From ABC: Mustaches trending in Turkish ruling party

By Suzan Fraser.

The prime minister has one. So does the culture minister. Even the previously clean-shaven ministers of economy and foreign affairs recently began sporting theirs.

Neatly-trimmed mustaches, similar to that worn by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have become increasingly popular among government ministers from his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, ahead of a crucial referendum Sunday on expanding the president’s powers.

Some analysts say that’s no fluke in a country where facial hair has a history of political significance, and where ministers’ loyalty to Erdogan is being closely scrutinized following a failed coup attempt last year.

“These days, when Turkey is fighting terror organizations — and in the aftermath of the coup — the mustaches provide a strong and stern image,” said Mesut Sen, professor of Turkish studies at Istanbul’s Marmara University.

Historically, men in Turkey have worn mustaches not only to assert their manhood but express their political leanings. Traditionally, nationalists wear their mustaches long and downward-pointing — like the crescent moon on the Turkish flag — while leftists tend to grow theirs bushy and Stalin-esque.

Erdogan wears a bristly and tidily-trimmed moustache that is popular among conservative and religious Turks. Some religious men also grow beards.

A year ago, more than half of the Cabinet members were clean-shaven. Now only three of Turkey’s 27 ministers — including the only woman — don’t have facial hair.

The trend appears to have begun with a Cabinet reshuffle last year, triggering speculation that ministers were trying to please the powerful president by growing mustaches similar to his. Senior AKP officials continued to grow mustaches, sometimes coupled with beards, after the failed coup attempt in July.

One government minister, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said some ministers grew facial hair because Erdogan urged them to. He declined to give further details.

The trend is not limited to the Cabinet. The chief of Turkey’s intelligence agency, who was the source of controversy over his alleged failure to warn Erdogan about the coup attempt, first grew a mustache and then a full beard. Erdogan’s closest bodyguard, who used to be clean shaven, now sports a mustache, too.

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Patrick Stewart as Vladimir Lenin

By David Michael Newstead.

Today marks the centennial of the February Revolution of 1917, which ended the rule of Czar Nicholas II. Here’s a clip of Vladimir Lenin learning of the downfall of the Czar as portrayed by actor Patrick Stewart.

Top Five Politicians with Facial Hair 2017

By David Michael Newstead.

Politicians with facial hair are few and far between, especially in Western democracies. While it’s normally associated with left-wing revolutionaries, here’s a look at the top five politicians with facial hair in 2017 from around the world and across the political spectrum.

5. Jeremy Corbyn – Head of the British Labour Party, Corbyn is a committed leftist and longtime member of Parliament who’s party leadership has often been challenged as Labour struggles to appeal to voters.

4. Beppe Grillo – Grillo is an Italian comedian and activist who founded the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in 2009. Since then, the Five Star Movement has had notable success, winning mayoral elections in Rome and Turin as well as helping to defeat Italy’s 2016 constitutional referendum.

3. Steve Bannon – A top advisor in the Trump administration, Bannon is formerly the head of Breitbart News. Synonymous with the Alt-Right movement, Bannon expounds a far-right and economic nationalist vision for the United States.

2. Jagmeet Singh – An up-and-coming politician in Canada’s New Democratic Party, Singh is popular on social media and a prominent member of the Sikh faith who was recently featured in GQ magazine for being so well-dressed. Read Here.

1. Tom Perez – Until recently Perez was Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration. Now the newly elected Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Perez is tasked with rebuilding the Democratic Party after their losses in 2016. It’s worth noting that his main opponent for DNC Chair was Representative Keith Ellison who also has facial hair, a rarity in American politics.

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In Beard News

By David Michael Newstead.

In the last month, there have been several news stories about beards. The most prominent of which concerns Sikh and Muslim Americans in the military. After years of debate, the U.S. Army is now allowing greater religious accommodations to grow beards as required by some faiths. It’s worth pointing out, however, that strict anti-beard policies were only instituted by the U.S. military in the 1980s. Prior to that, Sikh Americans in particular served in both World Wars fully bearded.

In related news, the NYPD took similar steps to ease restrictions on beards, which affect Sikh, Jewish, and Muslim officers on the force.

The Most Famous Beard

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By David Michael Newstead.

Fidel Castro is interesting the way a time capsule is interesting, because his reign intersects with so many major events in world history: the Cuban Revolution, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the rise of Che Guevara, the Mariel Boatlift, and more. And how many other world leaders ruled through the entire period between President Eisenhower and President Obama, between Nikita Khrushchev and Vladimir Putin? Throughout the years, a caricature of Castro entered our culture and has remained a fixture for decades. He was a bearded revolutionary in green fatigues who gave eight hour long speeches, smoked Cuban cigars, and evaded multiple assassination attempts by the CIA. Outside of that portrait, of course, Fidel Castro was a highly polarizing figure with generations worth of criticisms leveled against him regarding human rights abuses, his communist dictatorship, and the perennial impoverishment of the Cuban people. With his passing, it’s hard to say what the future holds for a place John F. Kennedy called “that imprisoned island”. Over the last fifty years, Fidel Castro went from being a young revolutionary to a senior citizen. The Soviet Union collapsed. And the classic cars in Havana became mechanical reminders of life before the American embargo in 1960. When those cars will finally breakdown and when the ruling Communist Party will finally fall from power is anyone’s guess. But Castro once said that he never shaved his beard, because it saved him time throughout the year. As it turns out, time catches up to us all.

The Movember Reader 2016

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By David Michael Newstead.

Enjoy some blog posts from the last year to reflect on throughout the month of November.