Geopolitics

Gaza Mosques Targeted, MH17 Black Box, HIV Breakthrough

A family flees the Donetsk area as intense fighting continues in the city.
A family flees the Donetsk area as intense fighting continues in the city.
Worldcrunch

GAZA WAR ENTERS THIRD WEEK
Israel’s assault on Gaza and Hamas rocket fire into Israel show no sign of abating. Gaza’s Health Ministry officials reports 604 Palestinians killed in 15 days, with more than 3,700 injured. Most of the victims are civilians. Nine Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday, taking the total to 27 since the ground intervention started.

More than 70 sites were targeted in early morning strikes, including five mosques. Al Jazeera said Israeli soldiers fired at the building where the network has its Gaza offices, just hours after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman branded the Qatari media organization “a terrorist wing” and said he was considering banning it from broadcasting in Israel.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said that the Israeli military (IDF) deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for the “unimaginable restraint” it is showing in Gaza. Read more from The Times of Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza, will continue talks with UN chief Ban Ki-moon as they meet Egyptian and Arab League officials in an attempt to broker an end to the escalation of violence. This morning, Israel reportedly rejected a five-hour humanitarian truce for fear that Hamas would use it to reinforce its positions.

Focusing on the social media aspect, British journalist Paul Mason explains why Israel is losing the war.

EU TO DISCUSS SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA AFTER MH17
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss imposing new sanctions on Russia for its support of rebel groups in eastern Ukraine, amid accusations from the West that they shot the MH17 aircraft down with the help of Moscow.British Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a blunt statement, calling for “hard-hitting sanctions.” As possible sanctions are likely to focus on financial services, trade and defense cooperation and energy exports, The Daily Telegraphexplains however that some countries are reluctant to see their economy suffer as a result, and lists how the sanctions would affect major European countries.

Russian media are reporting that the Ukrainian army launched air strikes on a town located 30 kilometers from the crash site, appearing to violate a 40-kilometer ceasefire ordered by Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.

The train carrying the decomposing bodies of the victims of last Thursday’s crash, most of whom were Dutch, has meanwhile arrived in the Kiev-controlled city of Kharkiv and will continue en route to Amsterdam. Earlier, pro-Russian rebels handed over the aircraft’s black boxes to Malaysian experts, who said they were “in good condition.”

Russia replied to Western accusations yesterday, claiming to have proof that a Ukrainian combat jet was approaching the MH17 plane shortly before it crashed. The New York Times published pictures of the wreckage which it says shows marks of impact by a supersonic missile.

SOUTH KOREAN FERRY BOSS DEAD
The South Korean police announced today that a badly decomposed body they found in the southern part of the country in June was that of the fugitive owner of the operator of the ferry that sank in April, killing 294 people, mostly high school students. Yonhap news agency reports that the discovery of the 73-year-old’s body ends a months-long manhunt. According to the local chief of police, the exact time and cause of death are still unclear, although the corpse was found near “several empty bottles of alcoholic beverage and an empty bottle of shark liver oil product.”

COLD, COLD MOSQUE
A Saudi couple has announced plans to finance the building of the northernmost mosque in the world, not all that far from the North Pole.

LEAVING DONETSK
A family flees the Donetsk area as intense fighting continues between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian protesters who currently control the city.

VERBATIM
A new Human Rights Watch report accuses the FBI of bad anti-terror policy.

INDONESIA CANDIDATE QUITS PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto announced he was withdrawing from the disputed presidential race, denouncing a “flawed, not democratic” electoral process,” The Straits Times quotes him as saying. Prabowo has been described as the “likely loser” of the election, the results of which were to be announced today.

MASS ARRESTS IN TURKEY
At least 55 senior police officers were arrested in Turkey as part of a criminal probe over allegations of graft and corruption, Hürriyet reports. The move marks a new step in the fight against what the country’s Prime Minister and candidate to next month’s presidential election Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the “parallel state” created by the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
German daily newspaper Die Welt’s Filipp Platov reports on a rising anti-Semitic movement through Western Europe, fed with recent protests against Israel’s military offensive into Gaza, in France and Germany. "‘You Jews are animals,’ one participant at the Frankfurt protest had written on a placard. In the interests of decency, he had then half-heartedly tried to cross the words out and had written something less incendiary on the other side. But he didn’t actually have the decency to leave the sign at home.” Platov also heard cries of “Israel, child murderers” during that demonstration, while some protesters waved flags of international terror organizations.
Read the full article, From Berlin to Paris, Gaza Support Seethes With Anti-Semitism.

ANTI-CANCER DRUG IN HIV BREAKTHROUGH
Danish researchers have managed to activate and expose hidden HIV cells to the immune system using an anti-cancer drug called romidepsin, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Their discovery was presented at the AIDS 2014 symposium in Melbourne, which experts travelling in the MH17 flight were supposed to attend.

ZOO’D
Roles have been reversed in the hilltop town of Pachmarhi, India, where monkeys have gone out of control — to the extent thathumans are now forced to live in cages.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

CLUMSY MANNSCHAFT
The German soccer team partied so hard they literally broke the World Cup.

— Crunched by Marc Alves.

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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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