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OND banner

Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, August 27, 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: Old Southern Medley by John Fahey

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
Syngenta to take a continent to court to upend pesticide ban

By John Upton
Syngenta is preparing to spray its lawyerly might all over Europe in a bid to be allowed to keep killing bees.

The agro-chemical giant announced Tuesday that it would haul the European Commission before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in an effort to block the looming suspension of its neonic insecticide thiamethoxam — aka Cruiser.

The commission voted earlier this year in favor of a two-year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, beginning in December, because scientists have found that they slaughter the bees that suckle at the stamen of treated plants.

. . .

Syngenta said the EU suspension was causing deep concern among farmers, who once the two-year-ban takes effect in December will need to replace “an extremely effective, low dose product (with) much less sustainable alternatives.”

In foreign policy, the moral high ground is only an occasional destination

By Michael Doyle
. . . From Iraq and Syria, to Rwanda and Armenia, morality as a motive in U.S. foreign policy is more contingent than absolute.

“It’s quite selective. The government knew of the fact that Iraq was using chemical weapons, and did not deter them,” Joyce Battle, an analyst at the National Security Archive, a nonpartisan research center, said in an interview Tuesday. “But when it’s thought to be in U.S. interests, the government will adopt a moralistic stand when it wants to justify its policies.”

. . .

Kerry, in his remarks Monday, asserted it was “undeniable” that the Syrian military had used chemical weapons on a Damascus suburb. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Doctors Without Borders put the death toll at at least 300 people. While not publicly endorsing a casualty total other than to say that it was on a “staggering scale,” Kerry declared with black-and-white certainty, “There must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons.”

The United States took a different approach in the 1980s, when the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations publicly denounced Iraq’s chemical weapon use, but stopped short of firmer action.

ACLU to Court: Government Spying Invades Privacy of Each and Every American

By Alex Abdo
Last night, we filed the opening brief in our lawsuit challenging the NSA’s ongoing collection of the call records of virtually everyone in the United States, including the ACLU’s. We’re asking the court for a preliminary injunction ordering the government to stop collecting our data and to bar any use of the ACLU call records it already has collected.

The NSA’s program is illegal because it is not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act as the government claims, because it invades every American’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy, and because it forces ordinary Americans to pause every time they pick up the phone to consider whether they want the NSA to know whom they’re calling – infringing on the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

. . .

In its filing, the government also argued that the ACLU does not have “standing” to challenge the NSA’s program because, although we know the government is collecting our phone records, we cannot prove anyone has looked at them. That is wrong on many levels. For one, the government’s logic turns the Fourth Amendment on its head – the protections of the Constitution are concerned with the government’s initial intrusion upon privacy, not only with the later uses to which the government puts the information it has collected. That’s why it is unconstitutional for the government, without a warrant, to seize your journal even if it never reads it; to record your phone call even if it never listens to it; or to videotape your bedroom activities even if it never presses play. (Check out this very convincing analogy involving President Obama and Michelle’s diary.)

The government has for years used the pretense of “foreign intelligence surveillance” to gather vast amounts of information about every American – innocent or not, with or without suspicion. The theory that it can collect our private information now in case it needs it later violates the most basic of American rights: to be left alone by our government absent suspicion of wrongdoing.

Thank the Catholic church for terrifying abortion restrictions in Latin America

By Erika L Sánchez
States have adopted 43 restrictions on access to abortion, the second-highest number ever at the midyear mark and the same number enacted in all of 2012. These numbers are alarming and many American women are rightfully worried. I'm terrified by the trend.

. . .

The World Health Organization estimates that in Latin America and the Caribbean a staggering 12% of all maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortions in 2008. In the name of religion, girls as young as 9 years old have been inhumanely denied abortions though their pregnancies were life- threatening. Their family members and doctors have even been threatened with excommunication.

Why is Latin America so far behind the US and Europe in terms of abortion rights? In her article "The Politics of Abortion in Latin America", Cora Fernandez Anderson points out that while feminist movements were gaining momentum in Europe and North America in the 1960s and '70s, Latin American countries were busy fighting dictatorships and civil wars.

. . .

It's difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons Latin American women are still struggling for the basic human right to control their own bodies, but the indelible influence of the Catholic influence paired with a tumultuous political history has clearly been a dangerous combination for women. But Olaya, who has litigated several groundbreaking cases before international human rights bodies and courts in Latin America, says there have been significant advancements and legal victories in the past few years. There is hope, no doubt, but these women still face a long and arduous journey.

Israel readies for Syria backlash: 'Everything is on the table'

By Noga Tarnopolsky
. . .

With the clouds of war gathering, Israel finds itself in an unusual predicament: while geographically at the center of any possible altercation, and the target of threats of retaliation should America strike Syria, it remains uninvolved in any military planning.

Israel's government is in a state of heightened preparedness. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet for two extraordinary meetings on Monday and Tuesday, and said in a statement that "the State of Israel is ready for any scenario. We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond and we will respond in strength."

A high-level delegation headed by Israel's national security advisor, Gen. Ya'acov Amidror, was dispatched to the White House on Monday, where talks on Syria and Iran were held with Amidror's American peer, Susan Rice.  

. . .

Echoing this more prudent approach, retired Col. Eshkol Shokron, who commanded the Israeli army's Golan Division until his retirement last August, said that various figures "have said there will consequences in Israel, and I wouldn't dismiss that. We absolutely have to take it into account the possibility that a massive western strike against Syria completely change the scenario vis-a-vis Israel."

Selling Serbia's economy to foreign investors

By Guy De Launey
. . .

Mention Serbia, and many people cannot help but think of the disastrous, autocratic Milosevic government of the 1990s - and the conflicts in which it played a part.

Hyperinflation, corruption and political repression may be mostly consigned to the past - but they are tough stains to remove from the country's reputation.

. . .

Youth unemployment is running at around 50%, while those who do find work earn, on average, around 400 euros a month.

Yet education levels are high and English is widely spoken. So, understandably, many young Serbians prefer to try their luck abroad.
Revival needed

. . .

Serbia certainly has plenty going for it - a strategic location in south-east Europe, free-trade agreements with both Russia and the EU and plenty of talented people available at relatively low cost.

India infrastructure projects set to boost economy

By (BBC)
The Indian government has approved infrastructure projects worth 1.83tn rupees ($28.4bn; £17.7bn) to revive the economy and boost the falling rupee.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said 36 stalled projects in oil, gas, power, road and railways sectors were cleared.

. . .

Mr Chidambaram also tried to allay fears over the impact of the Food Security Bill on the country's finances.

The bill, which was approved by the lower house of parliament on Monday night, is aimed at providing subsidised food to two-thirds of the population in an effort to eradicate the widespread hunger and malnutrition plaguing India.

India's ONGC to pick up stake in African gas field

By (BBC)
India's biggest oil explorer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), has agreed a deal to buy a 10% stake in an offshore gas field in Mozambique.

. . .

Sudhir Vasudeva, chairman of ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL), the firm's unit which has agreed the deal, said the gas field had the "potential to become one of the world's largest LNG projects".

. . .

Last year, ONGC inked a deal to buy ConocoPhillips's 8.4% stake in Kazakhstan's Kashagan project for $5bn - its biggest overseas acquisition.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Gitmo Soldiers Get 9/11 History Lessons

By Cora Currier
. . .

The FBI now holds briefings for military personnel stationed at Guantanamo about the attacks and their connection to the island prison. Five detainees are currently being tried for their role in plotting 9/11. There are 161 other prisoners there too, about half of whom have been cleared for transfer.

The presentation includes details about the hijackings, videos of the World Trade Center, and recordings of 9-1-1 calls from the towers.

. . .

Spokespeople for the FBI and the military at Guantanamo did not respond to requests for more details about the briefings, so it’s not clear how often they are given, or when they started. The released slides also don’t show anything about current detainees, so we don’t know how the FBI relates them to 9/11.

Wal-Mart: same-sex partners to get health benefits

By (BBC)
Wal-Mart, the largest private sector US employer, is to offer health insurance to the same-sex partners of its staff.

. . .

More than half of the retailer's staff are on its healthcare plans, and membership is dependent on how many hours staff work and how long they have been at the company.

Wal-Mart's US employees will pay 3% to 10% more for their medical coverage next year, depending on the plan, Reuters news agency reports.

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:
. . .

S: What were you trying to do?

J: Well I was on the one hand, the more I played the guitar the more I began to really love the guitar and to love virtually any kind of music that anybody played well on guitar. In the music I was composing I was trying to express my emotions, my so called negative emotions, which were depression, anger and so forth. Like Stan Kenton did. He got away with it. I ‘ve always admired him for that. I listen to Stan Kenton a lot then and I still do. And I was trying to put together some distant music, I was thinking mainly of Bartok as a model, but played in this finger picking pattern, which I still use. So I was trying to put those things together into a coherent musical language which people would understand and it worked pretty good. Everybody else was just trying to copy folk musicians, I wasn’t trying to do that. I was using them as teachers for technique but I was never trying to be a folk. How can I be a folk? I’m from the suburbs you know.

. . .

S: Your music has been called "American Primitive Guitar". Does that mean anything to you?

J: Well, I used that term and all that I meant is what you would call primitive painters, which just means untutored. I didn’t really mean much of anything, I was just trying to come up with a label. Other people took it to mean other things like noise or dissonance or things like that. Which I do but I didn’t actually mean it that way when I used that expression. But everybody started using it.

S: Do you feel that you’re the father of a guitar movement, meaning Leo Kotke, the Windham Hill school, do you feel as if you were the seed for that?

J: Yes to a very large extent but I don’t think ... well what I did was that I was the first one to just go out and just play steel guitar concerts and when I did it I didn’t just do it in the United States, I did it in England, and everybody kept on saying " What are you going to sing?" and I would say "I don’t sing I just play the guitar and so I was the person who made that possible so in that sense I made the steel string guitar concert respectable. . .

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Cost Gap for Western Renewables Could Narrow by 2025

By (ScienceDaily)
A new Energy Department study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations.

The report, "Beyond Renewable Portfolio Standards: An Assessment of Regional Supply and Demand Conditions Affecting the Future of Renewable Energy in the West," compares the cost of renewable electricity generation (without federal subsidy) from the West's most productive renewable energy resource areas -- including any needed transmission and integration costs -- with the cost of energy from a new natural gas-fired generator built near the customers it serves.

. . .

The study notes future electricity demand will be affected by several factors including: trends in the supply and price of natural gas; consumer preferences; technological breakthroughs; further improvements in energy efficiency; and future public policies and regulations. While most of these demand factors are difficult to predict, the study's supply forecasts rely on empirical trends and the most recent assessments of resource quality.

India's most industrialised state pushes for clean energy

By Kavitha Rao
It's rare that cheery environmental news comes out of India, especially when it comes to clean energy. But a July 22nd order by the electricity regulatory authority of Maharashtra (MERC), India's most industrialised state, is being welcomed as a possible game changer. The government has ordered 93 entities to attain renewable power obligation (RPO) targets by March 2014, which include government distribution companies (discoms) as well as large private consumers of electricity.

. . .

Many solar companies think the new order is a massive step forward. "This announcement is a fundamental game changer for the Indian solar industry," said Ameet Shah, the co-chairman of solar company Astonfield Renewables. "RPOs are essential to installing more power; alleviating shortages and helping our economy run at full speed. Maharashtra, one of the leading industrial states in the country, making such a big policy move towards enforcement, confirms explicitly that non-compliance will not be tolerated any longer." Shah also thinks this list will be expanded, and the demand for solar power will go up.

. . .

The toothlessness of the MERCS is one reason why some green groups are not rejoicing yet. "This is a significant step," says Greenpeace campaigner Abhishek Pratap. " And the MERC should be congratulated. But it's going to be difficult for the MERC to impose such fines. Many discoms are in very poor financial condition, so it's probably better to make the private entities pay up first." Pratap says the electricity regulatory boards have limited powers of enforcement and are powerless when it comes to compliance, and lesser fines imposed in the past have often been ignored. "The question is: who will regulate the regulators?We need a revamp of the whole electricity laws to give electricity regulatory boards more power."

Drones proving useful in polar regions to study the melting of the ice

By Suzanne Goldenberg
. . .

Among the research projects to date that have used UAVs was Colorado University's participation in unmanned science flights across Antarctica, Greenland and the Svalbard archipelago in Norway to study changes in the sea ice.

And scientists from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks used a small battery-powered drone to map the summer breeding grounds of sea lions, flying over the animals at heights as low as 90 metres (300ft).

. . .

"We are at that stage with unmanned aerial vehicles where we are just figuring out how to put things on them, and use them, and it is just going to burgeon into a capability to look at the world in a new way."

Science and Health
45 Bing cherries a day may keep the doctor away

By (UPI)
U.S. researchers say cherry consumption -- 45 Bing cherries a day -- selectively improved circulating blood levels for nine biomarkers of inflammatory disease.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with the Western Human Nutrition Research Center's Agriculture Research Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, measured changes in 89 known markers for inflammation, immune status, cardiovascular disease, blood clotting and liver and kidney function in those eating cherries.

. . .

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found 45 sweet Bing cherries added to the diet each day were shown to have lower levels of a variety of indicators for chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Many avoid those who don't wash hands after public restroom

By (UPI)
. . .

The fifth annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corp., a manufacturer of commercial hand washing products, found 70 percent admit they skipped using soap after using a public restroom and only rinsed their hands -- up from 54 percent who said they just rinsed with water two years ago.

