Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald

Jul. 28th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Liz Bourke

Luna: New Moon (reviewed for Strange Horizons by Matt Hilliard and in The Guardian by Adam Roberts) came out in 2015 to no small amount of fanfare, with Deadline reporting that the television rights had been sold even before the publication day. Game of Thrones meets The Godfather in the unforgiving and lethal lunar environment: a libertarian paradise where possession really is nine-tenths of the law and even the air you breathe has a price crossed with the feudal politics of five intermarried corporate families—the Dragons of the moon. This is a setting filled with dramatic potential, and it's easy to see why it would have generated interest from television production companies. Unfortunately, it doesn't work quite as well for me.

The Corta family provided the greater part of New Moon's viewpoint characters. By New Moon's end, though, the family's power had been broken and most of its members killed. At the start of Wolf Moon, teenager Lucasinho Corta and his little cousin Luna survive under the protection of the Asamoah family, while Robson Corta has been adopted by the Mackenzies who murdered the rest of his family—and who're prepared to give him over to sexual abuse at the hands of Bryce Mackenzie, one of the sons of the ancient Mackenzie patriarch.

Of the adult Cortas, lawyer Ariel survives in poverty, attended by Marina Calzaghe (an Earther  who is fast approaching the day when she has to decide whether or not to go back), while Wagner Corta, the family's black sheep, runs a salvage crew on the lunar surface. Lucas Corta is universally believed to be dead. He's not. He's doing something no one born on the moon has ever done before. He's going to Earth, to cut the deals and do the kind of political manoeuvring he's good at; the kind of political manoeuvring that will let him overthrow the toothless Lunar Development Corporation and avenge his family—setting himself up as essentially the ruler of the moon.

In some ways, Wolf Moon feels more like a sprawling family saga than the tightly intricate political/corporate/criminal thriller that was New Moon. Here there is no instigating event, like the assassination attempt in New Moon, that unfolds into an escalating series of crises. Rather, Wolf Moon deals with disintegration and with consequences: the disintegration first of the Corta family and the consequences of their fall from power, the disintegration of the Mackenzie family into warring factions, after an act of malice destroys their main family holding just like they destroyed the Cortas' family seat, and the disintegration of all the old norms and certainties on the moon, as Lucas's plan unfolds. The moon has seen feuds and assassinations and ambushes on the surface and in tunnels, but what it's never seen, before now, is war.

This is a book with numerous viewpoint characters. Young Robson, freerunning in the cities of the moon, is dealing with trauma and powerlessness in his own way, while Lucasinho deals with it through sex and baking, clinging to his lover and protector Abena Asamoah in so many of the wrong ways. Ariel Corta takes on family court cases, watched over by Marina—who has put all her own needs aside to keep Ariel safe and comfortable—at least until Ariel is retained as personal counsel by the chair of the LDC. Wagner Corta, with his dark and light halves—bipolar syndrome, which some people on the moon have developed into a werewolf subculture—is trying to keep Robson safe and also fulfil his other responsibilities. Lucas is determined to survive entry into Earth's gravity, despite the chance that it will kill him. Alexia Corta, one of Lucas's Brazilian cousins, is ruthless, determined to gain wealth, and willing to do anything because Lucas has promised her … it's a pun to say “the moon,” but it's essentially true. In addition there are what seems like a dozen others among the Suns and the MacKenzies and the Asamoahs, the movers and shakers of the moon.

McDonald is extremely good at depicting a vivid world, filled with vivid and believable characters. This is a future inhabited by many different sorts of people, with many different attitudes—there is, for example, an interesting argument between Ariel Corta and youthful political science student Abena Asamoah about the applicability of democratic systems of government to the lunar environment—and most of the major players on the moon are descendants of people from Russia, China, or the global south. The world feels weird enough and lived-in enough to be plausibly real (even if the economics don't really seem to make sense). McDonald writes about killer robots racing over the lunar surface and interpersonal tension with equal aplomb.

