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Archive for June, 2008

Human V2.0

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here is a moment in the near future that scientist believe will transform the notion on WHAT it is to be HUMAN. Meet the scientific prophets who claim we are on the verge of creating a new type of human – a human v2.0. It’s predicted that by 2029 computer intelligence will equal the power of the human brain. Some believe this will revolutionise humanity – we will be able to download our minds to computers extending our lives indefinitely. Others fear this will lead to oblivion by giving rise to destructive ultra intelligent machines. One thing they all agree on is that the coming of this moment – and whatever it brings – is inevitable.

(from: BBC Horizon)

The smell of paradise

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n Islamic world tour is documented here by visits to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chechnia, and Qatar, to highlight events post 9/11, including footage taken a few years before. The film above all endeavors to shed light on the process leading young men to the radical choice of self-sacrifice, becoming human bombs. The directors of the film traveled for ten years throughout these countries under heavy Moslem influence, and met with clan leaders, mullahs, and other strict followers of the Koran.

HE SMELL OF PARADISE is a road movie, a personal adventure, not without personal risk, that starts in Chechnya in 1995, and takes us places that have become white spaces on the world map of Western journalists.

Via Dagestan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Qatar and Afghanistan it ends in Waziristan, along the Afghan-Pakistan border. We are lead through this story by the filmmakers Mariusz Pilis and Marcin Mamon, who make us relate to this unknown world as they translate the ideas of the “fundamentalist international”, ideas that put our Western democratic beliefs about society to the test.

The San Bushmen of Kalahari

ormerly called Bushmen for their tracking and outdoor survival skills, San communities relocated to South Africa have adapted their talents to new markets. In 1970 Botswana ranked as one of the poorest countries on earth. Then diamonds were discovered, now accounting for over 30 per cent of the GDP. But the Botswanian government fears that reserves will soon run out – they are only expected to last for another 35 years. Their fears have led to the forced eviction of Botswana’s sizeable indigenous population from the Kalahari region. But it has not proved easy. The San Bushmen of Kalahari are determined to protect their land and way of life.

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way from the prying eyes of the world, the last remaining Kalahari Bushmen, or San people of Botswana, are being starved of food and water in a bid to force them off the land their forefathers have roamed for the past 30,000 years. This is the final chapter in a 17-year saga which has seen the relocation of some 2,200 San out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) into resettlement camps by the Botswana Government. Water tanks have been removed from the six settlements of Kalahari San that remain inside the 52000 km² reserve – about the size of Togo or Denmark. The water pump at the Mothomelo borehole has been dismantled. The special game permits which enabled the San, the last remaining hunter-gatherers in Africa, to hunt a limited quota of wild animals, and gather veldt foods and fruits have been withdrawn. Now fewer than 30 of the Kalahari San remain.

The government says the resettlement programme is for the benefit the San. Most of Botswana’s 50,000 San population has already been relocated into 63 resettlement villages, where water, health and education services are provided. “We are a little puzzled about the fact that the world is so alarmed,” says Major General Moeng Pheto, a retired army officer overseeing the relocation programme. “We are doing what we consider to be the best for our people.” “We want to empower the Basarwa and make sure they have a future in this country,” General Pheto adds, “because they cannot forever remain nomadic.” But critics have compared the resettlement villages to reservations established in North America. The Botswana Government has also been accused of putting wildlife before people, and securing its mineral interests. The central Kalahari is rich in diamond and other mineral deposits. A successful land claim by the San might make it more difficult for the government to exploit any mineral finds, although the state owns all mineral deposits in Botswana.

Next week several hundred former central Kalahari San residents will take the government to court to challenge the removals, and demand they be allowed to return. Roy Sesana is the first applicant in the case and a founder member of the First People of the Kalahari, a non-government organization established in 1993 to represent the residents of the CKGR. Speaking through an interpreter in his native seG//ana language he explained: “When I went to Molapo I found my wives and children dismantling the huts to go.” “They had been told by the officials that if they stayed behind, the soldiers would come and put them inside the huts and burn them. They had no choice.” “The government is forcing people to move. We are being treated like refugees,” Mr Sesana says. It is a long hot drive to the semi-desert scrubland of the game reserve. When we got to the in the settlement of Kukamma, government cattle trucks were already parked waiting to load up the meagre possessions of a handful of San and BaKgalagadi families.

Botswana map

Map Botswana.

The remaining residents were clearly under enormous pressure to pack up and go. While officials from the local Ghanzi and Kweneng districts busily directed the dismantling of the huts, we sat sharing a watermelon with the chief’s family. Every member of the family received a slice of the sweet delicacy. Not one pip was squandered, but carefully collected in a small calabash for future cultivation. The moment was abruptly terminated with the arrival of Department of Wildlife officials who demanded our permit and then ordered us to leave immediately. Danqoo Xhukuri, chairman of the First People, says he believes it is because the government “doesn’t want anyone present to witness the final forced removal of the last of the San.” General Pheto denies that the CKGR residents are being forced to relocate.

“The only force and intimidation that we know of,” he says, is exerted on the San “by the NGOs who have been intimidating those who want to relocate.” He also says the San of the central Kalahari have been consulted for a long time about the move. They have been encouraged by the government to move out of the reserve, with generous offers of money, goats, cattle, and promises of jobs and a better quality of life. But many of the San who have already relocated to the villages of New Xade and Kaudwane say they were bribed and coerced into moving. They tell a tale of an impoverished existence, depending on government food rations for survival. Phutego Banweng, 40, believed the government’s promises of a better life, and relocated willingly to Kaudwane in 1997. He says he did not get any compensation, and when he found that the promises of jobs and development were empty, he returned to the San settlement at Mothomelo. But he was moved out of the reserve a second time.

Life in the re-settlement camp of New Xade is just as bleak. Alcoholism is rife, and an aura of despair and listlessness hangs over the dusty dwellings. There are no jobs, there is no grazing for the goats and cattle, no veldt food to gather, no wild animals to hunt. The residents have nothing to do. They are 70km from the nearest town, an expensive and difficult 3-hour journey away. Tshekelo Mogolarijo, 65, was resettled here 5 years ago. “We thought that the government would help us,” he says. “But I think that the government is killing us.”

(From: Al Jazeera and BBC

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Africa’s super seven

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n the northern bank of the Sand River in the Mala-Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, seven magnificent creatures reside in an area the size of Manhattan Island. Tracking them for 24 hours we reveal the invisible threads that bind them together in a never-ending daily drama. This action-packed film will show how seven individual stories become one, how the animals move in and out of one another’s lives in the course of a single day. Sometimes their encounters happen just by chance, at other times they are intent on stalking each other down. In all cases whenever they meet the encounter is always riveting.

Each animal has different strengths, even some weaknesses, but seeing them in action is always impressive. Tracking them through one day and one night we witness their dealings with the neighbours from hell, staking their territory, stalking the same prey, risking their lives and cautiously interacting with or avoiding each other. This is a privileged and rare glimpse into the complex lives of Africa’s Super Seven.

Each species has its own vital role to play in this unfolding 24-hour drama. There is no room for the weak and in the African bush there’s only one rule: the biggest, strongest, fastest and smartest survive.

As amazing as these animals are, they all have their Achilles heel too, and occasionally our story includes a fight for survival for them just like any other creature of the untamed African wild. For Africa’s Super Seven there are no free lunches. Some will pay the ultimate price and some will even be lunch. Not for the faint hearted, this is a story of power, trust, hunger, desperation and elation – an unforgettable adventure.

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  • "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It's the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead."
    ~ Albert Einstein (1930)."
  • "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet."

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