Constitution changes hit parliament, Kobakhidze threatens prez, Usupashvili has plan, Cyanide church trial, Janelidze in Berlin, Russia talks, Adeishvili and Vano convicted, Batumi UNM convictions, Russian bikers told to buzz off, Congress letter, Misha in Toronto, traffic cameras, Narmania ponders, interest up, Lopota hotel, DLA Piper now Dentons, Kiev flights back, Khinkali in Amsterdam, Gviriloba, late quorum, Bibilov, Jorjadze, Akunin Hamlet, Kolga photos

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  1. The MEME this week is a photo by Tatuli Chubabria of the students and workers who marched together in Tbilisi for the First of May. The festivities were especially big this year as student and worker movements have recently picked up steam.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pMhSRH


    Maxim Edwards writes for Intersection about the delicate politics surrounding unification between South Ossetia and the Russian Federation. New South Ossetian President Anatoly Bibilov has promised to schedule a referendum as soon as possible and said he’s 100 percent sure that South Ossetia will become part of Russia in the future. He certainly has the domestic support necessary to make the referendum a reality, but he might face pushback from Russia, which doesn’t want the international backlash that would come from a formal annexation. Take the example of former President Leonid Tibilov: he was not the Kremlin’s favored candidate, in part because he vocally supported unification. Over time, he moderated his position under the Kremlin’s tutelage. The same thing could happen with Bibilov. Bibilov met with Vladimir Putin this week in Sochi their relationship appears to be getting off to a good start.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pMKkox

    Freedom House publishes its Press Freedom 2017 report. Georgia remains in the partly-free category, but its rating declined for the third consecutive year. It’s ranked 102nd in the world with an aggregate score of 50, putting it in the middle of the spectrum between free and not free. Of the other post-Soviet countries, the Baltic countries all made it into the free category, Moldova and Ukraine joined Georgia as partly-free, and everyone else fell into the not free category. Worldwide, press freedom fell to its lowest level in 13 years.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2ptfNvD

    Lincoln Mitchell is interviewed for Accent.ge about the draft constitution. Even as a former consultant for Otsneba and someone who has generally been supportive of the party, he finds nothing positive in the proposed amendments. He’s especially bothered by the proposed changes to the procedures for electing parliamentarians, which would ban blocs and automatically distribute unallocated seats to the party that receives the most votes; this will make it very difficult for smaller parties to enter parliament and could result in single party rule. In Mitchell’s words: “The idea of giving votes of parties that do not cross the threshold to the winner has no political or legal justification is patently undemocratic and is a terrible idea.”
    Link: http://bit.ly/2qxUQk2

    Giorgi Lomsadze writing for NPR profiles 19th century princess Barbare Jorjadze, who is credited as Georgia’s first feminist. The daughter of Prince Davit Eristavi, she was married off at age 12 and despite her child marriage and gender disadvantage she gained recognition as a poet, playwright, and essayist. She called for respect and equality for women in the 1893 essay A Few Words to the Attention of Young Men. However, these days she’s more famous for her iconic cookbook: Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping. Published 150 years ago, some of the more elaborate dishes have been forgotten, but many remain part of the national cuisine, and several restaurants around Tbilisi try to stay true to her old-school recipes–including Barbarestan and Littera.
    Link: http://n.pr/2qnF9Mk

    Svante Cornell of Johns Hopkins University writes about the South Caucasus for The American Interest. He calls on the US to re-enter the region and regain leverage over the other interested powers, Russia, Turkey, and Iran. While the South Caucasus is small, it’s geography makes it politically, economically, and militarily significant. The US government would be making a mistake by ignoring its potential.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2p4S7de

    Joe Larsen, who also writes this podcast, has a piece in The Diplomat about the role Georgia’s Black Sea coast plays in China’s Belt and Road project. The Anaklia Black Sea Deep Water Port project scheduled to open in 2020 will finally give the country a fully-operational deep water port. In its first phase the new port will be able to handle 50 percent more cargo per year than what currently goes through Poti. The rail system needs to improve in order for Georgia to get the most out of that, but the potential is there. Also, a Chinese company called CEFC China Energy Company Limited is in negotiations with the government to buy the Free Industrial Zone in Poti, and they’re planning big investments.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2p8LebH

    The New York Times reviews Hamlet A. Verison, a play by the Georgian-born, Moscow-based writer Boris Akunin. It’s a slimmed-down retelling of the classic Shakespeare play. A lot less time is devoted to Hamlet’s internal dialogue, and a lot more to the political intrigue surrounding the murder of his father. Last week we shared a profile of Akunin written in The Daily Beast by Tbilisi-based journalist Will Cathcart. Check it out if you haven’t already; Akunin is Russia’s most popular fiction writer and a notable critic of the Putin regime.
    Link: http://nyti.ms/2pc1jfG

    Georgian Journal interviews Hollywood actress Sharon Stone, who reflects on her visit to Georgia in 2011 for the premier of 5 Days of War, a film depicting the 2008 August War. For her, the experience still resonates.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oSXzAL

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