But ultimately Luna: Wolf Moon presents me with the same problem that its predecessor did. It's filled with interesting people. But they're all either adolescents, with adolescent ways of dealing with the world (Robson, Lucasinho), or in many ways they're really just terrible people. Ariel Corta appears to possess a very well-developed personal selfishness (her codependent and verbally abusive relationship with her personal assistant and bodyguard Marina was so unpleasant that I cheered when Marina finally decided to go back to Earth) that's matched by her political ambition, but she's unusual for a Corta in that she seems to see the moon as a society rather than an atomised collection of individuals or the playground of feuding families. Lucas Corta's selfishness is of a different order: in his quest for revenge and to restore the status of his family, he's willing to kill hundreds and destroy the existing modus operandi of lunar society. His choices put his remaining relatives in danger of death as a side effect, but he's still willing to quote, “Family first, family always,” to his sister Ariel. 

Wagner is perhaps the best of them, struggling to take care of his responsibilities to his nephew and generally not being an asshole. In a novel filled with power-hungry bastards, screwed-up teenagers, and people making terrible life choices, he stands out.

Don't get me wrong. These are deeply compelling characters, despite—or more likely because of—their human flaws. But I find books whose main concerns are human selfishness and ambition—whose main concerns are the ingredients of tragedy, without the catharsis of a tragic consummation—to be very tiring to read. And that's the feeling Wolf Moon left me with: weariness and the anticipation of disaster.

It's a good book. I wouldn't say I liked it. I'll probably read the sequel.

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Posted by Laurie Penny

In our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the author calls for an end to blaming mums for everything, including climate change

Everyone has mummy issues these days – including climate scientists. A recent study made headlines by suggesting that the number-one thing a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint is to have fewer children. Right on cue, a neo-Malthusian chorus seized on the study as another opportunity to shame women for their reproductive choices. Averting climate catastrophe is a collective responsibility – but it’s far more comfortable to blame your mother, or someone else’s, for every social ill.

I’ve just crossed the invisible rubicon between the age when you’re shamed and terrified out of the very idea of breeding and the age when you’re coerced and cajoled into it – if you have a uterus, of course. If you don’t, you can pretty much sit back and wait for some woman to do the donkey work of organising your genetic legacy, safe in the knowledge that you’re unlikely to be judged on your reproductive choices. I’m consistently taken aback by the number of men my age and older who speak offhandedly about their “future children”, without having planned in the slightest for the arrival of these notional sprogs – simply assuming that it’ll happen someday, when they’ve had time to dedicate themselves to their life’s work.

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Posted by Kathryn Hughes

A magisterial account across space and time of why people have been accused, and how some societies have stayed clear

It comes as no surprise to learn that the study of witches and witchcraft has been pockmarked by feuds and even the occasional falling-out. According to the opening section of Ronald Hutton’s magisterial book, the battle lines were drawn from the 1960s to the 90s between those scholars who insisted on taking a global view of maleficent magic and those who argued for a more local approach. The big-picture people tended to be an older generation of anthropologists who believed that all expressions of witchcraft could be traced back to a pocketful of ancient sources. Local characteristics – hanging upside-down naked from a tree in Uganda, dressing your pet toad in a frock in the Basque country – were simply a dialect version of a universal shamanistic language that had trickled down from prehistory.

For a slightly later cohort of scholars this approach reeked of ethnographic bias. It was naive to think that a change of costume and climate was all it took to explain the differences between the troll-whisperers of Scandinavia and the baby-eaters of New Guinea. As for the fact that francophone witches from early-modern Alsace went about their dastardly deeds as freelancers while their German-speaking neighbours hunted in packs – such distinctions really meant something, if you were only prepared to find out what.

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Half-remembered integer sequences

Jul. 28th, 2017 08:01 am
mtbc: maze E (black-cyan)
[personal profile] mtbc
One show I miss from the television of my childhood is the Open University's lectures for distance learners. I have a hazy memory of an interesting sequence of increasing positive integers where it looked as if it was going to be one thing and it turned out to be another. I vaguely recall that for the first six numbers or so the sequence looked arithmetically obvious, like powers of two, but was in fact something else arising from geometry.

