After Russia's military occupation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea over the weekend, a lot of analysts are trying to gaze into Russian President Vladimir Putin's psyche. (A senior Obama administration official unkindly told The Hill that "we in this administration have made it a practice not to look into Vladimir Putin's soul.") But at least one world leader seems to think Putin isn't firmly anchored in reality. Here's Peter Baker at The New York Times:
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. "In another world," she said. [New York Times]
The world of modern diplomacy is premised on the belief that, saber-rattling and propaganda aside, world leaders are basically rational actors whose behaviors are subject to incentives and credible threats. A lot of what happens next in Ukraine may be riding on whether or not Merkel is correct. Or maybe some nuance was just lost in translation. Peter Weber
Two Muslim-Americans activists launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday to raise money to repair a historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis that was vandalized over the weekend. Within two hours, the fundraising campaign started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi had already surpassed its goal of $20,000. "Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America," the crowdfunding webpage read.
More than 100 headstones were toppled or damaged in the attacks, believed to have happened late Sunday night or early Monday. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage to help identify suspects.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who is Jewish, has condemned the attacks as "despicable" and "cowardly" and requested volunteers to help him clean up the cemetery Wednesday afternoon. The Missouri House of Representatives in Jefferson City held a moment of silence Tuesday for the cemetery, which opened in 1893. "Anxiety is high. Your loved ones are there. Your memories are there," said Karen Aroesty, the St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The cemetery attack marks the second instance of anti-Semitic violence this week alone, after a bomb threat was called into a Jewish community center in Wisconsin on Monday. Since early January, 54 Jewish community centers across 27 states have faced threats. Becca Stanek
Three-year-old giant panda Bao Bao took off from Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for a 16-hour flight to Chengdu, China. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo on Aug. 23, 2013, and is moving to China as part of a cooperative breeding program. Her older brother, Tai Shan, was the first panda to make the journey in 2010. "Today marks another milestone in our fight to save endangered species," said National Zoo director Dennis Kelly. "Our team has worked so hard for so many years to make sure giant pandas stay on the Earth."
— CNN International (@cnni) February 21, 2017
Bao Bao is traveling on the FedEx Panda Express, a customized Boeing 777F with her picture emblazoned on the side. The 205-pound panda will be seated in an 800-pound crate, and she is being accompanied on her journey by two zoo staffers — as well as plenty of bamboo, sweet potatoes, and apples to snack on.
"Pandas are very good at entertaining themselves," said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care at the National Zoo. "You give a panda a stock of bamboo and they can entertain themselves for a very long time." Becca Stanek
On Tuesday, Milo Yiannopoulos announced his resignation from Breitbart News, where he was a senior editor. Yiannopoulos' departure follows the release of two video clips in which he made comments seemingly condoning pedophilia. In one of the clips he joked about his childhood sexual encounter with a Catholic priest, and in the other he seemed to "speak sympathetically of certain relationships between adult men and 13-year-old boys," CNN reported.
Earlier Tuesday, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow deemed the remarks "indefensible" and "troubling," though he said "the left" has done worse. "I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues' important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart effective immediately," Yiannopoulos said in a statement. "This decision is mine alone."
On Monday, Yiannopoulos lost a $250,000 book deal with Simon & Schuster and was disinvited from speaking at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference due to his comments.
Yiannopoulos wrote on Facebook after the video clips were released that he does "not support pedophilia," which he called a "vile and disgusting crime." "I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim," he wrote. "My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous."
Read Yiannopoulos' statement of resignation in full below. Becca Stanek
Break: MILO resigns from Breitbart pic.twitter.com/pSQnJ0b9vA
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) February 21, 2017
Actor Tom Hanks will make his debut as an author on Oct. 24. Publishing company Alfred A. Knopf first announced the book in 2014 — shortly after Hanks published a story in The New Yorker — but it wasn't until Tuesday that the short-story collection's title was revealed.
Uncommon Type: Some Stories will revolve around typewriters, and each of its 17 stories will involve the increasingly obsolete machines that Hanks collects. The Hollywood Reporter noted the book ranges from stories "about an immigrant just arriving in New York City after leaving his civil war-torn country to a man who bowls a perfect game to an eccentric billionaire."
Hanks has been working on the collection since 2015, and he said in a statement he's taken his work with him as he's "made movies in New York, Berlin, Budapest, and Atlanta." "I wrote in hotels during press tours. I wrote on vacation. I wrote on planes, at home, and in the office," Hanks said. "When I could actually make a schedule, and keep to it, I wrote in the mornings from nine to one."
Alfred A. Knopf's editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta praised the book as an "accomplished debut." "I am thrilled by the narrative range on display in this collection, and by the humor and humanity Tom brings to his work," Mehta said. Becca Stanek
Tennessee lawmakers have proposed making it legal for drivers to run over protesters who block public streets. The Republican-sponsored legislation would protect motorists from civil liability if a protester were injured, provided the driver exercised "due care," The Huffington Post reports. The bill was introduced 10 days after a car ran into people at a Nashville protest against President Trump's travel ban. Similar driving laws have been proposed in at least four other states with Republican-led statehouses, including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota.
National Anne Frank organization blasts Trump's anti-Semitism statement as a 'pathetic asterisk of condescension'
On Tuesday, President Trump outright denounced anti-Semitism while speaking at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. After dodging questions from reporters at two separate press conferences last week regarding rising anti-Semitism — only offering that he is "the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen" — Trump was less equivocating Tuesday, saying "the anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."
But the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the U.S. branch of the worldwide organizations founded in Frank's name to fight prejudice and hatred, was not impressed by the president's statement, deeming it a "pathetic asterisk of condescension" after his administration's track record:
New statement from the Anne Frank Center: "Trump's sudden ackowlegement of Anti-Semitism is like a band-aid for cancer." pic.twitter.com/eh81LwBngi
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 21, 2017
On Monday, a Jewish community center in Wisconsin was evacuated after receiving its second bomb threat in three weeks. The Wisconsin center was reportedly one of at least 10 Jewish facilities that received similar threats Monday. Kimberly Alters
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security released documents briefing its agencies on the Trump administration's expanded guidelines for tackling undocumented immigration and deportation. The documents, which Time described as "essentially instruction manuals for the sweeping executive orders issued by President Trump in late January," eliminate Obama-era guidelines that prioritized recent border crossers, undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes, or those who may have posed a serious threat to national security. Trump will call for the deportation of any immigrant that is "convicted, charged, or suspected of a crime, which could include traffic infractions," The Associated Press reported.
A DHS fact sheet was succinct: "All of those present in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States." Becca Stanek