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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, April 02, 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: Koko Ni Sachi Ari by Brittni Paiva

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .

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
HIV Self-Testing: The Key to Controlling the Global Epidemic

By (ScienceDaily)
A new international study has confirmed that self-testing for HIV is effective and could be the answer to controlling the global epidemic. This major systematic review, led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), shows HIV self-testing removes much of the fear and stigma associated with being tested for the disease.

. . .

According to UNAIDS*, 50 per cent of people living with HIV worldwide are unaware of their HIV status and about 2.5 million people become infected every year. Dr. Pant Pai firmly believes that access to an HIV self-test linked to expedited counselling systems will help expand access to screening and reduce judgement and perceived attitudes around HIV testing. Self-tests are performed in oral fluid samples from the gum lining of the mouth in the privacy of one's home. They are non-invasive, convenient, ensure confidentiality and can provide results within 20 minutes. The results are self-interpreted however, and require confirmation at a medical clinic if positive.

. . .

Across the various studies, researchers observed that acceptability (defined as the number of people who self-tested divided by the number who consented to self-test) was very high for both self-testing strategies. They also found evidence that people preferred self-testing to facility-based testing and oral self-testing to blood-based self-testing. "The preference was largely driven by the fact the oral self-tests are non-invasive, convenient, easy to swab and do not involve a finger stick or blood from your arm for a preliminary screen," explains Dr. Pant Pai. "A lot of people also wanted to take the oral self-test home to test their partners."

UN Adopts Historic Arms Trade Treaty Despite NRA Opposition

By Gavin Aronsen
After more than a decade of efforts to regulate the $70 billion international arms trade, the United Nations' General Assembly on Tuesday adopted the Arms Trade Treaty despite opposition from human-rights abusers around the world and the United States gun lobby.

. . .

The NRA and other gun groups strongly opposed the treaty, capitalizing on conservative myths that it would infringe on Second Amendment rights by undermining the country's sovereignty. But the gun lobby's real opposition to the treaty is probably economics. The US is the world's leading arms exporter, and gun dealers aren't eager to be required to report weapons exports that may wind up in the hands of warlords or terrorists overseas.

GOP senators like Rand Paul (Ky.) are still repeating the false claim that abiding by the treaty would lead to an international registry of American gun owners and "full-scale gun CONFISCATION." Conservatives have also argued that the treaty violates the Second Amendment by recognizing the rights of governments, but not their citizens, to self-defense, even though it has no international policing mechanism and explicitly recognizes the "inherent right of all States to individual or collective self-defence."

. . .

Iran, North Korea, and Syria were the only three nations to vote against the treaty; 154 voted in favor and another 23 abstained. Iran and Syria claimed that the treaty didn't go far enough to keep weapons out of the hands of non-state actors and other aggressors; North Korea said limitations on importers would infringe on nations' rights to self-defense. Amnesty has condemned the "abysmal human rights records" of all three nations, reporting that they have all "used arms against their own citizens."

25 years after Chico Mendes, killings in the Amazon are endemic

By David Hill
On Wednesday, in the Brazilian state of Pará, the trial begins of three men accused of murdering José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo, who had campaigned against loggers and ranchers for years. Their assassinations in May 2011 generated international outrage, just like that of Chico Mendes, 25 years ago, and that of the American-born nun Dorothy Stang in 2005.

. . .

These high-profile murders are just the tip of the iceberg. In Pará alone, 231 people were killed and 809 received death threats between 1996 and 2010, according to NGO Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), while in 2011 78 people received death threats and 12 people were killed.

. . .

"In the early days since Chico's assassination we saw an increase in global solidarity and proposals for the Amazon's sustainable development," says Marina Silva, former environment minister and presidential candidate in 2010, who worked as a rubber tapper among Mendes' family. "Recently things have regressed. Even the goals of reducing carbon emissions and deforestation are now under threat."

Twenty-five years on from the murder of Mendes it is worth remembering his extraordinary life. After starting to tap rubber as a child in Acre state in Brazil's far west, he co-founded the local rural workers' union and Brazil's National Council of Rubber Tappers, organised demonstrations to stop thousands of square kilometres of rainforest being destroyed for timber and ranching, saved hundreds of families from destitution, and hooked up with the international environmental movement to lobby US politicians and the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington over its loan to pave a highway to Acre's capital, among many other things.

Six officials held over New York mayoral race 'bribery'

By (BBC)
Two New York state lawmakers are among six officials who have been arrested over an alleged plot to rig the city's mayoral race, prosecutors have said.

. . .

