their race or gender.

"If a female is qualified, that's a totally different story," he said. "And there are many Republican women who are qualified, and several who might be on the list."

Manafort also confirmed that Trump is seeking a vice president with Washington, D.C., experience. Julie Kliegman

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