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DGI Brief - Aug 26, 2016

Happy Friday, all. Today's top 5 global issues news are about #Syria #Indonesia & #Singapore #France #Pakistan and a #GoodStoryFriday about #USA

- SYRIA: the town of Daraya, less than 2 miles from the capital Damascus , one of the bastions of the Syrian uprising was under government’s siege since 2012. Starved & bombed mercilessly, the residents finally couldn’t bear the situation after the last remaining hospital was destroyed last week. The truce deal allows for rebels to flee to the city of Idlib while an estimated 8,000 civilians are evacuated into government-controlled areas. A big boost for president Assad’s regime. The UN was not consulted.

- INDONESIA continues its fight against the use of fire to clear precious forests & peatlands that has been hugely detrimental to the environment & fuels global warming. It has arrested 454 people for forest fires so far in 2016, compared to 196 arrests in 2015. Earlier this month, a plantation company was fined $81 million for its links to last year’s fires, the worst since 1997 that burned almost 645,000 acres (261,000 hectares) & its Supreme Court rejected an appeal of a palm oil company, ordered to pay $28 million for burning peatlands. As far as wildfires, Indonesia seems to be catching a break as the number of active fires dropped from 184 to 17 this summer thanks to increased rainfall due to La Nina. Yet there are still lots of wild & man-made fires spreading smoke across Southeast Asia. Overnight, Singapore registered a peak of 215 on its air pollution index, now at 157. Levels above 100 are deemed unhealthy & above 200 very unhealthy. Terrible situation all around.

- FRANCE: The message to the town of Villeneuve-Loubet is clear – its burkini ban is unjustified & violates number of fundamental rights, according to the Council of State, top French administrative court. Human rights groups who brought the lawsuit against the town laud the decision as a legal precedent, calling for all mayors to conform to the decision, otherwise vowing to bring lawsuits against each of the 30+ towns with similar bans. However, some top French politicians including presidential candidates for the 2017 race Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen, call for complete burkini (& other ostentatious religious symbols) ban ‘on the entire territory of the Republic’. In other words, the issue is far from over. However frustrating, I do appreciate the democratic process here. No need for violence, instead a legal, ethical, human rights, religious & political discourse.

- PAKISTAN’s troubled internal security situation & continued support for Taliban & militant groups in Afghanistan that are costing American lives & money is fueling America’s frustration with the relationship. So much so that both US military & economic aid to Pakistan has been declining steadily. Peaking in 2011 at $3.5 billion, the amount is expected to be less than $1 billion this year, lowest since 2007. The logic is there – funding someone who continues to undercut your prerogatives isn’t good business, especially since there are so many other global priorities. But the question is, with US cooling its alliance & financial support, who will fill in? Allies, adversaries or an internal crisis? I understand the frustration of peacemaking all too well – but the price of walking away is far too high.

- #GoodStoryFriday USA: President Obama used his executive action power under the Antiquities Act once again & quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea marine national monument to 582,578 square miles (double the size of Texas). This important conservation move will protect over 7,000 marine species, many of which are critically endangered, allow nature to regenerate & replenish & help fight climate change. The area is of interest to the mining industries for its deposits of nickel, zinc & titanium but tough on them- conservation, environmental protection & the fight against climate change to save the world for next generations take precedent here. Thank you.

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