Mr Smith, a Democrat from the New York borough of Queens, is accused of bribing the leaders of local Republican county committees to get the certificates needed to let him run as a Republican.

Also charged are Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino; Queens County Republican Party Vice-Chairman Vincent Tabone; Noramie Jasmin, Mayor of Spring Valley, New York state; and her deputy, Joseph Desmaret.

. . .

George Venizelos, the FBI's New York assistant director in charge, said in a statement that public officials must hold themselves to a higher standard.

"Public service is not supposed to be a short cut to self-enrichment," he said.

Brazil gang rape: Why did an American's attack get more attention than a local's?

By Jill Langlois
Media outlets around the world have, over the past couple days, all had one major headline in common: American woman gang raped on Brazilian transit van.

The news of the attack on the 21-year-old staying in paradise city Rio de Janeiro on a student visa was horrific. The American woman was picked up by a van — a common form of public transportation in Rio that hold about a dozen people — along with a 23-year-old male friend from France near the famous Copacabana beach just after midnight on Saturday morning.

. . .

But the American wasn't the only woman to accuse the men in the van of rape. Another 21-year-old woman, this one Brazilian, came forward and said she was attacked by the same three men in the van, who held her for an hour on March 23. The woman registered her case with police, but authorities were said to have investigated the claim slowly. Three other women have also since come forward to report being robbed by the group of men in the van.

The numerous attacks prior to that on the American woman only caught the media's attention after the foreigner's sexual assault was reported on, which caused concern for the safety of visitors heading to Rio and the rest of Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Egypt ruling party slams US 'interference' over satirist

By (BBC)
Egypt's ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has accused the US of "interference" after it criticised legal action against a TV satirist.

. . .

Later US Secretary of State John Kerry said there were "real concerns about the direction Egypt is moving in".

. . .

The FJP said in statement that Ms Nuland's comments constituted "blatant interference" and meant that the US "welcomes and defends contempt of religion by the media".

. . .

Mr Youssef has faced several complaints over his show El Bernameg (The Programme), which satirises many public figures.

. . .

As well as insulting Mr Morsi and Islam, Mr Youssef is also accused of "spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order".

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
The War On Drugs Is Still Not Working

By Asawin Suebsaeng
Four decades ago, President Nixon launched the US-led global War on Drugs. It has cost the nation over a trillion dollars. 50,000 people have lost their lives to shootouts, bombings, torture, and execution, and that's only counting six years in Mexico.

. . .

. . .

If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels' move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.

. . .

The nonprofit Chicago Crime Commission recently named Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, the city's "Public Enemy No. 1," even though Guzman has never even been to Chicago.
Is Demand for High-Skill Workers Declining?

By Kevin Drum
I've written before about my belief that something happened to the economy around the year 2000. A whole bunch of different measures seem to have inflected right around then, and although the subsequent declines were partly masked by the housing bubble of the aughts, they were happening all along. When the Great Recession hit, a decade's worth of decline was telescoped into a couple of years.
....There are two key features of Figure 12 that we wish to highlight. First, from 1980 to about 2000, employment in cognitive jobs grew faster than the supply index, suggesting that demand for cognitive tasks outstripped supply. In contrast, after 2000, the supply index continued to grow at a similar rate as in the pre-2000 period, but cognitive employment stalled. We interpret these trends as suggesting that demand for cognitive jobs likely decreased over this second period.
The authors explain that the college premium for workers remains high regardless of this, because educated workers are simply getting pushed down the employment ladder, where they're performing more routine jobs. But many routine jobs are disappearing too, so workers in these occupations are getting pushed down too. A degree may not be as valuable as it once was, but relative to not having a degree, it's still pretty valuable.
Associated Press drops 'illegal immigrant' from style guide

By David Trifunov
Many newspapers and journalists across America will no longer use “illegal immigrants” in stories after The Associated Press announced today it’s dropping the term from its style guide.

. . .

“Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

. . .

Colorlines – which launched its “Drop the I word” campaign three years ago – said “illegal immigrant” can be used as a “racially charged slur.”

. . .

Phil Corbett, the New York Times editor in charge of standards, told Poynter that the newspaper was planning to makes its own announcement soon.

White House Announces $100 Million "BRAIN" Mapping Initiative

By Tiffany Kais
The idea behind the BRAIN Initiative is to gain a deeper understanding of the complex connections in the brain and their relationship with how the rest of the body behaves

. . .

 The idea behind the BRAIN Initiative is to gain a deeper understanding of the complex connections in the brain and their relationship with how the rest of the body behaves. With this knowledge, medical conditions like Alzheimer's, autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia could eventually be understood and treated more effectively -- with the hopes of one day being cured.

 In addition, this initiative could lead to job creation and economic growth through new innovations and opportunities.

NRA-funded panel seeks armed US school guards

By (Al Jazeera)
A task force funded by the National Rifle Association, the top US gun lobby, has unveiled a proposal to train armed security personnel in every school in the country.

The former Republican congressman who headed the study said at a news conference on Tuesday there should be at least one protector with a firearm for every school, saying it would speed responses to attacks.

. . .

It called for adoption of a model state law for armed school staffers and a programme to assess threats and support the mental health of students.

. . .

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the task force recommendations would fail to keep schools safe and urged Congress to pass new gun control laws.

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:
. . .

MN: You’re quite versatile as an instrumentalist. Aside from the ukulele, you’re skilled at playing the guitar, drums and bass, to name a few. Do you have a favorite instrument beside the ukulele?

BP: It’s the bass. I’m actually a self-taught player, spending countless hours on YouTube listening to just about any bassist and playing grooves. One of my biggest influences has been Tal Wilkenfeld. She’s amazing.

MN: Does that mean that you hear more than just the ukulele when composing music?

BP: Definitely. I hear everything together. Sometimes it gets frustrating, though, because I can’t always reproduce what’s going on inside my head.

. . .

BP: I don’t ever want to shrink the ukulele. My feeling is there are no limits when it comes to playing it. So yes, there’s no song that’s too big for the ukulele.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Movie review: SWITCH

By raypierre
This year, the Geological Society of America is rolling out their SWITCH Energy Awareness campaign . The centerpiece of the campaign is a documentary film, SWITCH, which purports to be about the need for a transformation in the world’s energy systems. Recently, I attended the Chicago premier of the film, presented as part of the Environmental Film Series of the Lutheran School of Theology. I had high hopes for this film. They were disappointed. Given the mismatch between what the movie promises and what it delivers, it would be more aptly titled, “BAIT AND SWITCH.”

The film is soporifically narrated by Scott Tinker , of the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, who was also the major content advisor for the film. This a guy who has never met a fossil fuel he didn’t like. Dramatic footage of giant coal seams being merrily blasted to bits and carted off by hefty he-men driving 400 ton trucks are interspersed with wide-eyed kid-gloves interviews of energy-industry workers and executives in which Tinker looks like he’s overdosed on Quaaludes by way of preparation. There are a few segments on renewables thrown in, and even the token environmentalist or two, but the impression you get over most of the film is that only the fossil fuel guys have the right stuff.

. . .

It would be easy to shrug off this film if it were just a matter of another hack with a minicam following Bjorn Lomborg around, but this has the backing of the GSA. The GSA has its share of members in the fossil fuel industries, but it is a respectable scientifically sound organization, which has taken a decent position on global warming. The GSA has not only blessed the film with its prestige, but is heavily promoting it as the anchor of its energy awareness campaign, with solicitation for Inconvenient Truth style “ambassadors” to promote the film’s agenda, and even a K-12 educational component. I think I do understand how the film took a wrong turn somewhere along the line. If you want to change minds and touch the heartstrings of a new audience rather than just preaching to the choir, it is probably more effective to find common ground in talking about solutions rather than by scaring the pants off people by talking about the scary consequences of global warming. I’m entirely sympathetic to this approach. But there’s a difference between positive messaging and losing sight of the nature of the problem that needs to be solved, to the point that one even loses sight of the message that needs to be conveyed. That is where SWITCH not only takes a wrong turn, but drives right off the cliff.

The GSA ought to distance itself from this fiasco. Schools should avoid it like the plague. Without being kept on life-support by the GSA, the film is so boring it will probably die a natural death. This film is a lot like those “duck and cover” movies that I saw as a kid, from which I learned that I could survive a nuclear strike if I put my head down against the lockers and covered up with a winter coat (just hope The Bomb doesn’t get dropped in summer). The message of SWITCH is the climate equivalent of the infamous quote by T.K. Jones, Reagan’s civil defense planner, that when it comes to nuclear war “If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it” . In the case of SWITCH, the message that gets across is that if we keep figuring out ever more ingenious ways of extracting fossil fuels, and maybe burn more natural gas, insulate our attics and drive our kids to school in golf carts, everything’s gonna be OK. We have a right to expect better from the GSA, and the sooner SWITCH disappears from the public discourse, the better.

Earth-cooling schemes need global sign-off, researchers say

By Ian Sample
Controversial geoengineering projects that may be used to cool the planet must be approved by world governments to reduce the danger of catastrophic accidents, British scientists said.

. . .

The scientists took a typical project that would inject 5 million tons of sulphate into the stratosphere every year from 2020 to 2070. That amount of sulphate injected into the northern hemisphere caused severe droughts in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Chad, and Sudan, and an almost total loss of vegetation.

The same project had radically different consequences if run from the southern hemisphere. Rather than drying the Sahel, cooling the southern hemisphere brought rains to the Sahel and re-greened the region. But Africa’s benefit came at the cost of slashing rainfall in northeastern Brazil.

. . .

“This paper tells us there are consequences for our actions whatever we do. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card,” he told the Guardian. “Whatever we do is a compromise, and that compromise means there will be winners and losers. That opens massive ethical questions: Who gets to decide how we even determine what is a good outcome for different people?

Science and Health
What Makes Citizen Scientists Tick?

By The Physics arXiv Blog
. . .

Perhaps the best known project is called Galaxy Zoo. This is a website that asks volunteers to help classify galaxies that have been photographed as part of the project called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The idea is that to understand how galaxies evolved, astronomers need to know what shapes they can form and how common these shapes are. Volunteers visually inspect images of galaxies and classify them accordingly.

. . .

The results are curious. Unsurprisingly, Galaxy Zoo volunteers are overwhelmingly male with 82.1per cent being men. There is also a particular over-abundance in the 50-60 age group. Overall, the volunteers have an average age of 43 and over 60 per cent come from the US and UK.

What is mildly surprising is their motivation for taking part. The survey asked volunteers to give their primary reason and this turned out not to be things like enjoying looking at pretty pictures of galaxies or the fun of it all. Instead, more than 40 per cent of volunteers say that the desire to contribute to science is their primary motivation.

Research Examines Ancient Puebloans and the Myth of Maize

By (ScienceDaily)
Research from the University of Cincinnati shows that perhaps the ancient Puebloans weren't as into the maize craze as once thought.

. . .

What she's found so far suggests the Puebloans of MU 125 dined on much more than just maize. Berkebile has uncovered many examples of other plant life the Puebloans might have used as a food source such as purslane, pinyon nut, juniper berries, globemallow and even cactus. The diverse amount of wild resources combined with the area's scarcity of water and seasonal climate -- prone to periods of drought and frost -- makes Berkebile think the Puebloans had to rely on more than maize to survive.

. . .

Berkebile hopes her research can be a game-changer in how archaeologists perceive ancient cultures' reliance on maize, and also a mind-changer in the way modern society views its environmental resources. She thinks there are aspects of the Puebloans' intercropping strategies and implementation of wild resources that could be adapted to a modern context. More importantly, she thinks how Puebloans thought about food is an important lesson for today.

Nothing new in U.S. teen sex

By (UPI)
Many U.S. parents say they think teens are having sex earlier and earlier, but researchers say today's teens have sex at about the same age as their parents.

. . .

The study also found 33 percent of those age 16, about half of those age 17, 61 percent of 18-year-olds and 71 percent of 19-year-olds said they have had sex -- a pattern that has prevailed for decades.

. . .

"Policymakers and the media often sensationalize teen sexual behavior, suggesting that adolescents as young as 10 or 11 are increasingly sexually active," lead author Lawrence Finer said in a statement. "But the data just don't support that concern. Rather, we are seeing teens waiting longer to have sex, using contraceptives more frequently, and being less likely to become pregnant than peers of past decades."

Researchers Use Page Rank Algorithm to Study Cancer

By Jason Mick
Lung cancer can be a particularly deadly one as it can quickly spread to some parts of the body once it metastasizes (once tumor cells enter the bloodstream).  But the process of metastasis is poorly understood.

. . .

 They found that the adrenal gland and kidney act as lung cancer cell "spreaders" distributing tumor cells around the body.  By contrast, when infiltrated by tumor cells the regional lymph nodes, liver, and bones acted as "sponges" and did not significantly spread around the disease.

. . .

 USC School of Engineering Professor Paul Newton, Ph.D, comments, "This research [using PageRank to model cancer] demonstrates how similar the Internet is to a living organism.  The same types of tools that help us understand the spread of information through the web can help us understand the spread of cancer through the human body."

Google facing legal threat from six European countries over privacy

By Charles Arthur
Google could face fines from six European countries' privacy regulators, including the UK and Germany, after refusing to reverse changes to its privacy policies made in March 2012.

. . .

Google's rival Facebook has been forced in the past to make a number of changes to its operation to comply with Europe's data protection laws, which are significantly tougher – but more fragmented – than those in the US.

