Politics roundup: U.S. conference with Russia generates unrest, confusion


The meeting of the Presidents of U.S. and Russia in Helsinki creates waves of anxiety and confusion, dominating news headlines this week.

Helsinki conference muddies the waters

Well, that was certainly a fruitful trip to Finland. Earlier the week, the U.S. President met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the said meeting — which was so secret that only the two heads of state attended — he reportedly asked Putin if it was true that Russia had meddled with the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. This has been part of at least the American consciousness for well over a year, thanks in large part to the ongoing investigation led by independent counsel Robert S. Mueller.

Putin, naturally enough, said that there had been no such meddling. Or, well, that’s what the U.S. President claimed went down in a subsequent press conference. He also maintained that he believed Putin.

Kind of. Maybe.

See, it’s so hard to keep track of things. Even if you’ve been shown good evidence that Putin personally ordered large-scale cyber attacks meant to influence your nation’s election, how can you be totally sure? Never mind that members of the U.S. intelligence community have near-unanimously concluded that this evidence is solid.

Swift backlash, both from within and without the Republican party, caused the White House to backpedal. Double negatives proved to be convenient when patching up earlier claims. No, the president didn’t say that Russia wasn’t involved in election tampering. He just said that such a thing wouldn’t not be possible.

Russia, meanwhile, has been claiming that all sorts of promises were made during this meeting. Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov told reporters that Putin had raised “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” regarding how the U.S. and Russia could cooperate on Syria. The Presidents also reportedly discussed bilateral arms treaties between the two nations.

Too bad that U.S. officials haven’t heard specifics about these deals. That would make it easier to do their job or to at least present a united front. Instead, it appears as if Washington is scrambling.

It’s even more awkward that Putin has been invited to visit the U.S. later this year. U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats learned about the impending visit while at the Aspen Security Forum. When told of this news item during his live interview, Coats laughed, then said: “That’s going to be special.”

European tour prompts White House immigration talk

Fears of immigrants have always been part of the current presidential administration’s rhetoric. If it weren’t for the specter of an immigrant undeservedly taking someone’s job, there’s a decent chance that the Republican party would not have made it to the White House in 2016.

Xenophobia is not a purely American product, however. Numerous countries across the globe have been forced to address waves of immigrants from conflict-laden nations. Some, like a few wealthy Asian countries, have practically locked down their borders. Others have attempted more open borders, though with mixed political results.

Take German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose shaky control of a coalition government is largely due to conflicting attitudes about immigration. Merkel generally wanted open borders and more accepting policies. A rising number of far-right politicians and nationalist parties, however, pushed for much the opposite. The tension got so bad that Merkel narrowly avoided a total breakdown of her government by compromising on the matter.

Europe’s recent tensions apparently pushed the White House to renew its anti-immigration rhetoric.

Family reunification in doubt for migrants

On Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was reluctant to say anything concrete. In particular, she was reluctant to promise that her department would stick to the court-ordered July 26 deadline to reunite separated migrant families.

“We will do our best,” she said, “But we will not cut corners.” She claimed that the delay was partially to protect the estimated 2,500 children separated from their families. “A good portion of these adults showing up are not their family,” Nielsen said.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

At this point, you have heard of the humongous black stone sarcophagus recently unearthed in Egypt. Made out of granite, the 27-ton behemoth was uncovered near modern-day Alexandria. Despite all signs pointing to keeping it sensibly shut, archaeologists couldn’t help themselves. In the name of science and history, they opened it.

No ghosts or vengeful animated corpses, alas. But, the interior of this somewhat mysterious ancient coffin held some fascinating secrets. Well, that and some liquid sewage.

The 2,000-year-old burial contained the remains of three individuals, along with the aforementioned rancid water. The initial smell was so intense that workers cleared the site, but apart from some burned out nostrils, everyone appears to be fine.

Next: Politics roundup: Strzok hearing on Capitol Hill brings more upset and drama

An alabaster bust was found in association with the sarcophagus. However, the sculpture was so weathered that it currently serves as little more than its own mystery. Currently, scientists’ best guess is that the individuals are associated with the Egyptian military. One skeleton appears to have head injuries consistent with an arrow wound.

Now, after a bit of airing out, the tomb site is open for further inspection. Archaeologists will study the sarcophagus, bust, and any other materials at the site for further clues.