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Iran Sanctions Lifted, Rich Getting Richer, A Live Nude

Iran Sanctions Lifted, Rich Getting Richer, A Live Nude

IRAN SANCTIONS LIFTED

Some of the toughest International sanctions against Iran were lifted Sunday after inspectors verified that the country was complying with the nuclear deal reached last July, and after the Islamic Republic released three American prisoners, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian. “These things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom, with courage and resolve and patience,” U.S. President Barack Obama said. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hailed the move as a “golden page” in his country’s history, while The New York Times characterized the event as one that makes the world “safer.”

  • The crippled Iranian economy will now have access to a staggering $100 billion in assets frozen overseas and will be able once again to export oil, a lucrative business whose absence is estimated to have cost Tehran some $160 billion since 2012 alone.
  • The influx of Iranian oil on an already supply-heavy market sent crude prices to new lows unseen since 2003 today. Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s major oil exporters and Iran’s arch-enemy, saw its stocks crash yesterday as a result of the sanctions being lifted. Its Tadawul All Share Index has already lost 20% of its value since the beginning of the year.

CLINTON, SANDERS SPAR IN LAST DEBATE

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed on gun control and health care, with the former First Lady accusing her opponent of wanting to “tear up” Obamacare during last night’s final Democratic presidential debate. With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary approaching, The Washington Post noted that the exchanges between the two “were the most combative and personal of the campaign so far, reflecting the newly potent threat Sanders poses to Clinton in her second White House run.” Candidate Martin O'Malley, meanwhile, continued to struggle to be noticed.


VERBATIM

“The experience of western European countries which have ghettos and excluded localities shows that the integration of the Muslim community is practically impossible,” Czech President Milos Zeman said in a televised interview Sunday. “Let them have their culture in their countries and not take it to Europe. Otherwise it will end up like Cologne,” he added, in reference to the mass sexual attacks perpetrated by migrants in the German city and across Europe on New Year’s Eve.

  • Zeman’s comments came after Pope Francis celebrated a mass on St. Peter’s Square with some 6,000 migrants whom, he said, carry “a story, a culture, of precious value, and often unfortunately experiences of misery, oppression and fear.”
  • On Saturday, police in the German city of Düsseldorf arrested 40 migrant men from North Africa in a large-scale anti-theft and anti-drug operation. According to Deutsche Welle, 38 of those arrested were living illegally in Germany, and Angela Merkel’s government is reportedly considering plans to change its immigration policy regarding North African applicants.

ISIS ABDUCTS, KILLS CIVILIANS

ISIS fighters have abducted more than 400 civilians after a major assault on the northeastern city of Deir ez-Zor that left at least 135 people dead, The Guardian reports. The attack, which began Saturday, saw the terrorist organization make significant gains in a city that was partly controlled by government forces and is the capital of an oil-rich region mostly under ISIS control. The Syrian army, backed by Russian warplanes, launched a counterattack, and have regained territories around the city, Syrian state news agency SANA reports.

  • A recently released document from the ISIS Treasury Ministry shows that the organization has halved the salaries it pays to its fighters, citing “exceptional circumstances.”
  • One person was killed in a Turkish town on the Syrian border after a rocket fired from Syia exploded near a primary school. One of the students was also injured, according to Hürriyet.

SNAPSHOT

Photo: Vasyl Shevchenko/Pacific Press/ZUMA

Ukrainian teens are having fun during a snow fight at Kiev’s World War II open-air museum.


THREE AMERICANS MISSING IN IRAQ

Iraqi authorities have created checkpoints in southern Baghdad and are searching for three American citizens believed to be missing, Reuters reports. Two of them are dual Iraqi-American citizens, and unconfirmed reports said they were kidnapped. “We are working with the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities to locate and recover the individuals,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

A tough-talking mayor is leading the polls in the Philippines, which will elect a new president in May. Candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s message is simple: stop crime and corruption. But as PortalKBR reports, some are questioning his methods. “Duterte has been mayor of Davao, a city of 2 million people, for 22 years, and has also served as a congressman. He is credited for making Davao the safest city in the country, albeit by controversial means. Human rights groups accuse him of supporting a group of vigilantes who execute criminals and drug pushers. There have been some 1,000 extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals during Duterte’s tenure as mayor.”

Read the full article, A Filipino Trump? "Duterte Harry" Eyes Philippines Presidency.


BURKINA FASO MOURNS ATTACK VICTIMS

A three-day mourning period began yesterday in Burkina Faso, after Saturday’s Islamist attack on a luxury hotel in Ouagadougou, Al Jazeera reports. At least 28 people of various nationalities were killed in the attack led by al-Qaeda gunmen, the first of this kind in Burkina Faso.


1% = 99%

The richest 1% now own as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, according to recent data analyzed by Oxfam. The report, released to coincide with the beginning of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos this week, also shows that the richest 62 billionaires are as wealthy as the poorest half of the global population, further evidence that the gap between rich and poor is growing alarmingly fast.


TAIWAN’S NEW PRESIDENT WARNS CHINA

After winning in an expected landslide on Saturday, new Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen warned China that her country’s “democratic system, national identity and international space must be respected. Any forms of suppression will harm the stability of cross-strait relations,” she said, explaining she would “work toward maintaining the status quo for peace and stability,” the South China Morning Post reports. Chinese officials are unimpressed with the election of Taiwan’s first female president, saying that Taiwan should abandon its “hallucinations” about pushing for independence.


ON THIS DAY


We’ve got the founding of Lima, Marion Barry’s crack cocaine bust and the Versailles Peace Conference â€" all in today’s shot of history.


AUSTRALIAN OPEN BEGINS AMID BRIBERY NEWS

A number of Top 50 tennis players, including Grand Slam winners, are suspected of match-fixing, an investigation by the BBC and BuzzFeed News reveals. Champion Novak Djokovic admitted he was offered $200,000 to throw a match, back in 2007, though he denied such practices were widespread. The claims come as the first major tournament of the year, the Australian Open in Melbourne, begins.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



MANET WOULD BE PROUD

Controversial Luxembourg performance artist Deborah de Robertis recently gave visitors to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris more than they bargained for, undressing and posing naked in front of Edouard Manet’s nude painting of the prostitute Olympia. Despite France’s relatively loose mores, museum visitors were bundled away, and Robertis was quickly shut down.

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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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