The World Today for March 28, 2018



Running on Empty

Day Zero – the moment when water supplies in Cape Town, South Africa, are scheduled to run dry – has been postponed until 2019.

Previously, city officials thought the city’s reservoir would tap out around April 21.

City residents have been living on 13 gallons of water a day, queuing up for rations or at natural springs, using buckets to catch excess water in the shower and taking other drastic measures to cut consumption as much as possible.

Even so, the city’s poorest residents have complained that they have been living with such privations for years, said Crux.

Still, as CNN reported, the postponement doesn’t mean Cape Town is out of the woods. The Theewaterskloof dam, which supplies half the city’s water, is at 15-percent capacity amid a terrible drought. It was full five years ago.

The 13-gallon rule is still in effect.

There’s another reason Capetonians need to stick with the program. The decision to move Day Zero into next year might not have been directly related to water supplies. Money might have been the major factor. Crises, after all, are bad for business.

“It appears that the decision was political, designed to limit the negative impact on tourism and investment in the city,” wrote South African media outlet news24 in an analysis.

That’s one reason why the world has been watching Cape Town closely.

Researchers at the University of Arizona studied whether Phoenix might someday hit Day Zero. They concluded that Cape Town’s reliance on surface water was its vulnerability. No rain, no water. But Arizona has a more diversified water portfolio, they argued.

Some disagreed. Calling Phoenix the “least sustainable” city in the world, the Guardian wondered whether the American city’s days were numbered, given how the Colorado River is drying up.

“The Phoenix metro area is on the cusp of being dangerously overextended,” climate researcher Jonathan Overpeck told the British newspaper. “It’s the urban bull’s-eye for global warming in North America.”

But money might ride to the rescue.

Bloomberg estimated that world will need around $1 trillion in water infrastructure in the coming years. That’s an opportunity, but regulators will need to uncouple water consumption from revenue, the business news service noted. Companies that promote conservation need to be rewarded, after all.

The answer to the water question has yet to be found. But for a look at the results of running dry, check out the situation in Calvinia in the northern Cape and Beaufort West, where conservation is extreme, water theft keeps cops busy and people stand on the highway begging – for water.



Pulling Out the Stops

Other countries may oppose the move, but Israel has fast-tracked construction permits to allow the temporary quarters for the US embassy to open in Jerusalem as scheduled in May.

While constructing a permanent embassy could take as long as seven years, Israel has said the temporary digs will open May 14, Reuters reported. The site presently houses a US consular section.

To make that possible, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in a statement that he would empower the Jerusalem municipality to waive the permits that would have been required for a wall and an escape route at the interim location.

“We will not allow needless bureaucracy to hold up the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

A US embassy official in Tel Aviv said initially the facility would contain office space for the Ambassador and a small staff, but by the end of next year the compound should have an additional annex offering more space.


Rejecting Aspersions

Pakistan defended its track record on nuclear safety, after the US added seven Pakistani companies to the so-called “Entity List” for being involved in “proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities” or helping other Pakistani companies already on the list.

“We reject attempts by Pakistan’s detractors to exploit these listings to cast aspersions on Pakistan’s non-proliferation credentials,” Reuters cited a Pakistani foreign office statement as saying in response to the March 22 move by the US Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce.

“Pakistan’s efforts in the area of export controls and non-proliferation as well as nuclear safety and security are well known,” the statement said.

Pakistani officials have previously been accused of aiding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, while the Pakistani scientist credited with developing its atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was in 2008 accused of providing plans for nuclear weapons to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The US move will likely make it even more difficult for Pakistan to realize its dreams of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group – the global nonproliferation body that controls the trade in materials needed for nuclear weapons development.


Air Support

Mexico’s navy said the civilians killed during a battle between marines and gunmen believed to be associated with drug gangs prevalent in Nuevo Laredo were not hit by fire from a helicopter called in to provide air support for the soldiers.

The navy said in a statement that the bystanders were hit from the ground — not the air — and their wounds were caused by a type of bullet not used by the helicopter crew, the Associated Press reported.

Located across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, Nuevo Laredo has seen high levels of drug-related violence in recent years, the agency said.

The Tamaulipas state government did not respond to requests for information on the civilians killed. However, the agency said that a marine and four suspected gunmen were killed in the battle, and 12 marines were wounded.

Earlier, Mexican media reported that three members of a family caught in the crossfire had been killed when the marines were ambushed during an operation to arrest Juan Gerardo Treviño Chávez, allegedly a regional leader of a gang connected to the Zetas criminal organization.


The Oddest Duck

One of the oddest creatures in a country known for them, the duck-billed platypus reigns at the top of Australia’s odd-duck list for its appearance and its ability to lay eggs in spite of being a semi-aquatic mammal.

It gets better.

A new analysis of this monotreme’s milk shows that platypus milk has a peculiar chemical structure that can be harnessed in the fight against particularly nasty diseases, the Guardian reported.

Nicknamed the Shirley Temple protein due to its ringlet formation, the protein found in platypus milk has a three-dimensional fold unique among the world’s some 100,000 known protein structures.

“This special component has antibacterial properties against some of the nastier bugs you find in the environment but not against some bacteria found in the guts of the young,” said Janet Newman, a scientist with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and the lead researcher on the study.

The milk’s antibacterial properties likely developed because the platypus lacks teats, which serve as a sterile delivery system in other mammals. Instead, the platypus expresses milk through the skin on its belly to feed its brood.

Harnessing the structure of the milk’s protein, Newman hopes that scientists will eventually be able to develop more effective means of dealing with microbial infections as opposed to using more common antibiotics.

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