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Published: 03/2005
Where East Met (Wild) West
In a small lab on the outskirts of Rapid City, South Dakota, Donn Ivey, an itinerant researcher whose business card reads "Have Trowel, Will Travel," swiveled in his chair and peered into a small pile of dirt. With his left hand, he adjusted his trucker's cap. With his right, he nudged a pair of stainless-steel forceps into the dark earth. "I found a pair of tweezers, right there," he said, pulling out a rusted, V-shaped strip of metal and carefully putting it aside. ///continue///
Published: 4/13/2004
Terror at Jaslyk
In the desert steppe of northwestern Uzbekistan, great dust storms lift toxic pesticides into the air, and a powdery, desiccated brine known as the "dry tears of the Aral Sea" contaminates the soil. Amid this bleak Central Asian landscape, one can find an instrument of terror that rivals any rebel attack in Uzbekistan's history: the Jaslyk detention complex, a vast vault of human misery that has earned its reputation as the country's worst political prison. Anyone who wishes to understand better the spate of violence that recently tore through Uzbekistan -- the suicide bomb blasts and gunfights that resulted in nearly fifty deaths -- must consider the dark drama that regularly unfolds at Jaslyk, and institutions like it. ///continue///
Published: 11/17/2003
The Curse of the Caucasus
When George Kennan set out for the Caucasus in 1870, few if any Americans had explored the highlands of Dagestan, Chechnya and the wild frontiers of imperial Russia. And with good reason. In the nineteenth century, the Caucasus and Central Asia were places of untrammeled brigandage and intermittent rebellion, marked by the rule of unpredictable kings and khans. Foreigners came at their own risk, usually in the form of British and Russian adventurer-spies (or missionaries) who sought to gain intelligence on the other's doings or to foment unrest in the service of their respective empires. Between the Black Sea and western China, a rim of lawlessness separated the czar's dominion and the Raj in India. ///continue///
Path of a Pipeline: Oil, Empire, and Influence in the New Eurasia
The five stories below belong to a series, and were published with the following editorial note: "Deep beneath the waters of the Caspian Sea lie oil reserves rivaling those of the entire United States. Extracting the crude is one problem; finding a way to bring it to Western markets has been almost impossible. Backed by the U.S. government and a collective of 11 major oil firms, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline will cross mountains, desert wastes, and earthquake zones, while skirting potential battlefields and terrorist hideouts as it covers a distance equivalent to that from New York to Miami. Construction will begin this spring, officials say, whether American troops invade neighboring Iraq or not. In this series, correspondent Raffi Khatchadourian explores the geography-political, economic, and social-of a conduit for coveted oil."
Published: 02/11/2003
At the Gates of a Global Oil Rush
INCIRLI, TURKEY -- Standing before his rundown storefront, Sevket Baykan looks toward the sea. Beyond a row of beachside shacks made of particleboard and sheet metal, three tugboats maneuver an Iranian supertanker toward an L-shaped pier. In a few moments the ship will plug into the BOTAS marine terminal, where a complex network of tubes will feed it 20,000 cubic meters of oil per hour. In roughly a day, the tanker will leave with close to a million barrels' worth of crude in its holds. The terminal is run by a self-contained community. On a nearby hill, security guards overlook a barbed-wire fence that encompasses pastel apartment buildings, a hospital, mosque, school, movie theater, hotel, beauty salon, and a solar-powered water-heating system. ///continue///
Published: 02/18/2003
A Fearful Lesson for Those Who Would Flee Iraq
UGRAK, TURKEY -- That night, the four men returned from the darkness with automatic rifles. They had come to deliver a violent message to their mortal enemies, the Tanguner and Tekin families. In all, the families comprised over 30 people. They were unarmed and surrounded. Ugrak's muddy village square, where they stood, offered no place to hide. Except for one car, their convoy of rented vehicles -- two pickup trucks and a minivan -- had already left. Eight years ago, a government-backed paramilitary campaign forced the Tanguners and Tekins to flee their homes here. Their houses and fields were taken over by the very people who advanced now from the shadows. This cold-blooded welcome was no shock. The men with guns were old adversaries, even older neighbors. ///continue///
Published: 03/04/2003
Pipeline Project Splits Georgian Village
AKHALI SAMGORI, GEORGIA -- Four years ago, Jemali Tsiklauri, a trader and traveler who had gone off to find fortune in Moldova, returned penniless to this desolate village to try his hand at living off the land. He knew the soil on his fields was barren, the drinking water so contaminated he had to buy it from trucks. But the 53-year-old purchasing specialist (in Soviet times, his title was simply "expert in goods") had not much choice. Subsistence farming, he believed, was the only way he could go on surviving. ///continue///
Published: 03/25/2003
The Quest for Oil Meets the War on Terror
VASIANI AIR BASE, GEORGIA -- As daylight leaks from the sky, roughly 500 Georgian troops from the 16th Mountain Battalion wait in this wasted plateau of sunburned grass and Soviet-era debris. They check their weapons and shift with anticipation. A vintage Huey swoops diagonally overhead, the grind of its propeller echoing among the hills. On a nearby escarpment, four silhouetted soldiers ready a pair of mortar cannons; once darkness finally descends, they fire flares -- 3,500 candlepower in strength -- that bathe the valley in a hazy orange glow. The troops below race forward. Bullets streak toward metal targets set upon a rise. The soldiers have two minutes to take their objective. Then shadows slip back over the field. ///continue///
Published: 04/22/2003
Saving An Environmental Treasure
Tbilisi, Georgia -- They closed the deal in the dead of night. At 3 a.m., after several days of intense, round-the-clock politicking, Georgia's environment minister, Nino Chkhobadze, was summoned to the office of the president. Two hours after she arrived, a $3 billion oil pipeline project that she had resisted, and that hung on her signature, won initial approval. Exhausted and disappointed, Chkhobadze emerged into the waning November night, facing the glare of TV camera lights, squinting--some say, crying. Later, she would remark, "The pressure came above all from the company, and it was pressure not only directed toward me, but also toward the president." ///continue///
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