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S.C Church Massacre, Pope Goes Green, Colombia Beats Brazil

S.C Church Massacre, Pope Goes Green, Colombia Beats Brazil

GUNMAN KILLS 9 AT SOUTH CAROLINA CHURCH

A man opened fire in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, last night, killing nine people, according to local authorities.

  • “I do believe this is a hate crime,” The Washington Post quoted the Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen as saying.

  • Police said on Twitter that they were searching for a slender, clean-shaven, white male in his early twenties, wearing a grey sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots.

  • The massacre happened at around 9 p.m. during a Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

  • Although the identities of the victims haven’t been released, church pastor Clementa Pinckney is believed to be among those killed.

  • Eight people were dead when police arrived on the scene,and a ninth person later died in the hospital. At least one other person was injured.

  • A woman who survived the shooting told her family the gunman said he was letting her live so she could report what happened, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.

60 MILLION

The number of people displaced by war, conflict and persecution around the world reached a record high of almost 60 million in 2014, a UN report released today reveals.

HONG KONG REJECTS BEIJING-BACKED REFORMS

Hong Kong lawmakers have voted against controversial Beijing-backed reforms that sparked mass demonstrations in 2014. The proposal would have granted direct elections for Hong Kong’s five million voters, but only after a pro-Beijing committee had vetted each candidate, The Guardian reports. But Reuters reported that China’s parliament would still enforce its decision on the reforms.

EXTRA!

"Victory and revenge," reads the front page of today’s El Tiempo newspaper, after Colombia enjoyed a dramatic victory over Brazil at the Copa America last night, its first win over the rival since 1991. Read more in our Extra! feature.

SOMALIA SUICIDE ATTACK FOILED

Somali security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack by al-Shabab militants during a political conference today in the town of Adado, killing three gunmen and the driver of a car packed with explosives, Reuters reports.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

To the chagrin of climate change deniers, the pontiff’s anticipated environmental encyclical says there are no reasonable doubts that global warming is caused by human activity. “Not surprisingly, the powers representing oil companies have not been sitting idly,” Ignacio Zuleta writes for El Espectador. “They have sent representatives to lobby the Vatican, while other detractors of the pontiff’s style and agenda try to minimize his influence. For example, Maureen Mullarkey, a critic and contributor to the influential theological review First Things, accuses the pope of being a dogmatist driven into geopolitical meddling by his own megalomania.”

Read the full article, Why Pope Francis Refused To Stay Silent On Climate Change.

ISIS CLAIMS DEADLY YEMEN BOMBS

An ISIS-linked terror group in Yemen has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide attacks against at least three mosques and the headquarters of the country’s dominant Houthi group in the war-torn country’s capital Sanaa yesterday, the SITE intelligence group reports. Dozens of people were reportedly killed and others injured in the attacks. The group described the violence as “revenge” on Shia Houthis who have overrun the region this past year.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

DENMARK VOTES

Danes go to the polls today to decide a tight general election between incumbent Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s center-left coalition and former Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s center-right opposition, the daily Jyllands-Posten reports. Voters in Greenland and the Faroe Islands could be deciders in the polling.

CHINA “BANS” RAMADAN FASTING IN MUSLIM REGION

Photo: Liu Xia/Zuma

Chinese authorities have banned the Muslim Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region from fasting during the month of Ramadan that begins today. Local officials were told not to “engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities” during the holy month, a time during which Muslims worldwide abstain from eating and drinking during the daytime, Al Jazeera reports. All restaurants in the region have been ordered to remain open.

POPE’S NEPHEW MUGGED AT GUNPOINT

José Ignacio Bergoglio, the nephew of Pope Francis, was attacked last night by a band of armed thieves as he and his girlfriend were about to enter their home in the Argentine capital. Read more about it on our blog.

NEW $10 BILL TO FEATURE A WOMAN

The U.S. Treasury Department announced yesterday that a redesigned $10 bill will feature a woman, replacing the image of founding father Alexander Hamilton, The Wall Street Journal reports. The woman has yet to be determined and the treasury will seek the public’s opinion. Women have briefly appeared on U.S. currency in the past, but women’s groups have recently pressed for more representation.

ON THIS DAY

Happy Birthday to actress Isabella Rossellini, who turns 63 years old today. Time 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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