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Chinese stock losses, Trump tops GOP poll, Pee-proof walls

Chinese stock losses, Trump tops GOP poll, Pee-proof walls

Photo: Hani Ali/Xinhua/ZUMA

TURKEY “CHANGING REGIONAL GAME”

Recent Turkish strikes against both ISIS in Syria and Kurdistan Workers Party militants in northern Iraq have “changed the regional game,” Hürriyet quotes Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying. But he insisted Turkey wouldn’t use ground troops in the fight against ISIS. According to The New York Times, Ankara and Washington have agreed on a plan to establish an ISIS-free zone in the Syrian territories along the Turkish border. But the newspaper foresees difficulties ahead, with Turkey and Syrian rebels more concerned with removing President Bashar al-Assad from power than defeating the terrorist group.


FIGHTING CONTINUES IN YEMEN DESPITE TRUCE

Plans to start today a five-day ceasefire between warring sides in Yemen have collapsed after clashes and strikes resumed within hours, Al Jazeera reports. The truce, demanded by Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi ostensibly to allow aid to reach civilians, was denounced by Houthi rebels as a potential attempt from government forces to regroup while a months-long airstrike campaign from the Saudi-led coalition continues to target the rebels and civilians, with at least 120 victims on Saturday.


CHINESE STOCKS LOSE 8.5%

The Shanghai composite index closed 8.48% down today, suffering its worst one-day fall since 2007, in what Bloomberg describes as “a blow to policymakers” just weeks after Beijing took drastic measures to stop a month of heavy losses. European stocks also fell in early trading.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Protecting the environment is not about “reconciling” man and nature but about giving each their due space. In large part, this means concentrating people in cities, Juan Manuel Ospina writes in for Colombian daily El Espectador: “What is needed … is to ‘decouple’ development from its environmental impact. How? Through socio-economic and technological processes that will allow us to reduce our dependence on natural resources. The initiative wants to free the environment of its subservience to the economy, and save it by simply leaving it be, as far as possible. So it is not suggesting we should choose between environment and human welfare, but rather that we should guarantee our welfare without destroying nature.”

Read the full article, Best Hope To Save The Earth? Separate Humans From Nature.


VERBATIM

“I suspect that some of my critics back home are suspecting that I’m back here to look for my birth certificate. That’s not the case,” U.S. President Barack Obama joked during his visit to Kenya. The presidential visit prompted many Kenyan parents to name their newborn babies after the president. The award for the most original goes to the parents who went with “AirForceOne Barack Obama.”


TRUMP EDGES OUT BUSH IN GOP POLL

Florida Governor and Republican White House hopeful Jeb Bush faces serious competition to win the support of GOP voters, according to a CNN telephone poll that puts controversy-engulfed Donald Trump first with 18%, three points more than Bush. National polls are crucial for the 16 Republican candidates ahead of an Aug. 6 debate on Fox News in which only the top 10 will appear.


ON THIS DAY


We met Bugs Bunny for the first time on this day 75 years ago! Time for your shot of history.


TROIKA RETURNS TO ATHENS

Negotiators from the “troika” of international lenders are expected to fly to Athens later today to begin discussions over a third bailout for Greece, worth an estimated 86 billion euros. But the Financial Timesreports that the IMF, the European Central Bank and the EU are sending “lower-level negotiators,” a move that seems to indicate continued differences between Athens and its creditors “that could still derail negotiations before an Aug. 20 deadline.”

  • Meanwhile, weekend revelations that former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was developing plans for a return to Greece’s pre-euro currency, the drachma, have caused a political storm in Athens, The Daily Telegraphreports. In an interview, Varoufakis says the plan was initially approved by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras but that he was eventually overruled after the referendum in which Greek voters rejected austerity.


EXTRA!

“Cosby: The Women, An Unwelcome Sisterhood,” the cover of New York Magazine’s latest issue reads. In a striking black-and-white cover image, 35 women who say they were raped by comedian Bill Cosby are photographed together with the dates of their respective attacks written below each woman.Read more in our Extra! feature.


BOBBI KRISTINA BROWN DIES AT 22

Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of singers Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, died yesterday, six months after she was found unresponsive in a bathtub in her home. She was 22. “She is finally at peace in the arms of God,” a family statement read.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


SF’S PEE-PROOF WALLS

Public urinators beware: A special hydrophobic paint is enabling some of San Francisco’s walls to pee back at you.

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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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