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Terror Attack Targets French City Of Nice, Scores Dead

The aftermath of Thursday night's attack
The aftermath of Thursday night's attack

SPOTLIGHT: TOLL RISES IN NICE ATTACK, AS TERROR HITS FRANCE AGAIN

Terror struck the French Riviera last night, as revellers and tourists gathered on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais to watch the fireworks display on Bastille Day. Around an hour before midnight, a truck drove through frantic crowds for almost two kilometers, killing more than 80 people and injuring dozens in what French authorities are calling a terrorist attack. The tragic events on France’s national day came after a month of heightened security for the Euro 2016 football championships and eight months since last November’s shootings in Paris killed 130.

  • The current official death toll in Nice is 84, with more than 50 injured and 18 in critical condition.

  • According to local daily Nice-Matin, the man driving the truck has been identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, a Tunisian-born resident of Nice. He was shot dead by police last night and his home is being searched for clues to connections and motives.

  • While no group has yet claimed responsibility, French President François Hollande called it an act of “Islamist terrorism” and promised renewed French strikes in Syria and Iraq.

  • French authorities announced they would seek a three-month extension of the state of emergency, first declared after November’s Paris attacks, which had been set to end on July 26.

  • Police and intelligence services are investigating the attacker’s ties to any known terror organization and whether he acted alone, after several guns and grenades were found in the truck.

  • President Hollande declared three days of national mourning to last until July 18.

  • This is the third major terror attack on French soil in the past 18 months. The November 13 attacks targeted a football stadium just outside Paris, as well as restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall in the city. In January 2015, Islamic terrorists attacked the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Kosher supermarket in Paris.

  • Here are front pages of newspapers in France and around the world.


    WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for talks today on Syria.

  • Leaders from Asian and European countries to gather in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar for the 2016 Asia-Europe Summit.

  • Republican Party convention opens Sunday in Cleveland, Ohio.


REPORT: TRUMP PICKS MIKE PENCE AS RUNNING MATE

After weeks of speculation, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears set to announce Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. The Indianapolis Star reports that Trump had been holding meetings with potential picks for the vice president slot all week on a campaign visit to Pence’s home state, but plumped for the Governor in the end. Trump postponed the expected announcement today, citing the terrorist attack in Nice. At least one report says that Trump’s grown children still prefer former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as VP.

DEADLY SHOOTOUT IN KENYA

An eight-hour siege ended this morning in northwestern Kenya when police special forces killed a rogue colleague in a shootout. The gunman, a police officer suspected of belonging to the Somali terror group al-Shabaab, had shot dead six colleagues in an attack yesterday.

â€" ON THIS DAY

Gianni Versace and the Rosetta Stone are linked to January 15, see more in our 57-second video shot of history.

PETITION FOR BREXIT DO-OVER REJECTED

An online petition calling for a rerun of the British referendum on EU membership under new rules, which garnered a record 4.1 million signatures, was rejected by the British government. Petitions that reach 100,000 signatures must be debated in parliament, but Westminster reminded signatories the referendum was a “once in a generation” event.

â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011, more than 2.7 million Syrians have registered as refugees in neighboring Turkey. Now, Istanbul daily Cumhuriyet columnist Mine Sogut notes, the Turkish government has promised citizenship to Syrian refugees. “For a person who thinks it’s an accomplishment to govern a country like a company, it is customary to attempt major moves at the expense of the public alongside his own position and power. Our leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is busy writing his subjective history. With the simplest calculation, he dreams of turning the Syrian population into an electoral advantage with this impromptu offer of citizenship. For years, he played with the fate of those people, and his own, without any sign of humanitarianism or ethics, but only with profit and loss calculations. He is still playing the same game...” Read the full article: Erdogan’s Cynical Call To Grant Citizenship To Syrian Refugees

EL SALVADOR AMNESTY LAW STRUCK DOWN BY COURT

The Salvadoran Supreme Court struck down a 1993 law that provided amnesty for human rights violations committed during the country’s civil war, which ran from 1980 to 1992. La Prensa Gráfica reports the court found the law unconstitutional as it denied citizens the right to justice, opening the way for prosecution of war crimes.

EU REJECTS BAILOUT FOR TROUBLED ITALIAN BANK

A meeting of European Union finance ministers rejected the Italian government’s plan to bailout the troubled Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank. Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore reports the finance ministers rejected Rome’s argument that the country’s shaky banks are in “acute crisis” requiring a deviation from EU bailout rules.

MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Off-Peak Art, Madrid - July 1963

â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

SEGWAY BAN BEGINS IN BARCELONA

Barcelona’s municipal government finally implemented a long-announced ban on segways on the city’s popular beachfront, imposing 90 euro fines on violators. Local businesses renting segways, popular among tourists, are up in arms over the decision according to La Vanguardia.

-Crunched by Giacomo Tognini

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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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