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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, current leader Neon Vincent, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999. Alumni editors include (but not limited to) palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7 and BentLiberal. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

Please feel free to share your articles and stories in the comments.

TOP STORY headline

Guardian
 

Officials in the small industrial town of Steubenville in Ohio have launched a campaign to rebut claims of a cover-up in the investigation of an alleged gang rape involving stars of the "Big Red" high-school football team.

The Steubenville town authorities, in league with the local police force, have set up a website through which they attempt to counter a tidal wave of criticism that has been unleashed against them through social media sites and by hackers led by the collective Anonymous.

Titled Steubenville Facts, the site seeks to debunk claims of a cosy relationship between the authorities and a football team that is the dominant local feature of a community that has fallen on hard times.

Over the past few weeks Steubenville, an old steel mill and coal mining town in the Appalachian area of eastern Ohio, has become embroiled in a bitter dispute over an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in the course of a night of parties frequented by Big Red players. Two of the most celebrated players on the team, quarterback Trent Mays and wide receiver Ma'lik Richmond, both 16, have been charged with rape and are scheduled to stand trial on 13 February. Both boys deny the accusations.

Intro

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US NEWS

Reuters
 

President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator, as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA, urging the U.S. Senate to confirm them quickly.

Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, would replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. Critics have already launched attacks over Hagel's record on Israel and Iran.

NPR

So why did President Obama choose Chuck Hagel to be his new defense secretary?

First, Hagel is Obama's kind of Republican. The former senator from Nebraska is a realist and pragmatist who hasn't been afraid to buck the orthodoxy of his chosen party, for instance when Hagel opposed the Iraq War.

In that way, he's a lot like Obama, another foreign policy and national security realist who has been willing at times to upset those in his own party. The use of drone strikes against alleged terrorist targets — some of whom have been U.S. citizens — has angered any number of Democrats.

In his remarks Monday afternoon, the president noted that he prized Hagel's independence of mind and willingness to take politically unpopular positions. That's just what you would expect to hear from a president who has made Abraham Lincoln's "team of rivals" approach to choosing a Cabinet his White House touchstone.

Al Jazeera
 

Prosecutors have revealed the first extensive public details of last year's mass shooting at a Colorado movie theatre, outlining their case against the man suspected of killing 12 people and wounding at least 58.

The hearing on Monday will determine whether the case will go to trial. Legal analysts said evidence appears to be so strong that James Holmes may accept a plea agreement before trial.

Holmes is charged with more than 160 counts in the Colorado attack, including murder and attempted murder.

Investigators say he was wearing body armour and a gas mask when he tossed two gas canisters and opened fire in the cinema on July 20.

On Monday, a police officer who arrested Holmes said he at first thought he was a fellow officer because he was wearing body armour.

Then the officer realised he was wrong because Holmes was not running towards the scene.

Police officers who arrested Holmes described him as unusually relaxed but fidgety at times, that he seemed detached and volunteered that his apartment had been booby trapped.

BBC
 

Bank of America has agreed to pay US government mortgage agency Fannie Mae $11.6bn (£7.2bn) to settle claims relating to residential home loans.

The bank will pay $10.3bn to settle claims relating to the loans and $1.3bn compensation to the agency.

Fannie Mae argued the bank sold it toxic debts and should be responsible for the losses it suffered.

Separately, 10 big mortgage providers agreed to pay $8.5bn compensation for mistakes in repossessing homes.

The banks include Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo. They will pay $3.3bn directly to homeowners, some of whom should not have lost their homes, regulators said.

Individual owners will receive anything from a few hundred dollars to $125,000.

Loan assistance and write-offs will make up the remaining $5.2bn.

BBC

 

USA striker Abby Wambach has been voted the Fifa women's world player of the year at the Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich.
Wambach, 32, who was named as player of the tournament as USA won London 2012 Olympic gold, beat Brazil star Marta and team-mate Alex Morgan to the award.

"Winning any individual award is a product of the team you play for," she said. "I've never scored a goal without receiving a pass from my team-mates."
Sweden's ex-USA coach Pia Sundhage was named women's coach of the year.
The award capped a fantastic year for Wambach, who scored five goals to help the USA defend their Olympic title.
She won the Golden Ball, given to the tournament's best player, and also claimed the Golden Boot after finishing as top scorer.

Guardian

 

The process for admitting the public into the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama has been thrown into confusion after the agency handling the sale released tickets a day early, angering hopefuls who missed out.

Ticketmaster, on behalf of the organising committee, sent an email late on Sunday night to people who had signed up for updates on the inauguration ball, parade and other events, and declared the sale open.

Subscribers had previously been told that tickets would not go on sale until Monday morning, angering many who did not see the unexpected message that tickets had been released early.

The email on Sunday night, signed by David Cusack, the executive director of the inauguration committee, read: "We urge you to accept your tickets and complete your order via the ticketing website as soon as possible." It seems many took the advice and the inauguration events quickly sold out, leading to expressions of outrage online.

