D-Day Commemorations, Russia's Anti-U.S. Sentiment, Singing Nun Wins

A WWII veteran watches a landing by paratroopers in Ranville, Normandy
A WWII veteran watches a landing by paratroopers in Ranville, Normandy

Friday, June 6, 2014

This morning, French President François Hollande launched commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, describing the Normandy landings as a day that “began in chaos and fire, would end in blood and tears, tears and pain, tears and joy at the end of 24 hours that changed the world.” Speaking alongside him, U.S. President Barack Obama honored veterans, praising those who "gave so much for the survival of liberty at its maximum peril." America’s claim to liberty “is written in blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity,” Obama said.
Today’s newspapers are filled with coverage of D-Day, but a particularly notable piece comes from The New York Times, which published the poignant memories of four veterans who recall their experiences on the longest day.

Former WWII paratrooper Frederick Glover, 88, of the 9th Parachute Battalion from Brighton watches a landing by paratroopers in Ranville, Normandy, during events commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine is continuing, with attacks by separatists on border posts, which were repelled by air strikes, killing 15 pro-Russians. Ukrainian troops have reportedly resumed artillery strikes around Sloviansk one day before the planned inauguration of President Petro Poroshenko. He has vowed to immediately present “a plan for the peaceful resolution of the situation in the east.” Yesterday, Obama said he had urged France to "press the pause button" on delivering two helicopter carriers to Russia, but French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius replied this morning on Twitter: "The contracts were agreed in 2011, they represent many jobs and they will be carried out."

A Russian poll conducted last month suggests 71% of Russians have negative feelings towards the U.S., the highest figure since such polls started in 1990.

As Sylvie Barot and Andrew Knapp write for Le Monde, an estimated 2,500 French civilians were killed during the first 24 hours that followed the dawn of D-Day. “Most were killed by Allied bombs,” they write. “Hundreds lost their lives in Caen, Saint-Lô, Lisieux, Condé-sur-Noireau, Vire, Flers, and Argentan — towns devastated by rains of fire and steel. “... The Allies' bombing of France is still remembered, and with good reason, by those who lived it as an indelible trauma, by the descendants of victims and by regional historians. But it is still too often marginalized in the ‘grand narrative’ of France's dark years under Nazi occupation from 1940 until the end of the war.”
Read the full article, Innocent French Civilians, D-Day's Forgotten Victims.

One student was killed and at least two others were wounded after a gunman opened fire late yesterday afternoon at Seattle Pacific University, before being pepper-sprayed by a student while reloading his weapon, The Seattle Times reports. The suspect was arrested by the police and questioned, but his motive is still unclear.
Meanwhile in Canada, the police arrested a suspected gunman who killed three police officers Wednesday.


Sixty migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia and two Yemeni crew members drowned last week in “the largest single loss of life this year of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Yemen,” AFP quotes the United Nations’ Refugee Agency as saying. The news comes as Italy announced it had rescued more than 2,500 migrants from 17 boats since early Thursday.

A team of researchers in China and the U.S. have discovered that the reason why sleep improves learning and memory formation is that the brain forms new connections between neurons while we sleep.

Sources close to negotiations between U.S. authorities and BNP Paribas told Reuters that the former are considering a record penalty of $16 billion on France’s largest bank over its evasion of U.S. sanctions. The figure is $6 billion more than previously expected. In an article translated and published by Worldcrunch, French business daily Les Échos wrote that the fine was “a declaration of war” and that the figure amounted “to the proverbial nuclear option.”

Suor Cristina, Italy’s singing nun who became a worldwide sensation after performing expand=1] Alicia Keys’ "No One" and Bon Jovi’s "Livin’ expand=1] on a Prayer" on the Italian version of The Voice, won the television contest yesterday and a record contract with Universal Music. "My presence here is not up to me. It's thanks to the man upstairs!" she said after her victory.

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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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