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OND banner

Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

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: Hide Away by Freddie King

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
Eric Holder says leak to AP was 'very serious'

By (BBC)
The AP has said the justice department secretly seized records of outgoing calls from more than 20 phone lines.

. . .

The phone records were obtained for April and May last year, covering a period when AP published an article about a CIA operation in Yemen disrupting an al-Qaeda plot to blow up a US-bound airplane around the anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

. . .

The May 2012 story was potentially embarrassing to the US authorities, coming shortly after they had informed the public there was nothing to suggest any such attack had been planned, say correspondents.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the attorney general said: "I have been a prosecutor since 1976 and I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I have ever seen.

. . .

He told reporters the decision to go ahead with the Associated Press records subpoena was taken under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General James Cole after he removed himself from the inquiry.

IG Report Says IRS Has No Idea What Its Own Rules

By Kevin Drum
The Inspector General's report on the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS is now out, and I was hoping there might be some interesting tidbits now that we can see the whole thing. Not really, though. Mainly, it paints a drearily predictable picture of bureaucratic FUBARism, with various groups in various places either misunderstanding each other; not responding to each other; or assuming that stuff was getting done that, in fact, wasn't getting done. Anyone who reads Dilbert regularly gets the picture.

But the soporific paragraph below actually tells us something pretty important. In fact, it's the heart of the whole issue:

In April 2012, the Senior Technical Advisor to the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, along with a team of EO function Headquarters office employees, reviewed many of the potential political cases and determined that there appeared to be some confusion by Determinations Unit specialists and applicants on what activities are allowed by I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) organizations. We believe this could be due to the lack of specific guidance on how to determine the “primary activity” of an I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) organization. Treasury Regulations state that I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) organizations should have social welfare as their “primary activity”; however, the regulations do not define how to measure whether social welfare is an organization’s “primary activity.”
Did you get get that? IRS regs say that 501(c)4 groups can't primarily be engaged in political activity. Instead, their "primary activity" has to be social welfare. To call this vague would be a disservice to mirages and chimeras everywhere. How the hell are actual human beings sitting in cubicles in Cincinnati supposed to decide whether a group is planning to spend more than 50 percent of its time engaged in something other than social welfare? For that matter, how are they supposed to decide what "social welfare" is in the first place?
'Owning' a Darker Skin Can Positively Impact Racial Bias, Study Finds

By (ScienceDaily)
Scientists from Royal Holloway University have found that when white Caucasians are under the illusion that they have a dark skin, their racial bias changes in a positive way.
. . .

Using Caucasian participants, the scientists tested their implicit attitudes towards people with dark skin before using a dark-skinned rubber hand to make them feel as if this was their own hand. They then tested their racial attitudes again after the experiment.

The results found that the more intense the participants' illusion of owning the dark-skinned rubber hand, the more positive their racial attitudes became.

. . .

Dr Manos Tsakiris, who led the research, said: "Often formed at an early age, negative racial attitudes are thought to remain relatively stable throughout adulthood. Our results show that we can positively alter them by understanding how the brain is processing sensory information from our bodies and that of others. It will be interesting to replicate the effect with different social groups and see if we can generalise these findings outside of a laboratory setting."

What Is TPP? The Biggest Global Threat to the Internet Since ACTA

The United States and ten governments from around the Pacific are meeting yet again to hash out the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) on May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. The TPP is one of the worst global threats to the Internet since ACTA. Since the negotiations have been secretive from the beginning, we mainly know what's in the current version of this trade agreement because of a leaked draft [PDF] from February 2011. . .

The stated goal of the TPP is to unite the Pacific Rim countries by harmonizing tariffs and trade rules between them, but in reality, it's much more than that. The "intellectual property" chapter in this massive trade agreement will likely force changes to copyright and patent rules in each of the signatory countries. Accepting these new rules will not just re-write national laws, but will also restrict the possibility for countries to introduce more balanced copyright laws in the future. This strategy may end up harming other countries' more proportionate laws . . .

