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Ed Webb

Are 'Water Wars' imminent in Central Asia? - Al Jazeera English - 1 views

  • The overpopulated, Israel-sized Ferghana Valley has attracted the armies of Alexander the Great, Arabs, Mongols and Russian tsars. It has also spawned some of the bloodiest conflicts in the former Soviet Union, including ethnic clashes, incursions of armed Islamists and the Uzbek government's merciless crackdown on a 2005 popular revolt.   The glaciers and snows of the Tian Shan mountains around the valley give birth to the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia's two major rivers, and turn the valley into a giant hothouse with nearly perfect conditions for farming. Border areas in nearby Xinjiang, China's troubled Muslim region, also depend on Tian Shan's glaciers for water. But between 1961 and 2012, the sky-scraping range whose name means "Heavenly Mountains" in Chinese, has lost 27 percent of its ice mass, the German Research Centre for Geosciences said last year. The annual loss amounts to up to 5.4 cubic kilometres of water a year, it said.
  • farmers here are "ready to kill each other for water," a local mirob, or community official responsible for distribution of piped water from a communal canal, told Al Jazeera. The official, who could not give his name because of his job's sensitivity, described how over the past decade farmers have increasingly resorted to quarrels and fistfights and used their connections to officials to influence the timing and duration of water allocation to their land lots. This year, there's next to nothing to irrigate the fields with. "There's been no winter this year, so we're begging God for water," farmer Rasul Azamatov told Al Jazeera
  • The Ferghana valley is a bit bigger than Israel, but lacks its proficiency in water conservation - and does not have many alternatives to farming. Cheap Chinese exports have killed local plants and factories, and the valley has become a major source of labour migration - mostly to Russia.
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  • "The root of the problem is the disintegration of the resource-sharing system the Soviet Union imposed on the region until its collapse in 1991," the International Crisis Group, a conflict studies think-tank, said in a 2014 report entitled Water Pressures in Central Asia.
  • These days, Kyrgyzstan is withholding water in massive upstream reservoirs releasing it according to electricity generation needs -  that is in winter - and not the interests of now-foreign farmers next door.
  • Unsurprisingly, the word "war" resurfaced when Moscow threw its weight and money to revive Soviet-era designs to build five more dams and hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan. The Kremlin pledged to finance the $3.2bn project on the Naryn River, Syr Darya's tributary, as part of its political effort to restore its foothold in Central Asia. Uzbek President Islam Karimov wasn't very subtle with his warning. "Control over water resources in the republics of Central Asia may lead to a full-scale war," he said in October.
  • The Ferghana Valley's problems are replicated throughout Central Asia, a landlocked region of more than 60 million people where conditions for farming are far less favourable, but tens of millions still live off land. Their problems are exacerbated by desertification, old and decrepit infrastructure and poor water management.
  • Aral is now reduced to two smaller lakes, while most of its former seabed has turned into a desert that releases tens of thousands of tons of toxic salt-dust annually.  
  • In southeastern Kazakhstan, another major body of water faces Aral's fate. The shallow, boomerang-shaped Balkhash is the world's 15th largest freshwater lake mostly fed by the Ili River that flows from China. The lake that supplies three Kazakh regions with is shrinking as China amasses Ili's waters in a dozen reservoirs.   Given the Gordian knot of regional problems, some experts think that in the coming decades, an armed conflict in the region over water seems inevitable.
Mohammed Hossain

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Palestinian poll delay recommended - 0 views

  • recommended the postponement of presidential and parliamentary polls
  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
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  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
  • Election
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  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
  • postponement was somewhat inevitable after the Palestinian group Hamas said it would not not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
  • Abbas had ordered for the polls to be held on January 24
  • reconciliation pact between his Fatah faction and the Hamas failed to materialise.
  • is evidence that Hamas does not value the unity of the homeland nor national reconciliation.
  • will take the necessary decision
  • we lack the right conditions
  • Abbas has already said that he will not run for the presidency again, citing a lack of progress in peace talks with Israel.
  • Abbas is in a very tough position
Ed Webb

Sovereignty for cash? The Saudi-Maldives island deal making waves | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • It’s one of the world’s top tourist destinations, with more than a million scantily clad foreigners enjoying its glistening white beaches and crystal clear waters each year.Later this month, the Indian Ocean state of the Maldives – particularly popular with honeymooners – is scheduled to play host to a very different kind of visitor when King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia arrives for official talks and a holiday. Top of the agenda in talks with the government in Male, the Maldives small, cramped capital, is likely to be a $10bn Saudi investment project, believed to include the Saudi purchase or long-term lease of a string of 19 of the island state’s coral atolls.
  • “international sea sports, mixed development, residential high-class development, many tourist resorts, many airports and other industries"
  • “The plans would allow a foreign power control of one of the country’s 26 atolls. It amounts to creeping colonialism.”
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  • There are also fears that the development, with its large-scale building work and dredging activities, will threaten irreparable damage to what is one of the world’s most pristine but vulnerable ecological regions.
  • with climate change and rising sea levels, there is a very real possibility that the majority of the island nation’s land area will be underwater by the end of the century
  • Abdulla Yameen, the current president – who has strongly denied allegations about government corruption made recently by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network - has stressed the need for economic growth and sees the giant Saudi investment as key to future prosperity.“We do not need cabinet meetings under water,” says the government. “We need development.”
  • The opposition says part of the rational behind the multi-billion dollar Saudi development could be a plan by Riyadh to establish a staging post and special economic zone, complete with port facilities, for oil and gas exports to Asia, particularly to China.
  • Islam in the Maldives has traditionally blended elements of Sufism and other religions; in recent years, a stricter form of Saudi-style "Wahhabism" has predominated. There are concerns that a number of people from the Maldives are believed to have joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq.
  • The Saudis have pledged to build what they describe as 10 "world class" mosques in the archipelago and have donated $100,000 for scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia. 
  • In early 2016, the government in Male cut diplomat ties with Iran
  • The growing ties between Riyadh and Male have been causing some concern in the region, particularly in India.Last year the Binladin Group, the troubled Saudi construction conglomerate, was awarded – for an undisclosed sum – a contract to build a new international airport in the Maldives. A previous agreement with an Indian company to build the airport was terminated; it is likely the Maldives will have to pay millions of dollars in compensation. 
  • Analysts say the Asia trip is about extending Saudi influence and diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil and gas and investing in the region.
Ed Webb

ISIS' growing sphere of influence in Central Asia and Caucasus poses new security risks... - 0 views

  • The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, with close ties to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda has already announced its allegiance to ISIS. According to Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB), more than 300 Kazakh citizens are fighting alongside ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq and half of those are women. Poorer countries of Central Asia, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, especially in their shared Ferghana Valley region, are said to be fertile ground for ISIS recruitment. It is estimated that the number of Chechens fighting in Syria range between 200 and 1,000, many of them veterans of previous conflicts.  Chechens are known to have a prominent role in ISIS and the group has threatened to take the fight to Russia. In September, ISIS militants directly threatened Russia.
  • Hundreds of Azerbaijanis are known to have joined the ISIS forces in Syria. On 19 November, Dogan News Agency reported the arrest of 22 foreigners on the Turkish-Syrian border town of Kilis trying to cross illegally into Syria. 18 were of Uighur origin and 4 of them citizens of Azerbaijan
Ed Webb

What It's Like to Live in a Surveillance State - The New York Times - 0 views

  • when it comes to indigenous Uighurs in the vast western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) has updated its old totalitarian methods with cutting-edge technology
  • The Qing Empire conquered Xinjiang in the 18th century. The territory then slipped from Beijing’s control, until the Communists reoccupied it with Soviet help in 1949. Today, several Central Asian peoples, including Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrghyz, make up about half of the region’s population; the remainder are Han and Hui, who arrived from eastern China starting in the mid-20th century
  • the C.C.P. has since subjected the entire Uighur population of some 11 million to arbitrary arrest, draconian surveillance or systemic discrimination. Uighurs are culturally Muslim, and the government often cites the threat of foreign Islamist ideology to justify its security policies
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  • Uighurs’ DNA is collected during state-run medical checkups. Local authorities now install a GPS tracking system in all vehicles. Government spy apps must be loaded on mobile phones. All communication software is banned except WeChat, which grants the police access to users’ calls, texts and other shared content. When Uighurs buy a kitchen knife, their ID data is etched on the blade as a QR code
  • There’s an old Chinese joke about Uighurs being the Silk Road’s consummate entrepreneurs: When the first Chinese astronaut steps off his spaceship onto the moon, he will find a Uighur already there selling lamb kebabs. And so even as Mr. Chen cracks down in Xinjiang, the Chinese government touts the region as the gateway for its much-vaunted “one belt, one road” initiative, Mr. Xi’s signature foreign policy project. The grand idea combines a plan to spend billions of dollars in development loans and transport investment across Eurasia with a strategic bid to establish China’s diplomatic primacy in Asia.
  • The C.C.P., once quite liberal in its approach to diversity, seems to be redefining Chinese identity in the image of the majority Han — its version, perhaps, of the nativism that appears to be sweeping other parts of the world. With ethnic difference itself now defined as a threat to the Chinese state, local leaders like Mr. Chen feel empowered to target Uighurs and their culture wholesale
  • A law now bans face coverings — but also “abnormal” beards. A Uighur village party chief was demoted for not smoking, on grounds that this failing displayed an insufficient “commitment to secularization.” Officials in the city of Kashgar, in southwest Xinjiang, recently jailed several prominent Uighur businessmen for not praying enough at a funeral — a sign of “extremism,” they claimed.
  • How does the party think that directives banning fasting during Ramadan in Xinjiang, requiring Uighur shops to sell alcohol and prohibiting Muslim parents from giving their children Islamic names will go over with governments and peoples from Pakistan to Turkey? The Chinese government may be calculating that money can buy these states’ quiet acceptance. But the thousands of Uighur refugees in Turkey and Syriaalready complicate China’s diplomacy.
Ed Webb

A Funeral of 2 Friends: C.I.A. Deaths Rise in Secret Afghan War - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • there are at least 18 stars on that wall representing the number of C.I.A. personnel killed in Afghanistan — a tally that has not been previously reported, and one that rivals the number of C.I.A. operatives killed in the wars in Vietnam and Laos nearly a half century ago
  • Since 2001, as thousands of C.I.A. officers and contractors have cycled in and out of Afghanistan targeting terrorists and running sources, operatives from the Special Activities Division have been part of some of the most dangerous missions. Overall, the division numbers in the low hundreds and also operates in Somalia, Iraq, the Philippines and other areas of conflict.C.I.A. paramilitary officers from the division were the first Americans in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, and they later spirited Hamid Karzai, the future president, into the country. Greg Vogle, an agency operative who took Mr. Karzai into Afghanistan, went on to run the paramilitary division and became the top spy at the C.I.A.The first American killed in the country, Johnny Micheal Spann, was a C.I.A. officer assigned to the Special Activities Division. He died in November 2001 during a prison uprising.
  • the C.I.A. helped build the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, which has long faced accusations of torturing suspected militants.
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  • paramilitary officers from the Special Activities Division have trained and advised a small army of Afghan militias known as counterterrorism pursuit teams. The militias took on greater importance under President Barack Obama, who embraced covert operations because of their small footprint and deniability.
  • The C.I.A. also spent more than a decade financing a slush fund for Mr. Karzai. Every month, agency officers would drop off cash in suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags. Mr. Karzai’s aides would use the cash to run a vast patronage network, paying off warlords, lawmakers and others they wanted to keep on their side.The slush fund, which was exposed in 2013, was seen by many American diplomats and other officials and experts as fueling the rampant corruption that has undermined the American effort to build a functioning democracy in Afghanistan.
  • The ranks of C.I.A. operatives aren’t easily replaced, said Mr. Stiles, the former counterterrorism analyst.“That’s going to be one of the challenges for the government,’’ he said. “How do we maintain the level of experience and expertise in a war that is going to last for another 20 or 30 years or longer?”
Ed Webb

