February 13, 2012 – MNS SPECIAL REPORT FROM ANKARA – “ERDOGHAN ORDERS SWIMMING LESSONS FOR TURKS ALONG THE EUPHRATES”.  Humphrey Stumpp-Fife reporting from the Turkish capital.

Mercury News Service has been granted exclusive access to Turkey’s new program to teach inhabitants along the Euphrates the sport of swimming.  The rather unusual initiative by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoghan is said to be steeped in the fear that Turkey’s many damns on the Euphrates could be targets of ground-to-ground missiles fired by Syria or Iran in the event Turkey takes a more aggressive position concerning the unrest in neighboring Syria.  At the present time, no one is discussing seriously the possibility of armed intervention, but P.M. Erdoghan is taking no chances. 

Not wanting to stoke the fires of fear,  Erdoghan’s message has been “Gold Medal for Turkey in Swimming”.  The appeal to Turkish national pride has not been all too successful.

With no professional Turkish swimmers willing to move to the Anatolian highlands, Ankara has been forced to contract the program out to a Bavarian swim team, the Schwaben-Schwimmer-Gesellschaft of Baden-Baden.

  The first team of swimming instructors from Germany poses for Ogden Orffe, MNS cameraman
One of the problems the Germans have reported was the absolutely horrified reaction of the villagers along the river to the presence of the German team’s mascot, Muffchen, a fully-grown shepherd whose swimming abilities have defied skeptical zoologists.  Trying to show Turks that “even dogs can swim” was received somewhat inhospitably by the locals: one even calling the Teutonic team a “bunch of infidel rascals unworthy of Islam”.  But the lessons went on with minor hitches, the worst being an absence of quality beer for the Germans. 

            Here Muffchen demonstrates to Turkish villagers his miraculous swimming abilities.
The program was originally scheduled for only two weeks, but the cultural differences have made that schedule impossible to achieve.  One problem was Turkish women’s modesty – unwillingness to wear a bathing suit.  Some women simply dove in with their “burka” on,  creating an irritating barrier between pupil and instructor.  It was reported that instructor Willa VonHammelbraten nearly drowned when she got entangled in one woman’s burka and found herself struggling for air while the corpulent student thrashed about in terror, sometimes stomping on Willa’s head.  “Adjustments will be made”, said Jost Quatsch. “We have vays of making them schwimm”. 

Efforts to get a take on the Syrian view of this new program had us in the presence of Lt. Col. Fathi Korbaji in Aleppo who said that the Syrian government was also training the northern population in lifesaving techniques and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.