Turkey’s EU membership bid falters — Germany unrelenting

Turkey’s chances of a breaking a three-year stalemate and relaunching its bid to join the European Union look like being dashed because of the government’s ruthless response to three weeks of street protests amid worsening friction between Ankara and Berlin.

The foreign ministry in Berlin summoned the Turkish ambassador to Germany on Friday to explain the harsh language directed at the chancellor, Angela Merkel, by Egemen Bağis, the Turkish official in charge of negotiations with the EU.

Merkel had said earlier this week that she was “appalled at the very tough” response by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in ordering riot police to clear central Istanbul of thousands of protesters last weekend.

Bağis accused the chancellor of playing domestic politics, said that anyone using Turkey for political purposes would suffer “an inauspicious end” and warned of severe retaliation if the negotiations were called off.

Turkey opened negotiations to join the EU eight years ago, at the same time as Croatia. While Croatia joins next week as the 28th member, Turkey’s bid has been frozen for three years…Merkel and the German centre-right remain firmly opposed to Turkey joining. Her Christian Democrats’ draft manifesto for the general elections in September states: “We reject full membership for Turkey because it does not meet the conditions for EU entry…”

Negotiations were supposed to resume next week after a long hiatus because the French president, François Hollande, lifted the block imposed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a gesture of goodwill. Talks were to take place on regional development, an issue that could have influenced Ankara’s policy towards parts of the south-east populated mainly by Kurds who have long been campaigning for greater rights and more devolved government.

But Germany and the Netherlands are refusing a green light for next week’s resumption, triggering a European debate over the most sensible response to the turmoil in Turkey.

Discussions about how to respond to the turmoil in Turkey have nothing to do with either the causes of the turmoil or core reasons for the refusal of admittance. The turmoil results from a populist government trying to cure every modernist problem it sees with the hammer of suppression.

Rejection of Turkey’s membership in the greater economy the EU affords is a twofold reaction to a government in Turkey led by a liar and hypocrite. The years of Erdoğan’s populist government have been characterized by his wink and a nod to a goal of crushing modernism, secular freedoms central to Turkey’s constitution. He’s given the wink to his rural religious supporters and nodded assent to the constitution – while plotting its demise.

Thirdhand smoke causes DNA damage

deathsmoke

A study led by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found for the first time that thirdhand smoke—the noxious residue that clings to virtually all surfaces long after the secondhand smoke from a cigarette has cleared out—causes significant genetic damage in human cells.

Furthermore, the study also found that chronic exposure is worse than acute exposure, with the chemical compounds in samples exposed to chronic thirdhand smoke existing in higher concentrations and causing more DNA damage than samples exposed to acute thirdhand smoke, suggesting that the residue becomes more harmful over time.

“This is the very first study to find that thirdhand smoke is mutagenic,” said Lara Gundel, a Berkeley Lab scientist and co-author of the study. “Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, some of the chemical compounds in thirdhand smoke, are among the most potent carcinogens there are. They stay on surfaces, and when those surfaces are clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious…”

Thirdhand smoke is particularly insidious because it is extremely difficult to eradicate. Studies have found that it can still be detected in dust and surfaces of apartments more than two months after smokers moved out. Common cleaning methods such as vacuuming, wiping and ventilation have not proven effective in lowering nicotine contamination. “You can do some things to reduce the odors, but it’s very difficult to really clean it completely,” said Destaillats. “The best solution is to substitute materials, such as change the carpet, repaint.”

Now the new study suggests thirdhand smoke could become more harmful over time…The researchers found that the concentrations of more than half of the compounds studied were higher in the chronic samples than in the acute. They also found higher levels of DNA damage caused by the chronic samples…

Great. The more we learn about cigarette smoking the more we learn about how deadly the smoke and its residue is. I expect we’ll eventually learn that many modern diseases might be traceable back to generations of cigarette smoke clinging to the household infrastructure of modern life – and how it affected DNA.

A society which does comparatively little to end this national habit is measured by stupidity more so than ignorance.

A yoga time-out with the summer solstice in Times Square

New York’s Times Square, one of the world’s busiest crossroads, has come to a standstill to allow yoga enthusiasts to mark the summer solstice.

The Manhattan square became a sea of yogis exercising in time on their mats, beneath the billboards.

Tim Tompkins, co-founder of event, said part of its appeal was finding stillness and calm amid the city rush on the longest day of the year.

Into its 11th year, the event has grown from three people to more than 15,000.

They can only fit 600 at a time into Times Square so the rest are at other locales, different times.

Free yoga classes began at 07:30 local time and were due to continue until sunset.

The oldest of the teachers in the square was 94, the AFP news agency reported.

Bravo. For all the right reasons…fitness, calming, relaxation, health.

Of course the nutball brigade in the Republican Party will call this further proof of NYC as a center of Satanism.

Diogene micro home pushes the boundaries for tiny living

Italian architect Renzo Piano has gone from building Europe’s tallest building (the Shard in London) to one of its smallest. Finally completing his career-long dream of building a micro house that only measures 81 sq ft, Piano’s single-occupancy unit has been added to the gardens of the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Dubbed “Diogene,” the small structure is named in honor of the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, who was said to have abandoned all worldly luxuries and conventions for the simplicity of living in a large ceramic jar.

While it’s hard to imagine how a unit that measures 9.8 by 8.2 ft can be big enough to be called a home, the Diogene model provides the simplest of comforts for one person without leaving anything out. The micro home features a living area which comes equipped with a foldaway desk and chair, sofa bed and recessed storage boxes. A separated utilities space features a composting toilet, shower plate and a small kitchen unit with built-in sink and refrigerator.

What really makes this tiny home functional, however, is the amount of storage space. Storage units have been incorporated throughout the entire unit – they are built into the walls, the floors and even the roof. Furthermore, each internal component has been ergonomically designed to occupy the minimum amount of space, and for easy usage.

The Diogene micro-structure is made from a lightweight yet durable shell that can withstand a wide range of temperature variants, including extreme heat and snow storms. The bearing shell has been built using cross-laminated cedar timber panels with a thin aluminum exterior coating, which helps strengthen the structure while also reflecting heat.

A series of sustainable technologies have been put to use outside, above and below the unit, giving the module its off-the-grid status. The roof is fitted with a boiler tank and solar panels, which provide the home with hot water and enough electricity to power the interior LED lights, electric stove and small refrigerator. Rainwater is collected and stored in special containers positioned underneath the house. The water is then filtered, pumped and used for the shower and kitchen.

In addition, the entire cabin has been insulated to keep the interior cozy in winter and cool in summer, and the triple glazed windows (including the large skylight) are all fitted with roller shades. The Diogene home sits just above the ground, so it has very little impact on its surrounding environment and its total weight is just a few tons, thus allowing it to be transported easily, be it by helicopter or truck.

Delightful. And the article mentions in passing where current codes in Europe are headed – and how far behind we are in the US.

I think if I were living alone something approaching this size might be tempting. It certainly would inhibit the accumulation of unneeded stuff.