As befits the future Savior of Humanity (or at least the Savior of Blonde Russian Gymnasts in the Duma), Vladimir Putin has been extremely busy this past summer. One of his major tasks has involved recruiting new members of the Putin Pals, his protective managerie of super-powered animal agents. Thunk Tank Cohost Jay and I often wondered why it was that the Putin Pals did not have any bird members, when their primary mission will be to defeat the insect forces of MANTIS. How is it that Putin would recruit a Were-Whale before he’d got even one bird? (Anuka, the Flying Donkey, does not count as a bird, because: Legs. Hooves. Hair. Mammal.) Naturally, the Leader was just waiting until the time was ripe, and this summer he finally judged time to be squooshy and soft enough to unveil his Craneforce. Dressing in the uniform of a Crane Obergruppenfuhrer—sort of a white hazmat jumpsuit with weird black goggles—Putin jumped aboard Craneforce One and led the baby cranes on skywriting maneuvers high in the sky above Moscow, where they wrote “Surrender, Pussy Riot!” in smoke, and also in Russian, not English. And Cyrillic. Cyrillic letters are really hard to make in smoke, but of course Putin enjoys the challenge.