Erdoğan promises reforms in 2021, but human rights and press freedom are tough nuts to crack

On the final day of 2020, Turkey’s president promised his people that things will change.

“We are in the process of preparing reforms that will strengthen our economy and raise the standard of our democracy, rights and freedoms,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in the middle of a speech released on the presidency’s website.

“We are making the final adjustments to our comprehensive reform programmes and, God willing, will lay them before the nation with the New Year.”

It is not the first time in recent weeks that Erdoğan has spoken of reform, amid the prospect of European sanctions and speculation of an early election in the summer of 2021.

In November, he said Turkey saw itself “not somewhere else nowhere else but in Europe. We look to build our future together with Europe”.

But after years of being described by European politicians as an autocrat and growing worries of censorship and human rights abuses in the country, the Turkish president’s detractors have strong doubts.

Erdoğan might say his proposals are undergoing “final adjustments”, but few outside his inner circle so far know what they contain.

And the president’s often combative language at the end of 2020 — even after he first spoke of reforms — lead many to conclude sweeping change is not likely.

The scale of the task ahead is illustrated by two issues: lengthy detentions before trial, and press freedom.

Mass detentions before trial

A reality that confronts Turkey as it enters 2021 is that hundreds of opponents of the government are still in prison, many having spent years awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

Human Rights Watch says prosecutors in Turkey “regularly open terrorism investigations into people for peacefully exercising rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association”.

One prominent case is of Selahattin Demirtaş, the charismatic Kurdish politician who stood against Erdoğan in two presidential elections and has been held in prison since 2016.

The Turkish government says Demirtaş stands accused of terrorism relating to incidents dating back a decade.

His supporters retort the accusations are politically motivated.

Last week, Europe’s top human rights court agreed: it ordered Turkey to release him immediately, saying his detention was “stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate”.

But Erdoğan denounced the verdict as “political” and said the European Court of Human Rights was “conflicted within itself”.

He takes a similar view with the case of the prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala, who was on the verge of being released in February when a court acquitted him of organising a series of anti-government protests in Istanbul in 2013, only to be re-arrested hours later for alleged involvement in the 2016 coup attempt.

Waning press freedom

Three events in December alone helped illustrate how much harder it is these days for Turkish journalists to hold their government to account.

On December 23, the exiled reporter Can Dündar was sentenced to 27 years in prison on espionage and terror-related charges for a 2015 story accusing Turkey’s intelligence service of illegally sending weapons to Syria.

Dündar remains in exile in Germany.

Two days later, on Christmas Day, rolling news channel Olay TV announced it was closing down after just 26 days on the air.

Staff said the channel’s owner had been pressured by government officials to avoid giving air time to the pro-Kurdish HDP.

Dündar’s conviction and Olay TV’s closure contrasted with the less-prominent arrest of Ufuk Çeri, a journalist for the news network Medyascope, who was arrested while covering a protest by workers at a bankrupted airline owned by the family of Turkey’s tourism minister.

Çeri says he was held for 24 hours before being released on December 11 without charge.

Fresh elections and sanctions

But there is speculation that the Turkish president’s reform agenda could be a genuine attempt to win back supporters ahead of an early general election in the summer.

Opinion polls suggest Turkey’s economic and political troubles mean that support for Erdoğan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party is in long-term decline.

In the past year, a former prime minister and a former economy minister have split away to form movements of their own, eating into the AK Party’s traditional, conservative-minded voter base.

Many opposition politicians have sought to unite around the idea of dismantling Turkey’s executive presidency system, one of Erdoğan’s signature reforms that was narrowly approved in a disputed referendum in 2017.

Another pressure point comes in the form of possible sanctions by the European Union over Turkey’s gas exploration in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece, Cyprus and France are among the EU members calling for punitive measures — a decision could be taken as early as March.

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Would you like some nuts with that? EasyJet launches home-delivery trolley service with Deliveroo

has launched a home-delivery trolley service that will see the airline’s uniformed cabin crew wheel an in-flight trolley right up to customers’ doorsteps.

Members of the public will be able to book a slot online to be served their favorite airline drinks and snacks, with gin and tonic, chilled Prosecco, nuts, and olives all available on the menu.

The two-day trial, which is being run in partnership with food-delivery app Deliveroo, will take place on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18. The service is complimentary, but customers will be asked to make a donation to Age U.K., the charity for older people.

said the trolley service was a “fun way to keep the cabin crew ‘match-fit,’” ahead of flights getting back to normal next year.

