The World Today for October 20, 2016


Rinse and Repeat

Turkish leaders on Wednesday extended a state of emergency declared after an attempted coup that rocked Istanbul and Ankara in July for another three months.

“Steps will be taken to do whatever needs to be done to cleanse the state of these terrorist organizations,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus in a speech supporting the extension.

The cleansing has been systematic, thorough and brutal.

Just about every aspect of Turkish society was riddled with supposed coup backers: Some 2,300 institutions have been closed and 100,000 government officials, teachers, journalists, police officers, judges and soldiers – even a renowned baklava chef – have lost their positions in President Tayyip Erdogan’s purges.

Hung out to dry for suspected links with accused coup mastermind Fathullah Gulen, a cleric in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, or with Kurdish nationalists, many of those targeted have expressed bewilderment at the persecution.

“I never followed Fathullah Gulen,” Nilufer Demircioglu, an ex-student, told the BBC.

Demircioglu was in her final year of school before the government closed the university she was attending, along with 14 others, on suspicions of Gulen ties.

“I enrolled here because I was given a scholarship and it was close to my home. Our political leaders used to come here and promote this university,” she added. “Now they have stopped me from finishing my studies.”

The fear of reprisal has laid the foundation for a new institution: self-censorship.

“When I travel abroad, people often ask me how I manage to survive as a writer in Turkey — whether or not I am at risk for persecution. What I cannot openly admit is that I survive by biting my tongue,” writes Asli Aydintasbas, a Turkish writer, in the Washington Post.

Of all groups targeted, teachers have been most affected: 27,000 educators have been rounded up during the emergency decrees, NPR reports.

“A teacher is not involved materially; he didn’t use a gun against the students,” said Enes Bayrakli of a pro-government think-tank to the BBC. “Still, they were supporting the activities of these terrorist organizations.”

Those accused and their families are able to contest claims at newly established “crisis management centers” erected to deal with possible false accusations with “extreme care.”

But they’re hampered by long lines and a stacked court system.

“These crisis centers are a joke,” a teachers’ union leader told NPR. “These people have been declared guilty right off the bat, and now they’re being told they have to prove their innocence. That’s not how justice should work.”

With emergency powers set to repeat in Turkey, the rinse is far from over.


Bikini Wax

Brazil’s seemingly endless anti-corruption drive may be as thorough as the famous Brazilian-style bikini wax before it’s over.

On Wednesday, the former speaker of the house who orchestrated the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff was himself arrested on graft charges associated with the multibillion-dollar Petrobras scandal, according to the Washington Post.

Federal Deputy Eduardo Cunha, until recently a key ally of new President Michel Temer, is accused of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion in relation to a 2011 oil field purchase that Petrobras made in Benin.

Prosecutors said they feared Cunha might influence the probe or flee the country. They also asked for his bank accounts, which hold more than $60 million, to be frozen.

By the time the Senate voted to remove Rousseff from office in August, corruption allegations had already forced Cunha to resign. He then lashed out at Temer and the new president’s cabinet, announcing that he would publish a tell-all book about the impeachment process. The first excerpts are to be published next month.

Pleasing the People

British Prime Minister Theresa May has a shaky tightrope to walk in Brussels

With her Conservative Party government enjoying only a thin majority, she must balance the demands of hardline euroskeptics with the practical concerns about the economic impact of the so-called Brexit during her first trip to the European Union summit in Brussels on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

On one hand, she’ll need to satisfy observers at home that she’s holding the line on reducing the number of immigrants allowed into Britain. But on the other, she’ll need to convince the EU (and business leaders at home) that any proposed restrictions on migrants should not prevent Britain from continued access to the EU single market.

After waffling over the past few weeks, May would do well to remember the observation offered by Abraham Lincoln: You can please all of the people some of the time or some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

On the Run

The Islamic State may be on the run.

There are signs that some leaders of the terror group have already fled Mosul as Iraqi security forces close in on the city, the BBC reported.

“We’ve seen movement out of Mosul; we’ve got indications that leaders have left,” said US Army General Gary Volesky.

That doesn’t mean the fighting is over, or close to over, however. Nobody doubts that the hardcore IS fighters will hunker down and mount a fierce resistance to the troops seeking to take back Mosul. And experts say even those leaving the city may simply be advancing to frontline areas on the outskirts of town.

Moreover, jihadists who joined the fight from other countries may stay and fight to the bitter end, simply because they have nowhere else to go.

“A lot of foreigner fighters we expect to stay because they’re not going to be able to exfiltrate as easily some of the local fighters, or the local leadership, so we expect there to be a fight,” General Volesky said.


Ghost Cats of Tokyo

Halloween may still be a few weeks away, but seasonal festivities have already begun for cat lovers in Japan.

Cat enthusiasts from as far away as Canada descended on the Tokyo neighborhood of Kagurazaka over the weekend to take part in the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival, Japan’s annual ghost cat festival.

Complete with a parade featuring elaborate, colorful feline costumes, the festival pays tribute to the myth of the “changed cats,” or Bakeneko, in Japanese folklore. According to the folk tales, cats develop supernatural powers in their old age, wrote the Huffington Post.

It also celebrates the Kagurazaka neighborhood’s connection to cats as the main setting for Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki’s 1905 satirical novel, I Am A Cat.

“Kagurazaka is a town known for cats and because Halloween is getting close, we decided to celebrate Halloween, autumn and cats all together in one parade,” festival organizer Okameya Yuko told Reuters.

Part of the event’s charm is that it’s open to anyone – provided they show up in the “purr-fect” cat-themed attire.

Check out a video of the parade’s outrageous costumes here.

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