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Brussels Police Conduct Raids, French PM Warns Of Chemical Attack

Brussels Police Conduct Raids, French PM Warns Of Chemical Attack

BELGIAN POLICE RAIDS IN BRUSSELS

Belgian police conducted a series of raids in Brussels today to find information related to one of the Paris suicide bombers and also arrested someone during a separate house search, Reuters reports.

  • Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, two of the suspected terrorists involved in Friday’s attacks that killed at least 129 in Paris, were not among the seven people arrested during a raid by French police in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis early Wednesday, Le Parisien reports. But forensic teams are trying to determine whether one of the two people killed during the raid was Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The Washington Post quotes unnamed European officials as saying that he was.

    Photo: Thierry Mahe/Xinhua via ZUMA

  • The other person killed was a woman believed to have detonated a suicide belt. According to the Belgian website La Dernière Heure, the woman was Hasna Aitboulahcen, Abaaoud’s cousin.

FRENCH PM WARNS OF POSSIBLE CHEMICAL ATTACK

ISIS could attempt chemical attacks in France and other European countries, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned parliament Wednesday, according to Le Figaro. “We must not rule anything out,” he said. “I say it with all the precautions needed. But we know and bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or bacteriological weapons.” Earlier this week, the French government authorized the country’s hospitals to be equipped with atropine sulfate, the only antidote available to certain toxic gas attacks.

  • The Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of French parliament, will vote today on a three-month extension to the state of emergency President François Hollande declared Friday. The upper house of the parliament will then vote on it tomorrow, Le Point reports.
  • Lyon’s annual Fete des Lumieres (Festival of Lights), which normally takes place in early December and attracts millions of visitors, has been cancelled and replaced with a tribute to victims of the Paris attacks, Le Monde reports.

VERBATIM

“Roosevelt didn’t like Stalin, but he had to get a deal with him in order to defeat the Nazis, who were the greater evil,” The Washington Post quoted Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo as saying yesterday. He was suggesting that the West would have to work alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the “lesser evil,” to defeat ISIS. Friday’s attacks in Paris could prompt Western countries to reevaluate their positions on the Syrian president, who, for countries like France, is now relegated to a position of secondary importance, behind the Islamist terror group.


NEW NIGERIA BOMBINGS KILL 15

At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when two young female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a market in the northern Nigerian city of Kano yesterday afternoon, Jeune Afrique reports. This comes just a day after a blast killed at least 32 people and wounded 80 in the northern city of Yola. While it has not yet claimed the attacks, the Islamist group Boko Haram is believed responsible.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Dismissed and wooed as so-called millennials, a young French generation represented both the victims and perpetrators of the Paris attack, Worldcrunch’s Bertrand Hauger writes. “It was already hard enough to think that drawing could get you killed, but it was the liberté d'expression that was in the crosshairs then, not the liberté d'existence,” Hauger writes. “As it turns out, no one I knew directly was harmed Friday. My little universe was left completely untouched, which is something of a miracle, considering the music I listen to, the streets I roam, or the mere fact that I’m 28. That is the same age as some of the victims, capable of the best; the same age as one of the perpetrators, guilty of the worst. The future of France.”

Read the full article, They Call Us "Generation Bataclan" â€" A Young French Reflection.


DESPITE ISIS WARNING, NO ‘CREDIBLE THREAT’ TO NY

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said today there was “no credible and specific threat” against America’s most populous city, despite an ISIS video last night threatening similar attacks there to those in Paris. “We understand it is the goal of terrorists to intimidate and disrupt our democratic society,” Voice of America quoted de Blasio as saying. “We will not submit to their wishes.” The video, which Police Commissioner William Bratton described during a press conference as “hastily produced,” shows what appears to be a suicide jacket in preparation.


TRACKING DOWN KALASHNIKOVS

The firepower displayed in Friday’s Paris attacks, including multiple explosive devices and at least five Kalashnikovs, naturally raises the question of where the terrorists are getting the weapons. “Balkan basements,” according to Croatian news website Net.Hr.

Read more about it on Le Blog.


TURKEY DETAINS 8 ‘TERROR SUSPECTS’

Turkish border police arrested eight Moroccan men suspected of links with ISIS at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport today, the daily Hürriyet reports. Described as “terror suspects,” the men were on their way to Germany through Greece, according to documents found on them. Authorities say they were detained after being interviewed by criminal profilers. “Today’s successful identification of Moroccan terror suspects attests to the fact that the most effective means to fight terrorism is for source countries to share intelligence with Syria’s neighbors,” a senior Turkish official told Al Jazeera.


ON THIS DAY


Believe it or not, the Gettysburg Address and Milli Vanilli do have something in common. Check out today’s shot of history.


CHINESE FORCES KILL 17 IN XINJIANG

Chinese forces have killed 17 people suspected of carrying out an attack on a coal mine that reportedly killed 50 people in the troubled Xinjiang region. According to Radio Free Asia, the dead include women and children.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



JUST 118 MORE YEARS

According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 118 more years, or until 2133, for the global pay gap between men and women to be closed.

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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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