EasyJet plunged to a £1.27 billion loss in the 12 months to the end of September, highlighting the extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the low-cost carrier. Shares in easyJet, which have fallen more than 40% in the year to date, were down 2.16% in early morning London trading on Thursday.

Airlines worldwide have come up with myriad initiatives, including “flights to nowhere” and selling their corporate art collections, amid an unprecedented slump in demand for air travel.

Read: American Airlines and British Airways trial free COVID testing on trans-Atlantic flights in boost to travel

On Wednesday, industry body the International Air Transport Association said that the recovery of international passenger demand continued to be disappointingly slow in October, down 87.8% compared with the same month in 2019. Capacity was 76.9% below previous year levels, and load factor shrank 38.3 percentage points to 42.9%.

IATA Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac said fresh outbreaks of COVID-19 and governments’ continued reliance on heavy-handed quarantines resulted in another “catastrophic month” for air travel demand.

“While the pace of recovery is faster in some regions than others, the overall picture for international travel is grim. This uneven recovery is more pronounced in domestic markets, with China’s domestic market having nearly recovered, while most others remain deeply depressed,” said de Juniac.

Read: Tycoons and sports stars to be exempt from quarantine in controversial English travel rule

Last month, International Consolidated Airlines
-owned British Airways launched a sale of onboard items, including slippers, crockery, tableware, and trolleys from retired B747 aircraft, in an attempt to raise cash.

Read: Why Qantas Airways is selling this yellow cashmere sweater

In October, Australia’s Qantas Airways
 launched a limited-edition line of athleisure-wear, collection, designed by leading Australian fashion designer Martin Grant, which included cashmere sweaters priced at A$425 ($305), hoodies costing A$275 ($197) and beach totes for A$350 ($251).

Days earlier, Singapore Airlines
 launched a waiting list for onboard meals on two of its grounded Airbus A380 double-decker jumbo jets, after tickets sold out within 30 minutes of bookings.

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Dear Therapist: My In-Laws Are Driving Me Nuts

As much as I love my husband, I feel like the relationship I have with my in-laws is making this marriage difficult, because at the end of the day, he’ll choose his parents’ feelings over mine.

I don’t want my daughter growing up to see us fighting about her grandparents, as I did with my parents. Many times I’ve found myself holding my tongue to keep the peace. I want to set clear boundaries with my in-laws but also have a great relationship with them.

Do you have any insight for me?


Dear Anonymous,

Many people experience differences with their in-laws over issues like control or perceived criticism, but I imagine that for you, these differences take on greater significance because of your childhood.

You say that it took you a while to find a partner, because you wanted to be with someone whose parents you got along with well. Vetting a potential partner not just for who he is but also for who his parents are might have felt safe to you—a way of protecting yourself from the kind of conflict that hurt you so much as a child—but it actually put you in a more precarious position, for two reasons. First, having a good relationship with your in-laws is nice, but it won’t heal your childhood wound; only you can heal that (for example, through therapy). And second, coming into a marriage with the fantasy that things will always go smoothly with your in-laws set up that relationship—like any relationship with such high expectations—for failure. Few close relationships of long duration escape the reality that the people in it come into conflict from time to time. The important question in any relationship isn’t Will there be disagreements? It’s How good are we at repairing them?

If you can separate your need to heal something from your childhood with what’s happening now, you’ll be able to approach the problem in a way that feels better not just for you, but also for your husband and his parents.

You can start by considering that people don’t tend to behave in a vacuum. A question I encourage people to ask whenever they feel hurt by someone’s behavior is What would cause this person to act in this way? Understanding what the emotional stakes are for them might make their comments sting less personally, and will also help you to handle the situation more effectively.

So: Why might your in-laws be making these comments? To me, that the troubles began right after you had the baby is notable, because you might be seeing an aspect of your in-laws that’s related to how they feel about being grandparents. One possibility is that they don’t realize they’re being offensive. They might think they’re being helpful, even if they come across as critical. For instance, I doubt that they say the words “You’re a bad mom,” but according to your letter, that’s what you hear. Perhaps in their minds, they’re offering opinions (which, admittedly, when unsolicited, can be annoying) because they believe that, having already raised a child, they have information that’s useful to you. They might also believe that because they are so close with you, they have carte blanche to share their opinions. Perhaps they feel that the closer people are, the less they need to stand on ceremony and hold back. Of course, healthy relationships are built on healthy boundaries, but some people mistakenly conflate love with not needing to have boundaries.

