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Turkey: Soul-searching after the failed coup

Istanbul (CNN)The power of the President to call up massive crowds of supporters has been on clear display in Istanbul’s Taksim Square every night since last week’s failed coup.

“Work during the day, and come to the square at night” is the message put out by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “The threat is not over.”
    As evening comes and the summer heat begins to ebb, the crowds start to trickle in. It becomes intensely loud each night, with the honking of horns seemingly by every passing vehicle. By the time it’s dark, the square appears red, blanketed in a patchwork of Turkish flags that are handed out for free.


    But the events of July 15 cut deep. So deep that some are even having serious conversations about moving away, checking out jobs in Italy, sussing out real estate in Greece, or at the very least trying to put together a plan B.
    This is not a nation displaying its resilience in the face of a terrorist attack, as Turks have done in the past. This is not a nation that can bury the dead and try to move on. This is a nation in uncharted territory.
    Hulya Gedik, a young woman, could not hold back her tears when we met at one of the mass funerals over the weekend.
    “Every bit of news we got that night (July 15), every explosion was not something that was just happening outside,” she explained. “It was as if each one tore our soul apart.”

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    Paris haute couture leaps into the 21st century

    Vetements revolutionary show, held in a department store, saw weird and wonderful display from alt-thinking label

    Disruption is a vogue-ish word as overused in the modern fashion industry as iconic was in the last decade. But when evening wear at Paris haute couture fashion week means pink velour Juicy Couture palazzo pants worn with a promotional T-shirt for lager rather than ball gowns, then disruption is definitely happening.

    The invitation to join the haute couture schedule extended to the alternative design collective Vetements, whose previous show featured Kanye West on the front row and repurposed Justin Bieber tour merchandise on the catwalk, is nothing short of revolutionary. Paris haute couture, which until now has maintained a defiantly pre-revolution Versailles image think organza and corsetry has taken a leap into the 21st century.

    The Vetements show was held in the Galeries Lafayette department store. This is the haute couture equivalent of Alexander McQueen staging his 90s London Fashion Week shows in freezing, leaky warehouses. Department stores, where the clothes have price tags, are frankly dclass in the haute couture realm of the bespoke and unique.

    The runway for the Vetements show in the Galeries Lafayette department store. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

    The clothes were deliberately off-kilter. Trousers are cropped above boot level, as if the models have outgrown them, or shrunken eye-poppingly tight at the groin. Models dont look like models, or walk like them. They look pale, and awkward, and anxious.

    There have been weird clothes at couture before Gallianos Dior was outre in its day but the difference with Vetements is that the alt-thinking permeates everything the label does. Status, and the value placed on craftmanship, are the bedrocks on which haute couture and its billionaire-class price tags are built. But Vetements have a mischievous, Warholian viewpoint which sees beauty in the everyday (the DHL logo, which they adopted as a signature) and venerates mass-produced brands such as Levis and Hanes.

    Vetements is led by Guram and Demna Gvasalia, who moved with their family from civil war-torn Georgia to Dusseldorf as children, and are now based in Paris. With Demna now installed as designer at Balenciaga, they are an unlikely but formidable new power duo in Paris fashion. This show replaces the Vetements ready-to-wear show that would have taken place in October, meaning that the team had three months rather than six to produce that collection.

    In direct opposition to the seamstress-in-an-atelier heritage of haute couture, Vetements tackled the challenge of this short lead time by collaborating with 18 best-in-class brands ranging from Italian tailoring house Brioni to Reebok. In this way Vetements, granted a golden ticket to couture, opened the doors to 18 other labels. Even the Vetements own-label tracksuit a holy item in the 2016 fashion world was poked fun at with a collaboration with Britney Spears favourite, Juicy Couture.

    Meanwhile at Versace, the essential alchemy of the brand is a cocktail of mass sex appeal and high class. Before the show, Donatella Versace said of this haute couture collection that it reveals a womans power and her allure. The verb is telling, reminding us that strategic exposure is all part of the Versace gameplan. A combination of sex and status gives the Versace woman an air of bomb-proof, self-confidence that any consumer in her right mind would want a piece of.

    The dresses at Versace were the most sumptuous of body-conscious gowns. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

    It is a much-emulated formula, which means that every Versace show is an important opportunity for Donatella to remind the world who owns this piece of aesthetic real estate. The Italian brand has a new British CEO in Jonathan Akeroyd, who joined less than a month ago from Alexander McQueen, but the aesthetic on the catwalk was pure Donatella. All the firepower of Atelier Versaces formidable army of tailors and embroiderers were laser-focused on creating the most sumptuous of body-conscious gowns. Think drapery that would become a classical goddess, with a thigh-high slit for good measure.

