OPINION MIKE MASNICK: "NSA Power Grab: New Legislation Would Give It Broad Powers To Spy On 'Critical' Private Networks" "Last week, in talking about the current fight in the Senate over the new cybersecurity legislation that's making the rounds, we noted that the behind-the-scenes story appeared to be that the NSA was going to make a power play to try to get responsibility for cybersecurity handed to it, rather than Homeland Security. Over the last few days, it's become clear that's exactly what's going on. While neither the NSA nor DHS inspire much confidence when it comes to heading up cybersecurity, the NSA plan is really crazy." MASHA GESSEN: "How to Read the Russian Election" "On March 4, I expect the Russian consulate in Washington, D.C., to be crowded with Russian citizens coming to cast their votes in the presidential election. [...] The ballot I’ll be issued will be identical to the ones used in Russia. In fact, with five candidates, including four party nominees and an independent, it will look much like a ballot in any democratic country with a multiparty system. But what it actually represents is the systematic—and successful—dismantling of Russian democratic institutions begun a dozen years ago." NATE BERG: "The Only Elected Regional Government in the U.S." "Like many metropolitan areas in the U.S., Portland, Oregon, has a regional governance system, a bureaucratic overlay that has enabled region-wide planning and coordination. In many ways, it’s like a lot of regional entities – looking after transportation issues, addressing infrastructure that crosses municipal borders, and generally operating from a mindset of what's in the best interests of the region as a whole. But Portland’s regional system, Metro, is different than every other regional system and group in the country: its members are elected. With a strong focus on regional planning efforts and a highly regarded sense of urban governance, the Portland region has been a model metropolitan region. So why hasn’t any other place followed?" NEWS CIGARETTES - Judge Blocks Graphic Cigarette Warnings "A judge on Wednesday blocked a federal requirement that would have begun forcing U.S. tobacco companies to put large graphic images on their cigarette packages later this year to show the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit lighting up." SAFE SEX - State Bill Would Ban Condoms As Prostitution Evidence "Assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark, Democrat of Queens, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Democrat of Brooklyn, have sponsored a bill to keep the possession of condoms from being used in criminal court as evidence of prostitution." GREECE - Greek Unions Walk Out, Parliament Cuts Health Care Costs "The Greek parliament early Thursday approved a bill to cut health service costs after unions staged walkouts as part of Europe-wide demonstrations against austerity measures."