BBC

The Latest: El Chapo's Wife, Facebook-Australia Friends Again, Daft Punk Splits

Thousands of protesters continue to demonstrate against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar
Thousands of protesters continue to demonstrate against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar

Welcome to Tuesday, where the global COVID death toll nears 2.5 million, El Chapo's wife is arrested and Facebook and Australia are friends again. Le Monde also explores the impact of Lebanon's diaspora in Africa on a small village near Beirut.

• COVID-19 latest: After two separate studies find that COVID vaccines significantly reduce the risk of infection after just one dose, the UK has announced a roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions. The strain first found in South Africa has been detected in New York, and Kuwait closes its borders amid a spike in cases. Meanwhile the death count in Brazil edges toward 250,000, and the worldwide toll nears 2.5 million dead.

• Myanmar coup protests: G7 countries "firmly condemn" Myanmar military attacks, and the U.S. imposes sanctions on two more military leaders. Facebook has removed the junta's "True News' page. The military threatened violence which led to nationwide strikes yesterday, grinding the country to a halt.

• El Chapo wife arrested: Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, wife of drug kingpin Joaquín ‘El Chapo" Guzmán, who is currently serving a life-sentence, has been arrested in the U.S. for allegedly participating in drug-trafficking operations as well as plotting to help her husband escape prison in Mexico in 2015.

• Canada declares genocide in China: Lawmakers in Canada passed a vote to formally declare China's treatment of its ethnic Muslim Uighur population a genocide.

• Facebook re-friends Australia: Mark Zuckerburg will restore Facebook pages in the coming days after the government offered to make amendments to the proposed laws that would force major tech giants to pay for news content.

• Daft Punk splits: In a new video on YouTube, the legendary French techno music duo has announced it is breaking up after 28 years.

• Scottish woman takes a bite...?: During a brawl with a stranger, a Scottish woman aggressively kisses a man, bites off his tongue and spits it on the ground. Authorities told an Edinburgh Sheriff Court last week there was missing evidence: a seagull had swooped down and ate the tongue.


Italian daily La Repubblica reports the death of Italy's ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, 43, who was killed in an attack on a World Food Programme convoy. Rwandan Hutu rebels have denied allegations they were behind the attack.

How the diaspora is providing one Lebanese village shelter from the storm

Funds sent back by emigrants in Africa are helping residents in Zrariyeh, about 75 kilometers south of Beirut, survive Lebanon's full-blown economic crisis, reports Laure Stephan in French daily Le Monde.

Lebanon is famous for the extent of its diaspora. In Zrariyeh, nearly a third of the 15,000 registered voters live in Côte d'Ivoire. There are also many families living elsewhere in Africa, Europe or the United States. "Our diaspora in Africa has ensured the development of the village," says Adnane Jezzini, the president of this municipality. "For the past year, some inhabitants have really depended on the financial support of their relatives emigrants to live."

"Money from abroad plays the role of a shock absorber for our society. It is true here, and for all Lebanese families who have someone who has emigrated," says Mohamed Mroué, a former resident in Abidjan. In this country, the support of the diaspora probably explains in part why hyperinflation, coupled with the collapse of the local currency, hasn't yet led to a social conflagration.

Sending money, however, has become more complicated. The Lebanese living in Africa have lost confidence in Beirut's banks. For the past year, their savings have been frozen there, like all deposits from ordinary customers. In addition, "People in the South of Lebanon feel like a sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads because of the U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah, even though they and their people have nothing to do with the party's finances," says Mroué.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Macho man's electric pole crunches lead to power outage in China

A good workout leaves you feeling the burn, but a parkour-style stunt in China could have wound up sparking disaster — and ultimately part of a mega-city blacked out.

It began Sunday night in Chengdu, the central Chinese capital of Sichuan Province, when a 22-year-old man climbed an electric pole to do sit-ups. His gym was too crowded? A search for extra "energy"? A gut instinct to gain celebrity status? Well, no word on the motivation...

The ambitious climber-cruncher finally descended, uninjured. Still, for extra precaution, the local electric company cut power to tens of thousands in Chengdu, with a population of over 16.3 million.

A video of the incident quickly spread on the Chinese social media site Weibo. In the clip (which has so far garnered more than 1.7 million views), the unnamed man can be seen suspended about 10 meters above the ground, feet holding on to the electric pole.

"I was annoyed because we had no electricity, and when I watched the news and found out why I felt annoyed and amused at the same time," said one Weibo user, as reported in Shine.

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com

89

Reddit has recently released its 2020 Transparency Report, showing the number of requests from countries requiring the platforms to remove content or disclose private user data. Russia comes on top of the list with 89 removal requests in total, followed by South Korea (60), Pakistan (33) and India (23).

There is no so-called ‘genocide" in Xinjiang at all.

— Cong Peiwu, China's ambassador to Canada, said in response to the Canadian parliament's decision to pass a non-binding motion that declares China's treatment of its Uighur minority population a genocide. The motion makes Canada the second country after the United States to classify the country's actions as a genocide, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and most members of his cabinet abstained from voting.

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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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