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Ukrainian tanks and APCs move towards the de-facto border with Crimea. Aleksandr Shulman / AP

The Pentagon and State Department have developed plans to arm Ukraine in its fight against Russia-backed separatists, the Wall St Journal reports.

  • U.S. officials told the Journal the weapons are defensive and "meant to deter aggressive actions by Moscow." The U.S. has long accused Russia of arming and supporting the separatist fighters.
  • President Trump has not been briefed on the plans, which are in preliminary stages, "and his position isn't known," the Journal reports. U.S. allies are split on how to handle the situation, with France and Germany concerned providing arms will make an already dangerous situation worse. It could be months before a decision is made.
  • The move would enrage Vladimir Putin and likely further inflame tensions with Russia. On Friday, in response to sanctions passed by Congress, Putin ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy staff by 755, one of the largest such expulsions in modern history. Trump has not commented on that move.

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The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
44 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.