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OND banner

Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, December 18, 2012.

OND is a regular community feature on Daily Kos, consisting of news stories from around the world, sometimes coupled with a daily theme, original research or commentary.  Editors of OND impart their own presentation styles and content choices, typically publishing near 12:00AM Eastern Time.

Creation and early water-bearing of the OND concept came from our very own Magnifico - proper respect is due.


This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: Love Stinks by J. Geils Band

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Please feel free to browse and add your own links, content or thoughts in the Comments section.

Any timestamps shown are relative to each publication.


Top News
World Bank raises China growth forecast

By (BBC)
The World Bank has raised its growth forecast for China, saying stimulus measures and approval of infrastructure projects will help boost growth.

It added that the pick-up in factory output and investment "suggested that China's economy was bottoming out".

. . .

A slowdown in China's growth in recent months had prompted policymakers to announce various stimulus measures.

These include two interest rate cuts since June, and the approval of infrastructure projects worth more than $150bn (£94bn).

Suicide top cause of injury death

By (UPI)
Suicide is the leading cause of injury death in the United States, researchers say.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found substantial increases in suicide by hanging/suffocation and poisoning in the United States.

. . .

. . .

Suicide by firearm decreased by 24 percent among those ages 15-24 but increased by 22 percent among those ages 45-59, the study said.

EPA Targets Deadliest Pollution: Soot

By Elizabeth Shogren
he Environmental Protection Agency is targeting the deadliest common air pollutant out there. It's soot, the tiny particles that come from power plants and diesel exhaust. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports that last week, the EPA reduced the amount of soot it considers safe to breathe.

. . .

SHOGREN: Even relatively small amounts of these fine particles in the air can trigger heart attacks and contribute to lung cancer, diabetes and other deadly ailments. Soot comes from power plants, drilling rigs, diesel trucks and just about anything else that uses fossil fuels.

Under the EPA's new rule, communities will have to meet a stricter annual average for how much soot can be in the air. The new target will be about 20 percent tighter than the old one. About 66 counties - mostly in the East and California - would fail the test today.

. . .

However, it could cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Industry officials warn that the new standard will get in the way of economic recovery in some areas. Ross Eisenberg is a vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

. . .

SHOGREN: The United States already has made lots of progress in cleaning up fine particles over the decades. Recent epidemiological studies show that's paying off. Reducing soot in recent years has stretched the average lifespan by four months, and the new standard will keep up that trend.

Scientists Discover How HIV Virus Gains Access to Carrier Immune Cells to Spread Infection

By (ScienceDaily)
Scientists from the AIDS Research Institute IrsiCaixa have identified how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, enters the cells of the immune system enabling it to be dispersed throughout an organism. The new study is published December 18 in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

. . .

One of the reasons why we do not yet have a cure for HIV infection is that the virus infects cells of the immune system that would normally fight such an infection. The main targets of HIV are white blood cells named CD4 T lymphocytes (so called because they have the protein CD4 in their membrane), and while more than 20 different drugs are available today to help control HIV, all of them act by blocking the cycle that HIV follows to infect these CD4 T lymphocytes. However, these treatments do not fully act on another cell of the immune system, the dendritic cell, which takes up HIV and spreads it to target CD4 T lymphocytes.
. . .

The team then tried inhibiting the Siglec-1 protein. Doing so in the laboratory, they found that the dendritic cells lost their capacity to capture HIV and, importantly, they also lost their ability to transfer HIV to CD4 T lymphocytes. With all these data, the scientists concluded that Siglec-1 is the molecule responsible for HIV entrance into the dendritic cells, and could therefore become a new therapeutic target.

"We had the key and now we have found a lock," explains Javier Martínez-Picado. "Now we are already working on the development of a drug that could block this process to improve the efficacy of the current existing treatments against AIDS."

Asian countries head financial crimes list

By Jim Lobe
The developing world lost nearly US$1 trillion in 2010 as a result of corruption, tax evasion, and other financial crimes not involving cash transactions, according to a report by Global Financial Integrity (GFI). The six-year-old research and advocacy group said global financial corruption has grown steadily over the past decade despite unprecedented efforts by governments and non-governmental organizations to curb it.

. . .

That sum was approximately 10 times the roughly $88 billion provided to developing countries in official development assistance that same year. "This means that for every $1 in economic

. . .