    But Versace has to be about fashion as well as sex, because the younger consumers Versace needs to communicate with if it is to stay relevant are hardwired to demand constant newness. The messy buns and oversized hoop earrings were based on contemporary model-off-duty style rather than on traditional couture beauty tropes, while oversized evening coats worn dramatically falling off the shoulder reflected fashions new proportions.

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    Virginia Raggi faces five key tests if she becomes Rome mayor

    Five Star Movement candidate will have to deal with several challenges if elected as Italian capitals first female mayor

    Italians are heading to the polls on Sunday for local elections that will be closely watched in Rome, where the Eternal City is expected to elect its first female mayor.

    The fight between Virginia Raggi, the mayoral candidate for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and the Democratic partys Roberto Giachetti pits a largely unknown quantity against a candidate representing the left-of-centre party of the prime minister, Matteo Renzi.

    While local issues, from corruption to unreliable public transport, are likely to decide the race. the election of Raggi to one of the most high profile political posts in Italy would mark an important milestone for the countrys women. The 37-year-old lawyer enters the race having secured 36% of the vote in the first-round election on 5 June, while Giachetti won less than 25% in the crowded field.

    But if Raggi wins she will face several challenges. Here are five of them:

    1. A new image for the Five Star Movement

    A Raggi win would not only be significant for women in Italian politics, it could also mark an important transition in the Five Star Movement, the party founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo.

    Beppe Grillo. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

    While Grillos political views undoubtedly still rule the party he is vehemently anti-establishment, rails against political compromises, claims to be anti-corruption, and has praised the politics of Britains Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, for his anti-EU views a Raggi victory would test whether the M5S can move beyond its protest party status and actually govern.

    So far, the partys record is poor in other cities, including Parma, with a number of M5S politicians facing corruption investigations. Raggis campaign has focused on local problems that vex everyday Romans.

    She has vowed to create special bus lanes for buses and more cycle paths, the kind of practical promises that suggest she is not looking to make sweeping political statements.

    However, if she is elected and is seen as doing a good job, Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, will undoubtedly be looking over his shoulder. Her sights could soon be set decidedly higher than the mayors office.

    2. Taking on Mafia Capitale

    Ignazio Marino. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA

    Rome was never considered a capital of organised crime on the scale of Sicily, Naples or Reggio Calabria. But over the last two years, the Italian capital has been rocked by one public corruption scandal after another, known collectively as Mafia Capitale.

    The former mayor, Ignazio Marino, resigned amid an investigation into his expenses and broader concerns that he was simply too incompetent to get to grips with the corruption that had ensnared nearly every public service.

    The biggest test for Raggi, or any mayor, will be whether Mafia Capitale is a controllable problem or one that will simply consume any administration that attempts to fight it.

    Voters have been attracted to Raggi for her straightforward message: she wants to create a Rome that is livable for Romans. It is a simple slogan, but one that could prove surprisingly difficult to deliver on.

    3. Taking on the Vatican

    Pope Francis in St Peters Square. Photograph: Angelo Carconi/EPA

    Raggi has not only vowed to clean up Rome, both literally and figuratively, she has promised to take on the Catholic church.

    In an interview with the Guardian, she said that, if elected, she would pursue claims worth 250m and 400m in allegedly unpaid taxes on the Vaticans real estate holdings and other assets.

    The taxes had never been collected, she claimed, because past city administrations had been too afraid to take on the church.

    While Pope Francis has publicly said shops on Vatican property ought to pay their taxes, any moves to take on the church will nevertheless likely be frowned upon inside the Vatican.

    Francis was not shy about his apparent dislike of Marino. Within days of the pontiff criticising Marinos presence at a papal event in Philadelphia, the mayor was forced to resign (albeit for unrelated reasons). It was a keen reminder that any mayor or politician in Italy makes an enemy of the church at their peril.

    4. Keeping the Olympics at bay

    When Renzi made the audacious decision to throw Romes hat in the ring as a contender to host the 2024 Olympic Games, he said it showed Italy was capable of dreaming of big things.

    You can lose, but whats unacceptable is to crouch up and give up on playing the game, he said in 2014, barely acknowledging the serious logistical and financial strains the Games would put on the ancient city.

    Renzi at the IOC HQ in Lausanne. Photograph: Pierre Albouy/Reuters

    Raggi has said she opposed the bid because Rome was in a delicate moment. It was more important, she said, to think about everyday items instead of extraordinary ones.

    In the final weeks of the mayoral campaign, the Olympics have become a litmus test of sorts. While Romes next mayor may not be in office in 2024, her or his support or opposition could be significant.

