TURKEY BETWEEN EMERGENCY LAW AND SON-IN-LAW

On Thursday, the Turkish government lifted a state of emergency that has been in force for two years. First imposed after a failed coup against President Erdogan’s government back in 2016, the measure has facilitated the arrest or purge of roughly a quarter of a million state officials.


But if Erdogan is comfortable letting the emergency law go, it’s because conventional laws now give him all the clout he needs. Having narrowly won re-election last month, he takes office with vastly expanded new powers to appoint officials in the government, judiciary, military, central bank, universities, and even at the local level, all with little parliamentary oversight. A tough new anti-terrorism law will grant him additional tools to silence or sideline his opponents.

One of Erdogan’s first moves after being sworn in for his second term was to put his 40-year-old son-in-law Berat Albayrak in charge as treasury and finance minister, a position of immense influence over Turkey’s economy.

There are two big questions surrounding Albayrak. First, although he has a background in business and an MBA from a US university, there’s little to suggest that he’ll push back against his headstrong father-in-law’s increasingly ruinous economic policy. To keep his base happy, Erdogan has flooded the country with government cash and kept interest rates artificially low. While that approach worked for a time, international investors whose support helps to keep the debt-ridden economy afloat are increasingly spooked. With crucial municipal elections set for next spring, it’s hard to see Erdogan changing course, and even harder to see Albayrak pushing back – his appointment alone caused the lira to shed 3.5% of its value against the dollar, its biggest one-day slide in two years.

The second question is a broader one: is Erdogan, who has elevated Albayrak with stunning speed over the past several years, grooming a successor? One of the challenges of strongman politics, after all, is that after concentrating so much power in the presidency, you want to be sure that the next guy doesn’t turn around and use it against you. (In 1999, for example, a sickly Boris Yeltsin shrewdly entrusted the vast legal powers of his office to a young ex-spy known for his loyalty, if not for his scruples.) While the 64-year-old Erdogan can still legally serve at least 10 more years, it’s never too early for the aging authoritarian retirement plan to kick in.

Is WhatsApp safe?

WhatsApp had a crazy hack! Hackers were able to get on your phone just by calling it. That's been patched but it's a reminder nothing is ever completely safe in 2019.

Why didn't Uber's IPO perform as promised?

Because they're losing tons of money. Because Lyft didn't do that well. Because their expansion into international markets, where they planned to go, has been harder than expected. Tough times at Uber.

Will cutting Huawei off from American technology hurt?

Trick question! Will it hurt Huawei? Yes, definitely. Will it hurt the American companiesthat supply Huawei? Yes definitely. Will it hurt consumers everywhere? Probably. Unless it changes the dynamics of the U.S. - China trade relationship in such a way that helps everybody, which is possible.

Should more cities ban facial recognition technology?

There's a tradeoff between privacy and safety. San Francisco just blocked facial recognition technology to help privacy but I think most cities are going to care more about their police departments being maximally effective and will choose safety.

In recent years, the accelerating cross-border flow of migrants fleeing violence and poverty has remade the politics of Europe and the United States. A startling new study from Stanford University warns that the conflicts we've seen to date may just be the opening act of a much larger and more dangerous drama.

Here's the study's argument in brief:

More Show less

President Donald Trump again dramatically escalated the stakes in the US-China rivalry on Wednesday with a move that made headlines in the US while landing like a grenade in Beijing.

The US Commerce Department announced yesterday that Huawei, China's leading tech company and already the source of major controversy, has been added to a list that prevents US tech suppliers from selling to Huawei without a license. That's even more important than the executive order, also published yesterday, that bans US telecom companies from using Huawei equipment.

More Show less

Voters in Australia head to the polls tomorrow to elect a new government. Though few outsiders closely follow politics in this country, this election tells interesting stories about three of the most important issues in today's world: Immigration, climate change, and managing changing relations with China. It's also a country with a steady economy—but lots of political turnover.

Consider:

More Show less