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Nuts & Bolts—Keeping Cool And Clean Efficiently

AsianScientist (Nov. 5, 2020) – Every aspect of daily life inevitably leaves an impact on the environment: heating or cooling our indoor spaces, throwing out the trash or running the dishwasher all consume energy. But what if the built environment itself—with the help of smarter design—could help mitigate your negative impact on the planet? This is the dream of green buildings.

As the world continues to experience extreme weather disturbances due to climate change, green buildings have become a must for cities that wish to continue urban development in an ethical and sustainable manner. Singapore, which has made green buildings mandatory since 2008, has been hailed as a model of green building in Asia, harnessing the newest technologies to expand its green footprint.

Nonetheless, Singapore faces a significant challenge in its journey to sustainability: as an island on the equator, building cooling costs are considerable. Thankfully, energy-saving innovations in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, cooling and air purification are solutions the island city is adopting to overcome that challenge.

Controlling indoor air quality at the click of a button

Globally, buildings account for nearly 20% of energy emissions, higher than the emissions produced by livestock and crop cultivation. A way to lower this number is through efficient HVAC systems that can quickly respond to changes without sacrificing the comfort of a building’s inhabitants.

To help bring HVAC systems up to speed with the fourth industrial revolution, a technology provider has developed a scalable, flexible and cost-efficient way to save energy, especially in large buildings that have more than 500 zones. The system does this through a patented token-based HVAC scheduling strategy coupled with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. The IoT infrastructure allows the system to gather real-time data and respond to changes in the building, such as levels of carbon dioxide emitted by occupants.

The technology features a highly flexible plug-and-play implementation, which means it can be applied to a building without the need for major retrofitting of existing HVAC controllers and data acquisition systems. Old buildings can use the technology to upgrade older HVAC systems, allowing a building owner to remotely monitor the HVAC status via a mobile interface. On the other hand, new buildings can benefit from this technology as it can complement other more costly energy-saving technologies.

Keeping cool without water

As the world becomes more and more connected, we often forget that the internet has a physical component existing in the real world. Data centers and telecommunication sites are crucial infrastructures in the digital landscape — but they are also energy-intensive buildings, estimated to account for about 1% of worldwide electricity use. Cooling systems contribute the greatest share of this electricity use, as these sites need to be cooled around the clock between 24-28°C.

Existing methods typically use water for cooling, changing the temperature of the water to store energy. However, this is an inefficient process, as water has a low specific heat capacity. Instead, a technology provider has developed a cooling technology using phase-change materials (PCMs) which store thermal energy through melting and solidification. These PCMs allow for more concentrated storage of thermal energy as the energy required to change their state (latent heat energy) is much higher than what is required to raise its temperature (specific heat).

For data centers and telecommunication sites, this technology can increase energy efficiency by up to 40% and reduce storage size by 60%, as compared to water storage solutions. The technology has been proven with a working pilot to provide cooling at a telecommunications site in Hungary, which achieved 54% energy savings with four years’ worth of return on investment.

Utilizing odorless microorganisms for air purification

Keeping the indoor environment cool is one challenge, but keeping it clean on top of that adds another layer of complexity. HVAC systems can harbor odor-causing bacteria or mold, which could also cause diseases. While anti-bacterial and anti-odor solutions are available, they may not act on all species of microorganisms currently sitting on the evaporator core of your air conditioner.

A technology provider has thus developed an eco-friendly air purification technology which uses odorless microorganisms to fight odor-causing microorganisms. The provider screened various species and strains of odorless microorganisms, and confirmed that when a biofilm is formed using a combination of microorganisms from the Methylobacterium species, it can fight the growth of odor-causing microorganisms. It thereby reduces offensive odors and in turn, enhances indoor air quality.

The odorless bacteria biofilm lasts for up to a year and can be applied through spray coating. This can be applied to HVAC systems in both residential and commercial buildings, as well as in automobiles, on filters and in wastewater treatment units.
Asian Scientist Magazine is a media partner of Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) Singapore.


Copyright: IPI Singapore. Read the original article here.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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Bol Bol sends NBA world nuts with huge performance in Pelicans scrimmage

The basketball world has a new cult hero as Bol Bol continued to impress as the NBA season restart gets ever closer.

During his first minutes in an NBA uniform — albeit not in a league match — for the Denver Nuggets against the Washington Wizards in a scrimmage on Thursday, the 218cm tall rookie showed his first game wasn’t a fluke.

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The son of former cult hero Manute Bol, who dwarfs his son at 231cm tall, scored a double-double against the Wizards with a 16-point, 10-rebound display along with six blocks.

