Through tax-break highs and Russia-investigation lows, Donald Trump’s first year in office has been plagued by a seemingly unshakeable problem: White supremacy and the issue of race. It is perhaps an issue that some will see as unsurprising given the president’s language, although the White House has issued statements condemning such groups after a number of controversies. Mr Trump started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and sailed into office on promises of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”.
Turkish warplanes stuck residential parts of Syria’s Afrin on Saturday, forcing people to hole up in their homes and shelters, as Ankara launched an offensive to smash positions held by US-backed Kurdish forces. Hevi Mustafa, a top member of the civilian administration that governs the city in the northwest of Syria, said several wounded people had arrived in the hospitals. “As of this moment our brave armed forces have started the aerial offensive to eliminate the PYD and PKK and Daesh elements in Afrin,” said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party respectively, and using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. Associated Press journalists at the Turkish border saw at least five jets heading toward Afrin. They also witnessed a convoy of buses, believed to be carrying Syrian opposition fighters, traveling along the border across from Afrin. The convoy included trucks mounted with machine guns. A senior Turkish official said the jets hit positions held by US-backed SDF militias. The militias had said any attack would be “sudden and unjustified” and “breathe new life” into Islamic State. Turkey has been shelling the area for two days, while Syria had warned it would shoot down any Turkish planes over its territory. Ankara, which claims the offensive will provide safety to its Turkey’s borders and the region, informed foreign governments involved in Syria about the attack, which began at 5pm local time and has been codenamed Operation Olive Branch. A military aircraft of Turkish Air Force lands at the Incirlik 10th Tanker Base Command in Saricam district, in Adana after Turkish military started the”Operation Olive Branch” in Afrin on January 20, 2018. Credit: Anadolu Agency Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has discussed Turkey’s military offensive in Syria with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Separately, Turkey’s chief of military staff Hulusi Akar spoke with his US and Russian counterparts, Turkish media reports said. Ministry officials said Saturday Tillerson requested a telephone conversation with Cavusoglu. They did not provide further details. Graphic: Areas of control in Syria Saturday’s attack follows Turkish anger at a US announcement of plans to create a 30,000 Kurdish-led “border security force” along the border of Turkey. Tillerson later said the US plans were “misrepresented,” in an apparent bid to appease Turkey. Russia has removed its military observers from the Kurdish-run city. Moscow has said it will demand Turkey halt military operation in Afrin in support of its Syrian allies. At 7.30pm local time, Russia pulled back troops deployed close to Afrin to Tell-Afjar, which is within the de-escalation zone established in September. The Defence Ministry said the decisions was made “to prevent possible provocations” and to “exclude the threat to life and health of Russian servicemen”. Rojhat Roj, a spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish militia group, confirmed that a Turkish plane struck Afrin city. Smoke rises from the Syria’s Afrin region, as it is pictured from near the Turkish town of Hassa, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province Credit: Osman Orsal/Reuters
Lost in the shitstorm over “shithole” was another equally damning example of President Donald Trump’s blatant racism and sexism. It was an outward display of a mindset that in many ways has paved the way for the government shutdown we’re facing now. Last week, NBC News reported that last fall, the president of the United States asked a career intelligence analyst “Where are you from?” She responded, “New York,” and that should have ended the conversation.
Many are hoping the shutdown will be short-lived.
While President Donald Trump was preparing to take the oath of office last January, immigrants were thinking ahead to what was to come: raids, deportations, roadside checkpoints, stakeouts, and — for a now-burgeoning group of people — constant uncertainty. One year out, immigrants say that those preparations are a final line of defence as the Trump administration ramps up its anti-immigrant policies.
Kazakhstan’s quarter-century struggle to assert its autonomy from former overlord Russia has hit an unlikely snag: the lowly apostrophe. A vast but sparsely populated country wedged between Russia and China, Kazakhstan came under the rule of its northern neighbour as Russia and Britain jostled for control of Central Asia in the Great Game. It also came under its linguistic influence, and to this day, many Kazakhs speak more Russian than their Turkic native tongue. This became especially concerning after Russian state media, which remain popular in Kazakhstan, helped whip up Russian-speaking separatists to fight government forces in Ukraine in 2014. In April, Kazakhstan’s president of 27 years, Nursultan Nazarbayev, ordered the government to prepare a new Kazakh alphabet based on Latin characters and ditch the one based on Russia’s Cyrillic script, which the Soviets implemented in 1940. He has said this will give Kazakhstan “real independence” and help it join the “information world”. But a cumbersome version of the new alphabet chosen by Mr Nazarbayev last autumn has sparked rare dissent in this authoritarian country due to its ample apostrophes. Of 32 letters in the alphabet, nine are written with an apostrophe. Mr Nazarbayev meets with Vladimir Putin in December. He has tried to gently assert Kazakhstan’s independence from its former overlord Credit: Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP An “against apostrophes” hashtag soon appeared on social media. So did a “No to Kazakh Latinisation with apostrophes!” Change.org petition in October, which was briefly blocked. Film director Saken Zholdas made a video explaining how inconvenient the apostrophes were. “With this decision, we are unintentionally, or maybe intentionally, killing the brand of Kazakh language once and for all,” he said. The problem lies in the need to differentiate related but distinct Kazakh sounds, such as a long and short “a,” or consonants similar to “s” and “sh”. Setting them apart with an apostrophe allows the alphabet to be typed on a standard Latin keyboard, but also produces odd flurries of punctuation and many eyesore words. For instance, the word for “bottle,” pronounced “shisha,” is written “s’i’s’a”, while “east,” pronounced “shyghys,” becomes “s’yg’ys”. Those are hardly the worst: The word for “skier” will be “s’an’g’ys’y” and that for “crucial” will be “s’es’u’s’i”. The Republic of Kazakhstan will be written “Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy”. The palace of peace and reconciliation designed by Norman Foster in Astana, Kazakhstan Credit: Sergei Bobylev/\TASS via Getty Images Some have speculated that Mr Nazarbayev picked the apostrophes to keep Kazakh distinct from the Latinised alphabets of other Turkic languages and placate Russia, which since Soviet times has feared pan-Turkic movements along its southern border. “The guy just liked it, and since our country is this way, no one in government can tell the president no,” Aidos Sarym, a political analyst who previously served on a state working group on Latinisation, told The Telegraph. Last month, Mr Nazarbayev said while the new apostrophes had caused “much discussion,” this version was the right one because it suited computer keyboards. But at the same time it complicates web searches and social media hashtags, where an apostrophe between letters splits them into separate words. “From a technical point of view, apostrophes create more problems than they solve,” said political analyst Dosym Satpayev. Mr Nazarbayev appears with Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday. He has tried to balance relations with the United States, Russia and China Credit: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg In his video, Mr Zholdas suggested replacing the apostrophes with accent marks over the nine letters in question, a move he said could be supported by 70 per cent of computer fonts. Despite the defence of his version in December, Mr Nazarbayev also said there was still time to “work with the new alphabet” before the country switches over fully in 2025, giving hope that he could eventually relax his stance. “He wants to go into history … as the father of the new Latin Kazakh alphabet,” Mr Sarym said. “You can choose any version and let it be called the Nazarbayev version, but do it right so there aren’t problems now, and so that tomorrow we won’t have to do an upgrade.”