The Overflow for July 24th

International News

Turkish Shutdown

President Erdogan tightened his grip on Turkey on Saturday, ordering the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions in his first decree since imposing a state of emergency after the failed military coup. Turkish authorities also detained a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric accused by the government in Ankara of orchestrating last week's coup attempt.

A restructuring of Turkey's once untouchable military also drew closer, with a planned meeting between Erdogan and the already purged top brass brought forward by several days. The schools and other institutions are suspected by Turkish authorities of having links to Gulen, who has many followers in Turkey.

Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt in which at least 246 people were killed. His nephew, Muhammed Sait Gulen, was detained in the northeastern city of Erzurum and will be brought to the capital Ankara for questioning. Among possible charges that could be brought against him is membership of a terrorist organisation.

Critics of Erdogan fear he is using the abortive coup to wage an indiscriminate crackdown on dissent. The foundations targeted include, for example, the Association of Judges and Prosecutors, a secular group that criticised a recent judicial law drafted by Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party.

Banners were hung on road bridges, subways and advertising boards around Istanbul with the words "Hakimiyet Milletindir" (The People Rule). Public buses and some private cars were adorned with red Turkish flags.

Public transport in Istanbul has been free since Erdogan called people to the streets and will continue to be so until Sunday, when the main opposition CHP is staging a "democracy rally" in Istanbul's central Taksim square, to which it has also invited supporters of the ruling AK Party, to condemn the coup attempt.

Turkey does not plan to extend emergency rule beyond a period of three months following the failed coup, but will do so if necessary, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said. "Our goal is that it shouldn't be extended, but if the need arises it may of course be extended," he said in an interview with the ATV television station.

 

Islamic State Attacks Afghanistan

Two explosions tore through a demonstration by members of Afghanistan's Shi'ite Hazara minority in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 230 in a suicide attack immediately claimed by Islamic State.

Graphic television footage from the site of the attack showed many dead bodies lying on the bloodied road, close to where thousands of Hazara had been demonstrating against the route of a planned multi-million-dollar power line. "Two fighters from Islamic State detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shi'ites in the city of Kabul in Afghanistan," said a brief statement on the group's Amaq news agency.

If confirmed as the work of Islamic State, the attack is among the most deadly since the US-led campaign to oust the Taliban in 2001, and would represent a major escalation for a group largely confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The explicit reference to the Hazara's Shi'ite religious affiliation also marked a menacing departure for Afghanistan, where the bloody sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims typical of Iraq has been relatively rare, despite decades of war.

The Persian-speaking Hazara, estimated to make up around 9% of the population, are Afghanistan's third-largest minority but they have long suffered discrimination, and thousands were killed during the period of Taliban rule. "We were holding a peaceful demonstration when I heard a bang and then everyone was escaping and yelling," said Sabira Jan, a protester who witnessed the attack and saw bloodied bodies strewn across the ground. "There was no one to help."

The attack succeeded despite tight security which saw much of Kabul city center sealed off before the demonstration, with stacks of shipping containers and other obstacles and helicopters patrolling overhead.

 

And Stands Firm in Syria

Islamic State has rejected an offer for its fighters to withdraw safely from the Syrian city of Manbij and clashes with US-backed forces still raged after its expiry, a spokesman for the US forces said on Saturday. Islamic State did, however, propose a deal to allow the safe passage of critically ill civilians to areas controlled by the US-backed forces in exchange for allowing wounded IS fighters to leave the city.

The Syria Democratic Forces alliance, made up of Arab and Kurdish fighters and backed by the United States, made rapid advances against the jihadists last month after launching a campaign to flush them out of territory along the Turkish border, through which they had for years moved weapons and fighters.

The SDF quickly surrounded Manbij, but the fight to take the city has been tougher, with slow advances inside it in recent weeks. On Thursday the SDF-allied Manbij Military Council said Islamic State militants would be allowed to leave the city with light weapons, without a fight, if they left within 48 hours.

The offer was the idea of "local actors", the Council's spokesman Sharfan Darwish said, without elaborating. "The deadline is approaching, time is almost up ... and the battles are continuing. As far as we're concerned, the situation has not changed," he said, adding that there had been no apparent response from IS to the initiative.

Darwish said later clashes were still going on after the expiry of the offer.

 

Balloon Record

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov has landed safely in a field in West Australia after setting a world record for circumnavigating the world solo in a hot air balloon. The 64-year-old Konyukhov emerged from the balloon's gondola after more than 11 days aloft expressing his appreciation for the smell of the earth, and "how wonderful it is", according fellow aviator Dick Smith, who assisted with the landing.

Konyukhov, who embarked on his epic journey from Northam in Western Australia on July 12th, set the record of just over 11 days when he passed above the township 100 km north east of Perth, Australian national broadcaster ABC reported earlier.

The Russian balloonist beat the previous record of 13-1/2 days set in 2002 by Steve Fossett.

In completing the epic journey, Konyukhov flew directly over Northam, a feat described as "incredible" by Smith. "After going 34,000 kilometres around the world he crossed the runway where he took off from," Smith said. "That's never happened before. It was mainly luck and it's just unbelievable."

During the journey Konyukhov flew as high as 10,000 meters and dealt with extreme temperatures - as low as minus 56 degrees Celsius - that caused his oxygen masks and drinking water to freeze, ABC reported. Konyukhov also had to cope with the failure of his heating system and fierce electrical storms, ABC said. On the last leg of the journey he was pushed far south toward Antarctica as he crossed the southern ocean between the Africa and Australia.

"It is scary to be so down south and away from civilisation," Konyukhov wrote in one entry in a blog he updated at various points during the flight. "This place feels very lonely and remote … just a thick layer of cyclonic clouds below me and dark horizon to the east."


UK News

The Immigration Question

Days before Britain's referendum on whether to leave the European Union, former Prime Minister David Cameron made an appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for limits on the free movement of people.

As polls indicated immigration concerns were swaying the public towards supporting Brexit Cameron, who quit after the EU result, telephoned Merkel to ask if she was willing to issue a statement with other EU leaders agreeing to make concessions on free movement if Britain voted to stay. The idea was eventually shelved and Merkel told Cameron at an EU summit after the vote that there could be no compromise on free movement within the bloc.

Andrew Cooper, an ally of Cameron who was the main pollster for Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, said the "Remain" camp had failed to respond to public fears about immigration. "The people who are very, very concerned about immigration, what they wanted was purely and simply for the UK to be able to have total control of its borders and total control of the flow of people into this country," he told reporters. "And we didn't have an argument that could remotely compete with that. It meant we couldn't really engage in the campaign on that vital issue. We didn't have much option but to keep trying to pivot back to the economic risks."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday he had "no doubt" that a balance between overall access to the single European market and freedom of movement could be struck. However, others in newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May's government including Brexit minister David Davis have said Britain should not budge from an insistence on having controls on its borders.


Long Read

Nearly thirty years ago Tony Schwartz penned Donald Trump's "Art of the Deal", a move he's regretted ever since. In the wake of Donald Trump's successful run to nomination for the US general election this year, he's decided to share some of the details of his dealings with Trump - the parts that didn't make it into the self-aggrandising biography.

We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.
— Kazuo Ishiguro