n.31 July 2010

Until 1970, the Aral Sea was the fourth-largest lake on earth. But the Soviet policy of diverting rivers to boost the cotton industry gradually began decimating the lake. As cotton industry, the fish-rich lake became unnecessary. Parts of the Aral Sea located in Uzbekistan now look like a parched ghost town of the American West. In Kazakhstan, efforts are being made to keep the lake alive. But in environmental terms, the Aral Sea’s slow demise represents one of the
greatest man-made disasters of modern times.

Religious and ethnic grievances have long divided Jerusalem. Israel's decision to pushed ahead with the building of Jewish settlements outside the city has only made matters worse. Meanwhile, in the heart of the Old City, city officials must try to provide services for hundreds of thousands of residents, including the Palestinians and ultra-conservative Jews who refuse to acknowledge its authority. But the city government refuses to give up on the holiest city in the world.

In 1716, English aristocrat Montagu joined her husband in Istanbul after he was appointed ambassador. Afriend to Pope and Addison, she used her literary gifts to chronicle her Ottoman Empire stay, observing customs while studying medical techniques that helped bring Turkish smallpox treatments to the West. Here are excerpts from letters contained in the book “Embassy to Constantinople: The Travels of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu”.

Being a foreign correspondent also means sampling local food, sometimes for long stretches..In culinary terms, the Middle East is a particularly rich beat for a visiting Westerner reporter. Whether you're at a banquet with Jordan's royal family in Amman or snacking on what's available while under mortar fire in Afghanistan, the region never fails to deliver an interesting meal. Some offerings are delicious, others unbearable, while few staples arerepeated endlessly.
British journalist Robert Fisk takes his own tour.