Somebody on a helpful online community managed to offer a good hypothesis for what I was trying to remember: from The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences we have sequence A000127: Maximal number of regions obtained by joining n points around a circle by straight lines. Also number of regions in 4-space formed by n-1 hyperplanes.

I ought to get around to finding myself some free online streaming that replaces those televised lectures that I welcomed.
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Posted by Sophie Dishman

Blackburn has the highest proportion of fast food outlets in the country – and is one of its most deprived areas. But do residents agree there are too many takeaways?

To some people, Julie Ashton lives in takeaway heaven. Her street, Bank Top, near the centre of Blackburn, boasts a string of fast food outlets that sell instant, cheap, high-calorie meals. Two of the takeaways on this street go by the name of Paradise.

“Around here you can get chips and a burger for a pound, with a bit of lettuce,” says Ashton, a part-time horse groomer. “The takeaways sell so much fast food because so many customers are coming in to get the deals. Everybody is going into competition with each other. They’re all trying to out-do next door.”

Related: Large rise in takeaway shops highlights dominance of fast food in deprived areas

Everybody is going into competition with each other. They’re all trying to out-do next door

Related: Fast food England: how many takeaways are near you?

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Posted by Matthew Costlow

A coalition of nations and non-government organizations recently concluded negotiations at the United Nations on the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” an internationally legally-binding document that would ban the signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, transferring, stockpiling, hosting, or using nuclear weapons. The treaty will be open for signature on September 20 ...
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Posted by Ryosuke Hanada

Editor’s Note: This was originally published by The Interpreter, the online magazine of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an independent, nonpartisan think tank based in Sydney. War on the Rocks is proud to be publishing select articles from The Interpreter. This month, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, which is led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, experienced its first major electoral defeat ...

Eric Nado: Longueuil, QC, Canada

Jul. 28th, 2017 12:00 am
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Posted by

A Bachelor of Visual Arts and of Philosophy, Éric Nado has been perfecting sculpture-assembly since 1998. The work of this Quebecois artist is represented by galleries in Montreal and in California and has been commissioned by many private and public companies for various needs and purposes over the years. In 2015, his work was selected by Montreal’s COA Gallery to be showcased at Scope New York and Art Basel Miami.

Nado’s contemporary industrial sculptures tell a story, one of our collective past. Made of recycled, metal, factory-salvaged and nostalgia-filled parts, the artwork pays homage to our roots’ industrial past.

As per his recent reconstructive art series, Nado takes strong objects, imprints of our collective memory, such as Sewing Machines and Typewriters, disassembles them and recreates engaging and evocative sculpture art pieces, in occurrence, the Seamstress Series and the Typewriter Gun Series.

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Posted by Mike Glyer

Louisville’s Fandom Fest is still happening this weekend (July 28-30), but in the past few days its slate of celebrity guests has lost so much luster that local TV station WDRB reports “Fans of Fandomfest now say they feel conned … Continue reading
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Posted by Vasilis Kostakis

We need a new paradigm, informed by the past, which can address most of the problems that capitalism has been creating, for the benefit of the many and of the environment.

lead "Wikihouse is an open source project to reinvent the way we make homes... "Four years ago, Thomas Piketty published his best-seller that tried to provide a working model for capital in the twenty-first century. The reasons why Piketty failed to accomplish some of his goals have been well explained by David Harvey.

I’d like to shed light on a new process that has been neglected by both Piketty and Harvey. For those who wish to understand “capital in the twenty-first century”, studying a rising form of production is of paramount importance. Following the format of ‘capital’, I call this emerging phenomenon ‘phygital’.

What is capital?

Capital is a process, not a thing, which results in social relations. Put simply, it is a process in which money is used to make more money. This process is situated in a specific context where the capital owners develop multifaceted relations with the rest of the people and their habitat. Capital is a process in which money is used to make more money.

The owners of a company profit by developing relations with their employees, partners, suppliers, customers, natural environment etc. How value is created and wealth is accumulated in the hands of the very few is a complex process. However, to quote the Encyclopedia of Marxism, “the issue is to understand what kind of social relation is capital and where it leads”.

