Globe Trot A summary of international news compiled by senior editor Mindy Belz

Billboards touting a free press greet Trump and Putin in Helsinki

International | Plus Brunson to trial, Iranians get a second chance in Vienna, and more international news and notes
by Mindy Belz
Posted 7/16/18, 01:27 pm

FINLAND: Billboards in Helsinki reminding U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin of the value of a free press greeted the leaders as they made their way to Monday’s summit meeting. “The stakes … could not be higher,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ahead of the sit-down—coming especially after Friday’s Justice Department indictment of 12 Russian spies for hacking Democratic Party emails and other targets in 2016. Live updates here.

  • “The warning lights are blinking red again,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats cautioned Friday, saying, “The digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”
  • Lawmakers from the United States, Canada, and Europe are meeting in Washington Monday to discuss Russian hacking and other interference after a Senate Intelligence Committee report also concluded Putin ordered “a massive influence campaign” aimed at the 2016 elections.
  • David French has key points on why Russian hacking matters.
  • Trump is downplaying the concerns, calling the investigation into Russian interference “the Rigged Witch Hunt” in a tweet early Monday and telling CBS he expects an “extraordinary relationship” with Russia. Asked to identify the biggest U.S. foe globally, Trump named the European Union first and said Russia is a foe “in certain respects.”
  • Trump told reporters he would discuss Syria with Putin but was less clear on whether Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea was on his agenda. Leading nations booted Russia from the G-8 over Crimea, and Trump has called for Russia’s readmission to the group.

HAITI: Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned Saturday following widespread protests that prompted him to reverse fuel price increases as high as 51 percent. But the International Monetary Fund in Washington—which demanded the hikes because of the strains to Haiti’s fiscal solvency from fuel subsidies—isn’t backing down. Haitian officials agreed to new fiscal restraints in exchange for low-interest IMF loans earlier this year.

AUSTRIA: A group of mostly Christian Iranian refugees have under 14 days to re-submit claims for U.S. asylum after a U.S. district court in Northern California ruled last week that the Department of Homeland Security “failed to comply” with U.S. law in issuing blanket denials to their cases. You’ll recall that these refugees traveled to Vienna after passing initial U.S. screening requirements and have been in limbo for more than 18 months. Most face likely persecution in Iran (background here). The judge’s order also cites a dramatic drop in U.S. refugee admissions from Iran—from 1,061 in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 (October–December 2016) to 29 in the same quarter a year later, to two in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018.

SYRIA: Government forces retook the southern city of Daraa—the site of protests that sparked the 2011 civil war—moving to areas near the demarcation line dividing the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel. The UN says 250,000 Syrians have fled the fighting, becoming stranded in desert areas at the height of summer heat as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces block humanitarian access.

TURKEY: Ahead of American pastor Andrew Brunson’s third trial date Wednesday, one Turkish news outlet sees signs that authorities may release the long-time Izmir resident. And a Turkish pastor linked to Brunson in the indictment is counting the cost, and determined to remain.

IRAQ: One of the more extraordinary developments in efforts to revive Mosul is the discovery of a Jewish synagogue in the Old City.

FRANCE went a little crazy after winning Sunday’s World Cup final 4-2 against Croatia, even adding player names to Paris Metro stops. The World Cup may be over, but organizers believe an evangelistic project surrounding the tournament will bear fruit: Despite strict laws on religion in Russia, more than 10,000 locals watched live screenings at 400 churches.

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Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.

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  • Nat Manzanita
    Posted: Mon, 07/16/2018 06:43 pm

    I can't disapprove of the Helsinki billboard campaign, which seems like a good celebration of a real freedom. On the other hand there is no real comparison between Putin, who controls the Russian media by executing or imprisoning its members at will, and Trump, who complains vociferously about the media in America but has no real power to control or suppress it. The Constitution still effectively secures some of our freedoms.