Modern-Day Slavery: The Public Markets Selling Young Girls for $14 | Fast Forward | OZY - 0 views

  • 16 Ugandans who’ve died in the Middle East over just the past year, according to a parliamentary panel report from April this year. These women — all of whom died unnatural deaths after complaining of abuse — are just the most extreme examples of a growing epidemic of an increasingly open, modern slave trade that starts in Uganda’s eastern region and culminates in closed rooms in Gulf nations.
  • Migrant workers from across Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia have for several years complained of abuse in the Middle East
  • Uganda has emerged as the theater of a double-barreled racket. At fast-spreading weekly markets, some women are promised jobs in the Gulf only to be sold once they get there, while others — many of them girls between the ages of 10 and 18 — are directly and publicly “bought” as slaves in Uganda and then resold in the Middle East, according to Ugandan authorities, Interpol, independent experts, legislators, victims and their families.
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  • more than 9,000 girls and young women are estimated to have been bought at these markets since last year — for as little as 50,000 shillings ($14), according to Betty Atim, a member of Parliament.
  • After 22-year-old Shivan Kihembo died in Oman in October — months after she had been sold there — her father, Patrick Mugume, was asked by his daughter’s “owners” for money if he wanted her body back.
  • migrant laborers from other African countries have suffered human rights violations — and not just in the Gulf but in Southeast Asia too — in recent years that have drawn comparisons with slavery. But what’s different with Uganda, experts say, is the openness with which women are being auctioned in markets alongside domestic animals and household goods.
  • Officially, Uganda has banned its citizens from seeking work in most Middle Eastern countries — barring Saudi Arabia and Jordan — because it doesn’t have any diplomatic agreements on workers’ rights with those nations, says Uganda’s minister of gender Janat Mukwaya.That ban, though, rarely works as a deterrent when there’s a promise of significant economic gain being dangled before the downtrodden, experts say. Uganda has a per capita income of $604, so Nambereke was promised three times what the average citizen earns. It’s also no surprise that the markets where illegal traffickers find women they can dupe or buy are predominantly in eastern Uganda. It’s a part of the country that has seen far lower poverty reduction than other regions, according to the World Bank, with electricity available to only 6 percent of families, compared to 32 percent in the country’s central region. To get around the ban, traffickers take the women across the border into Kenya after fixing up their passports, and then fly them to the Middle East.
  • Because they’re traveling to countries they’re barred from legally working in, even those women who initially went thinking they were getting employed are scared to try and reach out to authorities, experts say. And their host countries — in a region not known for its defense of human rights of migrants — have little incentive to prioritize concerns for these slaves over those of nations that legally send workers there. And so the slavery mounts — as do the deaths
  • Authorities are also recording cases of abuse from countries where Ugandans are legally allowed to work such as Jordan, Juliet Nakiyemba died at the age of 31 in October. A postmortem showed her kidneys had been removed prior to her death.
  • the government is passing the buck around and hasn’t been able to stop the practice. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello says the ministry of labor needs to act to arrest traffickers. Mugisha says the ministry of labor has asked local governments to step in with legal remedies. And the country’s labor commissioner, Lawrence Egulu, concedes that Uganda’s law against human trafficking is routinely violated but has no clear answer as to why the government hasn’t been able to put a stop to it.
  • Herbert Ariko, the MP of the eastern Uganda region where most of these slave markets are located, says he’s drafting a law aimed at enhancing the punishment for human traffickers — currently 15 years in prison. Nonprofits such as the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies are demanding that the government enter into worker-safety agreements with all Middle Eastern countries. The archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, is also critical of the government’s inaction. “The government should ensure that the rights of children are respected and the act of selling them in markets is brought to an end,” he says.
Ed Webb

UAE Peace Deal Opens Doors for Secret Israeli-Iranian Pipeline and Big Oil Investments - 0 views

