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from Global Investing:

Corruption and business potential sometimes go together

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By Alice Baghdjian

Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam found themselves cheered and chided this week.

The Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International, measured the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 176 countries and all three found their way into the bottom half of the study.

Uzbekistan shared 170th place with Turkmenistan (a higher ranking denotes higher perceived corruption levels) . Vietnam was ranked 123th, tied with countries like Sierra Leone and Belarus, while Bangladesh was 144th.

Those findings are unlikely to surprise. But consider this. All three countries are said to boast some of the best prospects for business and growth over the next two decades. That's according to the findings of a separate study released in the same week.

from Full Focus:

Russia’s untouchables

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Russia’s demographic situation is one of the many factors contributing to uncertainty in understanding the future of the country. As one of the world's only developing countries with a decreasing population, the Russian economy relies on a large influx of migrant workers to fill the gap. Photographer Denis Sinyakov documents the divisive issue of immigration.

from FaithWorld:

Moscow prison opens first prayer room for Muslims

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butyrkaA prison where Soviet-era writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was jailed and a third of inmates are Muslims from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, has become the first in Moscow to open a Muslim prayer room.

Nineteenth century Butyrka prison in central Moscow, which also held Adolf Hitler's nephew Heinrich among other high-profile prisoners, held its first prayers on Friday, in a hall near a Christian church that has operated since 1989.

from India Insight:

The Mongol Rally: Europe and Ukraine

The Mongol Rally started on July 24 at the Goodwood Motor Circuit near London. Spirits were high as 350 cars formed a procession and drove a lap around the circuit before setting off on the long road for Mongolia.

Pia Gadkari during the Mongol RallyFrom the start we planned to drive across Europe as quickly as possible, knowing the poor roads, the intense heat and the vast distances in Central Asia would be the most testing part of the trip.

from India Insight:

All set for the Mongol Rally

The League of Adventurists, a UK company that organises extreme travel expeditions, will launch its annual off-road motor adventure: The Mongol Rally on July 24.

This annual scramble from London to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia attracts adventure travellers from around the world.

from India Insight:

Xinjiang – the spreading arc of instability

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China's troubled Xinjiang region shares borders with eight countries, which is perhaps one reason President Hu Jintao dropped out of the G8 summit to head home, underscoring the seriousness of the situation and the need to quickly bring the vast oil-rich region under control.

Xinjiang touches Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, besides the Tibet Autonomous Region.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Of Afghanistan and backpacks

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According to George Friedman from the Stratfor intelligence group the United States should forget the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan and concentrate instead on covert operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

As has become increasingly clear, the administration of President Barack Obama faces a hard time raising its troop presence in Afghanistan without either relying on precarious supply lines through Pakistan or making political compromises with Russia to win its support for using alternative routes through Central Asia.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The scramble for Central Asia

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Central Asia is much in demand these days, whether as a transit route for U.S. and NATO supplies to Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan or for its rich resources, including oil and gas.

So it's worth noting that India has been hosting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as its guest of honour at its Republic Day celebrations while signing a bunch of trade deals in the process. According to reports in the Indian media, including in the Business Standardthe Week and the Times of India,  India is seeking supplies of uranium for its nuclear plants and access to Kazakhstan's oil and gas and in return would be expected to support Kakazhstan's bid for membership of the World Trade Organisation. (India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) said on Saturday it had signed a deal to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan.)

from Global News Journal:

British royalty steps into Central Asia energy diplomacy

Britain’s Prince Andrew stepped into Central Asia energy diplomacy this week, touring the vast former Soviet region and holding top-level talks on gas supplies in remote Turkmenistan.

Western envoys have flocked to Central Asia over past years, hoping to grab a share of its abundant energy reserves - a worrisome trend for Russia which sees the mainly Muslim region as part of its traditional sphere of interest.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Time to think about Afghanistan end-game?

Afghan girl in Taloqan/Fabrizio BenschBritain's commander in Afghanistan has said the war against the Taliban cannot be won and suggested talks with the group might be a way of making progress.

"We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army," Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

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