Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Crimea: “Russian forces and their Crimean militia allies were reported on Thursday to have released the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, seized in his own headquarters here as Moscow’s annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula forced the authorities in Kiev to begin planning for the evacuation of their forces to mainland Ukraine.”
* What mattered most today in Russian politics? This: “Russia’s most powerful businessmen waited for over an hour Thursday to hear from President Vladimir Putin, whose decision to annex the Crimean Peninsula has cost their companies hundreds of millions of dollars in market value. When Putin finally showed up, he spoke to them for five minutes – and gave them no reassurances that they or their companies will get any respite from the uncertainty created by the takeover of a piece of land of little value to them beyond national pride.”
* In related news: “Standard & Poor’s took a step toward downgrading Russia’s credit standing, saying that the standoff over Russia’s actions in Crimea were already harming the nation’s economy. The agency assigned a negative outlook to Russia’s rating, scrapping the stable outlook it previously assigned. It cited U.S. sanctions and ‘heightened geopolitical risk.’”
* CIA controversy: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked the Central Intelligence Agency to allow the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to look into allegations from California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein that the CIA interfered with a Senate intelligence committee investigation into Bush-era torture.”
* New Jersey: “Amid mounting criticism that their tactics violated civil liberties, the state attorney general today ordered the State Police to stop taking pictures of protesters at Gov. Chris Christie’s town hall meetings – for any reason.”
* And speaking of Christie: “Gov. Chris Christie liked to say that no one at a town hall meeting asked him about Bridgegate because no one cared. That all changed today.”
* Koch brothers: “You might expect the biggest lease owner in Canada’s oil sands, or tar sands, to be one of the international oil giants, like Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell. But that isn’t the case. The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.”
* South Carolina’s state House yesterday “passed a ban on abortions at or after 20 weeks, putting it on track to join 11 other state legislatures that have passed similar measures.”
* The “scandal” evaporated into nothing nine months ago. Someone ought to let Cruz know: “The Department of Justice has denied Sen. Ted Cruz’s request for a special prosecutor to probe allegations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, according to a letter sent to the Texas Republican and shared with POLITICO.”
* Encouraging: “The number of drug defendants charged by the federal government in January dropped to its lowest monthly level in nearly 14 years, not long after Attorney General Eric Holder began rolling out a series of changes to the criminal justice system.”
* Bernie Madoff, serving a 150-year sentence, said this week he’s “not a great fan of redistribution of wealth.” I’m not an expert in the nuances of Ponzi schemes, but isn’t redistributing wealth Madoff’s specialty?
* And every year, President Obama has a little fun filling out his March Madness bracket, and every year, conservatives say they’re outraged by this. This year was apparently no different.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.