While the world’s attention has been riveted on Ukraine and what move an emboldened Vladimir Putin will make next, diverse threats to democracy have intensified on other fronts as well. The story is not new. According to Freedom House, 2013 was the eighth consecutive year in which more countries experienced declines in political rights or civil liberties than improvements. Since 2005, democracy has ceased its decades-long expansion, leveling off at about 60 percent of all independent states. And since the military coup in Pakistan in 1999, the rate of democratic breakdowns has accelerated, with about one in every five democracies failing.
Read more. [Image: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
From In Turkey, Renewed Anti-Government Protests, one of 38 photos. A young woman, held after she was wounded during clashes between riot police and protestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year’s anti-government protests in Istanbul on March 12, 2014. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at protestors in the capital Ankara, while in Istanbul, crowds shouting anti-government slogans lit a huge fire as they made their way to a cemetery for the burial of Elvan. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan couldn’t attend a political party meeting in the city of Izmir on Sunday, so he decided to send the next best thing: a giant hologram of himself.
In a scene straight out of Star Wars, Erdogan’s shimmering avatar, whose real-life counterpart is under siege amid an ever-expanding corruption scandal and the resignations of multiple high-level officials, spoke to an astonished crowd of Justice and Development Party supporters on the need for resilience before municipal elections on March 30.
"We are going to elections in the shadow of attacks prepared by treasonous networks," said the towering, photon-based figure, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. “I urge all my mayoral candidates to not waste any of their time.”
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"For the next several exciting, difficult years, Istanbul’s challenges will be titanic. For start, there are practical issues with expanding a city that is under stress even at its current size. Istanbul’s public transit system, for example, has long struggled to keep up with the city’s growth. Much has improved: tram and metro networks continue to expand, while the new railway tunneled under the Bosphorus Strait in extremely tough conditions
This still isn’t enough. The system is struggling to keep up with demand, and some vital subway lines remain under construction. Meanwhile, a lack of sufficient alternatives to car travel mean that endless tailbacks are standard, especially around the two bridges crossing the Bosphorus. With the city spreading out like a wave, this rush to fight congestion – always one step behind – will be around for years.”
With the rise of al-Qaeda, increasingly repressive regimes, and weak, even collapsing states, the Arab Spring is looking more and more like a nightmare for U.S. security interests. Perhaps, then, it makes some sense that the Obama administration would increase security assistance to the Middle East, from 69 percent of the total budget request for 2014 to 80 percent. However, this also entails a significant reduction in democracy assistance to the region, which will drop from $459.2 million to $298.3 million. Congress might further deepen these cuts.
But to look at this as a security problem risks conflating cause and effect. Today’s Middle East is a product, at least in part, of failed democratization, and one of the reasons it failed was the timid, half-hearted support of the Obama administration.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Louafi Larbi]
Judging by 2014’s crowded election calendar, this will be a landmark year for democracy. The Economist estimates that an unprecedented 40 percent of the world’s population will have a chance to vote in national polls in 2014. We’ll see races in populous countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, the United States, and, most notably, India, where 700 million people are expected to cast ballots in what Fareed Zakaria has called the “largest democratic process in human history.”
But here’s the catch: The “biggest year for democracy ever,” as The Economist is billing it, follows a year that in many ways was characterized by the ascent of authoritarianism. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad, with the help of Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah, gained the upper hand in the country’s devastating civil war. In Egypt, the crucible of the Arab Spring, the Egyptian military overthrew the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi and launched a heavy-handed crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other pockets of opposition. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan silenced political opponents and stifled freedom of expression—at least, that is, until a corruption scandal and plans to redevelop a park sparked a backlash against his increasingly authoritarian governing style.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh]
Turkey, one of the most repressive countries in the world for journalists, is welcoming outcasts from Egypt and Syria.
Read more. [Image: Sout Raya]
Today, deep-fried food is almost as American as apple pie—which, incidentally, can be dunked into a vat of oil and emerge with a greasy, crunchy coating, along with almost any kind of food. So it’s no surprise that, for some, deep-frying a turkey is a Thanksgiving tradition.
That tradition can be a risky one. Each year, deep-frying large birds backfires for dozens of Americans.
For the last seven years, Texas has led the country in most grease- and cooking-related insurance claims on Thanksgiving Day, with 38,according to insurance company State Farm. The runner-up is Illinois, with 27 reports. Pennsylvania and Ohio are tied for third with 23, while New York trails them with 22 claims. South Carolina and Georgia tallied 16 claims each.
The halcyon days have passed. Stock photos remind us of a darker time, when the best thing to do with your turkey was to throw on a set of pearls and get glamorous.
It is an extra big Thanksgiving for turkeys this year.
Mark it down: in 2013, the average weight for American produced turkey crossed 30 pounds for the first time. At least based on the January to October numbers for this year, we’re talking about an average weight of 30.47 pounds.
That’s a remarkable increase in average size. Go back a little further, like I did in 2008, and you see that we didn’t hit 15 pounds until the 1930s. In 1960, the average weight of a turkey was just 16.83 pounds. Even in 1985, it was only 20 pounds, and we didn’t hit 25 pounds until 1999.
And we owe it all to artificial insemination.
Read more. [Image: USDA]