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Beijing and Ankara agree to forgive past in favor of growing trade relations. Is Istanbul the new Manhattan? Turkish GDP is looking good. Bidding begins for Dogan’s media empire. Priest accuses Turkish extremists of murdering his predecessor. And Africa is king at the Eurasia marathon.
Top News: Last July, as dozens of Uighurs were being reported missing or dead following ethnic riots that tore through western China’s Xinjiang province, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it a genocide, prompting chilly relations between the two powers and predictions of a looming diplomatic crisis. Just over a year later, however, the picture couldn’t be more different. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao just completed an official visit to Turkey where the two countries — which have two of the fastest growing economies in the world — announced the establishment of a “strategic partnership” and plans to raise their trade to $50 billion by 2015from an expected $17 billion this year. Uighur who?
In a new chapter in Turkey’s infamous headscarf debate, the Higher Education Board, or YOK, ordered Istanbul University to stop teachers from expelling from classrooms students who do not comply with a ban on the headscarf. The ruling was just the latest battle in a war between Turkey’s rising middle class who see the headscarf as a symbol of their Muslim faith and the secular establishment who view it as a challenge to the country’s constitution.
Fish restaurants overlooking the waterway, dime a dozen strait-side views and a transportation system based around age-old ferries have left the image of the Bosporus deeply rooted in Turkish psyche. Now, though, it seems that one Bosporus is no longer enough. Plans are brewing for a canal from the Golden Horn to the upper Bosporus, cutting off the European side of the city and making Istanbul look a lot more like Manhattan. The project aims to offer a solution to sea traffic accidents and flooding, but critics point to possible environmental, architectural and humanitarian costs. And oh, the project has a price tag of between $8 and $10 billion.
Turkish extremists were responsible for the murder of the country’s senior bishop in June, his successor Monsignore Ruggero Franceschini has said. Monsignor Luigi Padovese, the Vatican's apostolic vicar in Anatolia, was stabbed to death in his home in the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun, prompting the arrest of his 26-year-old driver Murat Altun. On top of murder, Altun has since been accused of mental problems, severe depression and of having a sexual relationship with the bishop. The accusations are hardly one-sided though. Franceschini didn’t stop at pointing the finger at “poor Luigi’s” murderers but went on to accuse the same “dark powers” of the death of the priest Andrea Santoto, the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and three Protestant missionaries in Malatya.
Money: The bidding has begun on Turkey’s biggest media group Dogan Yayin Holdin AS, valued at about $2 billion. Aydin Dogan, often called the Rupert Murdoch of Turkey, owns more than half of the country’s newspapers and two major TV stations, including CNN-Turk. Roughly a dozen investors have shown interest in Dogan Yayin — including News Corp., Goldman Sachs and even Murdoch himself — but no offers have been accepted yet. Skeptics are arguing that this is simply a stalling technique in the face of the outrageous (and, some argue, unwarranted) tax penalty leveled on the group. As Yavuz Semerci of HaberTurk wrote: “Until the upcoming general elections the sentences ‘I sold, I am selling,’ and ‘I am out of media, I will be out of media’ will be uttered. And then a new plan will be shaped according to the election results…”
As much of the rest of the world still struggles to pull themselves out of their various sized economic holes, Turkey seems to be smugly brushing the dirt off their suits. The GDP outlook has been raised to 6.8 percent from 4.5 percent for 2011. Perhaps even more impressive, given the I.M.F.’s concerns over Turkey’s fiscal discipline, the budget deficit is diminishing.
Elsewhere: The Eurasia Marathon — the only course in the world where athletes can run from one continent to another — kicked off this past Sunday to huge crowds. And the winner was... Africa. When the dust had settled Kenya and Ethiopia had scooped up 11 of the marathon’s 12 metals, leaving Meryem Dogan from Turkey as the only medalist from either of the two continents where the race was held.
A new study on the prevalence of firearms confirms an already broadly understood facet of the nation's machismo: Turkish men love guns. You can find a firearm in one of every three Turkish homes, and being carried by one in ten people on the streets. But while eight people lose their lives and two people are injured by guns every day, a new bill on the table could make owning a weapon even easier. If passed, the bill would remove all required license investigations, liberalize rules over gun advertisements, reduce the number of mental health examinations necessary to acquire a weapon and allow people as young as 18 to own up to five guns. Here’s to hoping the courts shoot this one down.