    In that sense, a win for Raggi would send a clear message to Renzi: that the everyday problems of life in Rome cannot be neglected in pursuit of grandiose dreams.

    5. Being a woman in Italian politics

    This isnt always easy.

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    Greece pushes fresh austerity drive through parliament

    Alexis Tsipras gained approval by 152 of 153 of his deputies, despite many of them having previously rejected the proposals

    The Greek parliament has approved a fresh round of austerity incorporating 1.8bn in tax increases and widely regarded as the most punitive yet amid hopes the move will lead to much-needed debt relief when eurozone finance ministers meet this week.

    Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, mustered the support of 152 of his 153 deputies on Sunday to vote through policies that many have previously rejected.

    Addressing the 300-seat house during the heated three-day debate that preceded the ballot, Giorgos Dimaras, an MP in Tsiprass leftwing party, said he was appalled at being forced to support measures he had spent a lifetime opposing.

    I am in mourning, he said. This is what can only be called wretchedness.

    As parliamentarians had prepared to vote, large crowds of protestors took to the streets with Panaghiotis Lafazanis, a former minister who broke ranks with Syriza to form the Popular Unity party, taking the demonstration to the foot of the building itself where he unfurled a giant banner proclaiming: The memorandum will not pass.

    The belt-tightening legislation, outlined in a 7,500-page omnibus bill, includes measures that range from the taxation of coffee and luxury goods to the creation of a new privatisation fund in charge of real estate assets for the next 99 years. Under the stewardship of EU officials, the body will oversee the sale of about 71,500 pieces of prime public property in what will amount to collateral for the 250bn in bailout loans Greece has received since 2010.

    They are with the exception of the Acropolis selling everything under the sun, said Anna Asimakopoulou, the shadow minister for development and competitiveness. We are giving up everything.

    The multi-bill, which also foresees VAT being raised from 23% to 24%, is part of a package of increases in tax and excise duties expected to yield an extra 1.8bn in revenue. Earlier this month, Tsiprass leftist-led coalition endorsed pension cuts that were similarly part of an array reforms amounting to 5.4 bn, or 3% of GDP.

    At the behest of the EU and International Monetary Fund, the government has agreed to adopt tighter austerity in the form of an automatic fiscal brake referred to as the cutter in the Greek media if fiscal targets are missed.

    Despite official claims that goals will be achieved, there is a high degree of scepticism as to whether this is feasible. The Greek economy has seen a depression-era contraction of more than 25% since the outbreak of the debt crisis in late 2009, and with high taxes likely to repulse investment, economic fundamentals are also unlikely to improve.

    We are talking about indirect taxes, property taxes and income taxes all going up, Asimakopoulou said. Nobody will be able to pay them, targets will be missed, more austerity will be imposed and of course public rage will have to be vented. People will not only feel angry, they will feel conned.

    The measures the ultimate U-turn for a government that once pledged to eradicate austerity are the latest in a set of prior actions Athens must take to complete an economic review that will unlock desperately needed bailout funds to avert default. The country has to meet 3.5bn in debt repayments this summer, starting with a 300m loan instalment to the IMF on 7 June money the country simply does not have.

    Eager to avoid more drama before next months in/out EU referendum in the UK, general elections in Spain and regional polls in Germany, lenders have indicated they will disburse the loans at Tuesdays Eurogroup meeting. Berlin, which has provided the bulk of Greeces emergency aid, signalled the instalment could be as much as 11bn more than twice the original 5.4bn, according to the German financial daily Handelsblatt.

    But creditors are still fiercely divided over the red-button issue of tackling Athens staggering 321bn mountain of debt. Although the EU and IMF now both concede the load is unsustainable, member states reject outright the prospect of a debt writedown for fear of losses on bailout loans. Euro finance ministers insist that if it is ever to recover, Greece has to achieve a primary budget surplus of 3.5%, excluding debt repayments. They have hinted that at most, they will agree to discuss debt relief when the countrys current – and third bailout programme expires in 2018.

    The quarrel deepened last week when the Washington-based IMF, which has openly questioned Athens ability to achieve such a high surplus, proposed that Greece defer all debt repayments until 2040 and extend its repayment period with maturities that would run through 2080 on a capped interest rate of 1.5%. The standoff is expected to intensify on Tuesday.

    Addressing parliament on Sunday, Tsipras insisted it was a huge achievement that Greece had finally succeeded in putting the debt issue on the table. Previous governments had done little more than kowtow to creditors without ever dealing with the source of Athens financial woes, he said.

    No other party but the left could pass such measures, said Nikos Athanasiou, who has watched the crisis unfold from the kiosks he runs facing parliament in Syntagma square. If the right were in power Athens would be in flames.

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