"This means that much of the proceeds of drug trafficking, human smuggling, and other criminal activities, which are often settled in cash, are not included in these estimates," he added.

The 80-page report, "Illicit Financial Flows From Developing Countries: 2001-2010", found that China suffered the greatest losses resulting from illicit outflows a yearly average of $274 billion over the century's first decade, or $2.74 trillion from 2001 through 2010, and $420.36 billion in 2010 alone.

S Koreans vote in tight presidential election

By (Al Jazeera)
South Koreans have started casting their votes in a potentially historic presidential election that could result in Asia's fourth-largest economy getting its first female leader.

Polling stations opened on Tuesday, with polls showing a tight race between ruling conservative party candidate Park Geun-Hye and her liberal rival from the main opposition party, Moon Jae-In.

. . .

Both candidates' campaigns highlighted the need for "economic democratisation" - a campaign term about reducing the social disparities caused by rapid economic growth - and promised to create new jobs and increase welfare spending.

Zenit St Petersburg fans want black and gay players excluded

By (BBC)
The Russian champions' largest fans' group, Landscrona, said in an open-letter that black players are "forced down Zenit's throat".

 They added that gay players are "unworthy of our great city".

. . .

 Zenit were the only top-flight Russian team without a black player until this summer.

. . .

 Zenit's Italian head coach, Luciano Spalletti described the supporters' call as "stupidity", saying "tolerance for me is most of all the ability to understand and accept differences".

NBC reporter Richard Engel freed from Syria captors

By (BBC)
Three US journalists have escaped from heavily-armed captors during a firefight five days after being abducted in Syria.

. . .

Engel said they were driving through an area they thought was under rebel control, when about 15 heavily armed gunmen "jumped out of the trees and bushes on the side of the road".

. . .

At least one member of their rebel escort was shot dead "on the spot", Engel told NBC.

. . .

The NBC journalists lost their captors as they were being moved to a new location on Monday evening, when they ran into a checkpoint manned by a rebel group.

After a firefight at the checkpoint, two captors were killed and the NBC crew escaped.

Delhi bus gang rape: Sonia Gandhi visits hospital

By (BBC)
The chief of India's ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, has visited the Delhi hospital where a 23-year-old student who was gang-raped on a city bus is fighting for her life.

. . .

The woman remains in a critical condition, doctors say.

Police said they have arrested four people, including the bus driver, and are looking for two more people.

. . .

"It is a shame for us who are responsible for the security of our cities that a young woman can be raped in a moving bus in the capital of the country and flung on to the street," Ms Gandhi was quoted as writing to federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde by the Press Trust of India news agency.

. . .

Ms Gandhi said the security agencies "must be motivated, trained and equipped to deal with this menace".

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Gun makers fret as gun control consensus gains steam

By Kevin G. Hall and Lesley Clark
Manufacturers of the popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the type of weapon used last week in the Newtown, Conn., killings, girded for the worst Tuesday as gun control moved to the forefront of the legislative agenda in the nation’s capital and retailers pulled the weapon from store sales floors and websites.

. . .

One reason that last week’s killing spree was so deadly is that gunman Adam Lanza had large-capacity magazine clips that allowed him to fire multiple rounds before having to reload.

. . .

“Our sole business being the assault rifle, it is a concern that it will literally put us out of business,” said Ken Rinkor, vice president of Tactical Arms Manufacturer Inc. in Huntersville, N.C. “That is not for us to determine. If the general public decides to vote the way of banning assault rifles, then they can certainly do so, and we don’t have an opinion on how it will affect us.”

. . .

Private-equity giant Cerberus Capital Management LP announced Tuesday that it had hired a financial adviser and would begin the process of selling Freedom Group, the company it owns that makes the Bushmaster AR-15 military-style rifle, one of which was used to kill 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Aloha, Daniel Inouye; Senator and Amazing WWII Hero, Dead at 88

By Asawin Suebsaeng
On Monday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) passed away due to respiratory complications at the age of 88. His last word before dying was, according to his office's press release, "Aloha."

Inouye, the second longest serving senator in American history, was noted for his involvement in both the Watergate and Iran-contra investigations. He delivered the keynote at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He was the first Japanese American to serve in the US Congress. He was the father of Kenny Inouye, the guitar player in the DC hardcore punk band Marginal Man.
Barack Obama

. . .

