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Pulitzer Center Update May 18, 2012

This Week in Review: War and Chocolate

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Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

From the Caribbean to Africa, the story of cocoa has always been a bittersweet tale of profit and power. Ethnic strife in Ivory Coast is the most recent chapter in this prized commodity's checkered history. In a photo essay for Bloomberg Businessweek Pulitzer Center grantee Peter DiCampo documents the plight of migrant workers from across West Africa who were invited to the country to share in its farmland, helping Ivory Coast become the leading producer of cocoa. (Today it provides some 40 percent of the world's crop.) But when the economy went sour in the 1980s, cocoa profits were more jealously guarded. Land disputes erupted, sparking xenophobic violence that became a 10-year civil war. With the ouster of former President Laurent Gbagbo a year ago the violence has dissipated, but not disappeared, and cocoa remains at the heart of a lingering conflict.

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"Turkey has long straddled Europe and the Middle East—both politically and culturally—and the changing standards toward the sex trade are part and parcel of this larger identity crisis," writes Pulitzer Center grantee Anna Louie Sussman in an article that drew many clicks this week on Foreign Policy's website. "If Turkey considers itself a European country, the policies on its books fall comfortably in line with neighbors such as Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain, where sex work is decriminalized or legal. But if Turkey sees itself as part of the Middle East, its policies toward prostitution become a jarring abnormality."

Yes, paying for sex is still legal in Turkey, one of the few Islamic countries where the oldest profession is officially tolerated. But with an Islamist government now in power for a decade, attitudes have changed. As Anna reports, government-licensed brothels, once a staple of every sizeable city, are being closed down or pushed to the peripheries. Sometimes it's done stealthily; other times with great fanfare. Politicians proclaim victory for virtue. But vice merely retreats to the shadowy backstreets where sex workers face greater exposure to health risks, physical violence and jail.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor