American real estate tycoon Donald Trump and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili both have a soft spot for a tall building, and, so, could not praise each other enough when Trump dropped by Georgia on April 22 to unveil plans for a Trump Tower in Batumi.
“You’re a big man outside this area, believe me,” Trump told Saakashvili in Batumi, Civil.ge news bulletin service reported. The delighted Saakashvili responded by hailing the mogul as “ the greatest building and developer in the world," and bestowing him with the national Order of Excellence.
Saakashvili, whose Grand Travaux campaign has brought a number of extravagant glass-and-steel structures to Georgia, hopes that the planned 47-story luxury residential building will pave the way for much-needed international investment. Another Trump tower is planned for the capital, Tbilisi.
Tall buildings can earn Georgia points on many fronts, the thinking in Tbilisi seems to go. They will provide some good visual PR to attract investors and tourists (to wit, the Chacha Tower,
dedicated to the national hard liquor, chacha), and to impress the impoverished breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Skyscrapers are expected to help urbanize Georgia’s largely rural society and they could even have a defensive function. “It’s very uncomfortable to bomb skyscrapers. It looks very, very ugly,” Saakashvili told TIME Magazine about a year after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.
Zerkalo (The Mirror) newspaper reporter Idrak Abbasov, the recent recipient of an Index on Censorship award, was filming SOCAR's demolition of illegally constructed residences in a Baku suburb when company guards set upon him, grabbing his camera, and knocking him to the ground, Turan news agency reported. Abbasov is now reportedly unconscious in a Baku clinic. SOCAR itself has not responded to the incident
Abbasov has a long history of run-ins with SOCAR in connection with his coverage of the company's demolition of houses on property it claims as its own. One of those demolitions included part of Abbasov's own house.
Striking first and thinking later has become a time-honored tradition for responses to media that poke Azerbaijani officialdom in sensitive spots, and, apparently, one that the muscle at SOCAR see no reason to cast aside -- Eurovision or no Eurovision.
Political forces across party lines, several NGOs and media companies issued a letter that warned organizers that there would be consequences in Vanadzor, too, and that the festival organizers would bear the responsibility.
A previous attempt to screen Azerbaijani films in Armenia also fell through in 2010. The organizers said they will keep trying to promote free thinking and help audiences on both sides of the 24-year-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan see through the veil of propaganda.
Politicians, who, in both countries, would rather leave unchallenged the image of a national enemy, exploded in anger at the “treasonous” event (sponsored, in part, by the British and American embassies), and the organizers found themselves stranded in a Gyumri press club surrounded by raging demonstrators. Claims were made that the films were all about Azerbaijan-centric propaganda on the two countries' 24-year-long conflict over the breakaway territory of Nagorno Karabakh.
In reality, these were short, “human-interest” stories that had little to do with the war. Previous attempts at cinematic exchanges between Azerbaijan and Armenia were foiled amid similar, politically fed outpourings of public anger.
This time, the authorities in Gyumri tried to pull the plug quite literally on the festival (called, ironically, Stop) by shutting off electricity in the entire area. Saying that security could not be guaranteed, city government and police officials pressured the organizers to cancel the event. The festival’s director, peace activist Georgi Vanyan, who has been the previous target of death threats and a campaign of vilification, was beaten during altercations with anti-festival protesters.
After a record-breaking number of de-facto presidential elections, embattled South Ossetia has finally got itself a de-facto president. Yet holding elections is proving to be a habit hard to kick. After four attempts to decide on a leader, now the breakaway region could be headed toward an early parliamentary election.
The current parliament, unrecognized by most of the world, is facing credibility issues at home as the majority of its 34 members are believed to be loyalists of former strongman Eduard Kokoity, a figure whose reputation for corruption is proving a not-so-endearing memory.
The new man at separatist South Ossetia's helm, ex-KGB chief Leonid Tibilov, may now need to upgrade the legislature to reinforce his own position with the territory's electorate, reports indicate.
Tibilov, of course, has described his victory at the polls as a victory shared by all the South Ossetian people, but, since quite a few voters disagree, he has also described the task ahead as building a sense of unity.
