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food / travel

Puglia Postcard: Ground Zero Of Italy's Olive Tree Disease Disaster

The bacterium Xylella has arrived in Italy, infecting thousands of olive trees in a stretch of the southeastern peninsula. Europe is powerless, with the region's entire economy at risk.

Uprooting Xylella olive trees contaminated by Xylella in Puglia
Uprooting Xylella olive trees contaminated by Xylella in Puglia
Pierre de Gasquet

ALLISTE — The so-called "Giant of Alliste" suddenly appears at the bend of a path. This imposing olive tree is 32-feet-high with a base of twisted trunks measuring 25 feet in circumference. It is said to be 1,500 years old.

Its shadow appears like a sleeping pachyderm, cast onto the Italian brown earth. But at the top of the tree, several branches appear stunted and desiccated, and have lost their colors. "Have you heard the news?" a local police officer Francesco Manfreda mutters. "The Giant is dying."

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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