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Jasmina Tesanovic

Jasmina Tesanovic is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Blog: jasminatesanovic.wordpress.com.

World War One: on the peculiar geopolitics of passionate, armed teenagers


On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated in Sarajevo the Austrian Archiduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (heir to the throne) and his wife Sofia. This act allegedly triggered the World War One.

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We visited Ukraine's Palace of Corruption

Jasmina Tesanovic ventures into the "Palace of Corruption" where deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych partied and gloried in graft while the #Euromaidan raged on his doorstep. Tesanovic was in Serbia when Milosevic was deposed, and she reflects on the careers of post-Soviet dictators. Read the rest

Sorrow in the Balkans

Jasmina Tesanovic on the recent floods drowning the Balkan region, in which, it seems the sorrow never stops.Read the rest

Hacker Hymn [Jasmina Tesanovic]

Recently I saw a movie on the life and death of Aaron Swartz, who is nowadays often called a martyr for the freedom of the Internet.

People, nations and governments like martyrs. They love them, they need them. Martyrs are part of our bipolar, black and white society constructed from good and bad guys, who always do good and bad deeds. Martyrs are those who have escaped our human condition, of being judged by people as people. Martyrs are beyond judgement, they become the scapegoats for our biggest failures, for the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt phrased it.

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Berlusconi's "decadenza"


Silvio Berlusconi, 77, speaking to supporters in Rome on Wednesday. Tony Gentile/Reuters.

[Editor's Note: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been expelled from Italy's senate after two decades in government.]

My American friend wrote me this morning: How does it feel to live, free of Berlusconi? Are the people of Italy rejoicing in the streets?

Here in Turin, the news was hardly noticed, because although it is good news, it is also old news. It was expected, a fully foreseen turn of events, part of the long goodbye of an Italian ruler who came in power in distant 1994 and is still clinging to authority with all his histrionic might.

Italian politics have never lacked for stage histrionics, but Berlusconi is very likely the most ridiculous Italian state leader ever. Beppe Grillo, the leader of the opposition Five Star Movement, is a television comedian, but Grillo is the picture of sobriety and decency compared to Berlusconi.

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Syria/Serbia

Writer, filmmaker, and "humanitarian bombing" survivor Jasmina Tesanovic reflects on the similarities between the war she experienced, and the strikes proposed by the United States against Syria.Read the rest

Cyberpunk Academy

Authors Jasmina Tesanovic and Bruce Sterling attended Republika, a three-day seaside meeting of futurists and forward-thinkers, organized in part by Share Cyberpunk Academy. About a hundred activists, artists, and tech experts gathered in Croatia to meet and speak to attendees from around the world. Jasmina shares her account of the gathering here, a portion of which took place on a historic boat.Read the rest

Airport as a Homeland: Snowden

Writer Jasmina Tesanovic lost her homeland in The Yugoslav Wars, and says she can relate to the statelessness of Edward Snowden, who is seeking asylum while waiting in a no-mans-land at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.Read the rest

Kafka and d'Annunzio, and the mysteries to be revealed in their former homes

There is something perverse and voyeuristic about visiting the private homes of famous people. Yet, as time goes by, I find the grand fame of public figures less interesting than their personal doings.

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Ants and Stars: Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic visit the Sardinia Radio Telescope in Italy

Writers Jasmina Tesanovic and Bruce Sterling visit the Sardinia Radio Telescope, a large, fully steerable radio telescope currently which was recently completed near San Basilio, in province of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy.Read the rest

Milan Wired Next


Photo: Jasmina Tesanovic

The Golden Quadrilateral in today's Milan is composed of haute couture shops, jewelry emporia, and nouveau riche tourists. It's the geographic square that once sheltered the novelist Alessandro Manzoni, the composer Giuseppe Verdi, the physicist Albert Einstein, the socialite Clara Maffei. Severe battles raged for days in these streets as the riotous Milanese struggled to expel their Austrian imperial occupiers. Nowadays the blood-soaked alleys of the nineteenth century are luxurious windowfronts where bored, dolled-up sales girls loll inside, among the vidcams and the cybernetic security systems.