But after seeing someone else skip hand washing in a pubic restroom, survey respondents said they avoided contact with anything the non-washer touched, washed their own hands more thoroughly and in general they avoided the person.

. . .

Men were almost 2 1/2 times more likely than women to say they didn't wash up because they didn't feel the need, the survey said.

Can Humans Breathe Liquid?

By Andrew Tarantola
. . .

Perhaps the best-remembered scene from the 1989 Sci-Fi classic The Abyss is when Ed Harris' character has to don a liquid-filled diving suit in order to descend into the Mariana Trench. He and attempts to breathe what appears to be hot ham water in order to prevent the surrounding pressures from popping his lungs like bloody balloons. Turns out, this scene is closer to science fact than science fiction.

The substance is a perfluorocarbon (PFC), a synthetic liquid fluorinated hydrocarbon—clear, odorless, chemically and biologically inert, with a low surface tension and high O2/CO2 carrying capacity. PFCs can hold as much as three times the oxygen and four times the carbon dioxide as human blood. They also act as very efficient heat exchanges. This makes PFCs ideal for use as a liquid ventilation (LV) medium for medical applications.

. . . The high viscosity of PFC prevents it from cycling through the lungs efficiently enough to exorcise CO2 and prevent respiratory acidosis. You'd have to cycle the fluid at a rate of 5 liters per minute to match a standard resting metabolism, 10 liters a minute for any sort of activity, and the human lungs simply aren't strong enough for such a task.

Research links children's psychological problems to prolonged screen time

By James Meikle
. . .

Public Health England says there is evidence that children who spend more time watching screens tend to have higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.

. . .

Young people who spent less than one hour a day playing computer games were almost three times more likely to say they enjoyed good wellbeing as those who played four hours or more, according to the research.

. . .

Government health leaders are using such evidence, only the latest in a growing library, to bolster their message that more physical activity will make children more likely to concentrate in school, enjoy better relationships with classmates and be less worried, anxious or depressed.

. . .

Kevin Fenton, PHE's director of health and wellbeing, said: "There are many complex factors that affect a child's wellbeing such as the wider environment they live in and their social, financial and family circumstances, but there are also some very simple things we can do to help improve their health and well-being."

NASA Tests Limits of 3-D Printing With Powerful Rocket Engine Check

By (ScienceDaily)
The largest 3-D printed rocket engine component NASA ever has tested blazed to life Thursday, Aug. 22 during an engine firing that generated a record 20,000 pounds of thrust.

This test is a milestone for one of many important advances the agency is making to reduce the cost of space hardware. Innovations like additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, foster new and more cost-effective capabilities in the U.S. space industry.

. . .

One of the keys to reducing the cost of rocket parts is minimizing the number of components. This injector had only two parts, whereas a similar injector tested earlier had 115 parts. Fewer parts require less assembly effort, which means complex parts made with 3-D printing have the potential for significant cost savings.

. . .

NASA seeks to advance technologies such as 3-D printing to make every aspect of space exploration more cost-effective. This test builds on prior hot-fire tests conducted with smaller injectors at Marshall and at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Marshall engineers recently completed tests with Made in Space, a Moffett Field, Calif., company working with NASA to develop and test a 3-D printer that will soon print tools for the crew of the International Space Station. NASA is even exploring the possibility of printing food for long-duration space missions.

California officials ask residents to avoid social media for Rim fire updates

By Rory Carroll
The rumours raced across these woodland communities faster than the fire: the Groveland firehouse had burned down; authorities were cutting power lines to force people to evacuate; police had arrested an arsonist who started it; the sequoias were going up in smoke.

None of it was true but the speed and reach of social media, especially Facebook, convinced many otherwise, compounding alarm amid one of the biggest wildfires in California's history.

. . .

Twitter, Facebook and other social media can swiftly amplify an incomplete or misinterpreted message, officials complained, but they also credited Google with directing people to reliable information such as the inter-agency emergency site Inciweb.

. . .

Residents have remained largely calm during the ordeal but the digital rumour mill has at times churned anxieties into terrors, including the report of the Groveland firehouse becoming a grim pyre. "That would be a surprise to the firefighters sleeping there," Tuolumne county Sheriff Sergeant Scott Johnson told the Modesto Bee.

Facebook report shows 74 countries requested information on 38,000 users

By Allison Jackson
Facebook released its first Global Government Requests Report on Tuesday which showed 74 countries requested information on at least 38,000 users in the first half of 2013.

Not surprisingly, the US topped the list with 11,000 to 12,000 requests for information on 20,000 to 21,000 users. Facebook said it supplied data in 79 percent of those cases.

