The World Today for July 14, 2017



The Walls of Fear

It’s been one year since an attempt to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed and sent shockwaves through the Western world – as much due to the event itself as the crackdown that followed.

In the aftermath of last July’s putsch attempt, Turkey’s embattled president set about purging society of dissenters, while also taking steps to upend the nation’s cultural and political order.

Just days after the violent uprising that left hundreds dead and a nation in turmoil, Erdogan declared a state of emergency – which continues to this day.

The move granted him sweeping powers to pass decrees without parliamentary approval, a stunning paradigm shift in a country believed to have made democratic strides over the last century.

Since then, more than 50,000 suspected plotters and political critics have been jailed, while over 150,000 more have been purged from prominent positions in society – teachers, lawmakers, attorneys, academics and journalists have disappeared from public life.

“It was the second coup, a civilian coup by Mr. Erdogan,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party in Parliament, the Republican People’s Party, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

A constitutional referendum in April to change the parliamentary system into a presidential one won by a hair’s margin, only solidifying Erdogan’s grasp on power.

The win allowed Erdogan to transform his traditionally ceremonial post into a partisan bully pulpit from which he can now appoint judges and ministers and dismiss the prime minister and the parliament at will.

While Erdogan and his supporters see the reforms as necessary to protect the state, many view the new powers as one more step in a steady crawl toward authoritarianism.

As a result, Ankara has been ostracized by the few allies it had left in the European Union, all but destroying its chances of one day joining the 28-member bloc, writes the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Erdogan has extended his emergency powers outside of the political realm.

The government has seized almost 1,000 companies over the past year suspected to have ties to cleric-in-exile Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party suspected to have orchestrated the coup.

Worth some $6 billion, these holdings are bolstering the economy during a state of crisis, Al-Monitor reports.

But even as Turks continue to live in the long shadow of the putsch, many have abandoned fears of reprisal.

Turks by the thousands have taken to the streets in protest of Erdogan’s rule, including those who marched 250 miles from Ankara to Istanbul over the last month to demand a return to democratic order.

“The era we live in is a dictatorship,” opposition leader Kilicdaroglu told thousands of protesters at the conclusion of the march. “We will be breaking down the walls of fear.”

[siteshare]The Walls of Fear[/siteshare]



Death By Denial

Beijing rejected foreign criticism over its refusal to allow prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo to be treated abroad for liver cancer.

Liu died in custody on Thursday while serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms, Reuters reported.

Following criticism from various foreign leaders and the Nobel Committee, which awarded Liu the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, China said the case was an internal affair and foreign countries were “in no position to make improper remarks,” the BBC said.

“China now has the responsibility to quickly, transparently and plausibly answer the question of whether the cancer could not have been identified much earlier,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson echoed those sentiments, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the Chinese government to release the Nobel Prize winner’s wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest and allow her to depart China.

[siteshare]Death By Denial[/siteshare]


Sentenced, Not Solved

A Moscow court sentenced a Chechen former security services officer to 20 years in prison for the 2015 murder of Boris Y. Nemtsov, then one of the most prominent opposition leaders defying President Vladimir Putin.

Prosecutors had asked the court to give shooter Zaur Dadayev a life sentence following his conviction last month, but judges opted for a term of 20 years, the New York Times reported. Four accomplices were sentenced to 11 to 19 years.

By 2015, Nemtsov was not as prominent an opposition figure as anti-corrupton blogger Aleksei A. Navalny. But Nemtsov remained active in Russian politics and had been organizing opposition to the war in Ukraine.

His family and his supporters say that the people who ordered his killing remain at large and will likely never be brought to justice. Evidence points to the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, who is an ally of Putin, the Times said.

[siteshare] Sentenced, Not Solved [/siteshare]


Strange Bedfellows

The conviction of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on charges of corruption and money laundering this week has united politicians from all sides of the spectrum against the judiciary.

With nearly every prominent politician under investigation, facing charges, or already convicted, they’re attacking the legitimacy of the prosecutors and judges, the New York Times reported.

“If they think that with this sentence they will take me out of the game, let them know that I’m in the game,” the former president, known locally as Lula, told throngs of supporters on Thursday.

His conviction puts him on the same side of the struggle as sitting President Michel Temer, a bitter rival who faces the threat of being ousted from office and jailed for corruption.

After Lula’s conviction, Temer’s lawyer said both politicians were being targeted by prosecutors who were accusing “innocent people” and “destroying reputations,” the Times noted.

That said, it remains to be seen whether the fervent loyalty Lula inspires will erode popular support for the anti-corruption probe – which a recent poll showed 96 percent of Brazilians want to continue “to the end, regardless of the outcome.”

[siteshare] Strange Bedfellows [/siteshare]


Bump in the Night

A lot of things could cause a bad night’s sleep nowadays: Too much screen time on the smartphone, or even an unhealthy diet, can lead to tossing and turning.

But a study published recently in the journal Sleep Health suggests that bouts of fitful sleep could actually be an ancient tactic to ward off nocturnal threats.

Over a three-week period, researchers tracked the sleeping patterns of a tribe of modern-day hunter-gatherers in Tanzania called the Hadza, the Guardian reports. Without any synthetic lighting or frivolities, the tribe provides a good example of how our ancestors used to live.

At the study’s conclusion, there were only 18 minutes during which all adults in the tribe were asleep simultaneously.

Furthermore, elders tended to fall asleep earlier and rise earlier, while young’uns did the opposite, ensuring there was always someone awake to watch over the tribe.

Sound familiar? The authors posit that this common misalignment of sleep schedules between young and old could actually be a result of evolution.

“Maybe some of the medical issues we have today could be explained not as disorders, but as a relic of an evolutionary past in which they were beneficial,” said co-author Charlie Nunn, professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke.

[siteshare]Bump in the Night[/siteshare]

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