I shall argue the same for another process, named ‘phygital’.

What is phygital?

‘Phygital’ is a process whereby ‘physical’ (material production) meets the ‘digital’ (production of knowledge, software, design, culture). It encapsulates digitally enhanced physical reality and production, to show how the influx of shared knowledge changes and improves production.

First it was Wikipedia and the myriads of free and open-source software projects. They demonstrated how people, driven by diverse motives, can produce complex ‘digital artefacts’ if they are given access to the means of production. Now we are also observing a rich tapestry of initiatives in the field of manufacturing.  

For example, see the Wikihouse project that produces open source designs for houses; the OpenBionics project that produces open source designs for robotic and bionic devices; or the FarmHack and L’Atelier Paysan communities that produce open source designs for agricultural machines. Digital technologies enable people to cooperate in a remote and asynchronous way, and produce designs that are shared as digital commons (open source). Then the actual manufacturing takes place locally, often through shared infrastructures (from 3d printing and CNC machines to low-tech tools and crafts) and with local biophysical conditions in mind. Phygital is a process in which shared resources (commons) are used to produce more shared resources (commons).

Similar to capital, phygital is a process that results in social relations. However, it is a process in which shared resources (commons) are used to produce more shared resources (commons). The kind of social relations can thus be very different to capitalism. And it may lead to a post-capitalist economy and society.

Do we really need another new term?

No, not necessarily. But we need a new paradigm, informed by the past, which can address most of the problems that capitalism has been creating for the benefit of the many and of the environment. Towards that end, discussions around and experimentation with post-capitalist alternatives are necessary.

I believe that new ideas should ideally be described by using already widely understood terms so that the message is effectively communicated. However, I cannot come up with a better term that would describe this conjunction of the digital with the physical. If someone can, may this brief essay serve as inspiration.

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tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/61: Single and Single -- John Le Carré
'...what the hell happened next?’ He was so warm! He could feel it! It was here in the room. It was across the packing case from him. It was inside Massingham’s skull and begging to come out – till at the very last second it turned and scurried back to safety. [p. 282]

maybe slightly spoilery )
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Posted by Justine Jordan

An elderly couple remember their past and face up to the future in this quietly brilliant novel from the Northern Irish author

The married couple at the centre of Bernard MacLaverty’s first novel in 16 years have reached that stage of life where “every time I open my glasses case nowadays, I am pleasantly surprised to find my glasses”. Gerry and Stella have survived the Troubles, raised a son now living in Canada, had careers in architecture and teaching. Their memories reach back to Northern Ireland in the 40s and 50s; their future is both circumscribed and uncertain. Don’t they deserve a little holiday?

But the midwinter break of the title turns out to refer not only to their long weekend in Amsterdam, but to the possibility of a rupture between them, as well as the more general stumbling blocks of old age. Stella has an agenda for the trip that goes beyond visits to Anne Frank’s house and the Rijksmuseum, while the enforced intimacy of time away from home will shine an unforgiving light on the furtive alcohol habit that is coming to saturate Gerry’s every thought.

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Posted by Tetiana Goncharuk

The situation in Ukraine's Donbas is tense as ever. While politicians play at diplomacy, civilians spend their lives under artillery bombardment, walking along blown-up roads and burying family members killed by tripwires. RU

Luhansk landscape, 2017. Photo courtesy of the author.

The war in Ukraine’s Donbas is now in its fourth year. This is mostly thanks to Russian military and financial support for separatist forces, and because of the ineffectual policies of the Ukrainian government, which has been unable to come up with a strategy to free the country from an external aggressor and end the crisis. 

In the Donbas, local people are tired and disillusioned: “I don’t see how anything can change,” Natalya, a resident of the village of Zolote, in the Luhansk region, tells me. “Life’s pretty bad here. When there’s shooting, we hide in the cellar. There was a sniper firing around here yesterday. When the fighting got worse, I went to stay with relations in Belarus, but my neighbour stayed here the whole time, hiding in her cellar. I was away for 14 months, but I came back because houses are houses; houses and walls are a help. But life’s really hard now. All the prices have gone up — electricity, water… They bring food supplies for us in trucks, we’ve had them from both the Red Cross and the UN. And pensioners like me get ‘humanitarian aid’ payments. But it’s worst for the young people. There’s no work, nor help for them.” 

Russia’s border with Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions runs for 923,240 kilometres, 409,300 of which are occupied. UN figures as of June 2017 put the death toll over the last three years at more than 10,090, 2,777 of them - civilians. Another 23,455 people have been wounded and 1,600 residents of Donbas have had to leave their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine. 

“We’re so used to hearing the fighting every night, that when there’s a quiet night the children can’t sleep: they’ve got used to the gunfire” 

As well as human casualties, Ukraine is suffering economic losses. The Donbas is an industrial area in the eastern part of the country, with 127 coal mines, 97 of which have been in occupied territory since the start of the war; coal is now being mined there illegally. The Donetsk region also has access to the Sea of Azov, creating a problem over Ukraine’s sea border with Russia. With these assets, Donetsk’s attraction for Russia is obvious. 

Is this war or terrorism? 

From the moment when Russian troops invaded Ukrainian territory in April 2014, the Ukrainian government has officially referred to its neighbour’s aggression as an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” (ATO), and the area where military operations are taking place as the ATO zone. Thus, the government’s interpretation of what was happening in its eastern regions was ambiguous from the start — effectively there was a war going on, but there was no open recognition of this fact. 

The reason was the forthcoming presidential election, after the fall of Viktor Yanukovych’s regime in February 2014. This, at any rate, was the explanation given by acting president Oleksandr Turchynov. And it was only recently, on 13 June 2017, that Ukraine’s leadership officially announced its intention to adopt a new strategy for its defence and liberation of the occupied territories and reclassify the situation from “anti-terrorist operation” to the more explicit “military operation”. This announcement was also made by Turchynov, who now holds the post of Secretary to Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council. And 20 June saw the publication of a draft bill on “State Policy for the Restoration of Ukrainian Sovereignty over the temporarily occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Regions”. 

This bill states that Ukraine officially acknowledges the fact that the Russian Federation is engaged in armed aggression on its territory and has occupied part of the Donbas region. The bill then proposes the restoration of humanitarian and cultural links with people living in the occupied areas, guaranteeing them humanitarian and legal aid and access to the Ukrainian media. This would also include the introduction of a special legal regime for crossing the borders between the two zones, legal arrangements, guaranteeing human and civil rights and freedoms.

It is also intended that Ukraine’s resident should have the right to take decisions on the use of the armed forces and other paramilitary formations to counter Russia’s armed aggression, as well as the right to introduce martial law. Ukrainians have been expecting these decisive measures from their government for a long time now. Whether the bill will pass into law is still unclear: the Verkhovna Rada deputies are off for their summer break so no further debate can take place before autumn. If the bill is passed, it will be the first sign of the Ukrainian government’s official recognition that Russia’s actions are an armed invasion. 

Children’s playground converted into a military checkpoint, Donetsk region, 2017. Photo courtesy of the author.

Despite the abundant proof of Russian forces’ engagement in the war in eastern Ukraine, Russia has never officially admitted to invading. A large part of the ATO zone was retaken by Ukrainian forces during the counter-offensive of summer 2014. And today’s ATO zone comprises both that area, now under Ukrainian control, and the area currently occupied by illegal armed groups coordinated by the Russian government.

Overall, the zone encompasses about 40,000 and includes most of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and a small part of its Kharkiv region (the town of Izyum and its outlying villages), with a demarcation line between the liberated and occupied areas. The occupied cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, which form the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR), are largely reliant on Russian economic support. 

Local people and the war 

From Ukraine, you can enter the ATO zone by rail, via Slovyansk or Lysychansk, for example. Once in the zone, however, you need a car: the railway lines are closed, and buses, where they exist at all, run once a week at best. You can take a taxi, but they are expensive and unreliable. 

