The little pistachio may be best known as the main ingredient in baklava, but it's worth remembering that it's only the emerald green inside of the nut that gets used up to make the flaky pastry. The outside shell ends up serving as an unwanted floor- and sidewalk-covering in cities, towns and villages across the Middle East.
But it appears that scientists in Turkey, the world's third-largest producer of pistachios (and home of Gaziantep, what is arguably the city producing the finest baklava in the world), have finally figured out what to do with all those unwanted shells: make electricity. Reports Turkey's Anatolian news agency:
Scientists in Turkey have been working to produce biogas from pistachios on an experimental level for more than three years in a collaboration between the government, a small business development organization and the Middle East Technical University.
One ton of pistachios can produce 1.1 million cubic meters of biogas, which in turn can generate 14 kilowatt-hours -- enough to meet the needs of a typical Turkish house for a year, said Goksel Demirer, a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara.
Turkey produces 112,000 tons of pistachios a year, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, making it the third-largest producer in the world after Iran and the U.S.
Gaziantep is the center of pistachio cultivation in Turkey, producing 100,000 tons a year. The city, formerly known as Antep, even lends its name to the Turkish term for pistachio -- Antep fistigi, or "Antep nut."
Russia's embargo on foodstuffs coming from several western and European countries may mean no brie on the shelves in upscale Moscow supermarkets, but it also means less cheese sold (and, thus, less income) for French cheesemakers.
In fact, it appears that the Kremlin's moves against western foods -- which came in response to sanctions imposed on Russia because of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and Moscow's role in stoking it -- is starting to take a bite out of the European economy, forcing the European Union to respond. Reports the EUobserver website:
The EU is preparing to unveil new aid for EU fruit producers hit by the Russia food ban.
Agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos promised extra assistance in the coming days for suppliers of citrus fruit, apples, and pears at a hearing with MEPs in Strasbourg on Monday (15 September).
The European Commission has since August earmarked €158 million for aid to fruit and vegetable growers who have had to take products off the market, as well as €30 million for dairy suppliers who are putting stock into cold storage.
The money is to come from a “margin” - money allocated by EU countries but unlikely to be needed - in the EU’s 2015 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget....
....Ciolos also noted the compensation for citrus, apples, and pears will be paid out using new rules, to enter into life next week, which tie the money more directly to volumes affected by the Russia ban.
The change comes after Polish producers filed massive claims - worth €145 million - in the €125 million envelope.
By now, it's a well-established fact that foreign fighters looking to join extremist groups -- most worryingly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or simply the Islamic State (IS), as it now calls itself -- fighting the Assad regime in Syria have been using Turkey as a gateway to that country.
But more recently concerns have been rising about ISIS's activity inside Turkish cities, particularly with regards to the recruitment of vulnerable Turkish young men in poor neighborhoods. In a deeply reported piece in Newsweek, reporters Alexander Christie-Miller and Alev Scott take a look at ISIS's activity in Istanbul, telling the story of Deniz Sahin, a 28-year-old woman whose estranged husband recently went off to join the extremist group in Syria, taking their two children along. From the Newsweek piece:
Stories shared with Newsweek in recent days by Deniz and others show the group has sunk its tendrils deep into Turkey, a country that may now be in its firing line after being named as part of a Nato alliance to combat the jihadist group. Many fear Isis has the capacity to wreak havoc in a nation that attracts 35 million tourists a year and whose porous border adjoins Isis-controlled territory.
As part of the effort to boost its image and role on the world stage, Turkey has over the last decade made a push to host a bigger number of international meetings and conferences, especially in Istanbul.
The setting makes sense, considering the city's obvious charms. But sometimes Ankara's eagerness to play host doesn't quite match the reality on the ground. Case in point: the ninth annual Internet Governance Forum, a large United Nations-mandated gathering, which is currently taking place in Istanbul at a time when Turkey is increasingly under fire for curtailing internet freedoms within its own borders.
In a sharply worded briefing issued ahead of the Forum, Human Rights Watch accused the Turkish government of having an "abysmal record of protecting free expression online." From HRW's report:
Turkish authorities have blocked tens of thousands of websites under the country’s draconian Internet Law 5651 over the last few years. The exact number remains unclear since the judicial and administrative procedures for Internet blocking are not transparent. In February, the government passed amendments to the law that expand censorship powers, enabling authorities to block access to web pages within hours, based on a mere allegation that a posting violates private life, without a prior court order.
In Israel, coffee served with sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup (akin to Turkish coffee, although prepared with less ceremony) is known as "botz," which literally means "mud."
But to make this "muddy" hot beverage, one has to start with finely-ground beans that are typically sold under the name "Turkish Coffee," which -- considering the sorry current state of Turkey-Israel realations, which has have only gotten after the recent Israeli operation in Gaza -- is leaving some Israelis with a bad taste in their mouth.
As the Israeli Ha'aretz reports, some coffee drinkers in Israel have started a campaign to get Elite, the company that produces Israel's leading brand of Turkish coffee, to stop calling its product by that name. From Ha'aretz:
Channel 2 reports that an Israeli woman recently wrote a Facebook status reading, "I call on Elite [Israel's leading coffee maker] to change the name of its coffee to black coffee. I really have no use for anything Turkish these days." Turkey supported Hamas during Israel's just-adjourned war with Gaza, and the leader of its Islamic-oriented government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, doesn't hesitate to vent his antagonism at the Jewish state.
