Iraq, Kurds, Turks and oil - A tortuous triangle The governments of Turkey, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan play a dangerous game [more inside]
Current TV previously & previously, the media company founded by Al Gore after the 2000 election, has picked up the kinds of in depth long form journalism being rapidly dropped by major networks, but has been tantalizingly unavailable for those without cable; until now. They have been putting their Vanguard episodes up on their website and on YouTube. [more inside]
House of Happiness - photos by Rena Effendi of women in the Ferghana Valley, part of central Asia's ancient Silk Route now known as "the heroin highway" - "a geographical and cultural mishmash where three countries and many ethnicities cluster." More about the photos. (Some photos NSFW) [more inside]
Iraq - All oil, no gas. A consortium of 34 Turkish companies have joined together to stop all exports of petrol / refined oil products to Iraq, because Iraq's government owes them over $1 billion that they have so far been unable to pay. Iraq's largest refinery was forced to shut down in December, after its truck drivers walked off the job due to insurgent threats. They reopened ten days later, only to shut down again after an insurgent swarm attack killed and wounded more drivers. The refinery has once more ceased activity, as their reserves of refined fuel are full and there is no way to get them to their customers. Iraq's diesel-driven power plants are undersupplied too, leading to worsening outages.
The BTC Pipeline opened today after more than 10 years and $4B (US) in development. It runs from the Caspian Sea across Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, through the Caucasus mountain range to the Mediterranean. The project is so large and far-reaching some have called it Pipelineistan. The UK Independent calls it The Pipeline That Will Change The World. It travels through some of the most politically unstable regions in Central Asia, but is of such strategic importance political leaders have been replaced and the U.S. is willing to risk the wrath of neighbors Russia (with a competing pipeline of its own) and Iran to place permanent U.S. military bases along its path. It even merits personal visits from the U.S. Energy Secretary and President. Its opening may very well mark the return of the Great Game.
Documents: U.S. condoned Iraq oil smuggling Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors. The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years.
Ever had the urge to don a pair of tight pants, oil yourself up and grapple another man? Then you should head on over to the Kirkpinar Greased Wrestling Festival in Edirne, held each year at the end of June. But beware; the moves can be highly dirty and involve battering your opponent around the head, pulling their ears and even pushing your hand into your opponents shorts and squeezing their testicles. This sure isn't your father's wrasslin'!