Contents of burst dam sweep through Brazilian town
On the afternoon of Nov. 5, two dams adjunct to an iron ore mine burst. The structure contained water filled with waste material left as a byproduct of quarrying the metal. The water rushed downhill approximately four miles into the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues, a small colonial city in Brazil’s Southeastern corner. Survivors described torrents of viscous red mud surrounding their homes and sweeping away cars. Current fears are hindering the execution of full rescue operations, namely that there is still a risk of further landslides as a result of the dam burst, as well as indications that the waste and debris spread by the incident are toxic. In all about 500 people have been or will be affected by this spill, 16 people have been confirmed dead and many others are missing. Samarco, the Brazilian company that owned the dam had its mining licence for the region revoked on Monday by the Brazilian government and can only resume activities there when authorities are convinced the company meets its safety standards.
Ongoing violence in Burundi sparks fear of civil war
For the past couple of weeks, gunmen in the East African country of Burundi have been spurring on what the BBC is terming ‘tit-for-tat’ killings of certain politicians and their associated allies. This violence is a continuation of events from this past April, when Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would remain in power for a third term after a controversial election; according to Burundi’s constitution, a directly elected president may serve a maximum of two terms. The trend of third-termism has been seeping through several African nations including Burkina Faso, the Congos, Rwanda and now Burundi. The associated escalating violence is in large part due to violence inflicted by a police force that is against those who challenge the president. A reporter, Christophe Nkezabahizi, and his entire family were killed by law enforcement in their own home although Mr. Nkezabahizi had never opposed the President’s third term. Recent events have led journalists and human rights activists, among others, to flee the country. As for those gunmen who seek vengeance through their violence, President Nkurunziza has made assurances that he would grant them amnesty should they surrender by Sunday. However, this very ultimatum led to another spike in killings over the weekend of Nov. 7. The President has since threatened to “pulverize” his opponents, despite the United Nations and Uganda’s efforts to generate peace talks.
Canada welcomes new Prime Minister
In his open letter to Canadians, Justin Trudeau reiterated many of his hopes to improve the country. In the few days since Trudeau has become the new prime minister, he has already pulled through on some of his promises. After he was officially sworn in, he introduced the new cabinet, which includes an equal 15 men and 15 women. Among these citizens are a former refugee, a paralympian, indigenous First Nations, as well as other minorities. There is also a former astronaut and a member of the Canadian Forces. The inclusion of scientists in the cabinet is not lost on the public, and neither were its actions following induction. Prime Minister Trudeau expressed regret at how before, scientists were “muzzled,” heavily censored, by the Canadian government. To change this, he almost immediately announced that the Bedford Institute of Oceanography could correspond with the media directly and without approval. His treatment of the media and reporters has also received a nod of approval. Trudeau invited the press to film and question him in the National Press Gallery Theater, a space used only seven times in total by the former prime minister. Furthermore, reporters were also allowed into the waiting room outside of the cabinet to hear immediately about the first meeting. Reporters had been previously banned from this space.
Podcast “Serial” questions trial ethics
Serial is a weekly podcast that was released just last year. It quickly reached five million downloads on the iTunes and App store, making it the fastest podcast to reach such an extensive level of sales. The premise of the show is that journalists extensively review criminal cases and educate the public about them. In the case of Adnan Syed, their analysis might have been thorough enough to uncover doubt of his guilt. In 1999, Syed was given a life sentence for the murder of his then girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. When examining the death of Lee, journalists and the Serial team discovered errors in existing evidence as well as potentially new evidence. As a result, Syed’s defense team is trying to reopen the case, claiming that the questions posed by Serial are legitimate, and that Syed did not receive a fair trial. Since then, his lawyers have been allowed to submit the additional evidence to Baltimore courts. Faulty evidence included inaccurate locations generated from Syed’s cell phone use at the time, and new evidence includes an unheard witness who places him far from where Lee’s body was found at the time of her death. Because a former lawyer failed to submit the witness as evidence, Syed won his right to appeal.