Turkish referendum

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, failed to persuade two thirds of the Turkish parliament to grant him more powers. So he has instigated a referendum on 16 April on 18 amendments to the constitution. This would, in effect, transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential state. It would also facilitate him staying in power until 2029 and allow the president to have party political affiliations.

Turkish president

After the failed coup in July 2016 a state of emergency was declared. Purportedly to arrest those involved in the coup, hundreds of lawmakers and journalists opposed to the government were rounded up. Amnesty International has reported that tens of thousands of civil servants were dismissed, the main Kurdish daily newspaper, Özgür Gündem, was closed down and censorship imposed on websites and internet access.

Opposition parties are opposed to the constitutional changes and foresee presidential rule as a dictatorship.

The outcome of the referendum is predicted to be close. Here is a link to the BBC’s analysis of Erdoğan’s Turkey.

 

Changing flights

United Airlines are in the news for dragging a passenger, Dr David Dao, off a flight to allow their own staff to take his seat. There is an assumption by airlines that some passengers won’t turn up for their flights, so they often overbook. In this case the flight was fully booked and there were no spare seats. United Airlines had not managed to bribe passengers to fly the following day and resorted to brute force to remove a passenger.

united passenger

My son’s graduation date is now one day earlier, so I needed to change our flights to Glasgow with flybe. A quick search online showed that if I registered the change for our outbound flights in June it would cost £80. On the other hand if I left my bookings as they were and booked new outbound flights, it would cost £64.

I phoned flybe’s Customer Service to point out the illogicality of paying more to change flights than to book new flights. Despite agreeing that there was no logic to their position, they stuck to their guns and would not reduce the cost of changing flights to the same price as booking new flights. That means that they are happy to continue a system where booked seats may or may not be occupied.

Memory – a new theory

It had been thought that  our short-term memories were formed in the hippocampus and then ‘banked’ in the cortex. Recent research by the team at the Riken-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics has shown that the brain makes two memories simultaneously, one for the present and one for a lifetime.

Image-showing-the-Hippocampus-in-the-human-brain

The researchers were able to switch off the hippocampus and still find evidence of the memory newly formed in the cortex. They experimented on mice, but the research may illuminate how brain diseases work in humans.

National disaster

grand national 2017

OK, I exaggerate. Picking three horses in the Grand National that did not finish in the first 6 past the post is hardly a disaster, but it has wiped out the stake money for my online gambling hobby.

On the plus side, I was prompted to organise the sweepstake at work and some lucky colleagues will be collecting £40, £30 and £10 (1st, 2nd and 3rd horses) for their £2 stake.

All horses and jockeys competed without serious injury this year. This was not always the case, and  horses and riders have lost their lives in this gruelling 4 and a half mile race over big fences.

I liked the recent story about a man finding his dead father-in-law’s betting slip for the 1973 National in which Red Rum was the winner. The betting shop honoured the bet and paid out £130 worth of winnings plus a free bet and charity donation of the same value – great publicity.

God bless America and the entire world

POTUS signed off with God’s blessing after launching a heavy  missile attack on a Syrian airbase. Trump had alerted Putin to his plans  before the attack and there were were Russian personnel at the base who were not to be targeted.

UNITAS Gold

This response to the recent chemical attack on Syrian civilians was aimed at the base from which the POTUS stated that the chemical strike had been launched. An alternative possibility raised by a political analyst is that a Jihadi chemical weapons dump was hit by conventional weaponry. The analyst stated that Assad had no military or strategic reason for launching a chemical attack in the area.

How can we believe anything in the news anymore? Do we trust U.S. intelligence and the current regime? The frightening prospect of unilateral military action taken by superpowers acting as the world’s policemen is now a reality.

Gathering together the world’s leaders in the oval office POTUS turned to Assad and said “you’re fired!” The remaining candidates to be the President’s apprentice were told to return to their embassies and await further instructions from the leader of the free world.

The  next task for the POTUS apprentices is to build a bridge between Washington and Moscow.

Trans

The LGBT community have made great strides in the quest for equality. Homophobia is not as rife in western democracies as it once was, and many countries in Europe have made same sex marriages legal.

I have been on a Trans information briefing at work that made clear a number of issues. For instance, sex is the biology and gender the individual’s perception of their gender, ranging from female, transman, man, transwoman, to non binary.

For some people it is hard to accept that gender is in the head and not the genitalia.