Putin Speaks: New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia broke his silence over the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday for the first time since it boiled over into a possible armed confrontation, asserting that he saw no reason for Russian forces to intervene in eastern Ukraine at the moment but leaving open the possibility of military action, saying that Russia 'reserves the right to use all means at our disposal to protect' Russian speakers in the country’s south and east if they are in danger. Mr. Putin’s comments — in an hourlong unscripted news conference in Moscow in which he described events in Ukraine as an unconstitutional coup and expressed contempt toward the United States — came as East-West tensions escalated in the former Soviet republic on Russia’s doorstep, which has been convulsed in a political and economic crisis for months. The crisis escalated sharply last week when Russia moved to strengthen control over Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking Crimean peninsula, home to the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet."
Obama Responds: Washington Post: Putin "also asserted that the troops wearing unmarked uniforms in Crimea are local self-defense groups — not Russian forces, as observers on the scene have said. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry both rejected Putin’s assertions Tuesday, with Kerry charging during a visit to Ukraine that 'Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further.' They said it was not true that Russia needs to send in troops to safeguard Russians or Russian-speakers in Ukraine from violent reprisals. Dismissing that alleged concern in remarks in Washington, Obama said Russia was 'seeking through force to exert influence on a neighboring country.'"
Obama's Budget: Associated Press: "President Barack Obama tried to have it both ways Tuesday with an election-year budget that paid faint lip service to reducing federal deficits, then piled on about $1 trillion in tax increases and hundreds of billions in higher spending designed to appeal to economically squeezed voters rather than congressional foes of red ink. Few, if any, of the president's proposals are likely to be enacted into law before next fall's elections. But that's not the point. The objective is political rather than legislative — a book-length compendium of proposals meant to give Democratic congressional candidates a campaign platform at a time when economic disparity is a major concern for millions trying to dig out from the worst recession in decades."
The Buffett Rule's Back: Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Obama proposed almost $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years, with almost all that revenue coming from higher taxes on estates and upper-income earners. These include limits on tax breaks and the creation of what the White House calls a 'Fair Share Tax,' also known as the 'Buffett Rule,' which would prevent some earners from lowering their effective tax rate below a certain level. The White House estimated its proposals to overhaul the corporate tax code—by lowering rates and eliminating deductions, combined with economic growth—would lead to a large increase in corporate tax revenues next year, up 35% in one year to $449 billion."
DC to Decriminalize Pot: NBC Washington: "The D.C. Council voted Tuesday in favor of a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Mayor Gray is expected to sign the bill into law. Then it will have to wait for the standard congressional review period before going into effect. Congress has rarely used its veto powers over D.C. laws. The vote was little more than a formality. The council had already approved decriminalization by an 11-to-1 vote. But before that initial vote, the council watered down the bill by maintaining criminal penalties for smoking pot in public. Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier supported maintaining criminal penalties for public smoking. If the bill becomes law, the district would join the 17 states that have some form of decriminalization."
Bitcoin Troubles: USA Today:" One week after the popular Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox mysteriously shut down, another exchange is also closing following an attack by hackers. In a statement posted to their website Tuesday, Flexcoin says it was 'robbed' of all 896 of its bitcoins. Based on today's price, the stolen bitcoins are valued at more than $600,000. ... Flexcoin's demise follows last Friday's announcement from Mt. Gox that it was filing for bankruptcy following a similar theft of bitcoin. The number of bitcoins stolen from Gox is valued at $425 million."
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