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As Trump sides with Putin, the FBI arrests a Russian spy; some good news from Eritrea and Ethiopia.
- The Department of Justice arrested conservative activist and student visa recipient Maria Butina, 29, on Monday. The DOJ says she was following orders from Russia to influence American politics, essentially accusing her of being a Russian agent in disguise. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
- Butina allegedly tried to broker a meeting between a senior Russian government official and President Trump right after his inauguration. She also proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Putin to Jared Kushner during a National Rifle Association conference. [Washington Post / Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Shane Harris, and Carol D. Leonnig]
- It didn’t end with meeting proposals. Butina also formed connections in religious organizations, the National Rifle Association, and the National Prayer Breakfast in order to shape the Republican Party’s agenda into a pro-Russian one. [NYT / Matt Apuzzo, Katie Benner, and Sharon LaFraniere]
- The FBI had been monitoring Butina since 2016. But authorities chose to arrest her when they discovered she was planning a move from Washington to South Dakota, where known associate and GOP figure Paul Erickson lives and where it would be harder to monitor her. [Daily Beast]
- It was discovered that Butina had been arrested just hours after Monday’s Helsinki summit with Trump and Putin, at which Trump said he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would interfere in the 2016 presidential election (a statement he has contradicted and un-contradicted in the following days). [Vox / Alex Ward]
- A federal judge ordered that Butina be jailed before her trial because a pretrial memo said she was a flight risk with connections to Russian oligarchies that could help her flee. [NPR / Noel King and Carrie Johnson]
- The memo also said that Butina “cohabited” with a “politically influential American” and offered “sex in exchange for a position with a special interest organisation.” [Independent / Chris Riotta]
- Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the FBI of “fulfilling openly political orders ... to fuel Russo-phobic hysteria.” Nevertheless, there’s ample evidence of Butina’s shady communications with Russian officials. [AP / Angela Charlton]
- The NRA could be punished by the government and experience backlash from the public and major donors for Butina’s involvement with the organization. [The Conversation / Brian Galle]
- Butina had a meeting with an unnamed “political candidate” in 2015. Some speculate that it could be Trump. [Vanity Fair / Maya Kosoff]
A 20-year war is actually ending
- Ethiopia and Eritrea have formally declared an end to their war dating back to 1998. The peace deal also reestablishes trade and diplomatic ties. [BBC]
- A peace deal was brokered thanks to “an impressive combined effort” by religious organizations, the African Union, and the United Nations to “to resolve a regional issue that has festered for years.” [The Conversation / Martin Plaut]
- The war between the two nations, active from 1998 to 2000, was considered a fight over borders. In reality, it was a battle “over rival hegemonic claims in the Horn of Africa and over ‘national pride’ and ‘territorial integrity.’” [Institute for Policy Studies / Patrick Gilkes and Tom Barry]
- Over the course of 20 years, Eritrea was always ready for war while Ethiopia had the “most elaborate security state in East Africa.” With peace, both nations can finally rest easy. [Al Jazeera / Nanjala Nyabola]
- A celebratory inaugural commercial flight filled with champagne and roses flew from the capital of Ethiopia to the capital of Eritrea nine days after brokering the peace deal. This has reunited families separated for 20 years. [NYT / Alan Cowell]
- Citizens of both nations are so happy about the peace deal that they are calling strangers in the neighboring nations just to relish the fact that they can do so. [CNN / Bukola Adebayo]
- Twitter says it doesn’t “have the bandwidth” to fix its verification system right now. In 2010, that probably wouldn’t have been a controversial issue. In 2018, it means popular white nationalists and neo-Nazis get the honorary blue checkmark. [The Verge / Chris Welch]
- Battling a case of toxic masculinity, rapper 50 Cent said that at first, he “wasn’t looking at Terry Crews” as a victim of sexual assault. “I’m looking at the Hulk, the guy that’s this big,” 50 Cent said, mimicking Crews’s famously large muscular build. [Vulture / Dee Lockett]
- While erectile dysfunction ads have been rampant across the New York City subway system in recent months, Thinx, which makes underwear for people who menstruate, was barred from advertising on NYC subways because the ads contained the word “period.” [Broadly / Leila Ettachfini]
- Jewel watchers theorize that Queen Elizabeth waged “brooch warfare” during Trump’s recent trip to England, using her jewelry to throw subtle shade at the president. Evidence in their favor: On the day Trump arrived in England, QEII wore a brooch given to her by President Obama. [Refinery29 / Channing Hargrove]
“The only clear-eyed way to regard a corporation is, at best, as an adversary. No matter what they might say when trying to separate you from your money, that’s certainly how brands see you.” [Amanda Mull on why “there’s no such thing as a feminist brand” / Racked]
Watch this: How 156 of British rule shaped Hong Kong
Hong Kong has British DNA. [YouTube / Johnny Harris]
Vox Borders: Hong Kong episodes premiere each Wednesday; sign up for the Borders newsletter to get new episode alerts straight to your inbox.
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