The vice president's Latin American trip -- in Bidenisms

Joe Biden is on a six-day swing through Latin America, with stops in Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. And judging by his visit to Colombia, the vice president is in fine form, dispensing his trademark head-scratchers and hyperbolic praise.

Coming amid news that Colombian negotiators in Havana had reached a preliminary land-reform agreement with the FARC rebel group, Biden's stop in Colombia turned into something of a love-fest with President Juan Manuel Santos, whom Biden praised for his stewardship of the peace process, ongoing efforts to end the country's half-decade-long civil war, and work to deepen economic ties between Colombia and the United States.

But Biden also found time to inform one Colombian woman that she was a pretty mother, and to tell the press that he needed to get his wife Jill some flowers (the two comments appear to be unrelated). Here's how the Colombia trip has played out so far -- in Bidenisms:

Yamile Cárdenas, 26, a single mother of three working at a flower farm Biden visited, described her conversation with America's Don Juan-in-chief as follows, according to a press pool report:

"It was very exciting and he was very nice. He asked about my kids and he said I was a very pretty mom."

And here's Biden on why he visited the flower farm:

And personally I want to make clear to the press, I'm going to the flower farm, and I'm mainly going to get my wife some flowers. I just wanted to make it clear because in my household if I go anywhere near a flower shop, let alone flower farm and don't come home fully armed with flowers, I will have a very unhappy trip to Colombia.

Biden, speaking with President Santos, also referenced his thwarted career ambitions:

And it's great in particular to see you again, my friend. You pointed out -- as the President pointed out, last time I was -- I think we were in Cartagena if I'm not mistaken. When Plan Colombia was announced, you were finance minister and I was a United States senator. Now you're President and I'm Vice President. It's obvious who did well.

And compared this moment in Latin American history to ... something:

And, folks, the one thing the President and I agree on is that the promise not only for our relationships but for the hemisphere are close to limitless. They're close to limitless, and we genuinely believe that if we work together, we can provide what we hope will be the case that -- when the Berlin Wall went down in Europe, we started to talk about a Europe whole and free, which has never occurred. And now it's on the verge of being fully realized. The President and I believe that our children will look to a hemisphere that is middle class, democratic and secure for the first time in the hemisphere's history. And with the leadership of men like President Santos I am confident that our children's future is in very, very good hands.

In Santos, Biden has apparently found another leader equally bad at golf:

So again, thank you, Mr. President. And we were commiserating how we used to each have a relatively good golf game before we got the respective positions we're in. So since we're both playing very badly, let's play together.

Never change, Joe.



Did Turkey just become a little more like Texas?

What do Texas and Turkey have in common? Aside from sharing the same first letter, probably not too much. But starting today, they will be able to add something else to the list: similar alcohol policies.

On Friday, after a marathon debate lasting well past midnight, Turkey's parliament adopted a proposal restricting the sale of alcohol in the country.

The move has been a source of tension in the week leading up to the vote. On Tuesday, members of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mocked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's suggestion that ayran -- a salty non-alcoholic yogurt drink -- is enough to satisfy the Turkish people by passing out the beverage while exchanging barbs with members of the ruling party. As Hurriyet, Turkey's leading English-language daily, reported, things quickly got heated:

However, tension soon rose during the session, despite the fact that it started with witty japes. The row between Tanal and Bilgiç grew following a break in the session, when the two had to be separated by other deputies after reportedly coming close to exchanging blows. 

Critics have suggested that the legislation is an infringement on individual liberty and an attempt by Erdogan's party to impose an Islamic agenda on the country. "No one can be forced to drink or not to drink. This is a religious and ideological imposition," stated Musa Cam, of the CHP. "This is not a struggle against the ills of alcohol but an attempt to re-design the society according to [the ruling party's] beliefs and lifestyle." Turkish columnist Mehves Evin even went so far as to accuse the government of "alcohol McCarthyism."

And while Americans might bristle at the comparison, it's worth noting that Turkey's alcohol restrictions bear some similarities to restrictions in several U.S. states. Take Texas.

Turkey's law shrinks the window during which it is legal to purchase alcoholic beverages from retailers to the hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. In Texas, there's a slightly longer window: 7 a.m. to midnight on weekdays for stores selling beer and wine, and a shorter timeframe for liquor stores. On Sunday, limits are even greater, with no liquor stores open across the state. The state also boasts 19 dry counties where the sale of alcohol is forbidden.

True, the Turkish bill includes some other rules that are less comparable to laws in the United States -- including strict prohibitions on advertising alcohol and selling alcohol near mosques. But when it comes to one of the law's odder provisions -- banning the sale of alcohol in vending machines -- Texas did it first. In 1998, the Lone Star State's attorney general ordered the removal of vending machines that dispensed adult beverages. 

Members of Erdogan's party have been quick to point out that the new law is simply in keeping with Western norms. "In Sweden, [the retail sale of alcohol] is forbidden after 7 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 24 hours on Sundays," Lutfu Elvan, the head of Turkey's Planning and Budget Commission noted. "There are similar restrictions in all Scandinavian countries." As far as we can tell, he did not go on to mention Texas.

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