After numerous complaints were posted to social networking websites on Sunday, Ticketmaster sent an email shortly after midnight saying that the invitation to purchase tickets had been sent "inadvertently".

The second email read: "During testing of our email system tonight, you may have inadvertently received an invitation to purchase tickets for 2013 inauguration events, including the Inaugural Ball or the Inaugural Parade.

"Public tickets to these events were originally scheduled to go on sale tomorrow morning – you received the email tonight in error, and Ticketmaster takes responsibility for this mistake.

CNN
 

One day, Urooj Khan literally jumped for joy after scoring a $1 million winner on an Illinois lottery scratch ticket.
The next month, he was dead.

The Cook County medical examiner's office initially ruled Khan's manner of death natural. But after being prompted by a relative, the office revisited the case and eventually determined there was a lethal amount of cyanide in Khan's system.
"That ... led us to issue an amended death certificate that (established) cyanide toxicity as the cause of death, and the manner of death as homicide," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steve Cina said Monday.

Why did Khan, an Indian immigrant who was described as a well-liked, hardworking and successful businessman, die? And who is responsible?
Finding that out is now up to the Chicago police. No arrests have been made.
"We are investigating it as a murder, and we're working closely with the medical examiner's office," Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said Monday.

WORLD NEWS

Reuters
 

Five men accused of raping and murdering an Indian student were read the charges in a near-empty courtroom on Monday after the judge cleared out lawyers for bickering over whether the men deserved a defense.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died two weeks after being gang-raped and beaten on a moving bus in New Delhi, then thrown bleeding onto the street. Protests followed, along with a fierce public debate over police failure to stem rampant violence against women.

With popular anger simmering against the five men and a teenager accused in the case, most lawyers in the district where the trial will be held refuse to represent them.

Before the men arrived for a pre-trial hearing on Monday, heckling broke out in a chamber packed with jostling lawyers, journalists and members of the public after two of the lawyers, Manohar Lal Sharma and V. K. Anand, offered to defend the men.

Reuters
 

Fighting raged across Syria on Monday with clashes reported just a few miles from where President Bashar al-Assad had unveiled a "peace plan" that Syrians on both sides said would do nothing to end a 21-month-old uprising.

Hours after Assad addressed cheering loyalists at the Damascus Opera House on Sunday in his first public speech in months, fighting erupted near the road to the city's international airport, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The opposition-linked group said artillery hit the district of Aqraba, 3 miles from the Opera House. Fighting continued all night and into Monday around the capital, as well as in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, it said.

In central Syria, the towns of Taybet Imam and Halfaya were bombarded with aerial strikes and artillery, said Abu Faisal, an activist speaking over the internet from Taybet Imam.

Al Jazeera
 
Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the prime minister's residence in Nepal for a 10th day to protest against the alleged rape and robbery of a maid by officials and other violence against women.

The protesters chanted slogans on Sunday demanding the government punish those involved in crimes against women and that authorities do more to protect women in the Himalayan nation.

Activists have called the campaign "Occupy Baluwatar" in reference to the upscale Kathmandu neighbourhood where Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai's residence is located.

Sita Rai, an assumed name used by the 21-year-old maid to protect her identity, says she was robbed at Kathmandu's international airport by officials and then subsequently raped by a policeman, as she returned to the capital from Saudi Arabia.

Police have since made several arrests in Rai's case and Bhattarai has spoken of his "shame" over the government's response to her complaint.

The "Occupy Baluwatar" activists, including rights workers, housewives and journalists, staged a street drama depicting scenes of abuse and were holding up photographs of victims of rape, murders and kidnappings, accusing the government of failing to act in each case.

A thick line of riot police kept them away from prime minister's residence.

Guardian
 

The Afghan president is on his way to Washington for what is likely to be a tense visit, with the two uneasy allies set to discuss details of a long-term US military presence in the central Asian nation.

Hamid Karzai, who will meet Barack Obama, wants Washington to stump up for planes, helicopters, heavy weapons and other advanced military equipment for Afghanistan's still-shaky armed forces. He also wants more aid money to be channelled through ministries rather than spent by western aid agencies.

The US president is weighing up how many of its troops should remain in Afghanistan when the Nato-led combat mission there ends in 2014. But any plan needs Afghan approval, and hanging over the discussions is the question of immunity for US soldiers.

Iraq's refusal to agree to this condition in effect ended the US presence there, and there are fears it could be a major obstacle to a long-term US presence in Afghanistan. Karzai, who has criticised Nato and US measures he believes violate national security, admitted this could be a stumbling block in talks.

Guardian
 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "insoluble" and most Israelis "couldn't care less about it any more", according to Naftali Bennett, the surprise star of the election campaign, whose extreme rightwing nationalist and pro-settler Jewish Home is within sight of becoming the country's second biggest party.

