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Near Mariana on Nov. 11
Near Mariana on Nov. 11
Thiago Amâncio

SÃO PAULO — When the dam at the iron ore mine in Mariana burst more than a month ago, killing at least 15 people, it was quickly described as Brazil's worst ecological disaster ever. The 40 billion liters of toxic mud unleashed in the central state of Minas Gerais, destroyed houses, roads, and left many sensitive areas heavily polluted, as the so-called "mud tsunami" traveled more than 600 kilometers to the Atlantic Ocean.

Mining company Samarco, which controlled the dam, has taken some measures since the Nov. 5 collapse. But the response has been piecemeal, and came only after the company — a joint-venture owned by Vale and the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton — was pressured to do so by the Brazilian Justice Department, local authorities, environmental organizations and the prosecutor's office.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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