Helsinki

The site of the Trump/Putin summit is a compact, handsome, livable low-rise town of around 600,000. Click these photos to enlarge them.

President Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg is a little less than 400 kilometers up the road. The high speed Allegro train connects Helsinki with St. Petersburg in three and a half hours, four times a day.

Mr. Putin must feel – almost – at home. The lay of the land, the lakes and forests, is the same in Finland as where the Russian president grew up. Here is Mr. Putin with Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish president, on a boat tour when we saw them last summer. Saimaa, the name of the ship, is also the name of the lake:

There are many more photos from lovely Finland here, at EarthPhotos.com.

Weekend Reading…

… and comment.

First, a handful of suggestions for weekend reading from browsing the internet this week:

Is Fixing the Climate Incompatible with American Ideals? Inalienable rights in the age of carbon dioxide by Mark L. Hineline at Nautil.us

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt to Me by M. H. Miller at The Baffler: “Now thirty years old, I have been incapacitated by debt for a decade. The delicate balancing act my family and I perform in order to make a payment each month has become the organizing principle of our lives.”

Brexit Blunder? by Peter Zeihan at RealClearWorld.com

Stuff you should know: The Entire History of Steel: From hunks of iron streaking through the sky, to the construction of skyscrapers and megastructures, this is the history of the world’s greatest alloy, by Jonathan Schifman in Popular Mechanics

‘They will die in Tallinn’: Estonia girds for war with Russia The head of the tiny NATO member’s special forces details his country’s preparations for a conflict many here see as inevitable by Molly K. McKew at Politico.eu

My wife’s native language, Finnish, is kin to Estonian, and I’m a big Estonia fan. Apart from whether NATO’s decision to embrace the three Baltic countries was wise, and I’m not expert enough to know, the idea that our American president might back away from a now-made commitment to pretty little brave Estonia drains my American can-do, freedom-defending spirit.

Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler? A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion by Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. This is New York Magazine’s characterization of our president’s relationship with Russia, not mine. I’m no conspiracy theorist. It’s a long article, convincing if from nothing other than accretion.

These quotes come from a fellow non-conspiracist, Tom Nichols, in a review of Chait’s article titled What Jonathan Chait Gets Right About Trump and Russia at Politico:

“…if the Russians hadn’t zeroed in on Trump—a man whose venality, vanity and vulgarity are like a menu of recruitable weaknesses—they’d have been guilty of intelligence malpractice.””

“…the litany of direct and indirect contacts with the Kremlin exceeds all possible exculpatory explanations.”

“If Trump was in deep with the Russian criminal and financial worlds, the Russian intelligence services knew it, and so did Russia’s top spook, Putin. Trump must know this as well.”

“The key is to induce the target to do what you want without telling him to do it—to be a friend, helping out friends.””

“…there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether it is using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious.”

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While our leader rattles around the United Kingdom this weekend breaking China, official Finland has canceled valuable summer vacation time at beloved lakeside saunas (ours, below) to prepare for Monday’s Trump/Putin summit. Here is Reid Standish at Politico.eu, setting the stage – in English – from the Finnish perspective. Let us all enjoy a quiet weekend until Monday, when all eyes will be on Helsinki.

While we’re here, why not take a look at a little bit of Finland in Pictures, from EarthPhotos.com.

Cheers for now.

Really Very Sorry About All This

Oh my.

Prominent Tory ministers, a silver-haired cypher and a blustering Trumpy buffoon, resign to tilt at Brexit windmills. Government, as ever, in peril. Stay tuned on this.

Football team eliminated by team from second smallest country ever to contest World Cup final match.

Could things possibly get worse?

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from The Guardian

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Nice try. Cudda Wudda Shudda.

Africa Vignette 10: Over Namibia

Late in the afternoon, as the light over the Sossusvlei turns sideways, a Cessna gains speed, pounding along the grass strip as a pilot named Lindy, an unsettlingly young girl with blond hair and blazing blue eyes, lifts us into the air for a trip out over the Namibian dunes.

Sometimes they run safaris on the beach (55 kilometers away), she explains, and it is most vital that if we see any cars we must let her know immediately!

That’s curious. Why?

They could spoil our fun, she grins. We are required to fly at 3000 feet, but out there we will joy ride at 500. Where in all this world can you flaunt the rules if not on the desolate coast of bloody Namibia?

They’ve numbered the dunes 1 to 70 or 80 by the road from the Sesreim gate to Sossusvlei. Lindy pinwheels the Cessna around Dune 45, a star dune that like certain celebrities has become famous for being famous. While Dune 45 is tall and striking in its own right, it is best known because it is close to the road and lots of people climb it.

Dune 45

Bernard, driving this morning, stopped for us to see it, too, and indeed, folks had already scaled Dune 45 and were clamoring back down. Before sundown though, dune 45 and all of the other dunes stand deserted. Everyone must leave the park at night.

We do a long turn around “Big Daddy,” which they repute to be the world’s tallest sand dune, and in the same sweep, take in the dead vlei and Sossusvlei, and the dune we climbed that morning. They call that one “Big Mama.”

The road ends here. Here to the shore, nothing but dunes, horizon to horizon. No place for engine trouble.

The coast gains focus, and in time we cruise over a fallen-in diamond mining settlement, its man-made perpendiculars entirely out of sorts with the natural swirls of the desert that resemble nothing more organized than crumpled bed sheets.

We swoop down low along the water’s edge above seal colonies, thousands of seals lounging for miles up the coast, up to the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen, a cargo ship that ran aground in fog back 1909 and still lies in place, four hundred meters from the coast.

The Eduard Bohlen

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See more photos from Namibia in the Namibia Gallery at Earthphotos.com.

Africa Vignettes is a weekly series most Mondays this summer on CS&W.