The content industry can and will continue to buy and lie to get their way to get laws that protects their interests, and what they want more than anything is for us to remain passively ignorant. They did it with SOPA, ACTA, and now it's TPP [ESP]. It's going to be a challenge to defeat these policies, but we can do it. The TPP is slated for conclusion this October, but our goal is to get the worst of these copyright provisions out of it. The way to fight back is to show that we will not put up with this: to demand an open transparent process that allows everyone, including experts from civil society members, to analyze, question, and probe any initiatives to regulate the Internet. The secrecy must be stopped once and for all.

Nigeria president declares state of emergency

By (Al Jazeera)
Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, has imposed a "state of emergency" in three states in an attempt to curb the increasingly violent attacks by armed group Boko Haram, saying the level of violence called for "extraordinary measures".

The decision comes after a spate of attacks on security forces and government targets by Boko Haram in its northeast stronghold this month.

. . .

Jonathan said more troops would "immediately" be deployed to the areas.

He made a similar move in January 2012 following a spate of Boko Haram attacks, but in that case the decree only applied to specific local government areas in four states.

Who are the Guptas?

By (BBC)
Following the recent outrage in South Africa when a plane carrying Indian guests to a Gupta family wedding landed at a military air base, the BBC's Milton Nkosi asks: Who are the Guptas and how close are their links to President Jacob Zuma?

. . .

So what gave the Gupta family the confidence to even think of requesting to land their chartered Airbus A330 at an Air Force Base, which is normally reserved for visiting heads of state and diplomatic delegations?

Some believe it is because one of President Zuma's wives, Bongi Ngema-Zuma, works for the Guptas and that they reportedly paid for her 3.8m rand ($417,000; £272,000) Pretoria mansion. The Guptas deny paying for Mrs Ngema-Zuma's home.

One of Mr Zuma's sons, Duduzane, is also a director in some of the Gupta family companies.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
89 arrested in crackdown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force

By Tony Pugh
Doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals were among 89 people recently arrested in nine cities, accused of scheming to defraud the Medicare program of nearly $223 million in false billings, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

 The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering and violating federal anti-kickback statutes for submitting claims to Medicare for purchases, treatments and services that, according to federal officials, either were medically unnecessary or never provided.

In many cases, patient recruiters, Medicare recipients and others were paid cash to supply beneficiary information that later was used in billing scams, federal law enforcement officials said. Most of the alleged fraud involved home health care services, but the charges included mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment and ambulance services.

Federal deficit falling faster than expected

By Sarah Wolfe
The federal budget deficit is expected to fall to $642 billion in fiscal year 2013, the lowest level since 2008, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The study released today cited higher tax revenues and better-than-expected payments from government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac behind the shrinkage.

. . .

The government ran a $1.1 trillion budget deficit last year, capping four years in a row of trillion-dollar deficits during President Barack Obama's first term.

. . .

Some deficit hawks say it may even be coming down too fast, stunting economic growth.

NC Becomes Latest State to Threaten Tesla's Direct Sales to Customers

By Brandon Hill
. . .

 Not surprisingly, the NC Automobile Dealers Association (which represents North Carolina's franchised car dealership) is behind this latest stab at Tesla. But according to NC ADA President Robert Glasser, this isn't an attack specifically aimed at Tesla. Glasser notes that the precedent Tesla has set for direct sales could set into motion a chain of events that would topple the entire dealership model of business.

. . .

 And here's an interesting tidbit that shines a whole new light on the story. Slate reports that Sen. Tom Apodaca, the Republican sponsor of the bill, received $8,000 in campaign donations (the maximum allowed by state law) from the NC ADA.

 It's pretty clear to see why dealerships are shaking in their boots at the prospect of Tesla (and other auto manufacturers) selling directly to customers. Tesla managed to deliver a whopping 4,750 Model S sedans to customers during the month of April. Compared to other luxury sedans that also dance in the $70,000 to $100,000+ price range, the Model S outpaced monthly sales of the Audi A8 (1,462 units), BMW 7-Series (2,338), Lexus LS (2,860) and Mercedes S Class (3,077).

