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    Confirming stereotypes ...

    Associated press

    VLADIMIR PUTIN a bully? Prone to view global affairs as a macho competition? Surely, no one was surprised to hear George W. Bush relate this killer anecdote to his daughter, NBC’s Jenna Bush Hager: After the then-US president introduced the Russian leader to his beloved Scottish terrier, Barney, (right, with Bush in 2005), Putin exclaimed, “You call that a dog?” Later, in Moscow, Putin proudly introduced Bush to his own dog, a “huge hound.” He boasted: “Bigger, stronger, and faster than Barney.” Bush didn’t mention his response to the Russian leader. But the verdict on Putin is inescapable: Big dog, small man.

    THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPIhas come a long way since the era of cross burnings and segregation, but sadly, it may always be behind the pack in social progress. Last week, the state’s governor cast aside the objections of civil rights groups to sign the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which declares that no laws should interfere with the exercise of religion without a compelling interest. The act is an open invitation for people who don’t want to provide services to gay couples to claim that to do so would violate their religious values, as critics of the law such as Mississippi-bred singer Lance Bass insisted. Other conservative states have similar laws, but Mississippi had a chance, for once, to put itself on the progressive side of history. It chose not to