Good morning, Quartz readers!
If one person is benefiting from the European refugee crisis, it’s Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last month, he secured billions of euros in foreign aid, visa-free EU entry for Turkish citizens, and promises for renewed attention to Turkey’s EU accession process, which has now been dragging along for 29 years.
His leverage? As the main transit route for refugees from the Middle East to the EU, Turkey controls the taps regulating the flow of Syrian migrants to Europe. Last month it agreed to keep them closed in return for the aforementioned concessions. But Erdogan wants more.
Not content with suppressing dissent at home (paywall), he’s now trying to export his censorship by going after a comedian, Jan Böhmermann, who made fun of him on German TV. This week, to general fury, chancellor Angela Merkel okayed Böhmermann’s prosecution under an obscure German lèse-majesté law. Though the case will likely fail, the fact that it’s going ahead at all demonstrates the Turkish leader’s growing clout.
In his strong-arming of the EU, Erdogan is starting to look remarkably like another authoritarian leader with an EU border: Vladimir Putin. Russia, too, controls taps—in this case, for the supply of natural gas—and has used that leverage to get its way in Ukraine. But the EU has ways to at least reduce its dependence on Russian gas; it can’t do much about the conflicts creating the flood of refugees. And Turkey has the added clout, unlike Russia, of being a NATO member.
So if Erdogan is this Putinesque when he’s still trying to join the EU club, what will he want once he’s in it? Europe’s leaders had better figure that out while they still have some leverage left.—Gideon Lichfield
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
The campaign for visa equality. The EU’s threat to suspend visa-free entry for US and Canadian citizens may look like a blow against open borders. It’s actually the opposite, argues Caitlin Hu: a protest against selective American visa policies, which might end up bringing the benefits of globalization to more people.
Five million American kids have a parent in prison. The US is starting to reduce its massive prison population. But that won’t be the end of the matter. Hanna Kozlowska reports on the psychological scars, mental illness, and other problems afflicting the children of these jailed parents, which will have repercussions throughout their and their own childrens’ lives.
How to find an ethical diamond ring. Following up on last week’s story about lab-grown diamonds, Jenni Avins offers the comprehensive guide to ethical sourcing for those who prefer their stones to have been forged in the fires of the earth.
The rising menace of the superbug. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill 700,000 people a year. By 2050 it could be 10 million a year. David Cox explains what needs to change: both animal husbandry methods and—which may be harder—the business model of the pharmaceutical industry.
Why music festivals are booming—and increasingly alike. The US alone has over 170 festivals this year, and popular acts perform a grueling sequence of gigs at one after another. Amy X. Wang analyzes the festival line-up and suggests that as streaming services have made unlimited music available to everybody, festivals are competing to provide ”exclusivity”—and, with so many of them, even that is disappearing.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
The farm-to-table farce. Almost every restaurant that serves “local,” “sustainable” food is stretching the truth—sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley’s chronicle of the faults of dozens of Florida restaurants is saved from redundancy by her consistently damning accusations going unchallenged or accepted by the chefs she questions.
When “living in the moment” is a curse. Susie McKinnon is a funny, curious woman with a happy marriage and a full-time job. She also has no memories of her own life. Wired’s Erika Haya-Saki explores how McKinnon’s condition, known as severely deficient autobiographical memory, could change the way we understand the construction of the self.
The refugee’s last resort. The byzantine and increasingly vicious inner workings of the British immigration system are put on display in Aida Edemariam’s Guardian profile of Tom Giles, a lawyer who ”takes the cases no-one wants.” With 45,000 rule changes in five years and evaporating legal-aid budgets, it’s death by a thousand bureaucratic cuts that keeps asylum-seekers at bay.
The secret rules of the internet. While college students and politicians debate free speech and censorship, the real decisions are being taken elsewhere and out of sight. Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly at The Verge show how moderators of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have a subtle but powerful impact on what gets said and what doesn’t.
When maps attack. For a decade, the inhabitants of a remote Kansas farm have been baffled by visits from FBI agents, ambulances, local police, federal marshals, the IRS, and angry people accusing them of all manner of scams. Kashmir Hill’s investigation for Fusion reveals that it’s the result of a sloppy entry on a widely used mapping database—and just the most dramatic example of hundreds.
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