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Mexico Tornado, New Ebola Cases, Dracula's Birthday

Mexico Tornado, New Ebola Cases, Dracula's Birthday

IRAQ BEGINS ANBAR LIBERATION OPERATION

Iraq announced the start of a military operation today aimed at liberating the western Anbar province from ISIS terrorists, Reuters reports. The first city expected to be targeted is Ramadi, the capital city of the province that fell to the terrorist organization on May 17, Al Jazeera reports. Iraqi forces will be comprised of both government forces and Iran-backed Shia militias. Over the last week, thousands of fighters have been gathering at the Habbaniyah military base, near Ramadi, in preparation for a counter-offensive.


VERBATIM

“I believe my father was poisoned,” both daughters of the late bluesman B.B. King have written in separate but identical affidavits. The 89-year-old King died May 14 in Las Vegas, and his daughters believe the musician’s business manager and his personal assistant killed him, AFP reports. Las Vegas police have launched a homicide investigation into his death. Brent Bryson, an attorney for King’s estate, said he hoped “they have a factual basis that they can demonstrate for their defamatory and libelous allegations.”


MALAYSIA EXHUMES MASS GRAVES

Malaysian authorities have begun exhuming bodies they believe to be migrants that human traffickers buried in mass graves near the Thai border, the BBC reports. Officials also believe these areas were abandoned recently after a crackdown by Thai authorities on human traffickers in the region. Malaysia’s national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said there were signs that the victims were tortured.


35

Ending three consecutive weeks of decline, 35 new Ebola cases were reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone last week, four times more than the one prior, L’Obs reports.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Simon Chapman/London News Pictures/ZUMA

Daredevils raced down the very steep Cooper’s Hill chasing a Double Gloucester Cheese during the annual Cheese-Rolling and Wake in southwestern England.


CHINA TO EXPAND PRESENCE IN DISPUTED SEA

In what will probably escalate regional tensions, China outlined a strategy today to boost its military presence in the already disputed South China Sea, Reuters reports. China has been accused of aggressively pursuing territorial claims in the region.


TORNADO KILLS 13 IN MEXICO

At least 13 people, including three children, were killed by a powerful tornado yesterday in the Mexican city of Ciudad Acuña, near the U.S. border, El Universal reports. More than 200 people were also injured and about 400 homes were damaged by the twister, Mayor Evaristo Lenin Perez said. The tornado, which reportedly ripped through the city in just six seconds, was spawned by the same storm that caused heavy rains and flooding in central Texas last week. The city had not been hit by such a powerful tornado in more than a century, CNN reports.


AL-SHABAB CLAIMS KENYA POLICE KILLINGS

At least 25 Kenyan police officers were reportedly killed by al-Shabab militants last night near Garissa, where 148 students were killed by fighters from the same group in April, Al Jazeera reports. Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said today that the police officers were killed in an ambush. “We took all their weapons. There were some Kenyan forces that escaped in the course of the ambush fighting.”


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Rich families from Guangzhou or Beijing are flocking to the new Asian “villages” of the famous French vacation brand Club Med, which is a novelty for them, L’Obs Ursula Gauthier writes. “What arouses the curiosity of Chinese guests here is the Club Med concept itself, and its bizarre French lifestyle,” she writes. “For example, there are many foreigners on staff, from all over the globe, who don’t speak a word of Chinese. Also on offer are a plethora of activity choices still unknown in China: from rock climbing to mountain biking, golf and water aerobics and also cooking lessons, sculpture and yoga. To Chinese visitors, the strangest thing is the omnipresence of the Club Med employees — known the world over as GOs, or ‘genteel organizers’ — who welcome clients with open arms, watch the sports activities, dine with guests, and do their best to have conversations with clients even though they don’t speak a common language.”

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


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



WASHPO REPORTER’S TRIAL BEGINS IN IRAN

The espionage trial of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post, began behind closed doors today in Tehran, Reuters reports. Iranian authorities have yet to elaborate on the charges he faces, and they proceeded with the journalist’s trial despite calls from President Barack Obama, Rezaian’s family and rights groups for his release. The semi-official Iranian news agency quoted the reporter’s lawyer Leila Ahsan as saying that the had “been charged with espionage for collecting confidential information and handing it to hostile governments, writing a letter to Obama and acting against national security.” Rezaian has been imprisoned for 10 months.


ON THIS DAY


Irish author Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel Dracula was published 118 years ago today. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.

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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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