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March 24, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Trump Reverses Obama on Pipeline Approval

The U.S. State Department granted a presidential permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will link Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries (Globe and Mail) and has been the object of protests from environmentalists. The pipeline had been blocked by former U.S. President Barack Obama (NYT), who said it would undercut the United States' global leadership in cutting back carbon pollution. Pipeline company TransCanada announced that in response to the approval, it would drop a $15 billion claim (NPR) it filed under the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, previously the chief executive of oil giant Exxon Mobil, formally recused himself from the State Department's decision to approve the pipeline.


"With oil now around $45 a barrel, many oil sands projects have become unprofitable and several large oil companies have turned away from the sector. The sharp decline in oil prices has led several observers (including the EPA in 2015) to question the State Department's controversial conclusion, and whether it is now more likely that the pipeline would significantly increase emissions of greenhouse gases," Marianne Lavelle writes for InsideClimate News.

"Many environmentalists argue that pipelines such as Keystone only encourage the further extraction and use of fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming. Regardless of whether this will prove to be true, the reality is that there aren’t enough sources of clean energy to meet the world’s needs. And to protect against price shocks, it is preferable for the U.S. to get its oil from domestic sources or from friendly neighbors like Canada," writes Bloomberg View.

"Keystone XL is an issue on which Canadians are deeply conflicted. This is a country where even minor pipeline leaks generate alarmist headlines—especially in British Columbia, where the upcoming provincial election could be defined by the aforementioned Kinder Morgan expansion. (Critics of the project warn that it would mean an average of more than one extra oil tanker per day bringing toxic cargo through the waters of Burrard Inlet.)," Jonathan Kay writes for Foreign Affairs.

Listen to the 'President's Inbox'

Listen to the 'President's Inbox'

Todd Harrison, director of Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins CFR's James M. Lindsay and Robert McMahon in examining President Donald J. Trump's budget blueprint.



Taiwan to Rule on Gay Marriage Case

Taiwan's top court is hearing a landmark same-sex marriage case that could make the island the first place in Asia (BBC) to introduce gay marriage. The court said it will issue its ruling within a month (Taiwan News).

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the state of same-sex marriage across the world.

JAPAN: Japan is launching a drive to attract and retain populations on 148 remote islands (FT) it has claimed by subsidizing transportation and employment, building new government facilities, and preventing visits by foreign vessels.

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker follows the dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.


Chinese Troops March in Pakistani Parade

Chinese troops marched with their Pakistani, Saudi, and Turkish counterparts in Islamabad (FT) on Republic Day in what was hailed as a first (VOA) by Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain. The parade included two nuclear-capable missiles that are believed to be able to reach India.

INDIA: Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said that the United States has given her a list of 271 Indian nationals (WaPo) residing illegally in the country, which she said India has "not accepted" (India TV). Swaraj added that India will only issue deportation certificates when the United States offers more details on the individuals. 


Senate Approves Trump’s Israeli Ambassador

The U.S. Senate voted 52-46 to approve David Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer for President Donald J. Trump and a supporter of Jewish West Bank settlements (BBC), as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Also in Israel, an American-Israeli teenager was arrested for making bomb threats to Jewish community centers (Haaretz) in the United States and abroad.

EGYPT: Former President Hosni Mubarak, 88, was freed from a military hospital (NYT) where he had been detained for six years following his ouster during the 2011 Arab Spring protests. He was acquitted on charges of conspiring to kill demonstrators (Guardian) during the uprising. 


ICC Expected to Order First Monetary Award

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to award a $16.3 million judgement to victims of a 2003 village massacre (Al Jazeera) carried out by former warlord Germain Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If Katanga cannot pay the full judgement, the court may use funds from an ICC-ordained trust fund.

NIGER: A new heat-proof vaccine for the rotavirus (Reuters), which kills an estimated 1,300 children a day, is being hailed by public health organizations as a game changer for sub-Saharan Africa following a successful trial in Niger. Existing vaccines need to be refrigerated at all times.


France’s Le Pen Visits Russia

French Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen began a visit to Moscow (Reuters) at the invitation of Russia’s head of the lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee. It is unclear if she will meet President Vladimir Putin.

This CFR Backgrounder lays out what's at stake in the upcoming French presidential election.

UKRAINE: Former Russian MP and critic of Putin (Guardian) Denis Voronenkov was shot dead outside a hotel in Kiev. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the killing an "act of state terrorism by Russia" (WaPo).

CFR's President Richard N. Haass discusses what the Trump administration should do about Russia in Time.


Former Argentine President Faces Trial

A judge has ordered former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to stand trial on charges that she participated in a plan to defraud the government of more than $3 billion (NYT) through a scheme to sell the central bank's dollar futures at a below-market rate. The judge said the move was intended to boost the peso before the 2015 presidential election.