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
All five people on board two small aircrafts that collided in midair over Alaska on Wednesday died, the Alaskan National Guard said.
Officials say the collision took place shortly before 11 a.m., about 60 miles north of Bethel. The planes involved were a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan with three people on board and a Renfro's Alaska Adventures Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two people. Medics were flown in on helicopters, and found no survivors at the scene. An investigation is now underway. Catherine Garcia
Now in the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Hermine is expected to make landfall in Florida sometime Thursday night or early Friday.
The National Hurricane Center's latest forecast has Hermine's center likely moving ashore near Tallahassee, and by that point it could be near hurricane-strength or a low-end hurricane, The Weather Channel reports. There is already some flooding across Florida due to heavy rains, and potential threats from Hermine include coastal flooding, especially near the Gulf Coast, strong winds, rainfall flooding, and some isolated tornadoes in northern and central Florida. After it makes landfall, Hermine will track northeastward, impacting south Georgia to the Carolinas Thursday night into early Saturday. Catherine Garcia
After meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday, Donald Trump said the pair did not discuss payment for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but a presidential spokesman said that's not the case.
"What the president said is that Mexico, as he has said on several occasions…will not pay for that wall," spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told Reuters. Trump made his earlier comments during a joint news conference in Mexico City, held after the two had a private meeting. Trump said they discussed the wall, just not who would foot the bill. Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court denied a request from North Carolina to allow three provisions of its strict voting rights law to go back into effect by the November election.
The justices were split 4-4, leaving intact a lower court opinion that struck down the law. North Carolina's lead lawyer, Paul Clement, asked that three provisions be reinstated: the elimination of pre-registration for 16-year-olds; the need for voters to present one of eight different forms of ID at the polls; and the reduction of early voting days from 17 to 10.
The law has been challenged by civil rights groups and the Department of Justice, who said it had a disparate impact on minority voters, CNN reports. "Once an electoral law has been found to be racially discriminatory, and injunctive relief has been found to be necessary to remedy that discrimination, the normal rule is that the operation of the law must be suspended," acting Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn said. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) issued a statement calling it a "common-sense voter ID law," and said the state "has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote." Catherine Garcia
Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday, after which the two men gave a joint press conference. Trump called Peña Nieto's invitation a "great honor," and said the the U.S. and Mexico are "united by our support for democracy, a great love for our people, and the contributions of millions of Mexican-Americans to the United States." Trump said he has a "tremendous feeling" for Mexican-Americans, explaining that not only does he have several friends of Mexican descent, but he has also employed "tremendous numbers" of Mexican-Americans in the United States.
Trump then laid out five shared goals for the U.S. and Mexico: 1) ending illegal immigration, which he called a "humanitarian disaster"; 2) having a secure border; 3) curbing the drug trade; 4) improving the NAFTA agreement; and 5) keeping manufacturing wealth in the continent. Regarding Trump's infamous border wall, the GOP candidate said that while both he and Peña Nieto "respect and recognize the right of either country to build a physical barrier," paying for the wall was not discussed; Trump has insisted throughout his campaign that Mexico would foot the bill for such construction.
Peña Nieto spoke briefly, saying that he had invited both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to visit, and Trump's camp responded quickly in the affirmative. He also said he recognized that many Mexicans had been offended and aggrieved by some of Trump's remarks as a candidate, but that as Mexican president, it is his job to work toward a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship with the United States and to respect the American electoral process.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump's advisers said they hoped the visit would provide a presidential photo op for the candidate — but there was no American flag on stage with Trump and Peña Nieto, only a Mexican flag. Next, Trump will give a speech later Wednesday in Arizona on his immigration policy. Kimberly Alters
Hillary Clinton dismissed Donald Trump's meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as being nothing more than a "photo op," and even Trump's own team seems to agree. But if that's true, it is about the worst photo op in history:
At Trump-Peña Nieto meeting, there are 2 podiums w/ Mexican national seal, one Mexican flag. No American flag. Per @kevcirilli, who's there.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 31, 2016
It does appear from the footage of the joint statement that the stage is conspicuously lacking an American flag:
Ya ha terminado la reunión. "Linda y productiva", según el equipo de Trump. Listos para la comparecencia pic.twitter.com/U9PYqpXR3g
— David Marcial Pérez (@DMarcialPerez) August 31, 2016
It's happening pic.twitter.com/xl1lo3qcnr
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 31, 2016
As Trump has vowed to make Mexico pay for the border wall, it is perhaps not such an encouraging sign that he seemingly couldn't even negotiate getting an American flag on stage. In his defense, though, there is such a thing as too many American flags. Jeva Lange
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday that frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the cause of an outbreak of hepatitis A spanning six states. The outbreak was initially traced to smoothies from certain Tropical Smoothie Café restaurants, but upon further investigation, the CDC deduced that the imported berries in the smoothies were the cause.
An estimated 55 people people have gotten sick, with the majority of those cases in Virginia, where the outbreak originated. "About half" of the 44 people infected in Virginia have been hospitalized because of the viral liver infection, CNN reported.
Because hepatitis A has a long incubation period, the CDC predicted that still more people will begin experiencing symptoms, which include jaundice, fever, fatigue, and nausea. Though highly contagious, hepatitis A does not cause any chronic illness. Becca Stanek