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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Putin Makes a Plea for Dialogue in NYT Op-Ed

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed published by the New York Times on Thursday warning that a military attack by the US against Syria could “increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism”, as well as “undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa”. Entitled “A Plea for Caution from Russia”, the article also questions past US decisions to take military action alone, without approval from the United Nations. “Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us’”, wrote Putin. Finally, Putin writes that his government is “not protecting the Syrian government, but international law”, adding that “under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression”.

UK Government Announces Plans to Privatise Royal Mail

The UK government has announced plans to float the Royal Mail on the stock exchange, with the sale expected to take place in November. Employees will be given 10 percent of shares, with the rest offered to investors. The government plans to sell at least 41 percent of the service, which means that it will no longer own the majority of the Royal Mail after the 10 percent share offer to current employees is added to the figure. “HM Government is taking action to secure a healthy future for the company. These measures will help ensure the long term sustainability of the six days a week, one-price-goes-anywhere universal postal service”, said Business Secretary Vince Cable. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna countered that “ministers are pushing ahead with this politically-motivated fire sale of Royal Mail to fill the hole left by George Osborne’s failed plan. The government has not addressed the huge concerns which remain on the impact the Royal Mail sale will have on consumers, businesses and communities”.

Satellite Imagery Suggests N.Korea’s Nuclear Reactor Has Been Restarted

Experts from the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies have stated that an August 31 satellite image showing steam rising from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear plant suggests that the reactor has been restarted. “The white coloration and volume are consistent with steam being vented because the electrical generating system is about to come online, indicating that the reactor is in or nearing operation”, said a statement from the institute. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said it could not confirm the resumption of operations at Yongbyon. “These reports, I believe, are unconfirmed. What I can’t do is comment on intelligence matters. If it turns out these reports are true, it would be a very serious matter. It would violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions”, said Glyn Davies, a Special Representative for North Korea at IAEA. James Acton, an analyst for the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that “restarting it is another slap in the face to the international community, indicating that North Korea has no intention whatsoever of abandoning its nuclear weapons”.

Monkey Equivalent of HIV Cleared by Vaccine

A vaccine designed to combat SIV, the simian equivalent of HIV, could pave the way for a vaccine for humans after clearing the virus completely from infected monkeys. While both viruses could already be controlled by antiretroviral therapies, it was not thought they could be completely eradicated. A team of researchers from the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health and Science University said that the test subjects were clear for up to three years after being inoculated, but they could not explain why the vaccine worked on only nine monkeys. “It’s always tough to claim eradication – there could always be a cell which we didn’t analyse that has the virus in it. But for the most part, with very stringent criteria… there was no virus left in the body of these monkeys”, said Prof Louis Picker. Clinical trials on humans could begin within two years if the team receives approval from regulatory bodies, he added.

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