In an interview with the Guardian, Bennett said he did not intend to waste the next four years "babbling about Israel and the Palestinians", and defended his plan to annex most of the West Bank in the face of international opposition, which was the "result of ignorance".

"There is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel," he said, referring to the area from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean. "It's just not going to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years."

Bennett acknowledged that Binyamin Netanyahu was almost certain to continue as prime minister following the election on 22 January, but added: "The big question is the question of power. If we get enough seats in the next Knesset [parliament], we'll become the biggest and most influential partner in Netanyahu's next government."

Spiegel Online
 

Ireland's reform policies have been widely praised for helping it emerge from the crisis, but the truth is bleaker. If the government fails to get European taxpayers to assume some of the risk of its ailing banking sector, the country could soon require another bailout.

In his home country, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, 61, has a reputation for being somewhat wooden. But when he meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top German politicians, he's capable of unaccustomed gallantry, as the Irish have noted with surprise. For instance, Kenny has recently proved that he's a master of the diplomatic art known as "air kissing."

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Reuters
 

Apple Inc faces long odds in its attempt to overturn a U.S. appeals court ruling that threatens to undermine its smartphone patent war against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Apple has asked the full Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit an October decision by a three-judge panel of the court, which rejected its request to impose a sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone ahead of a trial set for March 2014.

In that ruling, the Washington D.C.-based appeals court raised the bar for potentially market crippling injunctions on product sales based on narrow patents for phone features. The legal precedent puts Samsung in a much stronger position by allowing its products to remain on store shelves while it fights a global patent battle against Apple over smartphone technology.

Apple hopes the full Federal Circuit, made up of nine active judges, will reverse the panel's findings. But legal experts say the specific legal issues involved are not likely to be controversial enough to spur full court review.

Discover
 
Apophis is a big name in the world of asteroids, and on Wednesday the famed space object will be making an appearance for astronomers across the globe.

A flurry of apocalyptic hoopla was generated in 2004 when astronomers found an asteroid that looked like it may be headed for Earth. Apophis measures almost 1000 feet across, and if it were to hit Earth, the fateful collision would occur on Friday the 13th, in April of 2029. So astronomers set out to take more pictures of the asteroid’s orbit and better estimate the chances of a collision. As a clearer picture of its orbit emerged, the odds went from 1 in 300, to 1 in 45, to zero. But that doesn’t mean the threat is gone.

Because Apophis orbits the Earth Apophis’s orbit usually places the asteroid between the Earth and the sun, so it is often lost in the glare of the sun and is therefore hard to see with telescopes. But on Wednesday, January 9 the asteroid will cross outside Earth’s orbit and offer astronomers a quick and clearer glimpse of the flying chunk of rock. Astronomers are hoping to figure out the asteroid’s mass and spin direction, factors which impact its orbit. They also want to know if the gravitational pull from a close call with Earth in 2029 could change the asteroid’s orbit and cause a bigger issue when it comes back around a few years later.

Science Daily
 

Despite the decline in cancer death rates in the U.S., there is an increase in incidence rates for cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and more efforts are needed to increase HPV vaccination coverage levels to prevent the occurrence of these cancers in the future according to a study published Jan. 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) annually provide updates on trends in cancer incidence and death rates in the United States. This year's report highlighted trends in incidence rates for HPV associated cancers and HPV vaccination coverage levels. Two HPV vaccines (bivalent and quadrivalent) have been shown to protect against most cervical cancers in women and one vaccine (quadrivalent) also protects against genital warts and cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva. There is no data available on vaccine efficacy for prevention HPV-associated cancers of the oropharynx.

Science Daily
 

Jan. 7, 2013 — The center of our Milky Way galaxy is a wondrous place full of huge star clusters, dust clouds, magnetic filaments and a supermassive black hole. But it can be a confusing place, too, posing challenges to astronomers trying to image these exotic features and learn more about where they are located in the galaxy.

Northwestern University's Farhad Zadeh has discovered a new tool for detecting dusty clouds and stars: simply take a picture using radio waves. He is the first to identify what he calls radio dark clouds and stars. Stars in the early and late phases of their evolution are shrouded by huge dusty envelopes in the form of dust and gas outflows.

BBC
 
Sony has announced a new smartphone that can be used in the shower or bath without the risk of damage.

This water-resistant feature is relatively common in Japan, but has not been included in many top-end smartphones released elsewhere.

The Xperia Z can also record HDR (high dynamic range) video, a facility borrowed from its camera division.

One analyst said it was evidence of Sony Mobile making progress but added "it still had a mountain to climb".

The Japanese company announced it was taking control of the smartphone unit - which had previously been a joint venture with Ericsson - in October 2011.

Sony posted a full-year loss of 56.7bn yen ($5.7bn; £3.5bn) in May and has continued to lose money over subsequent quarters.

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