The Russian military is reportedly in effective control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, a move that is bound to have deep repercussions for the region and Russia's relationship with the West. It's early days yet, but so far the sense is that Russian President Vladimir Putin has pulled a fast one on the new provisional government in Ukraine and a European Union that would like to pull Ukraine and other Russian satellites into its orbit.
But what if the wily Putin has actually made a terrible mistake?
That is what Eugene Romer and Andrew S. Weiss suggest in an article in Politico Magazine, arguing:
We should not take for granted that even in Ukraine’s east and south, where so many ethnic Russians live, that a military occupation will be a cakewalk. Many local residents surely do not want to become Russia’s 90th province. In Ukraine’s west, where the Soviet Army had to fight a protracted counterinsurgency campaign after WWII against Ukrainian nationalist guerrillas, armed resistance is certain to be strong. During the revolution, many army depots and armories were overrun so there are more weapons floating around Ukraine than at any point since 1991. And the leadership of the main instruments of coercion — the army, the interior ministry, and the intelligence service — are all in the hands of political leaders with strong Ukrainian nationalist credentials. [Politico Magazine]
Furthermore, the fallout at the international level is going to be hell for Putin, even if the West stops short of intervention. The last scraps of credibility Russia had as a member of the United Nations Security Council — where it has steadfastly blocked action against Bashar al-Assad on the grounds of sovereignty — are shot. The great "reset" with the United States is in tatters. The Sochi Winter Olympics — which was supposed to be the face of a kinder, gentler Russia — will go down as the most expensive fig leaf in history. Romer and Weiss also suggest that Russia will be kicked out of the Group of Eight; surely some kind of economic pain will be involved.
Putin's Russia is more isolated than ever. Is Crimea worth all that? Ryu Spaeth
On Monday, President Obama marked his last Memorial Day in office with a White House breakfast reception for veterans groups and families of service members killed in combat, followed by a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. At Arlington, Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, commemorating the members of the U.S. military who died in service of their country.
Obama spoke of the duty the rest of the country has to care for the loved ones of fallen soldiers and veterans. "We need to be there not just when we need them, but when they need us," Obama said. He noted that 20 service members have died in combat in the past year, a reminder that the U.S. is fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. You can watch Obama lay the wreath and hear the military band play the Star Spangled Banner in the video below. Peter Weber
Mass bleaching caused by global warming and El Niño has killed 35 percent the coral in the northern and central parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef in just the past few months, scientists said Monday. The southern section of the 1,400-mile reef has seen only minor damage. Warming waters have been causing bleaching in reefs around the world for two years, but the damage in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's east coast has occurred over just two months. Bleached coral that hasn't died can recover if the water temperature drops. You can learn more, including how the report is affecting Australian politics, in the Associated Press report below. Harold Mass
Mexican police rescued international soccer star Alan Pulido hours after he was kidnapped in northeast Mexico. Pulido, 25, appeared at a brief news conference on Monday and told reporters he was "very well." He had a bandage on his right hand. Pulido, a striker who has played for Mexico's national team several times, was leaving a party with his girlfriend on Saturday night in Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state when their car was surrounded by several trucks. Pulido was taken away, and his girlfriend was left unharmed. You can watch Pulido's news conference below. Harold Mass
An estimated 700 Libyan migrants died last week as their boats capsized in the Mediterranean during an attempted crossing to Italy, adding to a swelling death toll of more than 8,000 migrants to Europe since 2014. In September 2015, those deaths were encapsulated in a photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy whose drowned body washed up on the coast of Greece.
Another such photo came out of a rescue effort off the coast of Libya on Sunday organized by a German humanitarian organization called Sea-Watch. It shows a German rescue volunteer named Martin cradling a drowned baby who appears to be sleeping.
Seeing the child's body floating in the water, "I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive," Martin said. "I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive."
Last Week Tonight occasionally does a segment called "How Is This Still a Thing?" where a narrator pokes holes in a real thing that John Oliver and his writers think should disappear, like daylight savings and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. On Sunday night, "in the interest of innovation," Oliver posted a twist on this idea, proposing "non-things that should absolutely be thing-afied," as he explained. Some proposals, like an all-dog Blue Man Group and a universal key word to get out of awkward small-talk, are kind of silly. The search engine for parents, crying house key, and biodegradable home treadmill are all great ideas. And his biggest innovation? Well, you can decide for yourself: "Why do we not yet have bread pants — which are, of course, sweat pants made of bread?" If that sounds unsanitary, well, yes, but watch below to see if Oliver can sell you on the idea anyway. Peter Weber
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service" in exposing the agency's surveillance secrets, former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a CNN-produced podcast reported Monday.
"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did," Holder conceded, but maintained that Snowden made a positive move in "raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made."
That said, Holder is hardly jumping on the anti-NSA bandwagon. He argued that Snowden broke the law and "harmed American interests" by revealing classified government secrets, actions Holder suggested deserve jail time. He encouraged Snowden to return to the United States to cut a deal with the feds, something the former NSA contractor has said he is willing to do if he is guaranteed a fair trial. Still, Holder added, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." Bonnie Kristian
Texas authorities have found six bodies of people killed in Memorial Day weekend flooding, and an 11-year-old boy washed away in a swollen creek is missing and presumed dead in Kansas, as heavy rains caused flash flooding around the U.S. Torrential rains in central and and southeastern Texas prompted several evacuations and rescues, along with the six confirmed deaths, and near Houston, prison officials evacuated some 2,600 inmates. Separately, Tropical Depression Bonnie has reached South Carolina and is expected to continue dousing North and South Carolina with rain and strong winds, according to the National Weather Service. You can see some of Bonnie's impact on South Carolina in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber