The Levantine area is a news junkie paradise. There is more absolutely fascinating news happening in any one week here, than in a year somewhere else. This last week had to be THE MOST fascinating week since I first came here in 2010.
Indeed, it felt like an event teenagers often create called "Backwards Day." The teens do everything backwards for one day from wearing their clothes backward to saying the opposite of what they usually do. The news that happened last week was so unexpected and so "backwards" of what one normally hears and it all happened in the same week!
An Israeli apology
The Mavi MarmaraIsrael's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the Mavi Marmara incident. As an American citizen, I frequently feel that if a US citizen ever has an opinion that is contrary to the Israeli point-of-view and they publically express that view, they will be bullied into silence. The American media never has an honest dialogue about Israel and it rarely explains to Americans that Israelis are settling on land that belongs to someone else in violation of international law.
So when Israeli military forces boarded the Mavi Marmara and shot Americans and Turks at close range, killing nine of them, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded an apology.
An apology never seemed like an unreasonable request. Erdoğan's been demanding an apology for three years. He sought justice for the Americans and Turks killed much more vocally than my own government did.
This week, Erdoğan got that apology when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him up and expressed regret. Apologies are so powerful! It was like hearing Netanyahu and his nation say "we accept responsibility for this. We were wrong." It was the exact opposite of what a bully would do.
The PKK declares a cease-fireThe PKK, declared a terrorist group by both the Turkish and American governments, declared a cease-fire with the Turkish State. This opinion piece from Friday, March 23rd, "Hurriety Daily News" explains just how different this is than the normal course of events in Turkey.
The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church attends the Ordination of the New Pope
When something happens for the first time in 959 years, that's amazing. Such was the excitement with the Istanbul-based Patriarch of the Orthodox Church was welcomed so warmly by the new Pope Francis when Barthalomew went to the ordination. Just even the idea being expressed that various strands of the Christian Church could be reunited is fascinating. Also worthy of note, Turkish newspapers expressed not one iota of anxiety over this. In America, if there was specualtions about Sunnis and Shia reuniting in some future generation, it would send Islamaphobia anxiety into overdrive.
Cyprus Decides to Give Bank Depositors a Hair Cut
The Flag of CyprusHoly Cow, what a fascinating story. It was incredible to watch it unfold and of course, it's still unfolding. If you need any proof that one should never trust a government that says "your deposits are insured" this is the story. The depositors in Cyprus banks, who had thought their deposits were insured up to 100,000 Euros, were told instead that there would be a tax on all deposits held in Cypriot banks because of all the bad loans these banks made to Greece. The depositors didn't make those choices, the bank's owners did!
As Planet Money put it, "it is like your car insurance company, like Allstate, running up to your Suburu, smashing the window, and stealing your stereo."
The odd place this put this Cypriots with their money is beautifully summarized here.
The EU was supposed to make the Cypriots feel safer.
Does this mean I want drama in my own domestic news? It does not.
I agree with Rolling Stone Magazine writer Matt Taibbi (who is so eloquent on all things financial-crisis related) who wrote this about the American budget sequestration: "The whole situation reminds one of a family so dysfunctional that its members can't communicate except through desperate acts."
I want my domestic news to be boring. That means there are adults in the room, taking care of business, and the citizens can spend their time creating, discovering, and solving problems in a way that moves the economy forward and not worrying about stuff like whether or not their money is safe in a bank.
In case anyone hasn't noticed, those Germans with their boring news, are kicking everyone's butt economically.