Bol became the only rookie in 20 years to register at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a pre-season game, according to ESPN, with the league treating these games like pre-season games.

While the tall Nuggets showcased their size with the 213cm Nicola Jokic running the side around the court along with Bol and fellow seven-footer Mason Plumtree in the starting five, but the side fell short of the New Orleans Pelicans 119-104.

But Bol once again showed his NBA ready talent, hitting 15 points with three rebounds and three assists, as well as a steal and two blocks.

He started the night with two three pointers in the first quarter, and while his field goal shooting dropped to six for 19, including two from seven beyond the arc, the NBA world was still in raptures of the NBA prospect.

This is just the second time the NBA world has got to see the 2019 second round draft pick after a persistent foot injury limited him to just nine games in the G-League with the Windy City Bulls.

But despite being new on the block and not having his best night from the field, Bol produced some crazy moments.

Bol teamed with Jokic for a no-look pass for the 20-year-old rookie to dunk.

Bol also showed off his ridiculous wingspan with a couple more blocks.

His father finished his career with more blocks than points for his career, but it seems as though junior can do both.

Senior NBA producer for The Action Network Rob Perez asked the Pelicans’ JJ Redick — who at 193cm tall is 25cm shorter than Bol — about “what was going through your mind after Bol Bol swatted that jumper?”

The NBA veteran replied: “How the f*** did he get to that shot?”

The NBA has lost its mind for Bol Bol, with the youngster destined for more time and hopefully greater things.

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Lamb kofta balls with pine nuts

This super easy lamb kofta recipe is a favourite in our house. Juicy, tender and with hints of cinnamon and pine nuts, these lamb kofta balls are tasty, freezer-friendly and perfect for the barbecue or the frypan.

What is kofta?

Kofta is a meatball recipe popular in the Middle Easter cuisines. It consists of ground meat mixed with onions and warm spices such as cumin and sumac. I also like to add a dash of cinnamon to the mix as well as pine nuts.

You can cook lamb kofta balls (lamb is my preferred mince here) in a frying pan, but they are delicious cooked over a gas or charcoal barbecue. Alternatively, thread them onto skewers in a sausage shape. You can also cook the lamb kofta recipe into burger patties – it makes about 6 patties.

lamb kofta recipe, how to make lamb kofta, kofta balls recipe

What mince can I use in kofta recipe?

Lamb is a traditional mince for a kofta balls recipe.

You may have noticed that apart from the occasional lamb shanks or frenched lamb cutlets I don’t cook much lamb. It may be the fact that I grew up in those parts of the world where mutton was much more widely available than lamb, and because of its extra-strong flavour it was never a meat of choice at my Mum’s. But, every now and again, I get a little craving for lamb. I have found that using mince, as versatile as it is, is great to make the strong flavours of lamb more palatable. 

However, you can also use beef or even chicken mince to make the kofta balls. It’s best to use fattier mince, which helps keep the balls moist and imparts a more delicious flavour.

lamb kofta recipe, how to make lamb kofta, kofta balls recipe

Serving ideas

If you’re wondering what to serve lamb kofta balls with, the possibilities are endless.

Serve lamb kofta balls with hommus, salads and homemade flatbreads as a tasty and fun meal. You can also pop them into a soup. Or add to saucy curries.

Lamb kofta balls with pine nuts and spices

Juicy, garlicky and filled with warm spices, these lamb kofta balls are best cooked on the barbecue. But you can make them just as well in the frying pan.

Prep Time15 mins

Cook Time15 mins

Total Time30 mins

Servings: 20 balls


  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 sprig spring onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 slice bread stale is best
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 500 g lamb mince
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 4 sprigs coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 slice bread stale is best
  • 1/2 cup water

To serve (choose any):

  • Flatbreads
  • Eggplant dip or hommus
  • Tabbouleh salad
  • Corn kernels
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Minted Greek-style yoghurt


  • Peel and finely dice brown onion. Finely dice spring onion. Heat oil in a small frying pan set over medium heat. Cook onion and spring onion for 2 minutes, stirring, until translucent.

  • Tear bread into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Add water and mix, you want the bread to soak up the water.

  • Place mince in a large bowl. Add pine nuts, spices, cooked onions. Squeeze excess water from the bread and add bread to the mince. Using your hands mix and knead the mince well for about a minute.

  • Form about 20 small bite-sized meatballs.

  • Cook on a medium hot barbecue or in large frying pan (in batches) for 2-3 minutes on each side.

  • Serve with hommus, flatbreads, tabbouleh, sliced cucumber and corn salad and minted yoghurt.

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