  • desert oil pipeline that Israel once operated as a secret joint venture with Iran could be a major beneficiary from the Trump-brokered peace deal with the United Arab Emirates. With the UAE formally scrapping the eight-decade Arab boycott of Israel—and other oil-rich Gulf neighbors likely to follow suit—the Jewish state is on the cusp of playing a much bigger role in the region’s energy trade, petroleum politics, and Big Oil investments
  • Stepping cautiously out of the shadows, the Israeli managers of Europe Asia Pipeline Co. (EAPC) say their 158-mile conduit from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea provides both a cheaper alternative to Egypt’s Suez Canal and an option to connect to the Arab pipeline grid that transports oil and gas not just to the region, but to the seaports that supply the world
  • the pipeline, which connects Israel’s southern port of Eilat with a tanker terminal in Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast, could nip off a significant share of the oil shipments now flowing through the nearby Suez Canal.
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  • Now that the Emiratis have broken the ice, opportunities for Arab-Israeli energy deals are broad and lucrative, ranging from investment in the Israeli pipeline itself, to adapting it for carrying natural gas or connecting it to pipelines across Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East
  • Just over 60 years ago when it was built, the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline was a massive national construction project aimed at guaranteeing Israel’s and Europe’s energy supplies in the wake of the 1956 Suez crisis
  • Most of the oil flowing through the pipeline came from Iran, which had close but discreet relations with Israel for decades under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1968, the Israeli and Iranian governments registered what was then called the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co. as a 50-50 joint venture to manage the export of Iranian crude through Israeli territory and onward by tanker to Europe
  • A Swiss court ordered Israel in 2015 to pay Iran compensation of about $1.1 billion as a share of profits from the joint ownership of the pipeline since the two enemies broke off relations in 1979, but Israel has refused to pay up.
  • While the company’s main 42-inch pipeline was built to transport Iranian oil north to the Mediterranean, it now does most of its business in reverse. It can pump oil unloaded in Ashkelon from ships sent by producers such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to tankers in the Gulf of Aqaba for transport to China, South Korea, or elsewhere in Asia
  • The pipeline’s advantage over the Suez is the ability of the terminals in Ashkelon and Eilat to accommodate the giant supertankers that dominate oil shipping today, but are too big to fit through the canal. Known in oilspeak as VLCCs, or very large crude carriers, the ships can transport as much as 2 million barrels of petroleum. The 150-year-old Suez Canal, on the other hand, is only deep and wide enough to handle so-called Suezmax vessels, with just half the capacity of a VLCC
  • The company’s business has always been one of Israel’s most closely guarded secrets. Even today, EAPC releases no financial statements. Levi says he can’t disclose the names of customers—though he says they include “some of the biggest companies in the world.” What little information that is publicly known only came to light as the result of legal battles following a 2014 rupture in the pipeline that caused the worst environmental disaster in Israeli history, spilling more than 1.3 million gallons of crude oil into the Ein Evrona desert nature preserve.
  • The boycott enforced by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their oil-producing neighbors meant that tankers acknowledging their docking in Israel would be barred from future loadings in the Persian Gulf, effectively destroying their business. The details are highly confidential—but generally the ways ships can obscure their activities include turning off their transponders, repainting, reflagging, reregistering, and faking their docking records.
  • EAPC’s business model improves dramatically with the erosion of the Arab boycott. “If the concerns [with secrecy] go down significantly, the price will drop significantly,”
  • Saudi Arabia has indicated it won’t establish formal links until the Palestinian conflict is resolved, although its business connections with Israel are plentiful and growing
  • Because of the canal’s limitations, much of the Gulf crude bound for Europe and North America gets pumped through Egypt’s Suez-Mediterranean Pipeline, in which Saudi Arabia and the UAE hold a stake. Egypt’s pipeline, however, operates in only one direction, making it less useful than its Israeli competitor, which can also handle, for example, Russian or Azerbaijani oil heading to Asia.
  • Even more possibilities arise from Israel’s discovery of a bounty of natural gas deposits off its Mediterranean coast that can supply far more than Israel’s own needs. Bringing in Gulf investors in addition to Israel’s current partners such as Chevron, and the possibility of connecting to the Middle East’s gas pipeline grid, would open yet another new horizon for Israel’s nascent energy industry.
Ed Webb

A Timbuktu Test For Europe - Bloomberg - 0 views

  • The first thing to note is that Mali’s problems, and those of the wider Sahel -- countries on the belt of land that runs along the southern edge of the Sahara -- are not new. There was no lack of intelligence about them. In September 2011, the European Union prepared a detailed strategy paper on the region, with recommendations of what to do and how to tackle the issue of the Sahel becoming an empty space free for jihadists to roam. The U.S. also has been deeply involved there for more than a decade, training soldiers for counterinsurgency operations and closely monitoring the situation on the ground.
  • On Malian television, local interviewees say it is right that France should help Mali in its hour of need, because Malian soldiers of the legendary Tirailleurs Senegalais regiment died for France, including in the two world wars.
  • it is likely, failing a quick victory, that the rest of Europe will soon face a choice: either support the French and the Malians with real resources, or concede defeat in an area where Europe's interests, including its energy supplies, are directly threatened.
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  • Libya and Algeria export much of their natural gas and oil to the EU. A third of Italy’s natural gas comes from Algeria, so it is clearly in Europe’s self-interest to prevent northern Mali from becoming the launchpad for attacks
  • stabilizing Mali is probably doable
  • Although few Europeans are aware, the EU is already present in Africa. The EU is training security forces in Niger, while the U.K., for example, is working with Mauritania on counterterrorism. An EU naval force has been in action to crush piracy off the Somali coast, while the EU is also training Somali troops in Uganda and paying for African peacekeepers in Somalia. U.K. Foreign Minister William Hague described the EU's involvement in Somalia as a model for Mali, in a BBC radio interview this morning. He added: What we don’t want in these countries like Mali is the 20 years of being a failed state that preceded all of that in Somalia.
  • optimistic scenario is that, having been slow off the mark, the EU, or at least European countries acting together in one combination or another, is now ready to help in Mali, recognizing that, as the U.S. pivots to Asia, Europe will need to do more to secure its own interests in Africa and the Middle East.
Mohammed Hossain

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Karzai 'wins Afghan poll majority' - 0 views

  • Hamid Karzai has won 54.1 per cent of the vote in the race for the Afghan presidency - above the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off poll, partial results indicate.
  • James Bays, reporting from Kabul, said: "If these results were to stand, that would mean this is all over - no second round and President Karzai is once again the president of Afghanistan.
  • Bays said: "We've had the election complaints commission come out, saying they have clear and convincing evidence of fraud in these elections.
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  • "They point to three provinces where they have particular concerns and they have launched a wide ranging order - anywhere nationwide ... where there was a 100 per cent turnout, they want a recount and an audit of everything that was in the ballot box.
  • the IEC has excluded around 200,000 votes from 447 polling stations
Ed Webb

Middle East Report Online: Turkey's Search for Regional Power by Yüksel Taşkın - 0 views

