HARD NUMBERS

130,000: North Korea maintains a Gulag-style network of political prisons, which currently hold as many as 130,000 inmates. Many of those incarcerated are not only people accused of political wrongdoing but their family members as well. Trump just sat down with one of the most ruthless and brutal leaders on earth.


68: Can we be friends after all? A small study commissioned by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that 68 percent of North Korean respondents within the country did not see the United States as an enemy. Striking, despite the fact that reliable and candid polling is difficult within a totalitarian system.

48: While US Republicans picked North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as the most threatening world leader, Donald Trump topped that list for Democrats, with 48 percent signaling out their own president for that unenviable title, according to a recent poll. ​

2–3–12: North Korea has the world’s second largest economy (China) on its northern border, the third largest across the sea (Japan), and the 12th largest to the south (South Korea). Should Kim pursue an economic opening as part of a deal to draw down his nuclear program, there’s no shortage of economic opportunities right on his doorstep(s.) ​

7: After US President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972, it still took seven years for the US to normalize relations with Beijing. A reminder that even the most momentous diplomatic breakthroughs are rarely achieved in one summit (or even one administration) alone.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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