WHILE YOU SLEPT

Bloomberg’s Out, Promising Migrant Deal, Trump’s Alter Egos

Bloomberg’s Out, Promising Migrant Deal, Trump’s Alter Egos

“BREAKTHROUGH” MIGRANT DEAL

European leaders and Turkish officials have reached an agreement in principle that German Chancellor Angela Merkel described as a “breakthrough if it becomes reality.” The deal, whose final details still need to be settled, would see Turkey take back migrants who have traveled from Turkey to Greece but don’t meet criteria for asylum in Europe. In exchange, EU countries would resettle Syrians in Turkey, who clearly do meet asylum criteria, on a “one-for-one” basis. According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, such a move would “break the business model of smugglers exploiting human misery and make clear that the only viable way to come to Europe is through legal channels.” EU President Donald Tusk also hailed the decision, saying it sends “a very clear message that the days of irregular migration to the European Union are over.”

  • But the Financial Times notes that this “most ambitious” solution could prove to be “politically explosive.” Under the agreement, Turkey would also get an extra $3.3 billion from Europe to support Syrian refugees in Turkey, double the amount it asked for and obtained a few months ago. Turkish citizens would also benefit from visa liberalization, allowing them free access to Europe’s Schengen zone, something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to “prize … perhaps more than anything else in the package.” The newspaper also points to “big legal doubts” over the return of migrants to Turkey, which is not a party to the Geneva Convention and suggests the scale of the operation would lead to “very ugly scenes.”

JIHADISTS, SYRIAN ARMY BATTLE OUTSIDE ALEPPO

Syrian government troops have regained control today over a set of strategic hilltops that had been seized yesterday by jihadists south of Aleppo, Reuters reports. Terror groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front are excluded from a fragile ceasefire that started more than a week ago. Meanwhile, the YPG Kurdish militia, backed by the U.S. and Russia, said that Turkey was firing artillery at its fighters in the northern Aleppo province, where they also came under Turkish attack a month ago.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

A woman’s movement challenging a centuries-old practice of denying women entry into the most sacred areas of worship in Hindu temples and Muslim shrines is generating a heated debate across India, Bismillah Geelani reports for PortalKBR. “The movement of women demanding access to worship sites gained momentum after an announcement at the Sabrimala Temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A centuries-old tradition there allows only women who have reached menopause or girls who have yet to reach puberty to go inside the temple. To enforce the rule and to essentially ensure that women who menstruate never darken the temple door, authorities wanted to install a machine at the gate to scan women devotees. The plan drew outcry, inspiring an online women’s campaign called ‘Happy to Bleed.’”

Read the full article, Barred From Worship Sites, Indian Women Fight Back.


S. KOREA UNVEILS N. KOREA SANCTIONS

South Korea’s government unveiled measures to blacklist 38 North Korean officials and 30 organizations, following in the UN’s footsteps to punish Pyongyang, Yonhap reports. The move comes one day after South Korea and the United States began their biggest joint military drill to date, prompting threats from North Korea of a nuclear attack. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said yesterday that Washington was taking ese threats seriously and called on Pyongyang “to cease with the provocative rhetoric, cease with the threats and quite frankly, more critically, cease with the provocative behavior.”


VERBATIM

Photo: Sydney Low/CSM/ZUMA

“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” Russian tennis champion Maria Sharapova told a press conference in Los Angeles yesterday. The 28-year-old revealed she had tested positive after an Australian Open match for meldonium, a recently banned drug she said she’d been “legally” taking for 10 years. An investigation is ongoing, and Sharapova potentially faces a ban. “I know many of you thought that I would be retiring today, but if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet,” she told reporters.


INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Learn about the origins of International Women’s Day in your 57-second shot of history. We’ve also found three German-language front pages devoted to the celebration for our regular Extra! feature.

BLOOMBERG WON’T RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced he won’t launch an independent bid for president. In a piece published on his news website, Bloomberg explains that a three-way race would split the vote and leave the decision in the hands of Congress. “As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience,” the media tycoon wrote. Bloomberg’s announcement comes ahead of another crucial round of presidential primaries today. To get yourself in the mood, watch this exclusive Worldcrunch video about Trump’s alter egos around the world.


3,000

A French cleric’s detective work helped the police catch an 80-year-old anticlerical revolutionary and his 60-year-old female neighbor after the pair stole more than 3,000 church artifacts. “At the home of the octogenarian, the toilets were absolutely full of crucifixes,” priest Ludovic Serre told reporters. “There wasn’t so much as a square centimeter of space.” Read more from The Local.


LAST PUSH FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE

The Obama administration is working on plans to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations before the president’s term ends, The Wall Street Journal reports. The White House is considering a UN Security Council resolution that would set the principles for a permanent agreement between the two sides. “Over the next 10 months, President Obama could be the savior of the two-state solution or bury it,” the newspaper quotes a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as saying. Any such move could further increase tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama. Late yesterday, Netanyahu canceled a planned visit to Washington after he was invited to meet with the U.S. president.


AL-SHABAAB CONFIRMS U.S. AIRSTRIKES

Somali-based jihadist group Al-Shabaab confirmed its fighters had been targeted by a series of U.S. airstrikes but ridiculed Pentagon claims that 150 of its members had been killed. “The Americans are dreaming,” a spokesman for the terror group told Al Jazeera. “We never gather that many of our fighters in one place.” The U.S. airstrikes were conducted Saturday, but the Pentagon only communicated about them yesterday.


MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD



IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL NOISE POLLUTION?

AC/DC is postponing the rest of its U.S. tour after doctors told singer Brian Johnson that he risks “total hearing loss” if he continues to perform, a statement on the band’s website reads. The remaining shows are likely to be performed later this year with a guest vocalist.

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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