  • the AKP government’s objective, which is not to break with Turkey’s traditional cooperation with the US and EU but to increase Turkey’s relative autonomy vis-à-vis those powers. Rather than a rupture with the past, Turkey’s new approach marks a change in tactics in pursuit of the same goal.
  • Turkey’s new policy of “zero problems” with its neighbors -- a policy that envisions Turkey as an initiator and mediator of a policy of active neutrality
  • In seeking to be admitted as part of “the West,” the Kemalist elite tended to overlook and even “Orientalize” the East. The “other” of this Westernized elite was no longer the Greeks, with whom Turkey signed a treaty in 1930, but the Arabs and Kurds. In the realm of foreign policy, this Western-centric outlook involved Turkey aligning itself with Western powers and shunning involvement in the Middle East.
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  • The left Kemalists shared the civilizational preferences of their Kemalist fathers, but employed such terms as “development and modernization” rather than Westernization. Due to the legacy of Kemalist nationalism and Westernization, however, they never imagined themselves as members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • The AKP deliberately distanced itself from the Milli Görüş and defined its ideology as “conservative democracy” in order to situate itself within the long-established center-right tradition, but it distinguished itself from other parties of the center right by its strong opposition to Turkey’s policies on Iraq and Israel in particular. Nonetheless, the AKP elite strove to prove its loyalty to the traditional partnership with the US and issued successive reform packages to accelerate Turkey’s accession to the EU. During its first term (2002-2007), the AKP sought to establish credibility among Turkey’s powerful allies, whose support it needed to carve out a hegemonic position for itself in Turkey against the self-appointed civilian and military guardians of the republic.
  • Turkey’s repositioning of itself as an independent regional power has shifted its stance vis-à-vis the EU. Erdoğan presents an image of complementarity for the EU and Turkey: “Turkey is coming to share the burden of the EU rather than being a burden for it. In order to be a global power, there must be a global vision and relations with different regions…. Turkey will be the gate of the EU opening to Asia, the Middle East and the Islamic world…. The full security of the EU passes through the full membership of Turkey.”[6] Due to its perception of enhanced strength vis-à-vis the EU, the AKP has lost its willingness to push new reforms to speed up the EU membership process, especially since 2005 when new governments in Germany and France became outspoken against Turkey’s prospective membership.
  • under the AKP Turkey is taking a less nationalistic position toward the Turkic and Muslim peoples of Central Asia and Russia. While Russia supplies Turkey with natural gas, Turkey has been key in securing the construction of transnational pipelines to transport Russian oil and gas to the outside world.
  • ogress toward normalizing relations with Armenia
  • The fallout of the aborted “Kurdish opening” does not augur well for the AKP’s “soft” approach to foreign policy. If Turkey is unable to resolve its Kurdish problem through peaceful means, its new outlook will lose cogency in the eyes of Western allies. For instance, critics of Turkey’s increasingly vociferous objections to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians will question Turkey’s credibility by citing Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority.
  • Even today, there is little serious sympathy for Iran among ordinary Turks, particularly not as compared to that shown for the Palestinians, for example. A BBC poll found that the percentage of Turks who have warm feelings for Iran is only 13 percent while sympathy for Israel is at 6 percent and that for the US under the Obama administration is at 13 percent. The clear majority of Turks, however, would be opposed to stiffer sanctions against Iran or a military strike since the US and Israel are believed to be acting in concert to achieve these ends.
  • Erdoğan’s motives are quite rational and material despite claims that he is ready to abandon Turkey’s traditional foreign policy for the sake of Islamic brotherhood
  • The AKP is also wary of siding with Iran for fear of losing the good will of Gulf Arab states and access to the mountains of petrodollars at their disposal. In fact, one of the driving motives of the AKP government is to attract these petrodollars in the form of investments in Turkey. Since the AKP’s coming to power in 2002, Gulf investment in Turkey has skyrocketed, reaching $30 billion dollars in 2008.
  • Erdoğan’s frequent references to the Palestinian cause are motivated by a combination of ideology and deliberate political tactics. A paternalistic inclination to protect the Palestinians is also linked to the Islamists-turned-conservative democrats’ psychological need to prove that they are still committed to their moral obligations to the umma. The political Islamists in Turkey have undergone a serious process of ideological moderation. Except for the Palestinian issue and the right of women to wear headscarves in public places, AKP cadres and other groups that adhere to Islamism are suffering from an absence of common ideological grievances. Increasing economic, cultural and political power have moved the AKP toward the center of the political spectrum as the party moves to reclaim the center-right tradition started by the Democrat Party in the 1950s. As in the Arab world, Turkish Islamists have also drifted away from the strategy of capturing central state power as a way to Islamize the country. Rather, they are increasingly positioning themselves to capture society, particularly by means of charitable and human rights associations.
  • Turkish TV series have found a considerable audience in the region and angered conservatives who see them as deliberate efforts to induce moral laxity among Muslims. Some scholars at the al-Azhar mosque-university, for instance, blamed the melodrama Gümüş for increasing the divorce rate in Egypt by raising the “romantic expectations of women.”
  • enhance Turkey’s status as a vital and autonomous player in the region
  • Increasing signs of multi-polarity also provide ample opportunities for the Turkish government to enhance its regional influence, which can be converted into bargaining power in its dealings with the US and the EU. As Ahmet Davutoğlu lucidly described his vision: “The new global order must be more inclusive and participatory…. Turkey will be among those active and influential actors who sit around the table to solve problems rather than watching them.”[7]
Ed Webb

Middle East Report Online: Disaster Strikes the Indus River Valley - From the Editors - 0 views

