eyes on the U.S.

Obama Inauguration: Four More Years, Top 10 History Quiz To Swear By

REUTERS, TELEGRAPH (UK), CNN, SENATE.GOV (USA)

Worldcrunch

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Barack Obama will be sworn in Monday as the President of The United States for a second time. A swearing-in ceremony, parade and an inaugural ball will mark the event.

A private ceremony took place on Sunday because the U.S. Constitution mandates that the president take office on January 20.

photo: White House via Wikipedia

The ceremony will take place on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., followed by an address to the nation from Obama.

Reuters reports that in is inaugural address, Obama is expected to talk about the need for political compromise where possible, a reminder of the intense battles in his first term that led to paralysis and dysfunction in Washington. His top policy goals for the first year, so far, include tightening gun regulations in response to the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Conneticut elementary school in December. Obama is seeking an overhaul of immigration laws and tax reform.

With January 21 falling on the national holiday that celebrates Dr Martin Luther King Jr., a personal idol for the POTUS, Obama will also have a chance to draw historic parallels. While taking the oath on Monday, he will place his left hand on two Bibles - one once owned by Abraham Lincoln and the other by King.

Here's 10 things you didn't know about inaugurations:

1. Until Franklin Pierce in 1853, instead of putting one’s left hand on it, the President kissed the bible. - CNN

2.Three Presidents didn’t even use a bible: John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. - CNN

3. George W Bush had the Masonic bible used by George Washington in 1789 flown in under armed guard for his first ceremony but due to poor weather, a family bible was substituted. - senate.gov

4. Obama will be the first President to take the oath both privately as well as a publicly. - CNN

5. Bill Clinton was the first President to embrace technology and have his inauguration streamed live on the Internet. - senate.gov

6. By Monday, Obama will have been sworn in four times, two for each term, matching Franklin Roosevelt, who won four terms. A second Obama swearing-in was deemed necessary in 2009 when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the first one. - Reuters

7. George Washington delivered the shortest address at his second inauguration in Philadelphia. It totaled 135 words - tweetable for sure! - CNN

8. Lyndon Johnson is the only President to take the oath on an airplane - Air Force One en route to Washington after the assassination of JFK. - senate.gov

9. The first time women participated in the ceremony was during Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration. - senate.gov

10. Obama seemed a bit distracted before the ceremony, declaring: "I love Michelle Obama. And to address the most significant event of this weekend, I love her bangs!” - Telegraph

The First Lady just met with Inaugural citizen co-chair David Hall ahead of #MLKDay of Service: 2013pic.org/service twitter.com/FLOTUS/status/…

— FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) January 17, 2013

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Ideas

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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