In this same Milanese downtown, a failed bank has been retrofitted into a hallucinatory five-star hotel: chandeliers like horror movie infestations, crooked plastic arm chairs in a nauseous green, tortuous, polka-dotted corridors that lead nowhere, and a psychedelic swimming-pool installation that might drown Olafur Eliasson.

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E-Stonia: where the free internet now flows like water


Photo: Bruce Sterling

First things first: oh, you world travelers, for pleasure or for work, never, ever fly Baltic Airlines. First they will stiff you by making you pay sixty euros to carry regular-sized hand luggage. You will note their particular eagerness to pounce on innocent non-Baltic travellers, especially haplessYankees with credit cards.

During the flight you can expect to be charged for the air you breathe, since they don't even give free water.

Finally, god forbid if something goes wrong with your flight and ticket, for Baltic Airlines will gladly maneuver you into buying a heavily-priced new one. Fleeing home via Baltic Airlines beats prison and deportation, but not by much.

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Occupy SXSW 2013

Image: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic image from Tim Regan's photostream

I must start with a tweet from my wise friend Xeni Jardin:

"Some of you have asked why I'm not at SXSW: as a person with cancer, have I not suffered enough already?"

Well, some of us still are there at South By South West every year, among hordes of nerds, geeks and unnoticed celebrities in a magnificent carnival of tech in Austin, Texas.

This year, I had Stendhal’s syndrome after day two: I risked a stampede while fleeing the endless queue for Al Gore’ s keynote. At a festival of this size, people queue like in war zones where any queue means available goods. It's only after you get a firm place in line that you ask: what are we waiting for?

Individualism in armies is not tolerated, and by day three the entire army itself seemed as crushed by the challenge as I was. The geeks walked aimlessly, tired, with dark bags around their eyes, dirty clothes, undone laces. Austin is a besieged town in these ten days: with thirty thousand paying attendees and an un-numbered horde of locals and curiosity-seekers, roaming the streets of this proudly weird city.

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A report from Webstock 2013: Jasmina Tesanovic

Photo: Bruce Sterling

I've been to tech conferences all over the world, but this one may be the most radical: Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand. It's about web designers as both stars of "new media" and as futurist philosophers. These web people, who normally talk in their geeky way about algorithms, can't resist preaching some morality and politics, all from a handsome wooden stage on which the Beatles once performed in 1964.

Their IQs are as high as boiling water, while their jargon is a multinational meta-language above all national cultures. They are traitors to the sacred values of corporate mainstream business, even when they are part of it.

Here are some Webstock philosophical homilies.

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Amazons with a Cause

Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.

I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.

The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too.

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The Likes of Me: a dispatch from Jasmina Tesanovic

"Lunchtime at Rosa House, a woman-run shelter in Zagreb, Croatia. Photo by Center for Women War Victims. From "The Suitcase: Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia."

A couple of days ago, the two former members of the Croatian military won a "not guilty" sentence in the Hague international war crime tribunal.

   I was not present in the general headquarters of the Croatian army while they were deciding on their "Operation Storm" action of 1995.  I don't know if the telephone rang there.  I also don't know if President Bill Clinton personally told them to go ahead with the largest land offensive since World War II, because the CIA would help.  That is what certain Serbian newspapers published recently.

     I have a remarkable lack of knowledge about world paramilitary conspiracies, secret chambers in the Vatican,  mysterious double-agents doing their jobs badly. Generally, the things I know are in the public domain, because  people said these things publicly and I took notes, or because I was just personally standing there.

