The return of the gold rush

Even as the world takes bold strides towards cryptocurrency, it clutches at old straws. Gold mines are reopening in California after demand for the metal rose in wake of the economic uncertainty induced by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The US Geological Survey estimates that of the world’s known gold, roughly 63,000 tons are still in the ground, compared with roughly 206,000 tons that have already been mined,” Becki Robins writes in the Undark magazine.

Extracting the metal naturally entails environmental costs. Economists think there is a better option: “investors could buy stock in gold exploration companies that have identified underground gold but have no plans to mine it.”

Read the piece here.

The footballer-turned-insurgent leader

The Continent is a weekly newspaper that circulates across Africa on WhatsApp. Its latest edition features a profile of Bonomado Machude Omar, the leader of an Islamist insurgency in the north of Mozambique, whose past record includes playing football, selling vegetables and serving in the navy.

“Various testimonies describe him both as someone sinister and brutal, but also with a sense of justice,” an analyst told Luis Nhachote and Milda Quaria, who reported the story.

Read the edition here.

Exporting plastic fire

After China closed its door to foreign recycling in 2018, mixed paper waste from Canada headed to Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines where it sparked a furore since it was contaminated with plastic bags which threatened to poison both land and air. Canadian exporters then redirected the waste to India.

“India, with lax inspection in some of its ports and a huge appetite for paper fibre, has become an attractive destination for Canadian recycling, with roughly 500,000 tonnes of mixed paper bales exported there between April 2019 and 2021,” Radio Canada reports.

Its investigation traced some of the waste to Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, where, alarmingly, it was being “burned secretly at night by the paper mills or plants that make jaggery, a form of sugar.”

Read the piece here.

‘Strangers can’t shut me up’

Neha Singh Rathore is a 24-year-old Bhojpuri singer who is drawing both adulation and abuse for the sharp political critique in her songs that has forced ruling parties in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states to issue rebuttals on the eve of state elections.

Profiling her in the Indian Express, Yashee writes: “Friends have been urging Rathore to not step out alone, or to keep her face covered with a mask. But the 24-year-old – who grew up in village Jandaha in Bihar’s Kaimur district, who has built a following of millions for her YouTube videos shot on phone, who writes and sets to music her songs, who has fans now in even faraway Punjab, who hopes to free Bhojpuri songs’ image from “blouse hooks and lehnga strings”, and who now stays away from home in a hostel in Varanasi for better Internet connectivity, and for her expanding work – says she is done being afraid.”

In Rathore’s own words: “If a girl like me is speaking out in public, she has already overcome the two most difficult challenges, of parivesh (environment) and parivaar (family). Random strangers can’t shut me up.”

Read the piece here.

The pursuit of distraction

“I want to upload Facebook stories. That is all,” an 8th class student from a village in Uttar Pradesh told Jyoti Yadav, when she asked about what he wants to do in his life.

In The Print, Yadav probes why record-levels of unemployment aren’t producing a tidal wave of social anger in India: “The more pervasive trend in the 2020s among unemployed youth, however, is the pursuit of distraction. When anger or despair do arise in this brave new world, they are usually quickly scrolled away and quietened by hours on Instagram reels.”

Read the piece here.