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September 1, 2015

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Obama Presses for Climate Action in Alaska

U.S. President Barack Obama appealed (NYT) to world leaders to reach a global agreement on climate change at a UN summit later this year to protect the planet "while we still can." Speaking at a conference of Arctic nations in Alaska, Obama pushed for U.S. leadership (WSJ) to help fight climate change. The Obama administration also recently approved a permit for Royal Dutch Shell to conduct oil exploration in the Arctic, drawing criticism from environmentalists. Meanwhile, UN climate negotiations resumed (AP) in Bonn, Germany, on Monday, ahead of the Paris summit in December. 

ANALYSIS

"But despite the geological props—what the president called 'the God-given majesty of this place'—Alaska may not be the perfect setting for Obama’s message. The state also perfectly reflects the cacophony of disputes over rival claims to international sea borders, how best to tap the Arctic's resources and how to handle growing traffic along northern shipping routes. Those huge financial and economic stakes complicate the president's arguments about the urgency of combating climate change," write Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post.

"Yet even Obama, who has elevated global warming as a rallying point in his second term, has a complicated record on energy that has muddied his clarion call on climate. The president has struggled to explain how his dire warnings square with steps he's taken to expand energy production, even at the risk of higher emissions. Environmental groups took particular offense at the administration's move to allow expanded drilling by Royal Dutch Shell off Alaska's northwest coast—just a few weeks before Obama came to Alaska to preach on climate change," writes Josh Lederman in the Associate Press.

"What kind of frontier the Arctic will be—an ecological preserve or an economic engine, an area of international cooperation or confrontation — is now the question at the center of the unfolding geopolitical competition. An increasing divergence over the answer has deeply divided the United States and its allies on one side and Russia on the other," writes Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times

PACIFIC RIM

Chinese Industrial Index Heightens Fears of Slowdown

China's official factory gauge shrank (FT) to 49.7 last month from 50 in July, reflecting the fastest contraction rate for the country's manufacturing sector in three years.

Experts discuss the health of the Chinese economy and what it means for the global economy in this CFR Media Call.

THAILAND: Thailand arrested (Al Jazeera) the main suspect in last month's deadly bombing in Bangkok, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday. This follows the arrest of another suspect on Saturday. At least twenty people were killed in the explosion near the Erawan shrine, a tourist destination.        

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Ghani Presses for National Action on Afghan Corruption

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for a "holy war" (TOLO) against corruption, which he described as a "cancerous lesion" that threatens the future of the country. The NGO Transparency International identifies Afghanistan as one of the world's most corrupt (RFE/RL) states.

PAKISTAN: The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack (AFP) in tribal areas near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on Tuesday. The attack killed at least six people and injured more than thirty others.

This CFR InfoGuide explores the evolution of the Taliban on both sides of the border. 

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Lebanese Protesters Stage Ministry Sit-In

Lebanese protesters on Tuesday occupied (AP) the Environment Ministry in Beirut, demanding the minister step down over the country's deepening trash crisis. Parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri called for a dialogue session on September 9 to address mounting antigovernment protests, gaining the backing of major political leaders but drawing skepticism from protest leaders (Daily Star).

YEMEN: Unidentified gunmen shot and killed (Reuters) on Monday two leaders of a militia loyal to the exiled Yemeni government that had taken control of the southern port city of Aden from Houthi rebels. 

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Al-Shabab Raids AU Base in Somalia

Suspected al-Shabab militants on Monday stormed (BBC) an African Union military base south of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, witnesses said. The al-Qaeda affiliate claimed to have killed seventy AU troops in the attack, while the AU denied it lost control of the base.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the emergence of al-Shabab.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The CAR's transitional council on Monday adopted (Reuters) a new constitution. The draft constitution will face a referendum on October 5.   

EUROPE

Migrants Arrive in Europe By Train

A daily record of 3,650 migrants arrived (Local) in Vienna on Monday, Austrian authorities said. Many had arrived by train from Hungary, where authorities barred (Guardian) asylum-seekers from entering the Budapest train station amid pressure from other EU countries. Separately, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday that more than 350,000 migrants have crossed (AFP) the Mediterranean this year.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the roots and implications of Europe's migration crisis.

UKRAINE: The death toll (AP) from protests in Kiev rose to three on Tuesday after two guards died from their injuries in a grenade explosion, officials said. About 140 people, primarily law enforcement personnel, were hospitalized following the clashes, according to the Interior Ministry.

AMERICAS

SCOTUS Rejects Legal Challenge to Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected (WaPo) a Kentucky county clerk's request to be excused from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, its first move on a series of legal skirmishes that have broken out since the court ruled in June that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

This CFR Interactive maps advances of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights and recognitions worldwide.