  • The official death toll stands at 1,600, and will surely rise, as the crises of housing, sickness, hunger and thirst begin to take insidious root. Much of the internal refugee flight is double displacement, as two of the regions worst affected, the Northwest Frontier Province and Balochistan, are beset with chronic warfare between local guerrillas and the government that has emptied whole villages. Every single bridge in the mountainous Swat district, site of several army offensives against the Pakistan Taliban, has been swept away. Several Afghan refugee camps, as well, have been obliterated, their inhabitants uprooted once more.
  • the very manmade imbalances that lie underneath all such calamities
  • the preponderance of expert opinion does concur that a pattern is underway by which violent storms are becoming more common and that this pattern is unique to the carbon emissions era. There is reason to believe, for instance, that Asian monsoons are becoming more variable and more extreme with the progression of climate change. Many climate scientists predict that, for the most part, the semi-arid zone of Asia to which most of Pakistan belongs will see less and less rain as time goes by. Farmland will be swallowed by desert as irrigation ditches run dry. In a cruel irony, though, the monsoons will not peter out gradually, but will decrease or increase in intensity in variances that will be predictably unpredictable. The 2007 assessment report of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is “very likely” that “heavy precipitation events” are increasing in number along with the anthropogenic heating of the globe. When it rains, that is to say, it is apt to pour.
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  • Pakistan, whose rate of automobile ownership is 8 per 1,000 people (as compared to 765 per 1,000 in the US), has contributed almost nothing to the blanket of greenhouse gases warming the earth and the oscillating weather patterns that result. But many Pakistani observers attribute the scale of the flooding and displacement in part to a series of decisions by the Pakistani state --namely, the building of large dams at key points along the course of the Indus. Dams, of course, are the quintessential symbol of modernity in water infrastructure. Seeking to emulate the American civil engineers who made the Californian desert bloom, post-colonial states across the Middle East and Asia hurried to erect taller and taller dams to catch the water that would enable a green revolution in every river basin and churn out electricity to light every city street. Aside from the social dislocation caused by their construction, the dams’ sustainability is now greatly in doubt. For one thing, dams are subject to the law of unintended consequences. In Egypt, the dams around Aswan eliminated the annual flooding of the Nile, allowing for reliable year-round irrigation and greatly expanded agricultural productivity. But the yearly floods also had a cleansing effect; now rural areas are pocked with stagnant pools where the parasite that causes bilharzia flourishes. In Pakistan, the blockage of the Indus has led to high soil salinity and greater sedimentation upstream, robbing the delta of its richest soil, and in effect raising the riverbed and making swathes of previously dry land part of the floodplain.
  • As so often in quasi-natural disasters, the poor and disenfranchised bear the overwhelming brunt of the Pakistan flooding
  • Once again, the world is confronted with the mind-bending irony that the US military, precisely because it is the most fearsome and lavishly funded war machine in human history, is the only entity capable of the rapid, all-out emergency response that is called for. And the motive is never purely altruistic: As in 2004, when the Navy’s aid to tsunami victims assuaged the American conscience after Abu Ghraib, so the hope will be that sending helicopters to Pakistan will persuade fewer of them to hate us.
  • Part of the problem is apparently Pakistan’s “image deficit”; a Care International official told Agence France Presse that donors need to be convinced their gifts will not “go to the hands of the Taliban.” This “image deficit” perhaps explains why the American media has not launched anything close to the earnest publicity and fundraising blitzes that occurred after the tsunami and the earthquake in Haiti.
  • For the generals who continue to dominate Pakistani governance despite the government’s civilian face, the shadowboxing with India still dictates every move.
  • The river of money flowing to Pakistan is intended to float a set of unpopular policies that Washington has no intention of changing and a government that Washington would hate to see genuinely democratized. In the case of the floods, and water management generally, democratization would mean treating the hard-hit citizenry as agents of recovery and reconstruction, whose ideas for repairing the local waterworks, being derived from lived experience, might make more sense than those of the World Bank’s credentialed experts. Instead, it appears that the Pakistani state and international community will treat the flood victims as objects of relief aid. This kind of powerless victimhood leaves few avenues for citizen activism besides protest, some of which has already turned deadly. These realities are integral to the political instability that the West fears will emerge now that disaster has struck.
nate grefe

Iran's Foreign Policy | Asia Society - 0 views

  •  
    Old article, but a point of view not often articulated in Western mass media
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Scores killed in Pakistan blast - 0 views

  • "The police are now saying that up to 100 kilos [of explosives] - perhaps more than that - may have been used in this particular attack."
  • "What is surprising everyone is that immediately after the attack, the provincial information minister came out and said that he knew where the attack came from, and started saying that people should be united against the Taliban, even though the Taliban have not claimed responsibility," he said.
  • No responsibility claim
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  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but previous attacks have been blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban.
  • The targets have been mostly security forces and foreigners.
  • operation could start as early as Monday.
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - US unveils extended Bagram prison - 0 views

  • Bagram, unlike its Guantanamo counterpart, was clearly not going to be shut down soon.
  • "The new prison wing cost some $60 million to build ... and is meant to be part of a new era of openness and transparency," Bays said.
  • were not shown the detainees
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  • Nor has any civilian lawyer ever been allowed inside
  • the extended prison could hold up to 1,000 detainees, but was at present holding around 700 inmates, including 30 foreign prisoners
  • Bagram is seen as "Guantanamo's lesser-known evil twin".
  • US government still won't release a simple list of names of prisoners who are in Bagram," she told Al Jazeera.
  • Bagram lies in Parwan, a relatively quiet province. The Taliban is not believed to have a significant presence in the province.
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Afghans react to Obama troop plan - 1 views

  • "I was expecting Obama to announce the withdrawal of 30,000 troops within two months but unfortunately, he did the opposite which will increase killings of both Americans and Afghans."
  • Pakistan fears a US troop surge in Afghanistan would force fighters to flee to its border areas, particularly in the southwestern Baluchistan province where the government is already struggling to end a low-level insurgency by tribal fighters.
  • "We couldn't solve the Afghanistan problem in eight years, but now the US wants to solve it in eighteen months? I don't see how it could be done."
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  • "It is a bold approach and there's no guarantee of success," he said. "Wars tend to consume presidencies and this is now Obama's war."
Ed Webb