. . .

Facebook said most of the information sought by governments related to criminal cases such as robberies and kidnappings, and requests had to reach a “very high legal bar” before data was supplied. In many cases, only basic user information was shared, it said.

Obama Admin Looks to Restore $25B Advanced Technology Vehicle Loan Program

By Tiffany Kaiser
. . .

 The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program was created by Congress in 2007 in an effort to reach the goal of 1 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2015, but the program hasn't made a new loan since March 2011. This is mainly due to the fact that two of five companies that received government loans stopped production.

. . .

 Last month, a House Appropriations Committee’s panel voted to cut the remaining funds in the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program.

 The Obama administration received a lot of flak for these failures, but the program wasn't all bad. The other three loans -- $5.9 billion to Ford, $1.4 billion to Nissan and $465 million to EV startup Tesla Motors -- proved to be successful. Tesla even managed to pay its full sum back nine years early, which was a great feat for a startup.

This Black, Gay, Badass Pacifist Mastermind of the March on Washington Is Finally Getting His Due

By Lauren Williams
Bayard Rustin was for years one of the least known and celebrated major players in the civil rights movement. Now Martin Luther King Jr.'s trusted adviser—the black, gay, "badass" pacifist who organized the March on Washington—is finally getting his due 50 years after the landmark demonstration.

Rustin, born in Pennsylvania in 1912 and raised by his grandfather and his Quaker grandmother—who, along with Mahatma Gandhi, influenced his philosophy of pacifism—had his hand in several major moments in a fight for equality that would span his entire life. He helped organize and participated in the first freedom ride, 1947’s "Journey of Reconciliation" (for which he and several other participants were jailed and put in a chain gang). In the 1950s, he advised, strategized, and raised money behind the scenes for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, helping to direct King's rise to national prominence. He's also credited with honing the King's nonviolent strategy. Later, Rustin was the mastermind of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (now simply known as the March on Washington), organizing it in just two months. But Rustin was kept in the shadows by the homophobia of both his enemies (segregationist Strom Thurmond used Rustin's sexuality to denigrate the movement) and his allies.

. . .

Rustin should be remembered not just for his fight for racial equality, which was accompanied by a quest for economic justice, but also his unflinching participation in the fight for gay rights. In a 1986 speech he advocated for a change in civil rights activism: "The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people."

A State by State Map of America's Filthy Porn Searches

By Ashley Feinberg
It's everyone's favorite time of year—the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, and PornHub has just released a big, ol' sticky mess of data about the country's porn habits. And the conclusion? The MILF is alive and well, Nevada is weirdly into adult film star Anita Queen, and anyone invested in the porn industry needn't worry—America says "yes" to porn.

. . .

Kentucky really, really likes to watch anime characters fornicate—a lot. Good for them! We just wish we could say the same for Rhode Island, who barely manages to clock in at a weak 10 minutes per session. We'd suggest imagining your grandmother and her friends running around naked, but given the nation's propensity for MILFs, perhaps best to move straight on down to great-grandmother.

Vietnam's lost children in labyrinth of slave labour

By Marianne Brown
Last year, three teenage boys jumped out of a third-floor window in Ho Chi Minh City and ran as fast as they could until they found help. It was one in the morning and they did not know where they were going.

. . .

Gangs approach local officials pretending to offer jobs or vocational training to children of the poorest families. Many are happy to send the children away.

. . .

Parents and officials only realise there is a problem when the charity shows them pictures of garment factories they have raided in the past.

. . .

In the meantime, most internal labour traffickers are generally not treated as criminals but are punished with administrative sanctions, such as illegal detention or use of weapons, Vu Thi Thu Phuong, of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), said.

. . .

"But culturally there's still a bit of discussion about whether it's so bad that a child whose family are very poor, doesn't have enough to eat, has dropped out of school, if he goes to a factory, is that such a bad thing?"

Jordanians vote under Syria war shadow

By (Al Jazeera)
Jordanians have voted in municipal elections amid growing anger over a sluggish economy that is struggling to cope with a massive influx of war refugees from neighbouring Syria.

. . .

The election has been overshadowed by anger among Jordanians over the impact of more than 500,000 Syrian refugees on their country.

. . .

With few candidates of the leftist or nationalist opposition in the race, tribal figures, who are the traditional bedrock of the monarchy, are set to sweep the elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition party, boycotted the polls, charging that despite repeated promises since the Arab Spring of 2011, there has been no meaningful reforms in the country.

Meteor Blades is known to offer an enlightening Evening Open Diary - you might consider checking that out tonight if you haven't already.
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