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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Morsi Not Seeking Water War with Ethiopia

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi stated yesterday that his country does not want war with Ethiopia, but must keep “all options open.” Ethiopia began construction on the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile near the Sudanese border two years ago, but started a significant river diversion late last month. Ethiopian authorities have suggested the hydro-electric dam will not reduce the long-term flow of the Blue Nile once the dam’s reservoir is filled. But while funneling water through such dams, several of which already exist in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, shouldn’t diminish the flow rate significantly, the filling of the reservoir behind any new dam means cutting the river’s flow for at least some time. Morsi took to the television yesterday to reinforce the understanding that Egypt would not accept any reduction in the Nile’s flow. “Egypt’s water security cannot be violated in any way,” Morsi said. “We are not calling for war, but we will never permit our water security … to be threatened.” There were just under 2,000 so called water conflicts in the last half of the 20th century; recalling a song about the Nile, the Egyptian President said, “if it diminishes by one drop then our blood is the alternative.”

Somali Pirates Convicted In Kenya

A Kenyan Court has sentenced nine Somali nationals to prison for piracy. They were found guilty of violently hijacking the MV Magellan Star, in the Gulf of Aden nearly three years ago. According to the affidavit, the Somalis “hijacked the vessel, using violence against its crew by firing at them, and took control of the … vessel, thus endangering the lives of the crew.” They were arrested by an International anti-piracy force, and turned over to Kenya to be prosecuted, as Somalia’s nominal government has shown that it is largely incapable of properly prosecuting pirates. Judge Richard Odenyo said in his ruling, that while “such charges would ordinarily attract a jail term of up to 20 years” he would take note of the fact that the prisoners had already served three years in prison. Odenyo gave the men five years each; a lawyer representing the pirates said the sentence was “fairly reasonable”. According to the World Bank, while piracy in the Gulf of Aden has fallen off since its peak in 2011, Somali pirates may still cost the world economy about $18 billion a year.

U.S. Government Moves to Protect Chimpanzees

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed classifying both wild and captive chimpanzees as endangered. The move aims to protect the animals and increase oversight in their use as test subjects in research. Currently only wild chimps are classified as endangered. Dr. John J. Pippin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine welcomes the reclassification, saying “Full protection under the Endangered Species Act is long overdue for chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. The new status is a tremendous change that ends the completely unprotected current status of captive chimpanzees.” If the proposal is finalized, biomedical research on chimpanzees would only receive permission if the research served “the propagation or survival of the affected species, including habitat restoration and research on chimpanzees in the wild that contributes to improved management and recovery.” The Fish and Wildlife Service noted that while there a small amount of medical research on chimps continues, “there is a decreasing scientific need for chimpanzee studies, due to the emergence of non-chimpanzee models and technologies.” Dr. Pippin agrees, “Chimpanzees have repeatedly proven to be poor models for many areas of human disease research, such as HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases, neuroscience research, and cancer.”

China Sends Three to Chinese Space Lab

Earlier today, China launched a Long March 2F rocket carrying three taikonauts into space. Commander Nie Haisheng, and crew mates, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, plan to spend just under two weeks at the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab. This mission, designated Shenzhou-10, is the fifth and longest manned venture by China into space, and is the latest step in China’s plan to put a permanently manned station above the Earth. The Tiangong-1 space lab, launched in 2011, is an experimental proof of concept; its mission is to test rendezvous and docking technologies. Shenzhou-9, which carried the first female taikonaut, docked with Tiangong-1 for 10 days last summer. China National Space Administration (CNSA) hopes to have its own fully operational space station by 2020. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the Shenzhou-10 team and reportedly told them, “I wish you success and look forward to your triumphant return.” Shenzhou-10 is expected to be the last mission to Tiangong-1. Later this year, CNSA hopes to launch its first lunar rover, Chang’e 3. If successful, Chang’e will be the first spacecraft to touch down on the Moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976.

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