China about to get bigger

Tajikistan has agreed to give up a chunk of its territory to neighboring China:

Parliament voted Wednesday in favor of giving up around 1,000 square kilometers of land in the Central Asian nation's sparsely populated Pamir Mountains region. There was no immediate information on how many people live in the territory to be ceded.

Opposition leader Mukhiddin Kabiri said the land transfer is unconstitutional and represents a defeat for Tajik diplomacy. But Foreign Minister Khamrokon Zarifi portrayed it as a victory, saying China had initially claimed more than 11,000 square miles (28,000 square kilometers).

The dispute dates to the 19th Century, when Tajikistan was part of Czarist Russia.

It seems a little bit petty of China to be engaging in a land dispute with a country that could fit inside it 67 times, but every little bit helps I suppose. The Pamirs are in quite an interesting spot geopolitically, running from eastern Afghanistan and straddling the Tajikistan-Pakistan border all the way to China. 

This has been a week of expansionism for China, which was accused by India of sending troops into a disputed region of Kashmir earlier this week, although Beijing denies it


Israeli vulture cleared of spying charges

R65 -- the Griffon vulture arrested last week on suspicion of spying for Israel because of the Hebrew lettering on its GPS tag -- will soon be released according to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Saud al-Saud: 

"These systems are fitted to birds and animals, including marine animals. Most countries use these system, including Saudi Arabia," Saud told Saudi media on Sunday, according to Emirates 24/7. "We have taken delivery of this bird, but we will set it free again after we [have] verified its systems."

Saud insisted he wasn't defending Israel, but called for calm.

"Some of the Saudi journalists rushed in carrying the news of this bird for the sake of getting a scoop without checking the information," he said. "They should have asked the competent authorities about the bird before publishing such news."

This is certainly good news. No innocent bird -- even a vulture -- deserves to be held on trumped up charges. I also hope that R65's colleague, reportedly still circling around Saudi Arabia, will stay safe.

Though given the political realities of today's Middle East, Tel Aviv University might want to consider slightly more innocuous tags for future research subjects. Unlike Israeli gerbils, Israeli vultures do not recognize natural boundaries.