The move comes while European competition regulators are separately trying to decide what action to take to prevent monopoly abuses by Google, which has about 95% of the European search market.

The Indestructible Touchscreen Kiosks That Will Take Over New York’s Subways

By Mario Aguilar
. . .

The forthcoming subway kiosks were designed by Control Group, a "technology and design consultancy" housed in a minimalist-chic office on the 21st floor of a skyscraper across from City Hall. And before you complain about the cash-strapped MTA blowing its cash on touchscreen toys, it's good to know that the firm is actually picking up the whole tab for the design and installation of the kiosks in exchange for creative control over them—not to mention control over whatever revenue they manage to generate.

. . .

Because it's using vibrations to calculate position, the frequency of the waves makes a big difference in the performance of the screen. Poking the screen with a pen or flicking it with your fingernail works better than the flat, low-pitched jab from your fleshy fingertip.

. . .

And this is an important point: The screens are freaking indestructible. Control Group partner Colin O'Donnell even started telling us how a gang with bats could go after one of the kiosks, until a cooler head waved him down and said that may have been an exaggeration. Or at least, that it's preferable if people don't actively try to destroy very expensive subway hardware. But the bottom line is that you can pound it with your fist . . .

Another nice feature of the design is that the interior electronics are completely isolated from the outside world. For everybody who's worried that the touchscreens are going to just get gross with sweaty summer fingers and germ-riddled winter hands, you can breathe slightly easier. You can power wash these screens with the same high-pressure hoses used on the concrete platforms. Don't want to touch it with your hand? Use a pen or a quarter instead.

Notorious porno copyright trolls Prenda Law have a very bad day in court

By Cory Doctorow
Today marked the long-awaited courtroom showdown of notorious copyright porno trolls Prenda Law (previous posts) and United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, the judge who figured out that Prenda was running something that looked a blackmail racket that involved systematic fraud against courts around the country. After stalling and fum-fuhing, Prenda's lawyers and principals were dragged before Judge Wright, where they sat for a hearing that ran for 12 whole minutes before Wright furiously banished them from his courtroom. Ken "Popehat" White was there, and sent tantalizing tweets about the total trainwreck he'd witnessed, which he has now had a chance to write up in full.

 In a nutshell, the Prendateers showed up and took the Fifth, refusing to speak. Their lawyer tried to enter some argument into the record, but the judge didn't allow it. Prenda had filed no briefs, and had been called to answer basic, factual questions about lawsuits. Wright wasn't happy about it. Ken has written up a list of likely consequences Prenda will now face. It's not pretty. At very least, the firm and its activities are at an end. At most (though not likely), this could end in prison for the principals here.

Been and gone: Roobarb's creator and a rock 'n' roll cymbal king

By Nick Serpell
Sabian cymbals are found in the armoury of many of the world's best known drummers but it was a family feud that saw Robert Zildjian start the company that makes them. His father brought his cymbal-making business from Turkey to the US in the 1920s and Robert began working for the company at the age of 15. However, when his father broke with tradition by giving the secrets of his manufacturing process to both his sons, rather than just the eldest, the result was a legal battle and Robert quit to set up his own business, taking the name from the initials of his three children. The Sabian and Zildjian companies maintained a fierce rivalry with drum aficionados claiming, often without much evidence, to be able to hear the difference between the two. Among devotees of the Sabian sound are Neil Peart of the band Rush and Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
No catchphrase for you! Seinfeld's Soup Nazi in a stew over gunmaker Serbu

By Sam Blum
A firearms manufacturer in Florida has fallen foul of the Seinfeld Soup Nazi, after it adapted his catchphrase for a campaign against stricter gun laws in New York state. Larry Thomas, who played the Soup Nazi, was furious after he found his face and his catchphrase, "No soup for you!", on T-shirts sold online by Serbu.

The "No Serbu for you!" shirts were part of an effort to protest a New York state law that bans defined assault rifles for civilian use. Serbu used to sell its assault weapons to the New York Police Department, but because of the 2013 NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, which bans civilian use of assault weapons, Serbu no longer cooperates with the NYPD.

. . .

"I own the rights to my image as the Soup Nazi. Serbu did not ask my permission, and Facebook won't take the image down," Thomas said. "Not only did they do this without my authorization, but also I am an advocate of gun control."

The Soup Nazi character is a cult hero among Seinfeld fans. Although not particularly famous as an actor, Thomas has managed to draw enough attention to the issue to have Serbu withdraw the shirts. The company has since designed a replacement, which offers a more direct attack on the state of New York.

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