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

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

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NPR
 

Twenty-four hours after President Obama announced on Saturday that he'll wait for congressional authorization before launching strikes on Syria; members of Congress attended a classified briefing at the Capitol.

For days, most of the discontent among members of Congress has been about not being included in the deliberations on Syria, about not getting the chance to vote. Now that they've gotten their way, each member of Congress will have to go on the record.

"Right now, I would say, if the vote were today, it would probably be a no vote," Republican Rep. Peter King of New York told Fox News Sunday.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on NBC's Meet the Press, "Listen, I think Congress passes the authorization."

And, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also weighed in on NBC, "I think it's at least 50-50 whether the House will vote for involvement in the Syrian war."

Al Jazeera
 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the Middle East as a "powder keg" Monday, saying the region would "explode" if the United States and its allies execute a military strike on Syria. His warning came as the Obama administration pushed legislators to approve punitive military action over last month’s alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

"The Middle East is a powder keg and the fire is approaching today," Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro.

"You can’t only talk about what the Syrian response will be, but what could happen after a first strike. And no one knows what would happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes," he said.

"Chaos and extremism will be widespread," he warned. "The risk of a regional war exists."

Assad said he did not regard the people of France as enemies, but described the country’s policies as "hostile." France has indicated that it would support a U.S.-led strike on military targets in Syria.

"There will be repercussions, of course negative, on France’s interests" if that happens, Assad said.

Bloomberg
 

Republican Senator John McCain said Congress must back taking action against Syria and that a failure of lawmakers to act would be “catastrophic” for U.S. interests in the region.

McCain spoke after meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House and said congressional leaders are working on a resolution authorizing military action in Syria that can pass both the House and Senate, where some lawmakers of both parties are expressing skepticism about further committing U.S. resources.

McCain, of Arizona, was joined at the meeting by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Both lawmakers have been advocating a more aggressive U.S. response to the civil war in Syria.

Spiegel Online

The US has stepped back from an immediate response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria on Aug. 21. But Washington continues to profess certainty that Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad is behind the attack. The situation on the ground provides clues as well

Two and a half years after the beginning of the uprising, Damascus has become an eerily empty city. The streets were deserted last Friday evening in the remaining regime-controlled districts -- from Bab Tuma in the east to Mezzeh in the west -- where there is still electricity, running water and phone service.

The Syrian capital was bracing itself for the worst. Last Thursday alone, over 10,000 people reportedly fled across the border into Lebanon, and hundreds of families of soldiers have left their apartments.

The Guardian
 

Russia is sending a reconnaissance ship to the eastern Mediterranean as the US prepares for a possible military strike in Syria, it was reported on Monday.

The Priazovye left Russia's naval base in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol late on Sunday on a mission "to gather current information in the area of the escalating conflict", said an unidentified military source quoted by the Interfax news agency. The defence ministry declined to comment.

Barack Obama said on Saturday he would seek congressional authorisation for punitive military action against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after what the US says was a sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Russia says the US has not proved its case and that it believes the attack was staged by rebels to provoke intervention in the civil war

US NEWS

The Guardian
 

Firefighters in California gained ground on Monday against a massive wildfire burning part of Yosemite National Park, although complete containment may be weeks away, officials said.

Crews working through the night got an edge on the so-called Rim Fire, a 350-square mile (906-square km) blaze that has charred the California park's Northwest, said Andrea Capps, spokeswoman for the Rim Fire command center. They connected containment lines near the fire's northwestern and western borders, where most of the 4,500 homes threatened by the blaze are located, she said.

The fire was 60% contained by early Monday, a 15% increase from the night before.

"Last night is when it all really tied together," Capps said. "It's looking really good over there right now. They're calling that containment line secure."

Despite the jump in containment, Capps said fire analysts estimate that it could take until 20 September to contain the Rim Fire fully. Steep terrain and high, unpredictable winds will likely pose the main challenges in digging and burning containment lines around the blaze.

Al Jazeera
 

California judge allows benefits for lesbian Army veteran's wife as DOD prepares to offer same-sex spouse benefits

The Department of Defense is poised to issue identification cards to same-sex spouses of military personnel starting Tuesday, a change that will give them the same access to housing and health care benefits as heterosexual spouses.

The change comes after a California district court judge ruled last week that the military cannot deny spousal benefits to a lesbian Army veteran, due to the Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling invalidating a key portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that had defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Tracey Cooper-Harris, an Army veteran who served nine years of active duty that included a tour in Kuwait in 2003, filed a lawsuit in 2012 after she was denied spousal benefits for her wife, Maggie. The women were legally married in the state of California during the brief period in 2008 when same-sex marriages were allowed there.

Bloomberg
 

A website for the U.S. Marine Corps was hacked today with a posting attributed to the “Syrian Electronic Army” that criticized President Barack Obama and called American soldiers brothers of the Syrian army.

The posting said marines should be allies with forces fighting for Syria and showed five people dressed in army fatigues holding signs that said they wouldn’t fight for al-Qaeda.

