By: Mark Leon Goldberg on July 12, 2012 Top stories from DAWNS Digest. Syria’s Ambassador to Iraq Defects This is second prominent defection in less than a week. If these defections keep up, it could tilt the diplomatic balance as Russia might finally start hedging its bets and withdraw its firm support for Assad. “Nawaf Al-Fares is the highest-ranking diplomat so far to leave the regime. He also announced his defection from the ruling Baath party, becoming the most senior member to leave. ‘To my brothers in the military, your military doctrine is to defend the homeland against external aggression and protect its borders,’ al-Fares said in a video statement given to the TV network Al Jazeera Arabic. It was unclear when the video was shot. ‘So did your fathers, sons and sisters become the enemies now? And are they the ones who you should fight? Is that what you have learned in your military schools?’ Al-Fares said he was joining the revolution, and called the government “malicious” and “the killer of the people.” (CNN http://bit.ly/NjG7yD) Big Commitments from the London Summit on Family Planning When the Gates Foundation marshalls its considerable clout (financial and otherwise) towards a specific goal, it tends to reorient an entire class of NGOs and Government agencies towards implementing solutions toward that goal. At the Gates Foundation-sponsored London Conference on Family Planning, the Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates in particular, very publicly demonstrated a newfound commitment to promoting access to modern contraception in the developing world and reducing maternal mortality. Expect government agencies and NGOs around the world to follow Gates’ lead (and money) toward promoting family planning. In all, 120 million women in poor countries will be able to gain access to modern contraception by 2020 because of the $2.6 billion pledged at this conference. (A list [pdf] of the specific commitments made at the London conference. http://bit.ly/P1fH51) and a summary of the day’s events (Guardian http://bit.ly/NM96c7) *DAWNS Digest is a daily email-based news clips service for people interested in aid, human rights, and humanitarian news from the developing world. If that describes you, sign up for a month trial.