Inouye also served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team—a unit made up almost entirely of Japanese Americans who wanted to show allegiance in the face of internment—during World War II. (The team went on to become the most decorated infantry regiment in US Army history.) He is probably best known for this one time in which he killed throngs of Nazis in a manner closely resembling the climactic scene in the movie The Wild Bunch. But unlike the protagonists in The Wild Bunch, he somehow made it out alive at the end.

Poll: U.S. opposed to big spending cuts

By (UPI)
Americans back higher taxes on the wealthy but not military or entitlement spending cuts in a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff," a poll released Tuesday found.

. . .

While 76 percent said Republicans in the House of Representatives are not willing enough to compromise, 57 percent faulted Obama. Half approve of Obama's handling of the economy and 54 percent say he is doing a good job overall, while 70 percent disapprove of the Republicans' overall performance.

. . .

Almost half, 47 percent, said they would blame the Republicans if there is no budget deal, 31 percent said they would blame Obama and 18 percent would blame both.

Welcome to the "Hump Point" of this OND.

News can be sobering and engrossing - at this point in the diary, an offering of brief escapism:

Random notes related to this video:

The 1980 album’s title cut was an anthem for star-crossed lovers everywhere, taking Parsons’ “Love Hurts” a step farther. In-and-out-of-love songs were always part of the Wolf/J. Geils Band arsenal (“Love-Itis,” “Lookin’ for a Love” and The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go?” among many others), but this one had to be particularly painful to perform.

Wolf’s five-year marriage to the glamorous Dunaway had ended the previous year, forcing admirers of the rare pair (name any other rock superstar/Oscar-winning actress twosome of the ’70s) to live vicariously through another set of lovebirds ready to spread their celebrity wings.

. . .

“Love Stinks,” still occasionally heard on classic radio stations, has invaded our pop culture in other ways. It was the title of a cinematic stinker in 1999, the words are printed on retro T-shirts (recently seen on a lovelorn male in the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, of all places) and the music is heard (perhaps too frequently) as the soundtrack to Febreze TV commercials.

Simple? Absolutely. Kitschy? Maybe.blowyourface_01New Wolf Brush (pages) Just remember that Rolling Stone heralded the song as “one of the great trash-rock singles of the ’80s, with a three-chord riff that later showed up as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ ”

The message was definitely clear. Wolf closed out that SNL episode in celebration, popping open a bottle of champagne, spraying it around and offering a swig to a startled Dangerfield, who took a gulp. If J. Geils’ lead singer was broken-hearted, he covered it up pretty well. Meanwhile, an even more enduring relationship was getting ready to crumble.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
EU declares no winner in carbon capture competition

By (Reuters via guardian.co.uk)
The first round of a European commission contest to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects failed to find a winner, the EU's executive said on Tuesday, deepening concerns that the technology will not be emerging soon to help cut emissions.

. . .

None of the short-listed projects for CCS, which entails trapping and burying carbon emissions from fossil fuel plants, made it to the final selection because of funding gaps or because projects did not sufficiently meet the criteria. Steelmaker ArcelorMittal withdrew its application for a French project, citing technical problems.

. . .

CCS is commercially unproven and expensive to build, but governments that seek to curb emissions from the carbon-intensive power industry want it to make a contribution in future. EU member governments had to confirm to the commission that they could fund 50% of the proposed projects.

World Bank Says Poor People Need Coal

By Kate Sheppard
Last week, I reported on environmental groups calling foul on the World Bank for even considering a proposal to finance a new coal-fired power plant in Mongolia. Funding the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine project, which also includes a 750 megawatt coal plant, was out of line with the Bank's stated concern that the world is heading to devastating and irreversible climate consequences.

Rio Tinto has asked the World Bank Group's private funding arm, International Finance Corporation, for part of the money needed to start construction on the project. IFC was not able to comment at press time, but did send a lengthy email response on Tuesday. Basically they argue that poor nations need energy, that the World Bank is increasingly shifting its focus toward renewables, and that renewable energy can't meet all of Mongolia's needs.

. . .

The argument that we shouldn't be "foreclosing on energy options that mean access to basic electricity for the world’s poorest people" is not directly relevant here. This coal plant is being built to power a mine and refining operations, not homes.

