Syrian Kurds, Mars Climate Change, Car-Free Day

Turkish authorities clamp down at border crossings.
Turkish authorities clamp down at border crossings.

Turkish authorities have closed some of the country’s border crossings with Syria after ISIS’ advance has caused some 130,000 Syrian Kurds to flee to Turkey over the past two days, the BBC reports. But after clashes with the refugees on the border, with Turkish troops using water canons and tear gas, British newspaper The Independent writes, “Turkey accused of colluding with ISIS,” as the jihadist group on Saturday released 49 Turkish diplomats and their families held captive for three months. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters in Syria said they had halted ISIS’s march towards the city of Kobani, located near the border with Turkey.

"I don't think it's one of those things we should hang around with forever," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said today of the country's flag. Key plans a referendum on ditching the Union Jack in favor of a new flag sometime next year.

Former British Prime Minister and the UN's Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair said that ground troops were needed to defeat ISIS, though he said the lack of “appetite for ground engagement in the West” meant this could be done by local powers. This comes as the terrorist group called on militants to attack Egypt’s security forces while an alleged document posted online tells fighters that “the best thing you can do is to strive to your best and kill any disbeliever, whether he be French, American, or from any of their allies.”

437,500 EUROS
The marriage document signed by the future Napoleon I and his fiancée Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, or Josephine — dated March 8, 1796 — sold at auction yesterday for 437,500 euros.

A controversial three-day curfew aimed at containing the Ebola outbreak has ended in Sierra Leone, with authorities hailing the lockdown as successful. They were able to identify dozens of new infections and locate at least 92 bodies. Meanwhile, pupils in Nigeria won’t be returning to school today in at least 15 of the country’s 36 states because teachers are demanding safety measures to protect them and their students, Punch reports.

NASA’s Mars spacecraft Maven began orbiting around our neighbor planet yesterday as part of a year-long mission to study how the Red Planet’s climate changed over time, causing it to lose its atmosphere. According to AFP, the findings could tell scientists more about the planet’s potential to support life, both in the past and in the future, with the first manned visits planned for 2030.

Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates have put an end to months of discord over the June election result and reached a deal for a “unity government.” Ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani will become the new president while his opponent Abdullah Abdullah will be granted a CEO role equivalent to that of a prime minister. The U.S. welcomed the deal and voiced hope that a crucial security agreement could be signed within a week. Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News writes in an editorial that the new government has a tough job on its hands and that “the spotlight will also be on the international community on whom the new government will rely for aid to see it through the first few challenging years.”

Emmy-winning actress and singer Polly Bergen, perhaps best known for her roles opposite Gregory Peck in Cape Fear and the first woman president in Kisses for My President, has died at age 84.

The families of the three German citizens who died in the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July are planning to sue Ukrainian authorities for negligence and will demand 1 million euros per victim, German tabloid Bild am Sonntag reported. The families’ lawyer, Elmar Giemulla, argued that Ukraine should have closed its airspace if it couldn't guarantee the security of planes above the conflict zone. "Since that didn't happen, Ukraine is liable for damages," he said. Read more in English from Deutsche Welle.

As Die Welt’s Dennis Sand reports, DJ Antoine is one of the most successful DJs on the planet, with more than 60 CD releases, over three million audio recordings sold, 39 Gold Awards, seven Platinum Awards, four Double Platinum Awards, etc. He is in fact the perfect prototype for the new DJ. “In the 1980s, a DJ was basically a manual worker whose role was to get people to dance,” Sand writes. “The music he played was the important thing, and there was no cult of personality. Things changed in the 1990s, and DJs became artists who didn't just mix other peoples' music but created their own too. In the new millennium, DJs went from artists to rock stars and became classic pop products.”
Read the full article, A Night Out With DJ Antoine And Paris Hilton.

Today is World Car-Free Day, an annual occasion to ditch your wheels in favor of more sustainable transportion. Unfortunately, the initiative doesn’t seem to be gaining traction in Beijing.

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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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