blog

Turkey in mourning, National Front intrigue, Emoji movie‏

Turkey in mourning, National Front intrigue, Emoji movie‏

Photo: Ai Weiwei via Instagram

TSIPRAS FACES SYRIZA REBELS

As Greek deputies prepare to vote for a second time on a set of reforms needed for bailout talks to continue, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has lashed out at critics within his own ruling party. In comments to colleagues, Tsipras reportedly accused Syriza dissenters of “hiding behind the safety of his signature.” Though the vote is expected to go his way, Tsipras is struggling to sway some of his own party members, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who voted against the first set of bailout measures last week.


EXTRA!

Turkey is mourning the victims of this week’s suicide bombing in the city of Suruc, along the border with Syria. “Turkey Cried,” today’s headline in the Turkish daily Milliyet reads. The story includes heartbreaking images from yesterday’s funeral of 28 of the 32 people who were killed during a meeting of young Kurdish activists discussing the reconstruction of the Syrian town of Kobane. Read more in our Extra! feature.


BLAND ARREST VIDEO INVESTIGATED

Authorities are investigating potential tampering with the newly released footage of Sandra Bland’s July 10 arrest by a Texas trooper. The 28-year-old African-American woman from the Chicago area was found dead in her jail cell three days after the arrest. Although the coroner ruled her death a suicide, Bland’s family has asked for an independent autopsy. The 52-minute dashcam video, released today by the Texas Department of Public Safety, shows Bland being pulled over for failing to signal and then arguing with the arresting officer. People following the story quickly noticed apparent breaks and gaps in the video, pointing to the possibility that the footage had been doctored, NBC News reports.


VERBATIM

“Yes, I’m a double agent sent by the Right and Marine Le Pen is a reptilian alien,” National Front Vice President Florian Philippot quipped today in a televised interview on French channel BFMTV. Philippot, one of the main advisors of the far-right party’s leader Marine Le Pen, was reacting to a comment by her father â€" disgraced former party chief Jean-Marie Le Pen â€" accusing him of sabotaging the National Front from the inside.


WEIWEI ON HIS WAY

“Today, I received a passport,” Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei wrote on his Twitter and Instagramaccounts. Ai became a cause célèbre in 2011 when his criticism of the Chinese government led to an 81-day detention and a prohibition on traveling abroad that has now been lifted. For more about Ai Weiwei, we offer thisLe Monde/Worldcrunch article.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

President Barack Obama is restoring U.S. influence in Latin America, a reminder of the importance of neighbors. “It is not hard to see the interest of Latin American states in reconciling themselves with the United States. Havana is just 160 kilometers from Florida, and renewing its diplomatic and trade ties with the U.S. is far more beneficial to it than to its big neighbor,” America Economia writes in an editorial. “Less obvious are the motivations driving Obama’s Latin American diplomatic flurry. Very few Americans seem to care about what goes on outside their country, unless it is a terrorist threat. Reconciliation with leaders Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and Dilma Rousseff barely registers on the radar of the wider public, and would certainly not seem to earn the U.S. president or the next Democratic presidential candidate popularity.”

Read the full article, How Obama Conquered Latin America (In A Good Way).


3.1 MILLION

More than 3.1 million Iraqis have been displaced by conflict since the beginning of 2014, including 250,000 from Ramadi alone, the International Organization for Migration reports. Of these, 67% are living in relatively safe private housing, but 20% are making due in “critical shelter arrangements, which include unfinished buildings, religious buildings, informal settlements and schools.” The organization says another 8% are living in camp settings.


ANGRY FRENCH FARMERS

French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll announced today that emergency financial aid totaling 600 million euros will be offered to struggling livestock farmers, France Info reports. French farmers have been protesting for weeks, blocking roads and access to tourist sites, to denounce falling meat and dairy prices.


ON THIS DAY


Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar escaped from prison 23 years ago today, only to be killed later by Colombian National Police. Your 57-second shot of history.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



EMOJI MOVIE

Who in their right mind would think that a movie about emojis, the annoyingly ubiquitous pictorial symbols, sounds like a good idea? Sony Pictures, that’s who.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