Secondly, I find the argument that climate change is not the fault of developing countries a bit disingenuous. Of course it's true, but the issue is that those countries are working toward industrialization. And right now major multinational financial institutions are supporting their efforts by building in dirty energy, rather than helping them skip over those old technologies. It wasn't all that long ago that China and India were "just" developing nations. Now we're all wringing our hands about their major contributions to global warming.

Science and Health
Cystic fibrosis woman died with smoker's donor lungs

By (BBC)
A 27-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis died of cancer after she was given the donor lungs of a smoker.

Jennifer Wederell, of Hawkwell, Essex, died at home in August - 16 months after the transplant at Harefield Hospital in London.

Colin Grannell said he believes his daughter would not have agreed to the transplant had she known the middle-aged donor was a heavy smoker.

The hospital has apologised for not giving her that choice.

Researcher: Pesky Microbe May Have Caused the Biggest Extinction in History

By Jason Mick
. . .

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Daniel Rothman has become the latest researcher to throw his hat in the paleontological ring, offering up an interesting alternate hypothesis of how such a catastrophic climate change incident may have been triggered, leading to the Earth losing so much biodiversity.

. . .

 He also observed that oceanic nickel levels spiked 251 million years ago, as volcanoes in Siberia dumped tons of molten nickely into the sea.

. . .

 Thus Professor Rothman suggests that methanosarcina likely exploited the rising nickel levels to transform carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane.  

. . .

 The loss of atmospheric carbon dioxide would likely have twin adverse impacts -- first as plants require carbon dioxide to produce sugars, there likely would be mass loss of foliage globally; second as methane is a more potent warming gas than carbon dioxide, temperatures likely would have spiked globally.

Ozone Levels Have Sizeable Impact On Worker Productivity

By (ScienceDaily)
Researchers in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health assessed the impact of pollution on agricultural worker productivity using daily variations in ozone levels. Their results show that ozone, even at levels below current air-quality standards in most parts of the world, has significant negative impacts on worker productivity. Their findings suggest that environmental protection is important for promoting economic growth and investing in human capital in contrast to its common portrayal as a tax on producers.

. . .

The researchers found that a 10 ppb (parts per billion) change in average ozone exposure results in a significant 5.5 percent change in agricultural worker productivity. "These estimates are particularly noteworthy as the U.S. EPA is currently moving in the direction of reducing federal ground-level ozone standards," said Dr.Neidell, PhD. This past September President Obama said he would not support a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten the federal ozone standard because it would pose too heavy a burden on businesses, which stunned public health experts and environmentalists.

Dr. Neidell also points out that in developing countries where environmental regulations are less strict and agriculture plays a more dominant role in the economy, the effects reported here may have a vast detrimental impact on a country's prosperity.

How QR Codes Work and Why They Suck So Hard

By Andrew Tarantola
. . .

 QR codes have long since expanded their usefulness beyond the automotive industry. They're used today in everything from inventory tracking, to shipping and logistics, to online ticketing (Fandango is a big fan). Bands put them on fliers to link to their videos on YouTube or set reminders for upcoming shows. Businesses use it to put Google Maps directions on a business card, automatically load a web page, or send a text/email to the company helpline. One enterprising wildlife refuge in Sanibel, Florida has installed the codes on signs along hiking trails and programmed them with information about the local fauna.

So with all these new and interesting ways to use this burgeoning technology—which, coincidentally, got a boost recently, when it was announced that the iPhone 5 would not include the competing NFC system—why aren't they more popular? . . .

This is due largely to the inherent limitations that QR suffers from. The system needs a steady hand to take the shot, the proper QR app to interpret it, and a data connection to load the webpage and content. So when advertisers put QR codes on freeway billboards, or on subway ads where there is little cell reception, and expect users to then go through the trouble of installing an app just to be taken to the desktop version of the corporate website, it's little wonder why nobody bothers with it.

Thick-headed advertisers aren't the only drawbacks to QR codes, though. The codes can also be used to transmit malicious code, in what's known as "attagging." Since anyone can create the codes, it's easy to write a bit of malware, put it in a QR code, and slap that code over a legitimate tag. Some sap scans the bad code and, if his permissions are set too loosely, the code could give itself access to everything from the camera to the contacts to the GPS data. Or it could connect to an infection site loaded with browser exploits. The phone an become part of a bot net, or be used to send unauthorized texts—hackers in Russia once used QR to commandeer phones to send $6 international SMS messages.