You then need to get through the control points you’ll encounter every five-seven kilometres along the roads. Here, Ukrainian troops check your papers and the contents of your car, and ask questions such as: “where are you going? Why are you going there? What are you carrying?” The checks can take anything from a couple of minutes to several hours, and the more tense the situation along the demarcation line, the harder it is to get through the checkpoints. Ukrainian soldiers can turn you back, citing security issues. 

A queue at the crossing between Kyiv-controlled Donbas and the self-declared “Luhansk People’s Republic.” Photo courtesy of the author.

Popasna is a town in the Luhansk region and an administrative centre of its eponymous administrative district. At the moment, the area is under Ukrainian control, but despite the Minsk Agreements, shelling can be heard in the town daily. “They’re firing at us every day,” a local woman tells me, “but nobody talks about it. There is no public transport; the roads are completely destroyed, and we can’t even pasture our cattle because all the fields are mined.” Food is expensive in Popasna — it’s hard for trucks to negotiate the bad roads, not to mention having to constantly stop at checkpoints, so the prices in the shops are high. And despite the fact that the demarcation line runs through the town, the locals are not getting the compensation due to them for living in a combat zone.

“We’re so used to hearing the fighting every night, that when there’s a quiet night the children can’t sleep: they’ve got used to the shells going off,” says the mother of a seven-year-old, a resident of the town of Zolote, in Popasna. Zolote is a mining town that has had no local government for over three years — no one runs it anymore. There’s no money coming in from central government either: the locals tell us that if there’s no mayor, then there’s no finance.

“All we can do is believe in God and hope for a miracle. We have no one else to turn to” 

In Soviet times, the town was one of the largest coal producers in the area, constantly growing and developing and a magnet for miners and their families. Now it’s more of a ghost town and makes a horrific impression, with bombed and bullet-holed buildings and rubbish strewn all over the streets. 

People living in Zolote used to go on foot to visit their friends and relatives in Pervomaysk, the next village, but they can’t now. Pervomaysk is now occupied by the separatists, and the roads and meadows between the two settlements are now minefields. So the old links between families and friends are broken. 

The grey zone

Stanitsa Luhanska is a small town, eight kilometres from the “LNR”. It is now the only place you can cross on foot from the area under Ukrainian forces’ control and that part of Ukraine controlled by the “LNR” illegal armed units. The distance between them is a mere 500-700m. 

There are also Ukrainian army emplacements here. Some streets are completely in ruins, disappearing beneath fragments of bombed out buildings and shell craters. It’s risky to walk there — you could step on a mine or be blown up by a tripwire. Although Stanitsa Luhanska was liberated from the Russian troops and separatist fighters in August 2014, a lot of houses and some streets have been left unrestored and uncleared of mines. In three years of war, more than 3,000 residential buildings have been badly damaged and 260 of them are unsuitable for restoration. Most of this damage happened in 2014, when the most intensive fighting was going on here. 

Residential building in Zolote. Photo courtesy of the author.

Anyone who for some reason needs to cross from the area under Ukrainian control to the area controlled by the pro-Russian forces must join a long queue to have their ID papers checked by Ukrainian border officers. They then have to walk across a neutral strip (the road bridge was blown up) before being checked again by the pro-Russian side. 

About 15,000 Ukrainians cross this “border” daily. They come here from the “LNR” to pick up their Ukrainian pensions from Oshchadbank, the Ukrainian state savings bank, use ATMs and do their shopping. The war has created a whole new caste of people who transport goods and foodstuffs by hand cart across the demarcation line, just like in the 1990s. Seventy five kilogrammes of food products can be taken in one go, and private minibuses will transport them, for 250 hryvnya (about eight Euros), along the road with its surface shattered by tank tracks to the nearest railway station at Rubizhne. There are plenty of transporters —they stand with their placards and offer their services to all and sundry. 

Some have to stay in Luhansk — not because they support the idea of “Novorossiya” but because they don’t have any choice

Before the war, Stanitsa Luhanska provisioned Luhansk and the towns around it with fresh vegetables, but the war has shattered these economic ties. The regional administrative centre is no longer Luhansk, but Severodonetsk, and there’s no point in transporting fresh produce there, as it’s more than 100km away along broken roads, not to mention the queues at the 10 checkpoints on the way. Meat is also cheaper in Ukraine, but these days you can’t take meat products into the “LNR” — the pro-Russian militias that control the checkpoint at the entrance to the self-styled republic have declared war on African Swine Fever, which they claim is now widespread in Ukraine. 

