• Holy Mayors, Batman! Batman (Turkey) mayor Huseyin Kalkan loves to talk to reporters, but his staff – probably aware of his reputation for saying outlandish things – apparently is trying to keep him away from the press. When correspondent Yigal Schleifer called in the morning to ask for an interview, the mayor's assistant said he would not be available that day. "A few hours later, I saw an official-looking car by the side of a muddy construction site that was being inspected by men in suits. It turned out one was the mayor. I quickly ran over and introduced myself. I could see one of his staff wince, foiled by my serendipitous encounter."
There is probably a reason why Mr. Kalkan's people want him to keep quiet, Yigal says. Municipal elections will be held throughout Turkey early next year and although Kalkan is not running again, his party, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are engaged in a bitter fight in the southeast region. "Kalkan may be colorful, but there is some concern in the DTP that he may be hurting the party's image," Yigal says. (see story.)
• Security Woes: Afghans' worries about security came fully to the attention of staff writer Mark Sappenfield when a cafe owner whom he had profiled on a previous trip to the country passed through New Delhi, where Mark is based. Over breakfast, he told Mark about how kidnapping was becoming a serious problem there. "I resolved to look into it the next time I was in Afghanistan. When I arrived, several month later, I called him, only to find out he had moved to Dubai, feeling that he and his family were no longer safe," Mark says. "In conversations with acquaintances in Kabul, it turned out that the same thing was happening there. Given that so much attention is paid to foreigners when they are kidnapped, I thought it was important to let Westerners know how much more serious the problem is for Afghans."
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor