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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Erdogan Claims Victory in Turkey Vote Giving Broad New Powers to President

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Sunday claimed victory by a narrow margin in a referendum that grants sweeping powers to his office, in a watershed moment that the country’s opposition fears may cement his one-man rule.

With just under 99 percent of ballots counted, “Yes” had 51.33 percent of votes cast, and “No” had 48.67 percent, according to the state-run news agency, Anadolu.

“The constitutional change has been approved by the Turkish people,” an adviser to Mr. Erdogan, Ilnur Cevik, said in a phone call.

But the country’s election commission has yet to announce official results, and Turkey’s main opposition party said it would demand a recount of about 37 percent of ballot boxes, containing around 2.5 million votes.

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The constitutional change, if it stands, will allow the winner of the 2019 presidential election to assume full control of the government, ending the current parliamentary political system.

The ramifications, however, would be immediate. The “yes” vote in the referendum would be a validation of the current leadership style of Mr. Erdogan, who has been acting as a de facto head of government since his election in 2014 despite having no constitutional right to wield such power. The office of the president was meant to be an impartial role that lacks full executive authority.

The result would tighten Mr. Erdogan’s grip on the country, which is one of the leading external actors in the Syrian civil war, a major way station along the migration routes to Europe and a crucial Middle Eastern partner of the United States and Russia.

The referendum was conducted in an atmosphere of fear, with the campaign characterized by prolonged intimidation of opposition members, several of whom were shot at or beaten while on the stump by persons unknown.

The opposition questioned the legitimacy of the referendum after the election board made a last-minute decision to increase the burden needed to prove allegations of ballot-box stuffing. At least one instance of alleged voter fraud appeared to be captured on camera.

“We are receiving thousands of complaints on election fraud,” said Erdal Aksunger, the deputy head of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P. “We are evaluating them one by one.”

Since a failed coup last summer, Turkey has been under a state of emergency, a situation that allowed the government to fire about 130,000 people suspected of being connected to the failed putsch, and to arrest about 45,000.

The new system will, among other changes:

• Abolish the post of prime minister and transfer executive power to the president.

• Allow the newly empowered president to issue decrees and appoint many of the judges and officials responsible for scrutinizing his decisions.

• Limit the president to two five-year terms, but give the option of running for a third term if Parliament truncates the second one by calling for early elections.

• Allow the president to order disciplinary inquiries into any of Turkey’s 3.5 million civil servants, according to an analysis by the head of the Turkish Bar Association.

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Source: The New York Times, Patrick Kingsley, April 16, 2017


Claiming victory, Turkey's Erdogan says may take death penalty to referendum


President Tayyip Erdogan told crowds of flag-waving supporters on Sunday that Turkey could hold another referendum on reinstating the death penalty, as he claimed victory in a vote that will hand him sweeping new powers.

Addressing crowds in Istanbul, Erdogan said he would "immediately" discuss the issue of bringing back the death penalty with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and the leader of the nationalist opposition. Such a move would spell the end of Turkey's accession talks with the European Union.

Erdogan also said votes in favour of constitutional changes to replace Turkey's parliamentary system with an executive presidency stood at 51.5 %. He said everyone should respect the nation's decision, and added Turkey would "shift gears" in the coming period.

Source: Reuters, April 17, 2017

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