Where and why food prices lead to social upheaval - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Unlike other commodities, global food prices have followed a different trajectory. Although down from near-historic highs in 2007-2008 and 2011, they are still higher than at any point in the previous three decades.
  • The economic effects of higher food prices are clear: Since 2007, higher prices have put a brake on two decades of steady process in reducing world hunger. But the spikes in food prices over the past decade have also thrust food issues back onto the security agenda, particularly after the events of the Arab Spring. High food prices were one of the factors pushing people into the streets during the regionwide political turmoil that began in late 2010. Similar dynamics were at play in 2007-2008, when near-record prices led to food-related protests and riots in 48 countries.
  • Unlike energy and electronics, demand for basic foodstuffs is income-inelastic: Whether I have adequate income has no effect on my need for sustenance. Not surprisingly, 97 percent of the post-2007 ‘food riots’ identified by a team at the New England Complex Systems Institute occurred in Africa and Asia, which are home to more than 92 percent of the world’s poor and chronically food-insecure. Careful empirical work bears out this conventional wisdom: High global food prices are more destabilizing in low-income countries, where per capita incomes are lower.
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  • Politics might affect the relationship between food prices and protest through two channels. The first is the extent to which governments shield urban consumers from high global prices. Governments in developing countries often subsidize food purchases, especially those of urban dwellers, shifting welfare from rural producers to urban consumers. But this observation raises the second-order question of the conditions under which governments will subsidize urban consumers. We hypothesized that autocratic governments were more likely to shield urban consumers. While urban dwellers can riot in the absence of elections, rural dwellers have fewer channels through which they can voice grievances.
  • democracies and anocracies did enact more pro-rural food policy. In particular, democracies in Africa and Asia enact policies that favor urban areas less and rural areas more. These take the form of enhancing farmer incomes and raising consumer prices, which often causes protests and rioting. Lessening urban bias in food policy may be good pro-poor policy, given the continued concentration of poverty in rural areas, but it carries political risks.
  • the Arab Spring reflects some of the risks autocratic leaders face when attempting to insulate urban consumers from global market prices. Consumer subsidies have long been part of the “authoritarian bargain” between the state and citizens in the Middle East and North Africa, and attempts to withdraw them have been met with protest before: Egypt’s bread intifada, which erupted over an attempt to reform food subsidies, killed 800 in 1977. These subsidies explicitly encouraged citizens across the region to evaluate their governments’ effectiveness in terms of their ability to maintain low consumer prices — prices that, given these countries’ dependence on food imports, those governments ultimately could not control
  • Our findings point to the difficult tradeoffs facing governments in developing countries as they attempt to pursue two different definitions of food security simultaneously: food security as an element of human security, and food security as a means of ensuring government survival and quelling urban unrest. These tradeoffs appear to be particularly acute for developing democracies.
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Countering Extremism: Jihadist Ideology Reig... - 0 views

  • By James M. Dorsey Edited remarks at India Foundation conference, Changing Contours of Global Terror, Gurugram, Haryana, 14-16 March 2018
  • Al Qaeda produced the counterterrorism industry in the context of a response that was focussed on law enforcement, security and military engagement. To be sure, that has produced significant results. It has enhanced security across the globe, stopped plots before they could be executed, driven Al Qaeda into caves, and deprived the Islamic State of its territorial base. All of that, however has not solved the problem, nor has it fundamentally reduced the attraction of religiously-cloaked extremism.
  • the call for a counter-narrative has produced an industry of its own. Like the terrorism industry, it has vested interests of its own: its sustainability is dependent on the continued existence of perceived real threats.
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  • The notion that one can eradicate political violence is illusionary. Political violence has been a fixture of human history since day one and is likely to remain a fact of life. Its ebbs and flows often co-relate to economic, social and political up and down turns. In other words, counterterrorism and counternarratives will only be effective if they are embedded in far broader policies that tackle root causes. And that is where the shoe pinches. To develop policies that tackle root causes, that are inclusive and aim to ensure that at least the vast majority, if not everyone, has a stake in society, the economy and the political system involves painful decisions, revising often long-standing policies and tackling vested interests. Few politicians and bureaucrats are inclined to do so.
  • militants have benefitted from the fact that the world was entering a cyclical period in which populations lose confidence in political systems and leaderships. The single largest success of Osama bin Laden and subsequent militants is the fact that they were able to disrupt efforts to forge inclusive, multicultural societies, nowhere more so than first in Europe, then the United States with the rise of Donald Trump, and exploit ripple effects in Asia
  • what makes this cycle of lack of confidence more worrisome and goes directly to the question of the ideological challenge is how it differs from the late 1960s, the last time that we witnessed a breakdown in confidence and leadership on a global scale. The difference between then and now is that then there were all kinds of worldviews on offer: anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, socialism, communism, concepts of extra-parliamentary opposition, and in the Middle East and North Africa, Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. Today, the only thing on offer are militant interpretations of Islam and jihadism
  • With democracy on the defense, free market enterprise having failed significant segments of the public, and newly found legitimacy for prejudice, bias and bigotry, democratic governments are incapable of credibly projecting a dream, one that is backed up by policies that hold out realistic hope of producing results
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to be holding out a dream for his kingdom. But that dream increasingly is being shattered both in Yemen and at home. Autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa are about upgrading and modernizing their regimes to ensure their survival, not about real sustainable change
  • populists and nationalists advocating racial, ethnic and religious purity and protectionist economic policies are unlikely to fare any better
  • Creating a policy framework that is conducive to an environment in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that would favour pluralism and respect of human rights and counter the appeal of jihadism and emerging sectarian-based nationalism is not simply a question of encouraging and supporting voices in the region, first and foremost those of youth, or of revisiting assumptions of Western foreign policies and definitions of national security.  It involves fostering inclusive national identities that can accommodate ethnic, sectarian and tribal sub-identities as legitimate and fully accepted sub-identities in Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian, as well as in Western countries. It involves changing domestic policies towards minorities, refugees and migrants
  • Instead of reducing the threat of political violence, the largely military effort to defeat Al Qaeda produced ever more virulent forms of jihadism as embodied by the Islamic State. It may be hard to imagine anything more brutal than the group, but it is a fair assumption that defeating the Islamic State without tackling root causes could lead to something that is even more violent and more vicious.
  • an approach that focuses on the immediate nature of the threat and ways to neutralize it rather than on what sparked it
  • Norway’s response to right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s traumatic attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people stands as a model for how societies can and should uphold concepts of pluralism and human rights. Norway refrained from declaring war on terror, treated Breivik as a common criminal, and refused to compromise on its democratic values. In doing so, Norway offered a successful example of refusing to stigmatise any one group in society by adopting inclusiveness rather than profiling and upholding the very values that autocrats and jihadists challenge
Ed Webb

