A short video clip from RFE/RL has great footage from the Azerbaijan/Iran border, where thousands of Azeris now line up every day in order to get to the other side to buy basic food staples, which have become prohibitively expensive on their side of the border. You can watch it here.
With some suggesting that the recent wave of revolution and unrest in the Middle East and other regions is directly tied to the recent surge in the price of food, the scene at the Iranian border is likely making Azeri officials nervous. Which may help explain this.
A Wall Street Journal article from a few days ago about the return of fast food joints to military bases in Afghanistan is filled with delicious little nuggets of information.
Turns out that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the previous commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the country, had banished fast food chains such as Burger King and Pizza Hut from the bases because he felt they were luxuries unbefitting the military. As the Journal piece says, "he told senior officers that he was shuttering the fast-food franchises because he didn't want to be the first American general to tell a grieving mother that her son died delivering frozen pizza."
Much to the relief of Whopper loving grunts, McChrystal's successor, Gen. David Petraeus, has decided to bring the junk food suppliers back onto the bases.
While McChrystal banned fast food for his own troops, he appears to have realized the limits of American power when it came to other coalition forces' eating habits. As the Journal reports: "The Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons at Kandahar Air Field was also allowed to stay, though it had to move from its prime location on the boardwalk to a more discreet locale near the Canadian section of the base."
Did petty regional squabbles lead to the demise of 150 Georgian sheep that were about to be exported to Qatar but instead ended up freezing to death on the tarmac in Tbilisi? From Georgia's The Financial:
Azerbaijan State Company in Georgia interfered with its contractor to sell fuel to an Armenia registered air-company. Last week a Georgian oil importer refused to fill the tanks of New Georgia, an Armenia registered Georgian airline, which was hired by Qatar state company Sheep & Livestock, importing live sheep from Georgia. It’s reported that 150 lambs died Friday at Tbilisi International Airport during the night because of cold weather conditions, putting under threat one of the most promising business relations between Georgia and Qatar.
Don't expect to learn how to make your favorite French or Italian dishes while watching Iranian television. Turns out the state broadcasting authority there has issued a ban on cooking show that feature "foreign recipes." More details here and an article looking at the "foreign" roots of some classic Persian dishes here.
The tense and deteriorating relations between former allies Turkey and Israel could certainly use some help. After Turkey sent fire extinguishing airplanes to help Israel fight a deadly forest fire in December, there was some hope that the two countries could use the event for a kind of "fire diplomacy." That effort went nowhere, but could the two countries' beekeepers pick up where firefighting failed? Israel's Ynet takes a look at one of the few places where Turkish-Israeli cooperation is still going strong: bee growing.
Is the Caucasus region about to see the birth of yet another local spat? As News.AZ reports, Georgia and Armenia appear to be heading into a battle over the use of brand names, especially regarding wine. From the report:
Georgian media are urging President Mikheil Saakashvili to raise with his Armenian counterpart the use of Georgian brand names by Armenian producers.
Saakashvili is to pay an official visit to Armenia In late February-early March.
The media are urging him to prick the conscience of the Armenian side at the negotiations with President Serzh Sargsyan and to protect the interests of Georgian producers, Russian newspaper Vzglyad's correspondent reports from Tbilisi.
Georgia's patent agency has already begun investigations of the use of Georgian brand names by Armenian producers.
The head of the agency, Irakliy Gvaladze, said this was "not the first time that Armenia had tried to steal Georgian brands”.
Armenian officials, meanwhile, have hit back at the Georgian claims, saying their brands are better recognized abroad so they wouldn't even need to use their neighbor's brand names.
With its latest round of regulations targeting the sale, promotion and consumption of alcohol, the Turkish government has run into a storm of accusations that it is working to impose a conservative agenda (i.e. a dry one) on the country. Newsweek takes a look at the developments in its latest issue:
The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was so fond of raki that he died of liver disease. But alcohol is becoming the latest battleground in Turkey’s culture wars. New regulations introduced this month by the conservative, Islamic-leaning AK Party government have caused a storm of protest from the imbibing elite.
On the face of it, the restrictions aren’t very draconian—banning alcohol advertising at sports or youth-oriented events, and outlawing the sale of alcohol on highways. Turkey’s alcohol-licensing laws remain far laxer than in the U.S. or most of Europe. Nonetheless, critics of the AK Party fear this is just the beginning of a “government-coordinated campaign to make alcohol socially unacceptable,” says Ilker Gul, an Istanbul bar worker.
The Islamic-rooted government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has defended the new restrictions, saying they are about "protecting young people" from the dangerous effects of alcohol. But critics point out that the latest restrictions come hot on the heels of yet another increase on the tax levied on alcohol, which has created the suspicion that the government's true intention is to keep booze out of the hands of Turks of all ages.
Neiljs, via Wikimedia Commons (top), Dean C.K. Cox (bottom two)
The Osh Bazaar in better times (top), and today
One of the tragic byproducts of the ethnic strife that ravaged the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh this past summer has been the effective destruction of its once-vibrant bazaar, where Kyrgyz and Uzbek vendors once worked side-by-side. An interesting report on the bazaar's current sad state can be found here.
Tasting a glass of local wine at the recent opening of a new hotel complex in the Kakheti region, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gave praises to an unlikely figure for the quality of the wine he was tasting. “Russia’s plans in terms of Georgian wine have failed. Many thanks to Vladimir Putin [Russian Prime Minister] for improving the quality of Georgian wine,” Saakashvili said.
Until some four years ago, when Russia imposed an embargo, almost all Georgian wine went to its neighbor in the north. Since then, Georgia has expanded its distribution and in the process, it would appear, improved the quality of its wine. That's the claim the Georgians make, at least. In a recent article, The Economist takes a look at just how the Georgian wine industry has fared in the wake of the Russian embargo. Following up on The Economist's reporting, China's Xinhua news agency takes it own look at the story.
As previously reported here, Turkey has been struggling with a red meat shortage that has led to a spike in prices. Not a good thing in a country that runs on kebabs.
Now, to add to the woes of Turkish meat lovers, reports are circulating that officials have found large-scale bacterial contamination among some Turkish meat producers. In fact, according to the reports, some of the tainted meat had been sold to the local Burger King chain, which ended up making their Whoppers with it, despite initially having promised authorities that it had disposed of the bad stuff (by selling it to a dog breeding farm, according to one report).
This being Turkey, though, some -- particularly local meat producers -- suspect some kind of conspiracy behind the contamination reports, believing they are being spread by those who want to increase the amount of imported meat coming into Turkey. More details on this meaty subject here.