"The time has come to change the name of the coffee to black/Israeli/tasty/wonderful or some other kind of coffee," wrote another Facebook poster. "Just not Turkish! This offends the sensibilities of the nation, which is liable to boycott the product!"….
With the power of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or, as it now calls itself, the Islamic State) growing and the amount of territory it controls increasing, Ankara is now facing some uncomfortable questions about what role it played in facilitating the organization's rise.
In a Washington Post piece from last week, reporters Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet provide a fascinating insight into this issue, visiting Reyhanli, a Turkish town on the Syrian border where until recently ISIS fighters had the run of the place. From their article:
Before their blitz into Iraq earned them the title of the Middle East’s most feared insurgency, the jihadists of the Islamic State treated this Turkish town near the Syrian border as their own personal shopping mall.
And eager to aid any and all enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey rolled out the red carpet.
In dusty market stalls, among the baklava shops and kebab stands, locals talk of Islamist fighters openly stocking up on uniforms and the latest Samsung smartphones. Wounded jihadists from the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda offshoot also fighting the Syrian government — were treated at Turkish hospitals. Most important, the Turks winked as Reyhanli and other Turkish towns became way stations for moving foreign fighters and arms across the border.
While European and North American food producers might be worried about the sting of Russia's new ban on western produce, Turkish exporters could soon be celebrating.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, Moscow's ban -- enacted in response to western sanctions on Russia to punish it for its role in the current crisis in Ukraine -- is providing Turkey with an opportunity for expanding its agricultural exports:
Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision last week to block certain food imports from the European Union and the U.S. is a potential boon for Turkey just as Islamist insurgents in Iraq choke off trade to key markets for Turkish goods. Exporting food to Russia could also help make up for slowly recovering demand from the EU, Turkey's biggest market.
Shipping more fruit, vegetables and dairy products would also aid Turkey in plugging an annual trade deficit of about $20 billion with Russia.
"This is 100% positive, we need to seize this opportunity, Russia can devour everything we produce," said Ahmet Ozer, vice president of the general assembly at the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce. "We don't have energy like Russia, but we have agriculture, water and farmlands; we must work them and sell our produce."
Last year, Turkey sold $7 billion worth of goods to Russia, which Mr. Ozer said could jump by 25% as Moscow turns to Ankara, among others, for food it previously imported from Australia, Canada, Norway, the U.S. and the EU.
It says something about Recep Tayyip Erdogan's political audacity and his Justice and Development Party's (AKP) marketing chutzpah that despite the Turkish leader having served as prime minister for some twelve years they were still able to sell his victory in yesterday's presidential election as the starting point for a "New Turkey." After over a decade of thoroughly dominating Turkey's political scene, there is certainly very little that is new about Erdogan.
Erdogan's win does signal something new, and that is another chapter in what by now is the long-running story of the mercurial leader's very public quest for increased power. With his ascendancy to the president's office assured, Erdogan is now faced with some new challenges: namely, how to enhance his powers despite the constraints placed on the president by the constitution and Turkey's existing parliamentary system, and how to restructure the government so that this goal is best served and the AKP stays in power past the next parliamentary elections.
In a new briefing, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Turkey expert, Soner Cagaptay, lists the current powers available to the Turkish president -- from chairing cabinet meetings to vetoing bills -- and suggests Erdogan will push those to the limit (if not beyond) to maintain his dominance:
With the battle against the militants of the Islamic State (IS) heating up in Iraq and Turkey -- along with the United States and other countries -- getting involved by providing support for the Kurdish forces fighting there, it's clear that regional foreign policy questions will dominate Ankara's agenda for the foreseeable future.
As Turks head to polls on Sunday to elect a new president, a vote Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to win, the question now is what might Turkish foreign policy during his presidency look like, especially considering that Erdogan is widely expected to even further consolidate his power once he takes office?
Writing in The National Interest, analyst Sinan Ulgen lays out the fairly serious foreign policy challenges that Turkey's next president will face:
Turkey’s new government will also inherit a difficult foreign-policy portfolio. Erdogan’s initial vision to normalize the county’s relationships with its Southern neighbors and to position Turkey as a regional power interested in advancing peace and prosperity by emphasizing economic cooperation and mediation allowed Ankara to gain substantial ground. But Turkish policy makers misinterpreted the extent of the country’s growing soft-power influence by becoming overconfident about their ability to shape regional dynamics.
Kaymak, the beguiling Turkish version of clotted cream, seems to have a magical effect on people, leaving them longing for more days, even weeks and months, after they've tasted it.
Even more magical is the cloud-like kaymak doled out at Beşiktaş Kaymakcisi, an Istanbul institution better known as Pando's. Run by 92-year-old Pandelli Shestakof, the small shop has been in the family since 1895 and serves up what is perhaps Istanbul's most iconic plate of kaymak and honey, a breakfast combination that is awfully hard to beat.
Recently, some unsettling news has popped up: it appears that Pando's landlord is ordering the kaymak maker to vacate the premises so that they can be renovated an turned into a snack bar. Culinary Backstreets reports: