Assad On Refugees, HP Layoffs, In Defense Of Late Risers

Assad On Refugees, HP Layoffs, In Defense Of Late Risers


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that Moscow’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “risks exacerbating and extending the conflict” amid growing concerns over reports of Moscow’s military build-up in Syria. Reuters reports that the Tuesday phone call between Kerry and Lavrov is believed to be the third in the past ten days.

  • Both sides are eager to defeat ISIS, but differences on Assad remain, with Washington wary of any move that might reinforce the Syrian government. French daily Le Monde reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin will use a speech at the United Nations later this month to call for an international coalition to join with Assad to defeat the Islamist group.
  • Australia has carried out its first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, expanding its operations from Iraq. France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian meanwhile told radio station France Inter this morning that France will begin its own strikes “in a few weeks.”
  • In an interview with Russian network RT, Syrian President Assad criticized “European double standards” as the source of the refugee crisis coming out of his country. “It’s like the West now is crying for the refugees with one eye and aiming at them with a machine gun with the second one,” Assad said. “If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists.” He also said that “forces” that were previously fighting against the Syrian government were now fighting “alongside the Syrian state” against jihadists.


A first group of 150 migrants have crossed from Serbia into Croatia this morning, in forced changes to what’s become known as the Balkan route after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia and imposed tough legislation to halt the influx, the BBC reports. From Croatia, a recent European Union member that nevertheless still sits outside of the Schengen area, the populations are hoping to reach Slovenia (a Schengen state) before moving to Austria or Germany. Croatia’s Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said the country had prepared an “emergency plan in the case of an influx of thousands of refugees.” Read more in English from Deutsche Welle.

  • The route through Croatia is potentially dangerous, with some fearing the migrants might stray into minefields along the border with Serbia, the remains of the 1990s war.
  • Over the past 24 hours, Greek coast guards have rescued 773 people attempting to reach the country by boat from Turkey in 19 separate search and rescue operations.

The United Nations has criticized the “virtual silence” regarding the grave situation of civilians in the ongoing Yemen conflict, in which at least 2,000 civilians have been killed and 4,000 wounded. At least 54 people, including 4 children, were killed yesterday across the country, in airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.


Photo: Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/ZUMA

California’s “Valley wildfire,” one of the worst in the state's history, has grown to 104 square miles and is only 30% contained. It has already destroyed 600 homes, forcing 23,000 people to flee. Dozens of fires are currently raging in Oregon, California and Washington state.


Populations of tuna and mackerel have dropped by a staggering 74% since 1970, as a result of overfishing, carbon emissions and, to a lesser extent, climate change, a report by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London shows. The study, which took into account more than 1,200 species shows that the global marine population has declined by 49% in the last 45 years. Read more from the BBC.


Die Welt reports on the back-to-school debate in Germany over when classes should start â€" and how much sleep students need. “People are forced to go against their body clock, which Roenneberg calls ‘genetic discrimination.’ Exams at school and university should not take place before 11 a.m. at the earliest, he says, which would eliminate the worst discrimination towards late risers.”

Read the full article, School Wake-Up Call: The Case For Letting Students Sleep Later.


Satellite imagery analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an American think tank, purportedly shows that China is building a third airstrip in the disputed South China Sea. A report published by AP says the airstrip is located on a Chinese artificial island, Mischief Reef, in an area that is critical for the Philippines and which is believed to hold large, unexplored gas and oil reserves. Commenting on the report, a Chinese military expert told the South China Morning Post that the airstrips were necessary to break the U.S. stronghold on the area.


Forty-four years ago, one of the most hilarious comedians was born … This, and more, in your 57-second shot of history.


Hewlett Packard announced plans to split its activities into two separate businesses and to cut between 25,000 and 30,000 jobs, about 10% of its workforce, in a bid to save $2.7 billion annually, The Wall Street Journal reports. The new layoffs are in addition to the 55,000 that have already been lost


Beijing officials have pledged to make it easier for foreigners to obtain permanent residence permits in China, in a move to “recruit more overseas talent and further attract foreign investment,” China Daily writes. The Chinese green card is one of the most difficult to get, with only 5,000 permanent residence permits issued between 2004 and 2013.



For years, Facebook users have been complaining about the lack of a “dislike” button. And it seems Mark Zuckerberg has finally heard them, admitting yesterday that Facebook was “working on it.” Except it might not be exactly what people expect.

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Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

Ad scuba-diver and brain coral

Stefano Lupieri

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Addictions to sex and social media

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image

Lindsay Hanford and Geoff B Hall via Wikipedia

Tweaking genetics 

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Les Echos
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