Foot forward: Walkability is the key to fixing cities

By Andrew Zaleski
. . .

In his new book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, Speck lays out something he calls his General Theory of Walkability. It’s not as platitudinous as one might think — Speck does own a car — but the book rests on the central point that cities designed for people, as opposed to those engineered for cars, will be the places of urban, demographic growth in the 21st century. If you build crosswalks, Speck’s theory goes, they will come.

. . .

A. It’s not a question of rules, it’s not a question of ideology. It’s a question of what’s practical, and on a daily basis I’ll make the decision whether to walk, ride my bike, take transit, or, God forbid, drive based on where I have to go and what’s easiest.

We’re gonna keep losing this argument as long as it’s some sort of moralistic hair shirt to ride a bike or walk. We just need to make places that cause people to find those choices both practical and pleasurable.

. . .

Q. How much is urban revitalization dependent on the political party in power?

A. The changes that are happening on the ground in many American cities now … [have] very little to do with any sort of political dominance at the local level. Many of the most wonderfully conservative, in the true sense of the word, achievements in American cities have been the work of conservatives. The Portland Growth Boundary was a Republican effort. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, but I give credit where it’s due. I don’t see any relation between a state’s political climate, nationally or even locally, and people’s desire to see their downtowns have street life. My clients in Grand Rapids? Extremely Republican. My clients in Oklahoma City? Republican.

Facebook forces Instagram users to allow it to sell their uploaded photos

By Charles Arthur
Facebook has infuriated users of the photo-sharing and filtering service Instagram by changing its terms of service to allow it to sell peoples' uploaded photos or related data.

. . .

The change may give a boost to Yahoo's photo-sharing service Flickr, which last week launched a new mobile app, and which gives users full control over the rights to their pictures. Although Flickr has resale deals in place with a number of companies, it shares revenue from those with users and only uses photos with users' explicit permission.

. . .

That means that Instagram photos could be used in advertising, without reference to the owner, with all the payments going to Instagram. There is no opt-out from that use except to stop using the service and to delete your photos.

. . .

The announcement has led to a number of services springing up to let people download their existing Instagram pictures into another archive and even delete them, such as recollect.com.

Dead Sea Scrolls go digital on Internet

By (UPI)
. . .

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Google have completed a project to create an archive of online high-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old scrolls, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

Google's research and development center in Israel worked with the antiquities authority for two years to upload digitized images of thousands of fragments of the scrolls, a window into the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus.

"What's exciting about this launch is that users from all over the world can access these ancient scrolls, through wherever they are, and they can experience them through any device, anywhere in the world," Yossi Matias, head of the Google-Israel R&D center, said.

Who, What, Why: Why do Japanese politicians wave fish?

By (BBC)
The politician was Shinjiro Koizumi, son of the retired former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who was re-elected to represent his father's former constituency for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

The fish was a tai, usually translated into English as "sea bream", or "red sea bream", or sometimes just as "snapper".

. . .

One reason given for this in Japan is the similarity between the word "tai", and the word for "joyous", "auspicious" or "deserving celebration" -  o-medetai.

. . .

"It's what sumo wrestlers do," he says. "The bigger the fish the better, it shows how tough they are."

When politicians do it, "it's mainly about mimicking what sumo wrestlers are seen to do after they win a tournament".

Childrearing advice from the Kansas State Board of Health, 1900-1920

By Cory Doctorow
KS BOH 1900-20
Ireland to clarify abortion rules following woman’s death

By Samantha Stainburn
Ireland’s government announced today that it would draft new legislation and introduce regulations that clearly identify the limited circumstances under which abortion is legal in the Catholic country, Reuters reported.

. . .

In Ireland, doctors are only permitted to perform abortions when the life of a mother is in danger, the Los Angeles Times reported. However, physicians often decline to abort fetuses when women are at risk of complications since the guidelines of what is legal are unclear.

. . .

The European Court of Human Rights ruled two years ago that Ireland had failed to protect the lives of women and needed to clear up its abortion rules to comply with European Union law.

. . .

The four Catholic bishops of Ireland criticized the government’s announcement in a joint statement today, the BBC reported. "If what is being proposed were to become law, the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland would be fundamentally changed,” they said. "It would pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children. This can never be morally justified in any circumstances."

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