March 14 N & P

Monday, March 14, 2011
Awesome times here in the imperial metropole. On Saturday I tested out one of DC's Red Bikes, a public rental system of bicycles that is run by the municipality.
It isn't bad. There are bike stations, each holding several bikes, set up at metro stations around town. You have to buy a membership--lasting one day ($5), five day ($15), a month, or a year ($75)--before you can rent a bike, which is a bit of a drag. I bought a one-day membership at the bike station (anything more than five days you need to buy online). Together with the rental itself everything came out to about ten bucks.
The bikes themselves are okay. They're only three speeds, and seem to be created for retired people and others with no energy for heavy pedaling. Indeed, I tired myself out by peddling like crazy just to work up a decent speed.

But all in all, it was a really fun experience. It was so good to be on a bike again. I picked up my bike near Eastern Market then rode past Capitol Hill up to the Mall, where I rode around for a half-hour or so. From there, I continued riding up Pennsylvania Avenue past the Reagan Building where I work and then past the White House. Then I turned up Connecticut Avenue, which I took to Dupont Circle. From Dupont, I headed back to my part of town down Massachusetts Ave. After getting back to my neck of the woods near Union Station, I rode up and down H Street for a little while before finally depositing the bike at H, just down the street from my house.

Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about it!

And here is your N & P....

Turkey & Middle East

Ibrahim Tatlises shot in head, reportedly fighting for life.

Here's more on the Tatlises shooting.

WAPO: Hundreds of journalists protest in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Radikal claims (in Turkish) that 5000 people marched.

Erdogan: international media out to get us now. Sez the Hurriyet Daily Bugle:

"We notice that the debate started recently in Turkey about the freedom of the press has moved into international platforms, where it has been turned into a systematic defamation campaign against Turkey through unrealistic news and comments,” Erdoğan said in his opening speech at the Leaders of Change Summit being held in Istanbul on Monday and Tuesday.
The prime minister called on the foreign press to properly analyze what is going on in Turkey and reflect these analyses in the international arena. “For we know there is no media supporting state coups in developed countries and democracies,” he said.
It's a little odd: after years of ignoring what was going on in Turkey, suddenly everybody cares about journalists getting locked up over Ergenekon.

It would have been nice to hear from these people a couple of years ago, but better late than never...

Google's Blogger service, and all blogs that it hosts, banned for now in Turkey.

Ouch--kinda: NYT editorial criticizes Erdogan, in sort of a lukewarm way. With respect to Ergenekon, the following is written:

These arrests are the latest fallout from the Erdogan government’s seemingly out-of-control conspiracy investigations. A parallel investigation into an alleged military coup plot has resulted in the imprisonment of 1 out of every 10 high-ranking officers.
Neither investigation has yet come up with conclusive evidence of actual conspiracies. But hundreds of journalists have been subjected to criminal investigations for their reporting on these inquiries, leading some newspapers to engage in self-censorship.
If only the NYT's correspondent in Istanbul had been this critical back when all of those journalists and other NGO folks were getting arrested in the first place.

Interesting article on Syria Comment regarding the possibilities of an "Arab Spring" type revolution in Syria.

Here's a short essay by a Turkish journalist discussing "the common curse of Russia and Turkey."

It's an okay piece--and it does underscore, to some extent, something I've noticed in the region over the past several years: the degree to which the "managed democracy" model of Russia and many other ex-Soviet republics seems to be an inspiration of sorts for at least some folks in Turkey.

In particular, look at the way media figures, and especially big media conglomerates in Turkey, have been treated lately, and you do see more than a passing resemblance, unfortunately...
____ piece on Turkish companies getting the heave-ho from Uzbekistan.

Russia & ex-USSR

Do it!: Putin reportedly offers visa-free travel between the US and Russia.

Oh man, this would be awesome! Getting a Russian visa is such an incredible pain, and it's really expensive. Of course, this is nothing compared to what Russians need to go through in order to get an American visa.

My guess is the Americans don't allow this. The US government is way too paranoid about single Russian women flooding the United States in order to marry American men and obtain US citizenship--as if this would be some kind of a problem or something! I'm sure worries about "Islamic terrorists" from Russia would also make it impossible for the US to lift visa restrictions for incoming Russians.

So I doubt this will happen, but we can always hope...

Not a big surprise: United Russia wins big in regional elections held in Russia on Sunday.

It looks like some people actually turned out for the anti-government protests in Baku on Friday. It doesn't sound like the protests were that big, though.

"Today 43 people were arrested, 23 of which were released after questioning," the Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding that others faced charges of violating public order and defying police.
A Reuters reporter saw riot troops and plainclothes police seize young activists one by one and push them into buses near a major university in the center of Baku, capital of the authoritarian former Soviet republic.
And it looks like another 50 people were arrested in continuing protests on Saturday.

Azerbaijan arrested 50 protesters on Saturday, the second day of demonstrations in Baku, the capital, calling for the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev, whose family has been ruling the oil-rich state since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Police officers cordoned off the site of an antigovernment protest that drew hundreds Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital.
Several hundred protesters gathered Saturday for a rally organized by an opposition party, Musavat, which intended to ride the wave of revolts in the Middle East and North Africa. On Friday, about 60 people showed up to protest, following instructions on a Facebook page to wear red and find one another on the streets.
Here and here are some other reports on events taking place in Baku.
____ writes on Russian 'meddling' in Kyrgyzstan:

As the ouster of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev demonstrated last spring, Russia is not afraid of meddling in Kyrgyzstan when the Kremlin feels its interests are at risk. These days, Moscow appears to be using energy exports as leverage against the Kyrgyz government.
The current source of Russian displeasure is connected with the nationalization of one of Kyrgyzstan’s largest companies, mobile service provider Megacom. The row is shaking Kyrgyzstan’s disjointed coalition and has the potential to seriously damage the country’s fragile economy. Yet, Kyrgyz officials, despite the country’s economic dependence on Russia, aren’t obsequiously acceding to the Kremlin’s wishes.
....but 'meddling' doesn't stop the Kyrgyz government from renaming one of its peaks "Mt. Putin."

More from Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz government paying cash to encourage Uzbek-Kyrgyz marriage.

Gorby sez: Putin more of a communist than I was.

An English-language newspaper has been established in Kazan. The Kazan Herald seems pretty boring, to be honest with you, but I still think it's cool that there's something in English being printed in Kazan.

More links, commentary and photographs available poolside at the Borderlands Lounge

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