Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Unhelpful saber-rattling: “President Vladimir V. Putin ordered a surprise exercise of ground and air forces on Ukraine’s doorstep Wednesday, intending to demonstrate his country’s military preparedness at a time of heightened tensions with Europe and the United States over the turmoil gripping Russia’s western neighbor. The Obama administration said any Russian military intervention in Ukraine would be a costly and ‘grave mistake.’”
* Keep an eye on this one: “Administration lawyers have presented the White House with four options for restructuring the National Security Agency’s phone-surveillance program, from ditching the controversial collection altogether to running it through the telephone companies, according to officials familiar with the discussions.”
* U.S. military: “The Army has disqualified 588 soldiers as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and drill sergeants for infractions ranging from sexual assault to child abuse to drunken driving, USA TODAY has learned. The number of disqualified soldiers from what are called ‘positions of trust’ is 10 times higher than the initial number the Army reported last summer.”
* With five weeks to go before this year’s enrollment deadline: “Approximately 4 million individuals have now signed up for health care plans under the newly created Obamacare insurance exchanges, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. The numbers mean that roughly 700,000 people have signed up for health care plans since the end of January.”
* For every $1 Americans spend investigating health care fraud, we get $8 back: “The U.S. recovered $4 billion last year through healthcare fraud prevention and enforcement efforts, according to a report released Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.”
* They’ll need about one tenth of the House GOP conference: “House Democrats on Wednesday formally filed a discharge petition to try to force a vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25.”
* She’s right: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday accused GOP governors of ‘playing with people’s lives’ by refusing to expand Medicaid in their states under ObamaCare.”
* The CFPB is wildly underappreciated: “The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing ITT Educational Services Inc. of predatory lending to college students. It’s the first time the CFPB has taken action against a for-profit college company.”
* The new Kaiser tracking poll shows most Americans want to keep and/or improve the Affordable Care Act. Less than a third support repealing it. One wonders if congressional Republicans are aware of this.
* And Dylan Scott had a really interesting piece this afternoon on how (and to what extent) the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby anti-contraception case may impact the right-to-discriminate campaign underway in 15 state legislatures nationwide.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.