IRS targeting of conservative groups intolerable - Obama

By (BBC)
US President Barack Obama has said the federal tax agency's targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny was "intolerable and inexcusable".

He said those responsible for the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) actions would be held responsible.

Mr Obama spoke after a treasury department report placed the blame on "ineffective management" at the agency.

. . .

The IRS had used key words such as "Tea Party" and "Patriot" to subject applications by groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny.

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:
Freddie King acknowledged that "Hide Away" has elements of several songs, but arranged in his own way. Starting with Hound Dog Taylor's song, he said he then "got a idea about these breaks and things in there". He credited Robert Jr. Lockwood with inspiring "the diminished chord I used on the break part" "and the thing I put in there like "The Walk." That came from one of Jimmy McCracklin's songs, you know, I just pitched it all in like this. Made a commercial thing out of it. But - it sold". Freddie King also added a section of "The Peter Gunn Theme" from a popular television series of the time. Bill Willis, who played bass at the recording session, recalled the cue King used for that section "He [King] would be playing—like when we did the 'Peter Gunn' thing in 'Hide Away'—and just before he started it, he would take his hand and point it like a pistol at us. 'Okay, we're going into "Peter Gunn"'". The following section features a guitar figure similar to one in "Guitar Boogie Shuffle", a 1959 guitar instrumental hit.

"Hide Away" was recorded in 1960 and backing King (guitar) were Sonny Thompson (piano), Bill Willis (bass), and Philip Paul (drums). The following year it spent nineteen weeks in the Billboard R&B chart where it reached #5. The song also reached #29 in the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the highest showings in the pop chart by a blues artist.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
These cartoon bears care more about the environment than you do

By Susie Cagle
Smokey the Bear always seemed like a pretty reasonable bear-dude to me. He doesn’t appear to have any other politics beyond encouraging campers to douse their fires. But that’s not how artist Lopi LaRoe sees Smokey. Last fall, LaRoe radicalized the U.S. Forest Service’s stern spokesbear in artwork and merchandise.

“This is Smokey waking up and saying, ‘Oh you didn’t do that to my environment.’ Smokey wants to fight the corporations and protect the air and the water and the plants and the animals and the people,” LaRoe tells Waging Non-Violence.

Turns out the U.S. Forest Service is not super into that, and has threatened LaRoe with legal action if she doesn’t stop selling Smokey the Anti-Fracker merchandise plus remove all her images from the web.

Obama administration gives wind industry a pass for killing birds

By John Upton
Is it OK to slaughter hundreds of thousands of birds every year in the name of clean energy? Is it OK for a luxury home developer to kill California condors in its quest for profits?

. . .

An estimated 573,000 birds were killed last year in the U.S. by wind turbines, the AP reported, citing a study published in March in the journal Wildlife Society Bulletin. About 83,000 of those were estimated to have been raptors.

. . .

Fish and Wildlife Director Daniel Ashe said the decision reflects a difficult reality. The threat of prosecution jeopardized the construction of large-scale alternative energy facilities and real estate developments in the wild and windy places preferred by condors.

. . .

If wind energy firms are given free passes to kill federally protected birds, they’ll have less motivation to invest in wildlife-friendly technological advances, or to site their turbines in areas where bird strikes would be minimized. (And wind energy at least helps fight climate change, whereas there’s zero public benefit from luxury real estate development.) Clean energy and wildlife can coexist, but such coexistence is going to take hard work, planning, research and development — and diligence and occasional heavy-handedness from the federal government.

Science and Health
Trying to Be Happier Works When Listening to Upbeat Music

By (ScienceDaily)
The song, "Get Happy," famously performed by Judy Garland, has encouraged people to improve their mood for decades. Recent research at the University of Missouri discovered that an individual can indeed successfully try to be happier, especially when cheery music aids the process. This research points to ways that people can actively improve their moods and corroborates earlier MU research.

. . .

