Government still embarrassed about giving Mukhtari to Baku, offer wife citizenship, Parliament rushing on constitution amendments, Janelidze in Japan, Abkhaz release Kanjiogli, Senate bill on Russian Influence, Turkish Azeri exercises, North Cauk exercises, new South Ossetian parliamentary head, Serbska goon chums up to South Ossetians, Montenegro joins NATO, Border Guards abduct more Georgians along ABL, Congo pilot hostage video, Pankisi ISIS death, prisoner separation, Svaneti hydros, WB lowers GDP numbers, inflation down, airport numbers up, ad agencies win hammers, Pachulia starts against Cavs, top wrestler, Ajara Stone Age find, Lomsadze on Mukhtarli and hospitality, Karabakh danger, Chiatura, Red Dear, Elton John

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  1. The MEME this week is a photo posted on Twitter by Dato Parulava. The photo depicts Georgian journalists who demonstrated at Parliament’s Human Rights Committee this week in support of Afgan Mukhtarli. They covered their heads with plastic bags to show solidarity.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2s7fY0Y


    Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, and Paul Stronski have a paper for Carnegie about US policy toward the South Caucasus. They assess the past 25 years of US strategic involvement in the region, arguing that it has consistently fallen short of unrealistic expectations, particularly the ability of oil and gas infrastructure development to bring peace, prosperity, and democracy to the region. They argue that the US must focus first on preventing the resumption of regional conflicts, then move on to promoting energy sector development, counter-terrorism, and human rights and democracy. They also argue that the US should welcome more engagement by the EU and China as a means of balancing Russia’s presence. Additionally, the US must articulate three different plans for dealing with three different countries, something it hasn’t always done in the past.
    Link: http://ceip.org/2rbWK9A

    Dustin Gilbreath and Rati Shubladze write for EurasiaNet about public support for NATO membership in Georgia. Overall, support is still strong, with 68 of Georgians supporting the government’s goal of accession. However, DISAPPROVAL is rising. In particular, the proportion of people reporting being uncertain about membership has shrunk, and many of those people now appear to be opposed to it. Currently, about one in five Georgians opposes membership, compared to only about one in ten in 2012. Gilbreath and Shubladze put forth two possible explanations: openly expressing opposition to NATO no longer has the stigma it did a few years ago, and the costs of membership may be more apparent to the public than they were in the past. For example, more than 30 Georgian soldiers have been killed and hundreds injured in Afghanistan, and more Georgians seem to think that joining NATO will cause renewed conflict with Russia.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2r4D2Kp

    Also for EurasiaNet, Giorgi Lomsadze writes about the damage to Georgia’s reputation caused by the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli. Not only is the incident a violation of domestic and international law, but it’s an affront to Georgia’s national tradition of hospitality, said Nino Danelia, a professor at the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management. Mukhtarli and his wife moved to Georgia in 2015 fearing arrest and torture by the Azerbaijani government. Last year, the Georgian authorities denied their request for resident permits. Many Georgian citizens are angry and ashamed at the government’s apparent complicity in the abduction. Medea Aslamazishvili, a shopkeeper, told Lomsadze that a proper Georgian would never hand a guest over to an enemy.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2t5wVGu

    NPR has a big multimedia story on internally displaced people in Georgia. In Georgia, roughly 1 in 20 people have this status. They focus on three people in particular: Irakli Salakaia–a construction worker from Sokhumi who fled to Zugdidi as a teenager, fought with the Georgian army in Iraq and now lives in a temporary IDP settlement outside Tbilisi; Ana Sabashvili–who fled her home in South Ossetia during the 2008 War and now lives in the IDP settlement at Berbuki; and Veriko Ekhvaia–a radio DJ in Zugdidi whose family fled Abkhazia in 1993. Her village of Nabakevi is only eight miles from Zugdidi but feels like a world away.
    Link: http://n.pr/2smZ1MT

    The International Crisis Group has a report on growing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to the report, the two sides are closer to open war than at any point since the 1994 ceasefire agreement. The political and security conditions that prompted last year’s fare-up are even more acute. Since January of this year, there have been several deadly incidents involving heavy artillery and anti-tank weapons. Settlement talks have stalled, and both countries seem to lack any political incentive to avoid escalation. The Crisis Group advises Russia, and France, and the US to join forces and apply concerted pressure on both countries to get through the current impasse in settlement talks.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2shXZTi

    National Geographic has a photo-journalism piece on Chiatura, the once bustling mining town that is now best known for poor working conditions and its Stalin-era cable car system. Chiatura is home to the largest manganese reserve in the Caucasus Mountains, but the industry has spiraled downward due to shrinking investment. As of last year, about 3,000 people were employed in the city’s seven mines and eight quarries. Miners earn an average salary of about 700 lari per month, and there are few protections against workplace injury or death. Making the situation even worse, many of the miners and their families live in houses built onto the slopes of the surrounding mountains. The mining process itself damages the foundations of their homes.
    Link: http://on.natgeo.com/2qHD375

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