Jioyeva, who ended up in the hospital after a raid on her office, first vowed to fight to the end for the presidency, but now it looks like she is willing to entertain the option of participating in the early de-facto parliamentary vote, instead. Jioyeva and David Sanakoyev, the runner-up in de-facto election #2, are launching political parties to run for parliament.
Is Salvador Dali a French nudist, an Italian hairstylist or a Spanish surrealist? A television quiz show that portrays the ignorant answers of long-legged, skimpily clad female contestants to trivia questions is sparking an unprecedented outcry in traditionally patriarchal Georgia.
To be or not to be Georgian -- for billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, that is the question. And, after months of suspense over Ivanishvili's bid to regain his Georgian citizenship, Georgia's Ministry of Justice yesterday had the answer.
Ivanishvili, who lost his citizenship not long after announcing plans to join Georgia's variety show of opposition politicians, is not eligible for naturalization, the ministry ruled. But it left the door open by saying he can give dual citizenship -- Ivanishvili is a French citizen -- a try.
Earlier, the ownership of such citizenship had been the official reason why Ivanishvili's Georgian citizenship was revoked. But looks like the government isn't thinking of that now.
Perhaps it's got the international community -- in particular, the US and NATO -- on its mind. At a March 21 Senate hearing, US ambassador-nominee Richard Norland called the October parliamentary vote a "litmus test" for Georgia's NATO accession.
Just back from a chat with NATO, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been eagerly inviting international observers to start their work (and the more the merrier), no doubt is mindful of that interest.
At an April 4 press conference in Baku, Ismayilova described how, together with several fellow journalists, she revisited the apartment where she had been secretly filmed in her bedroom in an intimate relationship for clues to how the video had been made. During several visits to the apartment, the team found a hidden network of wires leading to an outside telephone box.
The findings were shared with investigators, who declined to summon a telephone company expert to pinpoint where the wires led, the team reported. Instead, Ismayilova said she contacted the telephone company to provide a technician to examine the box and wires. The technician, who spoke with investigators' approval, told the team that he had been ordered by the company in July 2011 to connect the phone box to Ismayilova's apartment.
The wires have since been removed, but the technician's testimony not entered into the official evidence.
Ismayilova, her lawyers and associates say that the evidence they collected offered valuable clues for the official investigation, but that police have failed to document or act on it. No official response has yet been released.
The official investigation targets the video as a violation of the right to privacy, rather than as a crime against a journalist, as requested by Ismayilova. In a joint release, the team maintains that the response to their findings indicates that the “[P]rosecutor’s Office fails to act as an independent investigative body."
When a massive earthquake rattled Soviet Armenia in 1988, entire towns imploded, killing an estimated 25,000 people. Survivors' stories are well known in Armenia, but now it seems that their genes also have a story to tell. A University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study of the DNA of 200 Armenian earthquake survivors has revealed a connection between gene types and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), The Los Angeles Times reports.
People with two gene variants (TPH1 and TPH2) which affect production of the “happiness hormone” serotonin tend to display more severe PSTD symptoms, found ULCA psychiatrist Armen Goenjian, an Armenian-American who headed the research group. Believed to contribute just 3 to 4 percent each to PSTD's intensity, the two variants appear to pack a tiny punch, but identifying their role could lead to more effective treatment for PTSD, the BBC reports.
Goenjian said that further studies are required among a more heterogeneous population to consolidate the findings.
Two big news topics involving Azerbaijan recently have been a report about its alleged military cooperation with Israel against Iran and, of course, the ongoing saga of its preparations for next month's Eurovision in Baku. It didn't take long before the two topics merged.
A senior Azerbaijani government official has announced that Baku will neither help Israel attack Iran, nor will it need Israeli assistance to provide security for the international pop singers who will be in town for the Eurovision Song Contest. In response to media reports that claimed Mossad will be lending a hand at Eurovision, Ali Hasanov, the presidential administration's front-man for matters political, clarified that “Azerbaijan does not need the help of foreign special services, including the special services of Israel."
He went on to repeat denials that Azerbaijan is collaborating with Israel against Iran, saying that "Mossad does not have any secret or special chapter in Azerbaijan . . . "
"All of Azerbaijan's relations with other countries are transparent, and they are not and will not be directed against some other country, especially Iran,” he claimed.