Italy & Brexit, Record Refugees, Cleveland Title


Italy’s 5-Star Movement won the mayoral races in Rome and Turin, where Virginia Raggi and Chiara Appendino will become the two major cities’ first female mayors. For Italian pundits, their victories, particularly Raggi’s landslide triumph in the Eternal City, is a major blow to center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. But the reverberations may be felt well beyond Italy’s borders.

The electoral success of yet another anti-establishment Eurosceptic party comes just four days ahead of what may be the EU’s biggest test in memory. The British will vote Thursday in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. And with three days to go, both sides are still neck-and-neck. The brutal murder of pro-EU member of Parliament Jo Cox last week seems to have shifted the momentum in Remain’s favor, though all polls show that the number of undecided voters is still high enough to sway the vote in either direction.

But there is a third option, hypothesized by Financial Times reporter David Allen Green, namely that the British government could simply ignore a Brexit victory. But the consequences of such a move would only give more grist to the mills of anti-EU parties, and even xenophobic populists, who already point out that Brussels is too far removed from the people who pay its bills. There is a lesson that goes back a decade to referendums on the European Constitution in the Netherlands and France: in a democracy, the voters don’t ever go away.



“I don’t think Britain at the end is a quitter, I think we stay and we fight,” David Cameron told a BBC audience yesterday evening, as he was grilled by voters ahead of the referendum on EU membership on Thursday. The PM drew comparisons between his fight to keep Britain in the EU and Winston Churchill’s fight against Hitler. “He didn't quit on democracy, he didn't quit on freedom,” Cameron said. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Cameron’s rival Boris Johnson urges Brits to “Please vote Leave on Thursday, because we'll never get this chance again.”


Jaws meet the Beach Boys â€" only on your 57-second shot of History!


The number of people displaced reached an all-time high in 2015 with 65.3 million compared to 60 million the previous year, according to the UN refugee agency’s latest report. More than half of all refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.


Violent clashes erupted in several cities of the Mexican state of Oaxaca between police and radical teacher union groups, during protests against education reforms, El Universal reports. The violence was particularly high in Nochixtlan, where six people died and more than 100 were injured. More in English from AP.


Neymar, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo … All geniuses?

For Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo, Carolina Muniz and Philippe Watanabe marvel at top athletes’ brains â€" data banks where all the moves they've learned during their careers are stored: “Try to picture the brain as a supermarket. An elite athlete knows the exact location of the items he wants to buy. He can go to the right aisle and the right shelf directly, without looking around. An amateur might know in which aisle to look, but it's going to take him some time until he finds the exact spot. And he'll waste more energy.”

Read the full article, The Greatest Athletes’ Secret Weapon? Their Brains.


Fourteen children died in a storm on a lake in northwestern Russia after their boat capsized Saturday. Four people in charge of the organization of the boating trip were detained yesterday for ignoring weather warnings, AP reports.


At least 14 foreign security guards have been killed early this morning in the Afghan capital of Kabul after a suicide bomber hit a minibus. Al Jazeera reports that the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.


The Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a group of about 150 LGBT demonstrators who defied a ban to march in Istanbul, Reuters reports.


Herculean Skewer â€" Mykenes, 1981


The Cleveland Cavaliers have made history by overturning a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA finals. Led by MVP LeBron James, the Cavaliers have earned Cleveland’s first major sports championship since 1964.


With less than 50 days to go before the start of the Rio Olympics, the local government has declared a state of public calamity, with the city badly hit by the economic crisis plaguing Brazil, Folha de S. Paulo reports.


Meanwhile, Russia is still reeling over last week’s confirmation that its track and field team has been banned from the Olympics over alleged systematic state-sponsored doping. For Russian-daily Kommersant, the decision could have “catastrophic consequences for the entire Russian sports.” Olympic officials are still deciding if other Russian teams should be banned from the Games.



On a lighter note, this video of raccoons teaming expand=1] up to save the family’s li’ll one is everything.

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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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