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Student Riots in Italy: a dispatch from Jasmina Tesanovic

When I myself was a protesting student, I remember vividly remembered the cold warning in the text by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He reminded us youngsters that the police we faced in the streets were also someone's children, that not all young people were fortunate enough to be in colleges rather than wearing uniforms, and that we should join all together against the general oppressor, the system, capitalism, the corporations, name it…

That was then, and this is now, and while the students and policemen still have the same interests, they are still on the opposite sides of the barricade. Austerity has driven Italy to its knees. Day by day the future of Italy's young people is vaporizing, and now the streets are flooded by torrential rains, to boot. Italian cities rocked by earthquakes might as well settle for witchcraft, rather than find responsible and competent government officials who can rescue the nation's casualties.

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Collective Intelligence: Science on Trial, Berlusconi sentenced. Dispatch from Italy, by Jasmina Tesanovic

The Italian scientific community was stunned when Italian scientists, seismologists, were recently sentenced to years of prison for manslaughter, for failing to predict the lethal earthquake in Aquila in 2009. Other scientists have resigned to their jobs in protest, and even some relatives of the victims condemned the sentence as ridiculous.

The world press was reporting on the dark ages of inquisition in Italian courts and labs. But then, journalistic investigations discovered political scandals that implied a plot to downplay earthquake dangers in Aquila, involving Berlusconi and his cabinet. Silvio Berlusconi can't control earthquakes any more than seismologists can, but he's always been keen on controlling media.

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The Decent People: LGBT pride in the former Yugoslavia

Years ago during the reign of Milosevic in Serbia I wrote an essay called "Decent people". It was about that 80 percent of Serbian people, the classic silent majority, who lived in denial of the genocide in Srebrenica, the snipers in Sarajevo, the shelling in Dubrovnik.

These so called decent people who could not grasp cruel political and military reality. Eventually the damage to daily life became impossible; the decent people could not go through with their charade of normality as postmen, engineers and dentists. On October 5th 2000 a million people took to the streets in Belgrade and physically deposed the tyrant.

However, time stopped then in Serbia. An October 6th never dawned for a bewildered Serbia, not even 12 years later, on the anniversary. Milosevic died behind the bars in the Hague, my Yugoslav-era parents are deceased, my postman is on pension but the inhabitants of the Serbian parliament today are the next generation of those decent people. No painful truths were admitted and confronted; there was a rebellion of the decent, but not a thorough change in the society.

Typically, a few days ago the new elected premiere of Serbia forbade the Gay Pride annual parade. He claimed that 80 percent of the Serbian population is against gay manifestations, and warned against the risky and inevitable gay-bashing that would follow in the streets. This new premiere is an old member from the deposed Milosevic' s party. Crushing the aspirations of Serbian gays has become routine, and he has already handled the trouble successfully before.

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My night with the International Space Orchestra: Jasmina Tesanovic


The International Space Orchestra in front of Vacuum Chambers, NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Neil Berrett.

I never dreamed I would be in a NASA base in California, singing and playing music.

The Ground Control Opera performance by Nelly Ben Hayoun, presented the International Space Orchestra, 50 local technicians and scientists, playing in the city of San Jose at the Zero1 Biennial 2012. The opera reenacts the first minutes of Neil Armstrong's landing on the Moon. It's dedicated to the memory of the recently gone cosmonauts and astronauts, and the endeavors of scientists at ground-control stations, still trying to make our 20th century dreams of spaceflight come true.

My daughter asked me when she mis-heard that I was singing for "NASA": Mom why are you singing to "NATO?" NATO bombed us in Serbia in 1999! I said my dear this is NASA, not NATO, they have planes and rockets but not bombers and missiles! They are searching for habitable planets with the Kepler space probe! Maybe there are other space controllers somewhere out there!

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Free Pussy Riot [Jasmina Tesanovic]


I used to say, "This will not be my war anyway" to my daughter, to my young colleagues, and friends feminists or not: to girls.

We fought in the seventies eighties nineties for freedom of choice, for divorce, for contraception, for women's human rights, against domestic violence, for peace in the world. We fought incessantly, ruthlessly, risking our careers, our private lives, our security and normality. And we accomplished a lot, all over the world; in Italy, in Serbia, in USA, name it.

