Greek banks close, “War of civilization,” Solar Impulse

Greek banks close, “War of civilization,” Solar Impulse

Photo: PPI/Zuma


Stocks in Europe, Asia and Australia dropped in early trading today as the world braces for what some fear could be a “black Monday.” A Greek debt default tomorrow appears likely, with the country edging closer to exiting the Eurozone after talks with creditors broke down over the weekend. The Greek government has imposed capital control measures after the European Central Bank froze available liquidity at 89 billion euros, which the Financial Times calls “plainly insufficient to accommodate any bank run.” Banks will be closed until July 7 as a result, and ATM cash withdrawals limited to 60 euros a day. The restrictions don’t apply to tourists.

  • Large crowds gathered outside banks all over Greece, with journalists reporting “scenes of panic.” Among those queuing are pensioners hoping to withdraw enough to get through the week. Read more from The Guardian’s live blog.

  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rejected a cash-for-austerity-reforms package late Friday, pledging to allow voters a say on any deal in a referendum to be held next Sunday. Eurozone ministers subsequently excluded Greece from their meeting and decided not to extend the bailout past tomorrow, when Athens is due to pay pensions and wages as well as make a $1.8 billion payment to the IMF. Eurogroup president and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselboem characterized Tsipras’ referendum decision as “sad,” while other ministers see the move as “a betrayal.”

  • Looking to Sunday’s promised referendum, newspaper To Vima writes that beyond the decision of whether to accept the creditors’ terms, the choice is likely to be whether to remain in the euro. “Inevitably, this is the question that the people will be called upon to answer,” the op-ed reads.

  • See European front pages about the Greek crisis in our Extra! feature.


“We cannot lose this war, because it is essentially a war of civilization,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French media Sunday, two days after an Islamist attack at a gas plant near Lyon.

  • On the other side of the Channel, his British counterpart David Cameron told the BBC that the fight against ISIS is “the struggle of our generation,” after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre of 38 tourists, 30 of them British citizens, on a Tunisian beach.

  • ISIS also claimed responsibility for the Friday blast in a Kuwait mosque during prayers. At least 27 people were killed. The group has released what it says is a posthumous recorded message of the bomber, a Saudi man.

  • ISIS fighters have executed more than 3,000 people, most of them civilians, since the organization proclaimed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria exactly one year ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


As the largest tobacco consumer in the world, China stunned everybody when it began imposing a tough smoking ban in Beijing this month. It comes as new smoking bans are being inaugurated in several other countries, particularly in Europe. Some 90 countries around the world now have anti-smoking legislation that just a few years ago would have been considered very strict. Worldcrunch offers an update in the global battle to clear the air. Read the full article, Smoking Bans Get Tougher Around The World.


Burundi protests against incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term continue to shake the country even as voters are called to polling stations in today’s parliamentary and local elections. According to Radio France Internationale, armed groups in the capital Bujumbura exchanged fire with police overnight and threw hand grenades at polling stations. The elections are taking place as planned despite national and worldwide calls for a delay. Read more in English from AFP.


Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt “is not payable,” the U.S. territory’s governor said, paving the way for a default that’s necessary to pull the island out of a “death spiral,” The New York Times reports. The move is likely to push borrowing costs higher for U.S. states.


A bomb attack in Cairo has left Egyptian prosecutor Hisham Barakat and two bodyguards wounded, though they are said to be "in good condition.” Barakat played a crucial role in the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since the 2013 ousting of Mohamed Morsi.


The World Cup final hosted in Sweden 57 years ago today was most notable for Brazil taking its first title in soccer’s ultimate tournament and for the global debut of 17-year-old Pelé. Time for your 57-second shot of history.


Israel’s navy intercepted and seized a Swedish-flagged ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists who were trying to break the Gaza blockade, The Times of Israel reports. Among the activists aboard were former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and Arab-Israeli Knesset member Basel Ghattas. The takeover took place without incident, unlike five years ago when a similar attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip ended with activists being killed by Israeli commandos.


Police have shot and detained David Sweat, the second of two inmates who escaped from a New York state prison three weeks ago. He and Richard Matt, who was shot and killed Friday, had left behind a note that read “Have a nice day.” Sweat was shot twice in the torso near the Canadian border, but sources told the New York Post he will survive.


After a month-long halt in Japan because of unfavorable weather conditions, the solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 and Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg took off this morning in an attempt to cross the Pacific and reach Hawaii in five days.

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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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