Crimean MPs Vote To Join Russia, Gaddafi's Son, Iran Oil

Saadi Gaddafi
Saadi Gaddafi

Crimean lawmakers voted unanimously this morning to join the Russian Federation and asked Russia to examine the request. And the region’s Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev announced a March 16 referendum in which voters will answer two questions: whether they want Crimea to become a Russian territory, and whether they want to restore Crimea’s 1992 constitution, which would see it remain in Ukraine but with increased autonomy, RT reports. Ukraine’s interim Economy Minister Pavlo Sheremeta said the referendum was unconstitutional. Yesterday, a Kiev court issued arrest warrants for Crimea’s prime minister and the speaker of the region’s parliament. Read more from Xinhua.

This comes as European Union foreign policy leaders gather in Brussels today for an emergency meeting to discuss possible sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis. It is unclear what the meeting can achieve, as there appears to be no unanimity about what to adopt. While Eastern European countries such as Poland favor tough sanctions and isolation, Germany is said to prefer mediation. According to the BBC, German Chancellor Angela Merkel fears that sanctions against Russia would eventually hurt the EU, as the continent relies on Moscow for 30% of its gas. Earlier today, Brussels announced an assets freeze on 18 Ukrainians including former President Yanukovych and his son. Read more from Euronews.

Writing in The Washington Post, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sets out his vision for how the crisis should end, calling for total independence for Kiev, both from Russia and the West. Meanwhile, Russian political scientist Sergei Markov expresses pessimism about the escalation in a column for The Moscow Times entitled “Why There Will Be War In Ukraine.” In The Guardian, British journalist Seumas Milne wrote a scathing column in which he denounces the U.S.’s “new depths of self parody” and explains that the situation in Crimea is “the fruit of Western expansion.”


Niger has extradited Saadi Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, two and a half years after he fled the country following his father’s death, the BBC reports. He is accused of shooting protesters during the uprising in Libya.

Al least five Afghan soldiers were killed and another eight were injured in a U.S. drone strike in the eastern province of Logar, The New York Times reports. According to the spokesman for the province’s governor, “The strike was the result of poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone.” U.S. officials said the deaths would be investigated.

The Venezuelan government has decided to break its political and economic ties with Panama, citing conspiracy plans and interference in internal affairs, state-backed newspaper Correo Del Orinoco reports. Speaking during the commemorations of the first anniversary of Hugo Chavéz’s passing, President Nicolás Maduro announced the decision, describing Panama President Ricardo Martinelli as a “despicable lackey” who doesn’t represent his people. According to the BBC, an official statement from Panama said Maduro’s words were “unacceptable.”


Authorities in North Korea have rejected Seoul’s offer to discuss regular family reunions from the two Koreas through Red Cross officials, Xinhua reports. But North Korea appears willing to discuss the issue through senior officials, another sign of the recent warming of relations between the two countries. This comes amid certain tensions over test missile launches from Pyongyang. According to AP, South Korea has criticized the North for launching a missile that is said to have narrowly missed a civilian flight.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared that there are too many national parks there and that the forestry industry should have more access to logging. Read his comments here.

Under an interim nuclear deal that has provided Iran limited relief from sanctions and unfrozen some of the country’s oil revenues, South Korea is set to make a $550 million payment to Iran Friday. Read more from Reuters.

Colombia police confiscate cocaine hidden in a baby’s diapers.

Speaking cantonese is no easy task, as this video of British chef Jamie Oliver illustrates.

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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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