The second wave of feminism was standing on the shoulders on the suffragettes from the beginning of the 19th century, who often gave their lives for women's rights. Then I got tired, and not me only. The world took a bad turn, not only in Serbia during the nineties, but everywhere after September 11!

The Globalization of Balkanization put at stake all the conquests of women and not only of women: terrorism, and raging war on terrorism, brought us police right-wing technocrat dystopian states where human rights became just another word for nothing left to lose. I told my young girls then: you must fight it now, this is your world, the one we inadvertedly left you. Learn how much you have inherited from your grandmothers, don't take it for granted because you are may well lose it, step by step, bit by bit. To the church, to the state, to the financiers.

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Earthquake and bombs in Italy: An eyewitness report from Jasmina Tesanovic


[Video Link.]

A weekend of fear and mourning in Italy.

Early this Sunday morning, an earthquake struck near Bologna: at least six killed (ceramic workers, and a hundred year old person), and big material damage in the region. The US Geological Survey heard the tremor: a magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 35 kilometers north-northwest of Bologna. Civil defence says that the quake was the strongest in the region since the 1300s. And the damaged building are valuable historical sites. In Italy such loss goes without saying.

We felt the earthquake in Torino, 260 kilometers from Modena at dawn. The apartment building shook and the late-night party people yelped with alarm in the streets. As I write this we hear the building crack and we tremble: I am checking on twitter. Yes, it' s an aftershock at 15.19.

Not unusual for Italy to deal with deadly earthquakes, but what comes afterward can be nearly as troublesome: state neglect and real estate speculation. Those who are not under earth may have the skies as a roof forever! The last big earthquake in Aquila in 2009 speaks about that.

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War Crimes trial for Ratko Mladic begins in The Hague

Photo: Jasmina in a former prison. "Despite the scale of the facility, it was densely crowded once." Shot by Bruce Sterling.


This morning, The Hague tribunal commenced the trial of Ratko Mladic, ex commander of the army of the Serbian republic in Bosnia. Mothers of the slain gathered in front of the court.

Twenty years ago, Mladic started his criminal activities, while still an officer of the army of disintegrating Yugoslavia. A year ago, Mladic was arrested, after years of concealment, mostly within Belgrade. Today Mladic, aged 70, is sitting in the court neatly dressed as a civilian, without his legendary military cap.

As the judge reads the indictment, Mladic cheerily waving to the audience and even applauds certain parts of the recitation. "The wolf loses his hair but not his character," as the Serbian proverb puts it.

The indictment precisely proceeds as a short elementary lesson of the bloody fall of Yugoslavia.

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Titanic Tales: The Costa Concordia

Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)

When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.

My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.

But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.

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Bye-bye, Bunga-bunga: "Addio Berlusconi"

"I haven't been so inspired since 1994," an Italian friend of mine posted on her Facebook page.

Well, I too can remember the year 1994, when I was in Milan, giving a public speech among some so-called intellectuals, soon after Berlusconi was elected. I had come there directly from Serbia, struggling in the thick of the Milosevic reign of terror.

I remember warning my Italian friends, feeling frightened, extremely emotional. I described a 'soft dictatorship,' how a small caste of oppressors gets into power legally, because WE vote them in, and then they steal and fake everything that WE, the people, never delegated them to do. And how, finally after waging wars against all the OTHERS in our own name, they finally turn on their ultimate victims and wage their war against US.

How they destroy every aspect of reality that stands in the way of a total exploitation: meaning the destruction, the ruin, of the people, ideas, customs, habits, prosperity, morality, of a nation and its history, of a time and a space. Afterwards, after the dreadful crash, who feels empty and responsible? We, the citizens who voted, we whose states were surrendered to the exploiters and profiteers, we, the participants, we are the ones humiliated in front of our children and the whole world.

Tonight, while Italians danced in front of the parliament, impatiently waiting for Berlusconi to officially resign, I remembered, once again among many times, how Milosevic was finally toppled after his miserable endless reign. Milosevic stumbled in the elections. He took Serbian support for granted, since he controlled all the Serbian mass media, and all the local means of patronage and favors.

