Weeks after the US ambassador to Russia told reporters that “the ball” was in the Russian government’s “court” to respond to accusations that the country had interfered with the 2016 election in the United States, US president Donald Trump held a press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where he called Putin “strong and powerful” and told journalists he didn’t see “any reason” to believe reports from US intelligence agencies that Russia had tampered with the election. “Now the ball is in your court,” said Putin, tossing a soccer ball to Trump. After the conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump should “appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Trump told journalists in the White House Cabinet Room that he accepted the intelligence community’s “conclusion” that Russian meddling had occurred but said that it “could be other people also,” and then Trump announced that he could be “the worst enemy” Putin’s “ever had.” Democrats chanted “USA! USA!” on the House floor.
Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian citizen who gained access to conservative US politicians through close relationships with National Rifle Association executives, was charged by US prosecutors with conspiracy to act as a covert agent of the Russian Federation and infiltrate American political organizations. A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry called the accusations “Russophobic hysteria,” and several Twitter accounts run by the Kremlin changed their avatars to an image of Butina.  “#FreeMariaButina,” tweeted the foreign ministry. Lawmakers from Russia’s ruling party introduced a “fake news” bill that would force social media companies and websites to remove posts that authorities deem “inaccurate” or pay an $800,000 fine; it was reported that the US president is the single largest buyer of political ads on Facebook; and months after a Sri Lankan mob angered by posts on Facebook destroyed a Muslim-owned restaurant for supposedly hiding sterilization pills in its food, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company would remove “misinformation” that could foment violence.
In Israel, Arab lawmakers were evicted from the Knesset plenum hall after protesting a narrowly passed bill declaring Hebrew the state’s official language and “national self-determination” exclusive to the Jewish people. The bones of 95 people believed to have been African-American forced laborers were exhumed in Texas during the construction of a school, and it was reported that gun rights activists have been following teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting across the country in an armored vehicle. A team in the Brazilian Amazon that had been monitoring a solitary indigenous man for 22 years released footage of him chopping down a tree; the British luxury clothing company Burberry incinerated more than $36 million worth of its own clothing and cosmetics, claiming that it had worked with environmentally friendly companies to harvest energy from the burn; and, in India, an airline apologized after business-class seats advertised at around $4,000 were found to be infested with bedbugs.—Whitney Kimball