In two studies by Ferguson, participants successfully improved their moods in the short term and boosted their overall happiness over a two week period. During the first study, participants improved their mood after being instructed to attempt to do so, but only if they listened to the upbeat music of Copland, as opposed to the more somber Stravinsky. Other participants, who simply listened to the music without attempting to change their mood, also didn't report a change in happiness. In the second study, participants reported higher levels of happiness after two weeks of lab sessions in which they listened to positive music while trying to feel happier, compared to control participants who only listened to music.

. . .

"Rather than focusing on how much happiness they've gained and engaging in that kind of mental calculation, people could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination," said Ferguson.

Male Testosterone Levels Increase When Victorious in Competition Against Rivals, but Not Friends

By (ScienceDaily)
Sporting events can bring a community together, such as when the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA championship and University of Louisville campus was filled with camaraderie. They also can fuel bitter rivalries, such as the long-standing animosity between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. A new University of Missouri study has found that testosterone levels during group competition are modulated depending on the relationships among the competitors and may be related to the formation of alliances in warfare.

. . .

Competing in sport coalitions can raise testosterone levels in males, but males don't have to be competing in order to see a rise in testosterone. Flinn says that when watching a favorite sport team the viewer is a part of a coalition of fans in the community and can also get a rise in testosterone levels while watching games.

. . .

"The fascinating thing about humans is that whether we are watching or playing the sport, we have the ability to put interactions among the whole team in our heads," Flinn said. "That just shows how complex our social psychology is. For example, a hockey or basketball player can anticipate how his teammates are going to react when he passes to each one of them and predict the outcome. The ability for humans to be able to do that is pretty astonishing."

'Jolie effect' on breast cancer?

By Michelle Roberts
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie says she decided to go public about opting to have an elective double mastectomy to "encourage every woman" to think about their own risk of breast cancer.

The 37-year-old was told by doctors that she had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer without this radical treatment because of genes she inherited from her mother.

Jolie explained that her mother fought breast cancer for nearly a decade and died at the age of 56.

. . .

Surgery to remove both breasts can slash this lifetime risk down to about 5%.

First Video of the First Ever Carrier Drone Jet Launch

By Jesus Diaz
You are about to witness an historical event: the first drone jet ever launched from an aircraft carrier. In a few decades, when autonomous drone planes battle each other in the skies, fire missiles at drone troops and battleships, humanity will look back at this day as the true beginning of total drone warfare.
Google's Eric Schmidt: "Don't Be Evil" was Stupid

By Tiffany Kaiser  
In a recent interview with NPR, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that he used to think his company's famous slogan -- "don't be evil" -- was stupid.

. . .

 "Well, it was invented by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin]," said Schmidt. "And the idea was that we don't quite know what evil is, but if we have a rule that says don't be evil, then employees can say, I think that's evil. Now, when I showed up, I thought this was the stupidest rule ever, because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something.

 . . .

 "You're coming in, like, you're a businessman who's been successful in all kinds of Silicon Valley business," said Sagal. "And you come in, and you're like this thing about not being evil, that'll never work in American business. What, are you crazy, kids?"

Political foes Iran, US unite to save Olympic wrestling

By David Trifunov
The United States, Russia and Iran have formed an unlikely alliance in their bid to keep wrestling in the Olympics, gathering this week in New York to stage friendly matches in a bid to promote the sport’s international ties.

To drive home their point, and to ensure more TV cameras are watching, they’ll compete inside Grand Central Station on Wednesday in an event dubbed “Rumble on the Rails.”

. . .

The International Olympic Committee meets in September, and is expected to ratify the recommendation, BBC reported.

Athletes have competed for wrestling medals since the first Summer Olympics in 1896 in Greece.

. . .

While the IOC decision caused grief in the sport’s community, those in charge said the sport hasn’t evolved quickly enough.

Mayan pyramid in Belize destroyed 'for gravel'

By (BBC)
Officials in Belize say a construction company has destroyed one of the country's largest Mayan pyramids.

Head of the Belizean Institute of Archaeology Jaime Awe said the Noh Mul temple was levelled by a road-building company seeking gravel for road filler.

The Mayan temple dates back to pre-Columbian times and is estimated to be 2,300 year old. Only a small core of the pyramid was left standing.

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