UAE and the Horn of Africa: A Tale of Two Ports - 0 views

  • On February 22, Djibouti seized control of the Doraleh Container Terminal from its joint owner and operator, the Dubai-based DP World. The seizure was not wholly unexpected and was the culmination of Djibouti's deteriorating bilateral ties with the United Arab Emirates and a lost legal battle with DP World to renegotiate the terms of the port concession that gave it a 33 percent equity stake in 2006. The London Court of International Arbitration Tribunal ruled against Djibouti's claims, lodged in 2014, that DP World paid bribes in order to secure the 30-year concession
  • Doraleh opened in 2009 and is the only container terminal in the Horn of Africa able to handle 15,000-ton container ships. It quickly became the most important entrepot for the region's largest country and economy, Ethiopia, which was rendered landlocked by Eritrea's independence in 1993. Ethiopia receives around 97 percent of its imports through Doraleh — around 70 percent of the port's activity — in what has become an unacceptable strategic reliance on a neighbor
  • the increasingly complex dynamics animating the geopolitics, and the more localized politics, being shaped by the competition among aspiring regional powers of the Middle East — particularly Gulf Arab states and Turkey — and China for influence in the Horn of Africa
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  • A year after DP World finalized an agreement with the semiautonomous region of Somaliland to develop a $442 million commercial port in Berbera, Ethiopia inked a deal with the port operator and Somaliland's government to acquire a 19 percent stake in the port. There are reportedly plans for DP World to upgrade the connectivity infrastructure linking Berbera to the Ethiopian border that would allow Addis Ababa and potentially greater East Africa to reduce their sole dependence on Djibout
  • Bashir also agreed to lease Turkey the Red Sea island of Suakin for development. Though Turkey has denied it, concerns quickly arose that Ankara planned to build a new military base on the island, which would be its second in the Horn of Africa with the first in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
  • Along with the competition by outside players has come greater leverage for Horn of Africa countries, whose elites have long been adept at playing external patrons off one another. Ethiopia has to some degree succeeded in diluting Abu Dhabi's reliance on its enemy, Eritrea, by supporting its plans for the Berbera port. In 2015, after losing access to Djibouti for military operations, the UAE constructed a base in the coastal Eritrean city of Assab, which has been vital to its operations in southern Yemen. By supporting the UAE's military and commercial infrastructure plans in Somaliland, Ethiopia — the Horn of Africa's largest and most powerful country — also contributed to the fracturing of Somalia by encouraging the de facto consolidation of Somaliland's independence
  • In Sudan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have led efforts to rehabilitate President Omar Bashir in the international community by lobbying for U.S. sanctions on Sudan to be lifted. Bashir agreed to cut ties with Iran and send troops to fight for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen
  • The intra-Gulf Cooperation Council crisis has added another destabilizing variable, as countries, parties, and elites in East Africa have been forced to choose sides
  • The confidence with which Horn of Africa elites are pursuing their own interests at the risk of angering new patrons underscores the high stakes for the participants in this so-called "new scramble for Africa," and also their long-term intent. Djibouti in particular emerged over the past decade as a strategic focal point next to the Bab el-Mandeb shipping lane, existential for the flow of Gulf energy to Europe and goods between Asia and Europe. It has leveraged its location for lucrative basing deals for current and emerging world powers alike. The United States, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and former colonial ruler France all have bases in Djibouti.
  • the UAE's longer-term interests — as well as those of its competitors — are economic and strategic. The country is working to make itself an essential component of China's Belt and Road Initiative and secure Dubai's Jebel Ali as the key logistics and trade hub linking Asia to Africa via DP World infrastructure, in the face of competition by a glut of new ports built by rivals with similar ambitions in Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and elsewhere along the Horn of Africa
  • ports projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, Algeria, and Mali
  • State-backed and private investors from the UAE have invested in a wide range of non-energy sectors, from finance and banking to construction, tourism, food, entertainment, and agri-business
  • The UAE is also trying to make the nature of its engagement more attractive for African governments and private sector partners: Rather than following the path of China, which has been perceived negatively as following a pseudo-colonial model in Africa, it is looking more toward the Turkish model. Investments such as DP World's in Somalia or military bases come with packages of infrastructure investment, training, and education for workers and security forces, as well as inducements such as greater numbers of visas to the UAE
  • Food and water security continues to be an important interest for the UAE and other Gulf countries in East Africa. Emirati companies are seeking to avoid the political pitfalls that have caused past investments in land for food production to fail. Privately owned Al Dahra Holding, which owns farmland in Africa, claims to use a 50-50 sharing formula for produce with local companies and hires local workers
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