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Berlusconi Bye Bye?

Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?

Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!

These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.

Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?

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Rome Burns

Photo: La Repubblica, Italy

That is the graffiti in one of the destroyed streets in this Saturday's "indignati" demonstration. It ended in violence against the police, city security, and last but not least the pacifist organizers of the manifestation, in tune with the world wide movements OCCUPY.

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Belen, Berlusconi, and bunga-bunga

[Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) talks with members of the parliament during a debate in the upper house of Parliament in Rome September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Max Ross]

The foreign press is raving about Berlusconi's escort scandals and his unfortunate declaration that he is the prime minister in his spare time. Sometimes, between important orgies, he finds a spare moment to meet with the Pope, UN officials, financiers and so forth.

The founder of one of the major dailies in Italy, Eugenio Scalfari, wrote that it was impossible for the scandal to continue until the formal elections in 2013. Yet at this point the Italian population seems to be beyond embarrassment.

The "If not now, when" women' s movement has been protesting for more than six months now in mass public demonstrations. Even world pop stars like Madonna, normally not an icon of sexual rectitude, have expressed their contempt for the premier.

Analysts are dismally recording the spreading decadence and lack of democracy as Italian society sinks into ever-growing economic and moral crisis. It might be possible to serenely overlook all this, if not for the leaked wiretaps.

Berlusconi's leaked conversations with his friend/pimp Tarantini are all over front pages. Here the premier and his bunga-bunga henchman discuss the charms of the most famous showgirl in modern Italy, the Argentinian supermodel Belen Rodriguez (a former model-spokesgirl for Italian TIM wireless internet).

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Texas: Bastrop Fires

Helpful tents with water, food and clothing are installed by the highway, in parking lots and prefabricated buildings. People just pour in with stuff to give, and we did that too. It feels normal.

Insurance companies and lawyers are also very present with their advice and offers. The patrol cars of Texas Rangers block small roads and prowl for looters. The scene looks American. My American friend comments; there is some harsh eerie justice that Texas, the petroleum state, is so stricken by wildfires. George Bush's war for oil still grinds on as his native soil is parched by global warming.

This is the true Texan stoic mentality, I am told; we hear no laments and see not a tear; just people waiting for the wind to turn, for the rain to fall.

As we walk the burned areas, as we crunch the crisp black grass, sometimes glimpsing burned cars and houses behind the police barricades, we notice that many trees have their crowns still intact. Sometimes the places of the worst distress have a weird beauty. A spinning ash devil swirls across the highway and blows off into the blackened woods, like some supernatural power. I manage to photograph it.

Six days after the first wildfires in a state park in Bastrop, smoke photographed from the orbiting Space Station has reached the Gulf of Mexico. Things have calmed, but nobody dares say that the fire season is over. There is no rain and no end to the drought predicted, while the sun glares fiercely and the temperatures rise yet again, here in our stricken part of the world.

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Texas in Flames

It's Labor Day.

We woke this morning with the smell of fire in North Austin. During the night 300 houses were consumed by wildfire, west of the town of Bastrop. We decided to visit the flames: we put our boots on and hit the road with an iPhone, iPad, and an iMac. Thank you Jobs.

Witnessing the places of disaster is the best way of coping with fear and anxiety. After months of severe drought in Texas, and record temperatures almost every day and up to 112 F, massive wildfire was only to be expected. Climate change activists are angry with the denial of history and science, fossil politics, fossil corporations.

As we approach the growing disaster area, we see the cars of refugees, trucks, tractors fleeing a wall of smoke. An old black settler tells us: never seen a drought like this in my life, born here raised here… Reminds me of numerous refugees flows I saw in war zone areas: same blank frightened faces, and a stubborn will not to depart from the scene of crime.

An agitated girl approaches the police car that blocks off a back road: I must go in there, I have a dog…after a pause she says in a lower voice, and a house…

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