Maria Butina, a 29-year-old gun rights advocate, was arrested yesterday on charges that she acted as a Russian agent in the U.S. The Justice Department says the former American University master’s student attempted to establish a “back channel” of communication between American politicians and the Russian government “to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.” Butina, who also allegedly tried to broker meetings between President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on two separate occasions, was ordered held without bond by a U.S. District Court in Washington.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The two leaders struck a collegial tone during a press conference in Helsinki following their first summit, in which they pledged to restore U.S.-Russian relations. Putin rejected accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election — a claim President Donald Trump appeared ready to accept. “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said. In a tweet ahead of today’s meeting, Trump blamed Washington for the soured relations between the countries: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness.”
Despite appeals from European officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says no exceptions from new U.S. sanctions on Iran will be granted to European companies hoping to maintain business with both nations. Meanwhile, when asked to name an American “foe,” President Trump listed the EU ahead of Russia and China, saying the bloc has “taken advantage” of the U.S. on trade. European Council President Donald Tusk responded on Twitter, “America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”
British investigations into a nerve agent attack in Salisbury have zeroed in on the same Russian intelligence agency suspected by Robert Mueller’s team of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. G.R.U., an elite Russian military agency, has long been suspected in the March attack that left former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter hospitalized, as well as the recent Novichok poisoning of a British couple. The Kremlin has denied any involvement, but diplomatic relations remain frayed. British officials are reportedly close to identifying the G.R.U. agents responsible for the poisonings.
He’s in too deep. Billionaire Elon Musk delivered a custom-made child-size submarine that he said could help rescue the 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand earlier this month. But rescuers decided not to use it, and a team of divers completed the mission. One of them, Vernon Unsworth, labeled Musk’s sub a “PR stunt,” after which the Tesla CEO accused the veteran diver of being a pedophile in tweets he has since deleted. Unsworth says he’s considering legal action against Musk.
Know This: A former Conservative minister in the U.K. has called for a second referendum on Brexit. Astronomers and archaeologists have collaborated to solve a mystery surrounding ancient rock piles in Chile. A mob in Indonesia has reportedly killed nearly 300 crocodiles at an animal sanctuary in retaliation for the death of a human. And today OZY’s Around the World campaign takes you to Togo: Find out how the country managed to eliminate elephantiasis.
Read This: California is preparing for its weather future by planting more trees in a bid to stave off the worst effects of more extreme dry and wet weather resulting from climate change.
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Yesterday Les Bleus secured their second world championship, besting the small Balkan country 4-2 in Moscow, aided by an own goal from Croatia and a controversial penalty ruling. France scored two goals in six minutes in the second half courtesy of Paul Pogba and wunderkind Kylian Mbappé, only the second teenager to ever score in a World Cup final, after Pelé. Mbappé, who donated his tournament salary to charity, was caught on film high-fiving a Pussy Riot protester who broke onto the field in the game’s 52nd minute.
They’ve got this on loch. The U.K. will build its first vertical launch spaceport in the northern Scottish town of Sutherland as the country enters the commercial space race. Britain’s Parliament passed the Space Industry Act this year, pledging $66.2 million in support of burgeoning business opportunities off Earth. New launch sites are going up around the world as decreasing costs mean thousands of new satellites are likely to take orbit in the coming decades. Meanwhile, British and American officials will begin talks to allow U.S. companies to launch from the Scottish spaceport.
They’re not wasting any time. Despite an internet penetration rate of just 7 percent and widespread poverty that’s earned it the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s poorest countries, Togo’s young engineers are fashioning rudimentary gadgets from discarded electronic components. Their bootstrap efforts to build computers, robots and children’s games are helping to reshape the West African country’s national identity, which is still marked by French colonial influence. The resourceful inventors are also educating Togo’s next generation on the challenges and opportunities of e-waste.
According to Cuban state media, the list of proposed changes to the country’s 1976 constitution includes the right to own and sell property. The concept of private property was banned after Fidel Castro took power in 1959, but the sale of land was legalized in 2011. The new constitution would also create the position of prime minister and impose presidential term limits, though the Communist Party will remain the island’s only political party. Approval of the new document is expected from Cuba’s National Assembly later this week.
2018: A script odyssey. U.K. film professor Nathan Abrams has found the famed director’s nearly complete 1956 work while researching a book on Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. The manuscript for Burning Secret, written with Calder Willingham and based on Stefan Zweig’s 1913 novella, tells the story of a man who befriends a young boy in order to seduce his mother. Kubrick, who died nearly 20 years ago, left the screenplay complete enough that Abrams says it could be made into a feature film — though it hasn’t yet been claimed by a studio.