This month California wildfires are still in the news. The good news is that most have been contained and are under control – for now. There were many parts of the state's forests on fire. In the north, the Gap fire started on July 3 on a ridge above Goleta in Santa Barbara County, causing some evacuations. It wasn't until July 29 that fire officials declared it under control.
David McNew has been following the fires and reports on his experiences and the ever-larger devastation. He was enveloped by smoke at one point with no visibility as his car became red hot. He took the only chance he had and made it out of what must be a constant danger for a photojournalist who tries to drive into the bad areas instead of staying along the edge. His images are awesome—in the original sense of the word.
Will Baxter reports on the situation in Zimbabwe after the one-candidate election of Robert Mugabe, 84 on March 29. While Mugabe is a hero of the country's liberation struggle his leadership, along with his party – the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) – has been ruthless. On Aug. 3 Reuters.com stated that: "President Robert Mugabe's party began power-sharing talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in South Africa two weeks ago to try to resolve the crisis after Mugabe's unopposed re-election in a poll boycotted by the opposition… ZANU-PF has said it will not accept any deal that fails to recognize Mugabe's re-election." Baxter writes of the constant danger and shows a few of the physical results of opposition.
David Bathgate returns with another dispatch from Afghanistan. This time he is in the Garmsir district of Helmand province. Both opium poppies and the Taliban seem to be thick on the ground. He arrives after a 10-day battle with the Taliban by the Marines who take over a local stronghold. Since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion Bathgate has traveled to Afghanistan several times. The situation differs each time he goes. In 2007 there were U.S. government reports of the Taliban's resurgence and Bathgate has shown some of the consequences in his dispatches.
Philip Poupin investigates the growing problem of gold mines in the Amazon region. In order to dig ever deeper and wider pits in the ground hundreds of acres of forest fall. Within these gold mine camps poor men looking for a way out of their poverty pit themselves against the land and each other. Brawls break out and it seems that illegal mining can't be stopped. The mine becomes a pit for the men involved in more than one way. The New York Times reported on Aug. 3 that there are more than a half a million gold miners spread throughout the Amazon Basin.
Online concern is developing over the dual effects of gold mining – deforestation and the use of mercury. James Brooke in nytimes.com wrote that miners use liquid mercury to separate gold particles from river sediment. Not only are the miners breathing the vapors but also the residue is dumped into rivers, perhaps making this situation the beginning of another Minamata, Japan.
Our "Update" this month comes from Rafael Ben-Ari who wrote earlier about the rocket attacks on Sderot launched from Gaza. Here he covers Barack Obama's visit to Sderot in July. Obama garnered a lot of attention from the worldwide press but especially from the media in Israel which reflects Israeli concern about Obama's views on foreign policy.