Young Greens offer a rare refuge for misfits in more conservative societies

*I wrote this piece for a very disorganized and slow-moving journal in late 2019, and it got cut after the pandemic began (I did get paid for it!), but I thought I’d finally publish it here so people can at least read it. Many thanks and apologies to the interviewees.

Despite some stunning recent successes, Europe’s ‘Green Wave‘ has struggled to reach past traditional strongholds. Though Greens in countries such as Germany, Finland, France, Denmark and Ireland have seen a surge in support, parties further east continue to lag behind. Aside from three seats from a Green-allied party in Czech Republic, two from Lithuania and one from Latvia, Greens in eastern, central and southeastern Europe didn’t win any seats in the 2019 European Parliament elections. Further east, beyond the borders of the EU in places such as the Balkans or Caucasus, Green movements are even less developed.

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Turkish Marriage Shows

Here is the original draft of a story I did for The National. The published version was cut a great deal, so I wanted to put up the longer original as well:

ISTANBUL — The two contestants sit on stage with a barrier blocking their line of sight, music playing softly in the background. Erkan is clean-cut with chiseled features and a fair complexion, wearing a purple plaid sports jacket and black collared shirt partially covering a neck tattoo. Zahra looks like a model, tall and thin with long dark hair contrasting sharply with her snow-white outfit and towering high heels.
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Baghdad can do little about Turkish armed forces in northern Iraq

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s recent deployment of troops and tanks into northern Iraq has caused a major diplomatic row between Ankara and Baghdad, but experts say Turkish forces are there to stay.

“Honestly speaking there is not much Baghdad can do,” former Turkish consul to Erbil [capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq] Aydın Selcen said.

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In Turkey, labelling food ‘Kurdish’ still controversial

The Ottoman Empire had a rich culinary tradition flavoured by its various diverse regions and ethnic groups. Chefs in Istanbul’s imperial kitchens borrowed dishes from the different enclaves of the empire – the Balkans, Greece, the Caucasus, Kurdistan, Arabia – fused them with their Central Asian roots, and refined them to create their own unique concoctions, such as baklava, dumplings, stuffed vegetables and various types of kebab.

Present-day Turkey has inherited this cosmopolitan culinary legacy. However, the modern republic defined its identity ethnically, specifically with the Turkish ethnicity. In the past it severely oppressed its various minorities, and in the case of the largest – the Kurds – even denied their very existence, though this repression has largely declined through major reforms in more recent years.

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Residents of doomed ancient town have nowhere to go

The small ancient town of Hasankeyf in southeastern Turkey.

The small ancient town of Hasankeyf in southeastern Turkey.

ISTANBUL – Hasankeyf, an 11,500 year-old town in southeastern Turkey with vestiges of 20 distinct cultures, is slated to be under 60 metres of water in the near future. As construction of the controversial Ilisu Dam nears completion some 80 kilometres away, the government is encouraging the 3,000 mostly poor residents to move into apartments they can’t afford.

“They killed Hasankeyf,” says Ercan Tarhan, who works at a café in the village. He says he doesn’t have much hope for saving his town, and isn’t sure what he’ll do after it’s flooded. “We don’t want to leave.”

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The ‘Magic Pill’: How Music Helps Kids Escape a Stressful World (30 minute radio documentary)

Young people live increasingly stressful lives these days. One way of alleviating this stress is by taking music classes. In fact, researchers agree that studying music has all kinds of benefits for kids. Despite these benefits, most schools in Ontario don’t have a qualified music teacher with a musical background. Many parents therefore put their children into private music classes, but these can be expensive. Advocates argue that a robust musical education should be provided by public schools so that everyone has access. Nick Ashdown reports in Ottawa.

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The CIA’s targeted killing program

As a month of anti-drone protests begins in the United States, some advocates are calling for the controversial targeted killing program to be shifted from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Defence Department. The program targets suspected members of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Human Rights Watch is among the groups advocating for this transfer. “Our first and primary concern right now is the lack of transparency,” says Andrea Prasow, HRW’s senior counterterrorism counsel for the U.S. She says the Defence Department tends to be more transparent and accountable than the CIA, and must report its actions to Congress.

The Obama administration is widely reported to be seriously considering such a transfer. Prasow is cautiously optimistic. “I think the reason the administration is considering that move is because they recognize that the lack of transparency has become a problem. At least I hope that’s why.”

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OrKidstra (radio documentary)

She calls it the magic pill.

Tina Fedeski believes music can have positive benefits on a child’s confidence, self-discipline and patience.

However, musical programming in schools is less than ideal and private classes can be expensive.

That’s why she started the Leading Note Foundation. The Foundation’s OrKidstra program offers free classes for parents who can’t afford to pay.

Nick Ashdown paid Fedeski and her students a visit.

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Recipient of experimental Multiple Sclerosis treatment doing remarkably well (radio Q&A)

Five years ago, medical student Alex Normandin made a decision that could have helped his Multiple Sclerosis, or could have killed him. He decided to let doctors in Ottawa use chemotherapy to destroy his immune system in an effort to reboot it.

His gamble had unexpectedly positive results, and his treatment stopped his condition in its tracks.

Normandin is now a doctor in Montreal. Nick Ashdown reached him in his clinic over the phone.

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Professor Jane Dickson-Gilmore discusses Aboriginals in Canada’s correctional system (radio Q&A)

Canada’s prison system just flunked a big test.

Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers released a scathing report last Thursday condemning the system for failing Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The Aboriginal inmate population has jumped forty three percent in the last five years.

Carleton law professor Jane Dickson-Gilmore is an expert in Aboriginal justice issues.

Nick Ashdown talked to Dickson-Gilmore about Sapers’ report.

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