Russia Ratchets Up the Pressure: New York Times: "Russia ratcheted up pressure on the West over the Ukraine crisis on Friday, moving for the first time to endorse the Crimea region’s secession plan, threatening Ukrainian customers with a gas shut-off and warning the United States that 'hasty and ill-considered steps' toward sanctions would harm relations. The developments illustrated how quickly the crisis has evolved. Just three days earlier, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had said he did not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia. But leaders of both houses of Russia’s Parliament said on Friday that they would support a vote by Crimeans to break away from Ukraine and become a region of the Russian Federation. That was a clear signal that the Kremlin was throwing its full weight behind a secession drive that Ukraine, the United States and other countries have called unconstitutional and a violation of international law."
Turning the Gas Off: Wall Street Journal: "OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller told journalists Friday that Ukraine owes the Russian energy giant $1.89 billion, having failed to meet a Mar. 7 deadline for payment of its February deliveries. He warned that a failure to pay the bill could result in a repeat of the 2009 gas crisis, when Gazprom switched off supplies to Ukraine for a number of weeks, raising prices in Europe and causing some shortages. ... The moves come as Russia's response to the pro-Europe uprising that has toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev and taken control of Ukraine's government. The Kremlin, which views neighboring Ukraine as part of its privileged sphere of influence, has denounced the new powers in Kiev as illegitimate."
Diplomacy Stalled: Washington Post: "International efforts to defuse the crisis have so far been stymied. On Friday, for the second time in two days, a team of 47 military and civilian observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was blocked from entering Crimea, according to Agence France-Presse. The group was stopped by armed men at a checkpoint flying a Russian flag. With Russian ships continuing to blockade Ukrainian navy vessels in the Sevastopol harbor, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, USS Truxtun, entered the Black Sea on Friday through Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait for what the Navy said was a routine visit unrelated to the events in Ukraine. The Navy said the destroyer, with 300 sailors on board, was previously scheduled to train with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces."
Jobs Report: Los Angeles Times: "The economy added 175,000 net new jobs last month, a surprisingly robust figure given the bad winter weather, the Labor Department said Friday. Despite the increase—the largest in three months—the unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 percentage points to 6.7% after hitting a more than five-year low in January. The February job-creation figure was a significant improvement over the 129,000 net new jobs added in January, which was revised up from an initial estimate of 113,000. The Labor Department also upwardly revised its job-creation estimate for December, meaning the economy added a total of 25,000 more jobs in those two months than initially thought. Economists had projected the report would show 150,000 net new jobs in February, and that the unemployment rate would remain at 6.6%."
Moneybox: Good News: Unemployment Is Up!
GOP's Ideological Tug-o-War: Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "Some of the GOP's most prominent conservatives insisted Friday that Republicans should emphasize hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage in this year's midterm elections, exposing an ideological divide within a party trying to capture the Senate and then the White House. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee ... the tone early .... 'If this nation forgets our God, then God will have every right to forget us,' Huckabee said to cheers. ... The day also featured Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who, like Huckabee, have run presidential campaigns fueled in part by support from religious voters. But Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the final speakers of the day, represents a new generation of libertarian-minded Republicans less likely to oppose gay marriage or embrace laws allowing the government to affect people's private lives. ... The ideological tug-of-war played out a few miles from Washington at the nation's largest annual gathering of conservative activists, where most of the prospective 2016 Republican presidential field will have taken the stage by Saturday's end of the three-day gathering."
Issa Presses On (and On): Politico: "Not even a trove of new evidence will stop Darrell Issa from going after Lois Lerner’s testimony. The House Oversight Committee Chairman is plowing forward with plans to hold the former IRS official in contempt of Congress—possibly as early as next week—despite word from the tax agency that it plans to hand over a broad set of documents spanning Lerner’s entire career at the IRS. Republicans have long sought the documents and complained the IRS wasn’t sharing the whole picture on Lerner’s 12-year tenure at the agency. The documents will officially go to the Ways and Means Committee but the two panels are sharing evidence. A senior Republican staffer insists that won’t stop Issa, who caused a stir this week when his rift with Democrats stole the spotlight at a combative hearing. He will still likely seek her testimony, this person said."
S.C. Mom Faces Charges: CBS/AP: "A pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida faces attempted murder and other charges Friday, with authorities saying the children were screaming to bystanders that she was trying to kill them. Bystanders and officers helped rescue 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan as it was almost submerged on Tuesday on Daytona Beach. Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said Wilkerson has denied trying to hurt her children. However, the children told investigators otherwise and witnesses said she tried to keep them from rescuing them. The windows were rolled up and the doors were locked, and one of the children tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from her, Johnson said."
Business Insider: The Real Satoshi May Have Just Surfaced to Deny the Newsweek Report
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