There are a number of reasons for this daily migration from one side of the line to the other. Many residents of Luhansk take out residence papers in Stanitsa Luhansk, where they receive temporary registration as “temporarily displaced persons”, but in fact continue living in Luhansk. This means they can cross the “border” between the Ukrainian controlled area and the area controlled by illegal armed formations practically without hindrance. 

Crossing back into Ukrainian government-controlled territory at Stanitsa Luhanska. Photo courtesy of the author.

Some members of the population, however, have to stay in Luhansk — not because they support the idea of “Novorossiya” (as the two self-styled Peoples’ Republics would like to be known), but because they don’t have any choice. Pensioners, for example, can’t leave the “LNR” because they wouldn’t be able to pay their rents and feed themselves in other parts of Ukraine on a monthly pension of 100 Euros. Others stay in the “LNR” because they have property and real estate that they don’t want to leave.

Some residents of Luhansk were forced to leave it in 2014: activists involved in the local Euromaidan, journalists and everyone who wanted Viktor Yanukovych’s government overthrown left the city as fast as they could. Now none of them can go back to Luhansk, even for a short time, to call on relatives or collect their things — the separatist militias will either imprison them, try them on charges of treason against the “LNR”, or simply kill them. 

An information vacuum 

Although the war in the Donbas is in its fourth year, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions exist in an information vacuum. Most of the area controlled by Ukraine, for example, can’t receive Ukrainian TV and radio — there isn’t a tower to transmit the signal. The local population has to make do with Russian radio and TV, which comes with an excellent signal. There is a similar problem with mobile networks and the internet. The Ukrainian government ignores these issues; it has never developed any information strategy to counter Russian propaganda. 

“I don’t know whether our government is doing anything to block Russian TV,” says Aleksandr, a resident of the town of Shchastya in the Luhansk region. “Lots of people watch it and they’re beginning to believe what they see.” 

Drivers offer their services in Stanitsa Luhanska, 2017. Photo courtesy of the author.

Meanwhile, the residents of some towns and villages have taken the matter into their own hands and set up their own local internet connection. And in some places a loudspeaker tuned to a Ukrainian radio station has been set up in the town or village’s central square, although, as people in Shchastya point out to me, it’s closed down at weekends. 

The Ukraine-controlled area also has deliveries of newspapers printed in the “LNR”, but financed by Russia. The newspaper Respublika, for example, follows Russian practice in the terms it uses for the Ukrainian army (“Ukraino-fascist aggressors”, “pro-Bandera nationalist-motivated structures”, “the Ukrainian occupiers, just like the fascists, cut down our forest and take our black earth away from us” and so on).

Across the Donbas, people tell me how tired they are of the war, and how they hope it will end soon. “The most interesting thing for me now is information silence. I don’t believe anyone,” one woman in Shchastya tells me.

The residents of the Donbas area have become very superstitious, which they never were before. They give one another amulets, stuffed faceless dolls in traditional costume (a traditional Ukrainian talisman), and paint crosses above their doors to ward off shells. It’s highly unlikely that they will be rid of war in the near future. “All we can do is believe in God and hope for a miracle. There’s no one else we can count on,” concludes Natalya from Zolote. 

Translated by Liz Barnes.

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Posted by Darren Quick

Researchers have identified a peptide that could lead to that shampoo fresh smell all day long

For most people, smell is one of the main deciding factors when buying shampoo. But whether it's a hint of coconut, a whiff of wildflowers, or the aroma of some bizarre fruit cocktail, the smell doesn't last long after stepping out of the shower. Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) may now have found the answer to longer-lasting scents that can stay in the hair for up to 24 hours.

.. Continue Reading Peptide could give hair that freshly-shampooed smell for 24 hours

Category: Health & Wellbeing

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