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FIFA Corruption Bust, India Heat, Pregnant Hands

FIFA Corruption Bust, India Heat, Pregnant Hands

SENIOR FIFA OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN CORRUPTION PROBE

Swiss police have arrested at least 14 senior FIFA officials on charges that include “racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy,” the AFP reports. The charges follow an FBI investigation and allege “widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.” Several of those arrested face extradition to the United States. Swiss prosecutors have opened a separate criminal case into the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup bids.

  • The decisions to award Russia and Qatar the organization of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups have been highly controversial, especially the latter with reports of widespread and far-reaching corruption last year in The Sunday Times.
  • Swiss daily Le Temps reports that the arrests took place at a luxury hotel in Zurich where the officials were gathered for their annual meeting, ahead of the organization’s presidential election, planned for Friday.
  • FIFA’s increasingly controversial president Sepp Blatter is standing for a fifth term after all candidates but one gave up. Last week, former World Player of the Year Luis Figo of Portugal pulled out of the race, blasting the vote as “a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man.”
  • In a press conference following the arrests, FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said Friday’s election would take place as planned and ruled out a re-vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

INDIA HEAT WAVE KILLS MORE THAN 1,100

Photo: Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/ZUMA

Scorching temperatures over the past two weeks have killed more than 1,100 people across India, especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, The Hindustan Times reports. The temperatures are expected to remain well above 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days, with forecasters saying relief won’t come until the end of the month, when the monsoon season arrives on the Indian mainland.


ISRAEL STRIKES GAZA AFTER ROCKET FIRE

The Israeli air force has struck Islamic Jihad and Hamas training facilities in Gaza overnight after a rocket was fired from the enclave late Tuesday, Haaretz reports. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Gaza “will pay a heavy price” should the violence escalate. On Monday, the UN Special Coordinator published a report in which the current ceasefire agreed to after last summer’s 50-day war was described as “perilously fragile,” news agency Ma’an notes.

  • In a report published today, Amnesty International accuses Hamas of having used the conflict to eliminate political opponents, accusing them of “collaborating” with Israel. The 44-page report shows how some prisoners were tortured and executed in public.

ON THIS DAY


On May 27, 1647, the first “witch” was executed in the U.S. Check out what else happened on this day here!


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Rich families from Guangzhou or Beijing are flocking to the new Asian "villages" of the famous French vacation brand “Club Med.” Activities include mahjong and karaoke but the beloved GOs (Genteel Organizers) are still here, Ursula Gauthier reports for French weekly L’Obs: “For Raphaël Erez, who has been director of the Giulin village for four months, China is a breath of fresh air compared to the ‘blasé’ atmosphere of the European villages. ‘Here, everything is new for the vacationers,’ he says. ‘Chinese people are delighted, full of enthusiasm. They want to try everything and have new experiences. It's just like in the original Club Med, in 1950, when France welcomed, amazed, this new concept of holidays.’”

Read the full article, In China, Club Med Is A Brand New Idea 65 Years After Its Founding.


ISIS ON 3 FRONTS: SYRIA, IRAQ, LIBYA

  • The Syrian army has launched a new offensive against ISIS in the terrorist group’s strongholds of Raqqa and Yarmouk, as well as in the strategic city of Palmyra, killing dozens of fighters, Al Jazeera reports.
  • This follows Iraq’s offensive in the Anbar province against the Islamist forces, which suffered a setback late yesterday after several ISIS militants carried out suicide attacks against the army, killing at least 17 troops, according to AP.
  • Libya’s recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said yesterday he had survived an assassination attempt by gunmen, Al Arabiya reports. It’s unclear who the gunmen were as fighting among different rebel groups hasn’t ceased since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. ISIS has also been benefitting from the chaos in Libya and is growing, as their capture of the city of Sidra last week showed.

EXTRA! DEADLY FLOODS IN TEXAS

At least 17 people have been killed in Texas and northern Mexico from floods, storms and tornadoes, with dozens of others still missing. Read more about it in our Extra! feature.


$80 MILLION

The Chinese police have arrested 175 people as part of what authorities are describing as the biggest ever operation to recover 1,168 stolen artefacts worth some $80 million. The cultural relics include a coiled jade dragon, one of the earliest known depictions of the mythological creature. Read more from the BBC.


VATICAN: IRELAND GAY MARRIAGE VOTE A “DEFEAT FOR HUMANITY”

Days after 62% of Irish voters backed a constitutional change to allow same-sex couples to marry, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, described the result as not just “a defeat for Christian principle” but also “a defeat for humanity.”


HERPES VS. SKIN CANCER

Scientists have successfully developed a new version of the herpes virus that causes cold sores and some cases of genital herpes to treat skin cancer patients. Their results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that some patients saw their survival substantially prolonged, compared with current treatments. Read more from The Washington Post.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



VERBATIM

“One hadith states that those who have sexual intercourse with their hands will find their hands pregnant in the afterlife,” a Turkish Muslim televangelist stated, causing a storm of ridicule on social media.

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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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