Paris Shooting, AirAsia Tail, Alien Earth

The tail of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 was found Tuesday
The tail of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 was found Tuesday

Wednesday, January 7, 2014

At least 10 journalists and two policemen were killed after two heavily armed men opened fire at the Paris offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo Wednesday morning. Four other people were seriously wounded in the shooting; the gunmen managed to flee and a large manhunt is now underway in Paris.
"This is a terrorist attack, there is no doubt about this," French President François Hollande told reporters.
The headquarters of the provocative weekly were already firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons mocking the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Developing

The tail of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 has been found on the sea bed around 30 kilometers away from the plane’s last known location, an Indonesian search team announced during a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday. It is a breakthrough that could lead investigators to find the black boxes — located in the tail — and understand what may have lead to the crash. The head of the Indonesian search and rescue agency, Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, said the plane part was identified by divers after it was spotted by an underwater machine, Reuters reports. Photographs of the wreckage were released Wednesday morning by the authorities.
Flight QZ8501 had vanished from radars over the northern Java Sea on Dec. 28, during a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Authorities say there are no survivors among the 162 people on board, most of them Indonesian. Another body was also found Wednesday, bringing the total recovered to 40.

A car bomb killed at least 30 people and injured more than 50 outside a police college in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Wednesday. An Al Jazeera journalist on site said the number of casualties is likely to be higher. The blast was heard across the city and a large plume of smoke was visible in the area, located near the defense ministry and the central bank. Yemeni police said the victims included students from the college as well as people waiting to enroll and passers by. No claim for responsibility had yet been made.

To the surprise of many, the family of legendary novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez sold his personal papers to the University of Texas. It's nothing political — but all about posterity, and money of course, writes El Espectador’s Pablo Ximénez de Sandoval: “José Montelongo, Texas University's Librarian for Mexican Studies, says the archive's information on the novelist's self-editing process will be a "treat" for Gabo researchers. Among the papers are a first draft of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the novel that catapulted the writer to fame in 1967, several versions of Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Love in the Time of Cholera, and 10 versions of the unpublished We'll See Each Other in August. The last copy contains corrections, which means he considered it premature to publish.”
Read the full article, How The Garcia Marquez Papers Wound Up In A Texas Library.

Brent crude oil has fallen below $50 a barrel — going as low as a dollar to $49.92 in early trading Wednesday — for the first time since May 2009, The Wall Street Journal reports. Observers also expect prices to drop further as North American shale producers supply increasing quantities of oil and gas, and the oil-producing group Opec is not reacting to support prices, according to Forbes.

Euro zone consumer prices fell by more than expected in December because of much cheaper energy, a first estimate by the European statistical office showed in data that is likely to trigger the European Central Bank's government bond buying program, Reuters reports.


A suicide bombing that killed a policeman in central Istanbul Tuesday has been claimed by the “Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front” (DHKP/C) on social media. The group wrote "our sacrificial fighter... carried out the sacrificial action on the tourist police department in Sultanahmet,” the Turkish daily Hürriyet reports.

Overtaken by the United Kingdom’s GDP, France has dropped from 5th to 6th position in the list of the world’s most powerful economies, Le Figaro reports.


What happened to the Leaning Tower of Pisa on Jan. 7, 1990? Find it out (and much more) in your daily 57-second shot of history.

Astronomers announced during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society Tuesday that a recently discovered planet resembles our Earth more than any other previously identified planet. It is part of eight new planets observed in distant solar systems by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope.

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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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