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Putin, Food, Rohingya: Your Friday Briefing

Putin, Food, Rohingya: Your Friday Briefing


Asia and Australia Edition

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Good morning. A new gambit from Russia, a new definition of Israel and a new policy from Facebook. Here’s what you need to know:

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CreditPool photo by Sergei Karpukhin

• President Vladimir Putin of Russia said that unspecified forces in the U.S. were trying to undermine the results of the talks in Helsinki, Finland, comments aimed at deepening American divisions.

His remarks capped off a week of President Trump’s shifting narratives on Russia, which underscore the degree to which the president picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes.

Two weeks before his inauguration, our reporters discovered, Mr. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence showing that Mr. Putin had personally ordered efforts to disrupt the 2016 election. Even so, Mr. Trump has sought to spread the blame for the meddling.

CreditAbir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

• Israel’s Parliament narrowly passed a contentious basic law that enshrines it as the Jewish-nation state. The legislation downgrades the status of the Arabic language, promotes Jewish construction and affirms the exclusive right of Jews to self-determination.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the vote as “a defining moment in the annals of Zionism.” Arab members of Parliament ripped up copies of the bill, crying out, “Apartheid!”

The nation’s right-wing government has been emboldened by the Trump administration as well as the nationalist and populist movements gaining traction among allies in Europe and elsewhere.

CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

• Myanmar’s military planned the genocidal campaign to rid the country of Rohingya Muslims, according to a new report.

Fortify Rights, a young Bangkok-based human rights organization, published the finding from testimony collected from 254 survivors, officials and workers over 21 months.

The conclusions: Military and local officials removed tools that could be used for self-defense, created easier pathways for military raids, armed and trained ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, and closed international aid for the Rohingya. Government troops were deployed to Rohingya areas of Rakhine State where the Rohingya once lived, and participated in violence that began in late August.

Several groups have formed in Myanmar to examine the violence, which led to the exodus of around 700,000 Rohingya. So far, none has resulted in broad admissions of blame by the state.

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CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times
CreditCiro Fusco/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

• “The time has come for the pope to sack him.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia called on Pope Francis to fire Archbishop Philip Wilson, the highest-ranking Catholic official to be convicted of concealing child sexual abuse.

The archbishop has given up his duties, but has refused to resign while he appeals his conviction. He said he would offer his resignation only if his appeal was unsuccessful.

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CreditOzan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has wasted no time in using the levers of democracy to expand his authority over Turkey.

Since his inauguration for a second term last week, he has issued several decrees and presidential decisions enabling him to exert control with almost unchecked authority.

“The state is being reorganized around Tayyip Erdogan,” a journalist wrote.

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Business

• At a key U.S. trade commission hearing on the Trump administration’s proposed auto tariffs, small business owners and players in the global auto industry expressed concerns over rising costs and stifled innovation.

CreditYonhap

• In South Korea, a court ordered the government and a shipping company to pay compensation to families who lost relatives in the 2014 sinking of Sewol ferry, above, which killed 304 people. [The New York Times]

In northern Syria, makeshift prisons hold suspects accused of fighting for ISIS, whose home countries are reluctant to repatriate them. A Times reporter gained access. [The New York Times]

• Vietnam’s foreign ministry said that a new cybersecurity law would create a “safe and healthy cyberspace,” but critics warn it will further empower the government to crack down on dissent. [Reuters]

• Iran rejected eight requests from the U.S. for a presidential meeting at the U.N. General Assembly last year, a top Iranian official said. [The New York Times]

• In Berlin, police have seized 77 properties owned by a Lebanese family suspected of crimes including the theft of a 220-pound, pure 24-carat gold coin. [BBC]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

• One of our best-read stories today is this Op-Ed in which a writer from the American heartland examines the liberal blindspots about “Trump Country.” For one thing, she writes, it is not Trump Country.

• Cedar trees, a national symbol of Lebanon, have outlived empires and survived modern wars. But global warming could wipe out most of the country’s remaining cedar forests by the end of the century. Here’s what Lebanon’s mountaintop forests look like today.

• Asian-American actors, storytellers and comedians are finding a place in the U.S. comedy ecosystem through a monthly showcase at theaters in Los Angeles and New York.

Back Story

CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

“We know that drinking, plus driving, spell death and disaster.”

At a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden 34 years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation designed to force states to raise their minimum drinking age to 21 by linking it to federal highway aid.

Until 1919, there was no national drinking age in the U.S. After the end of Prohibition in 1933, most states set their drinking age at 21, where it remained until the Vietnam War. The argument that if you were old enough to be drafted for military service, you were old enough to drink led many states to drop their drinking age to 18. As a result, drunken driving among young people surged in the early 1970s.

By 1988, all states had adopted age 21 as the minimum legal drinking age (although Louisiana was an outlier for a time). As a result, alcohol-related traffic deaths among young drivers declined, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Today, the U.S. has the highest drinking age in the Western Hemisphere. In most of the world, it is 18.

“Raising that drinking age is not a fad or an experiment,” Mr. Reagan said at the ceremony. “It’s a proven success.”

Remy Tumin wrote today’s Back Story.

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