No one knows how to help Syria — except by pledging lots of money

GlobalPost
Syrian children carry book bags that they received as aid inside their classroom in Ras al-Ain, Feb. 1, 2016.
Rodi Said

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NEED TO KNOW:

No one can agree on how to get peace in Syria, as evidenced by the suspension of the latest peace talks, put on hold after two days and no results. But at least the world seems able to settle on one thing: Syrians need money. A lot of money.

Envoys from 60 countries are meeting in London today to thrash out an emergency aid plan for refugees fleeing Syria’s war. The goal is to raise $9 billion to fund not only food and shelter, but long-term projects like educating Syria’s generation of displaced children. Before the conflict, virtually all Syrian boys and girls attended school; now, only 50 percent do. One of the war’s most devastating casualties is millions of young minds. 

The pledges made at today’s conference can go some way to fixing that. But those collecting the funds should make sure they get more than IOUs: of the $2.9 billion promised to the UN’s Syria appeal in 2015, less than half has yet to be handed over.

WANT TO KNOW:

A modest proposal: Put babies in offshore prisons, and save lives

No really, hear us out. It makes all the sense in the world. You only send the migrant babies, see. Ok, so they were actually born in your own country, but their parents were migrants. And they had made it here over miles and miles of open sea, usually on such dodgy boats that you can barely believe they survived. Some of them were so desperate to get this far that they paid extortionate sums to people who promised they’d help them across, only to set them adrift on something that scarcely floats. 

That’s clearly unacceptable. Someone has to be punished. And the babies are really the obvious choice. Because … er … because it all comes down to deterrence, really, and … um, can anyone actually explain why the babies have to go to prison? 

That’s the question Australia must answer after its highest court ruled that the government’s policy of holding asylum seekers in offshore detention centers was legal. The decision means that more than 250 people currently in Australia — including 72 children, 37 of them babies born on Australian soil — can be deported as early as this weekend. They face internment in camps on the Pacific island of Nauru, where detainees have reported rapes, child abuse, torture and murder, and where UN investigators said that conditions were “inhuman.” 

“The line has to be drawn somewhere,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who argues that the policy has prevented deaths at sea. Don’t draw it there, responded the thousands of Australians who turned out today to protest the ruling. Not there. Sit-ins continued into the evening, while churches and community centers have offered sanctuary to refugees at risk of deportation. Check out the hashtag #LetThemStay to see why.

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

They paved paradise and put up … a ski slope. And not just any ski slope — an Olympic one.

You can add South Korea to the list of nations that have cheerfully bulldozed woods, wetlands and people’s homes for the sake of international sport. On a mountain formerly reserved for the private use of Korea’s last royal dynasty, the country has cleared tens of thousands of trees to build the runs that will test the world’s finest skiers in the 2018 Winter Games. 

Despite the pleas of conservationists, the ancient forest of Mount Gariwang has already lost nearly 60,000 trees, some of them more than 500 years old. Olympics organizers say they hope to return around 1,000 of them after the athletes have been and gone. 

Just like the song goes: They took all the trees, and put them in a tree museum.