“Obama is a traitor who wants to put your lives in danger to rescue al-Qaeda insurgents,” according to the posting on marines.com. “Marines, please take a look at what your comrades think about Obama’s alliance with al-Qaeda against Syria.”

The message has now been removed and the website has returned to normal. The hack follows those on the Twitter Inc. accounts of the New York Times, Financial Times and ITV Plc by a group using the Syrian Electronic Army name

Reuters
 

American 64-year-old long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad on Monday became the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba without a shark cage, succeeding on her fifth attempt at the feat.

Nyad came ashore about 53 hours after she set off from Havana, completing the estimated 110-mile (177-km) journey and setting a record for the longest ocean swim without a shark cage or flippers, according to her crew.

She was met by crowds in Key West who surrounded her, snapping photos, when she staggered ashore as they were enjoying sunny beach weather on the annual Labor Day holiday.

Helpers were waiting to give her medical treatment and immediately placed her on a stretcher and hydrated her with an IV, before she was taken to a hospital. Her face looked sunburned except around the eyes, where she had been covered by goggles, and her lips were swollen.

Al Jazeera
 

DETROIT – Christian Fuller had a lifestyle decision to make earlier this year as he looked for a new place to rent; move out of Detroit, where he had lived just east of downtown for years, or stay in the city?

The 45-year-old entertainment attorney opted for a 1,500-square foot apartment in Corktown, a popular neighborhood in the throes of a burst of gentrification.

“There is going to be a belt right around downtown Detroit, where more and more businesses and living spaces develop,” said Fuller, who pays a meager $900 a month for his space.

Fuller would like to know who will be at the wheel, guiding the city to this optimistic future, and the looming election for mayor in November won’t make it much clearer. The city’s infrastructure is sagging, crime and corruption remain high, and, as a final kick in the butt, it filed for bankruptcy in July and its major spending decisions are now handled by a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

All of this begs the question: Who would want to be mayor of the nation’s punch line?

Alan Kandel Air Quality Matters
 

To repeat: 3.2 million yearly premature deaths worldwide are air-pollution related. An estimated 200,000 are in the U.S. Numbers have been on the upswing: none of which is good news. And the largest contributor of these deaths: transportation-sector-produced emissions, apparently.

Through my reading and research, one factor I found perhaps to be more influential than any other is diesel particulate matter.

In “Regarding air-pollution cleanup at the Port of Long Beach: A progress report,” I cited a relevant reference from the Fall of 2012 Port of Long Beach community newsletter known simply as the “re:port.” Below is the reference in question in its original form. It is from the article: “Port Initiatives Improve Air Quality Even More.”

NY Times
 

On “Sesame Street,” a distressed cow has a big problem. She made it up the stairs to the beauty parlor but now, her bouffant piled high, she’s stuck. Cows can go up stairs, she moans, but not down

Enter Super Grover 2.0. Out from his bottomless “utility sock” comes an enormous ramp, which, as the cow cheerily notes before clomping on down, is “a sloping surface that goes from high to low.”

Simple ABCs and 123s? So old school. In the last four years, “Sesame Street” has set itself a much larger goal: teaching nature, math, science and engineering concepts and problem-solving to a preschool audience — with topics like how a pulley works or how to go about investigating what’s making Mr. Snuffleupagus sneeze.

WORLD NEWS

The Guardian
 

The Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, used his first state-of-the-nation address to defend and promote his government's shakeup of the economy and public sector, which has already triggered demonstrations paralysing the capital, Mexico City, accompanied by outbreaks of violence.

"We knew beforehand that it would be complex and that there would be inertia and resistance," Peña Nieto said during his speech on Monday, exactly nine months into his administration. "The great transformation of Mexico is possible, and it has started."

The president put particular emphasis on his education plans, twice celebrating Sunday night's approval by the lower house of congress of a law tying teachers' jobs to evaluation of their performance.

Reuters
 

South African union leaders warned on Monday, a day before a strike in the gold sector, that mine owners' handling of pay talks could provoke violence, and bosses said wage hikes would force mine closures and cost thousands of jobs.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represents about two-thirds of more than 120,000 unionized gold miners in Africa's biggest economy, is set to strike from Tuesday.

With stoppages in the auto industry and the construction sector already sapping the struggling economy, shutting gold mines could cripple an industry that has produced a third of the world's bullion but is now in rapid decline.

NPR
 

The government of Ecuador has abandoned a plan that would have kept part of the Amazonian rainforest off limits to oil drilling. The initiative was an unusual one: Ecuador was promising to keep the oil in the ground, but it wanted to be paid for doing so.

The oil sits under the Yasuni national park, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth — orchids, jaguars, monkeys, birds. To get the corner of the park that holds the oil, you have to take a plane, then a motorboat, then paddle a canoe. "Even the sound of the motor will destroy the fragility of this place," Ivonne A-Baki, who works for the Ecuadorian government, told me this year.

In 2007, the country's president, Rafael Correa, told the world that Ecuador would leave the oil in the ground. But the country wanted to be paid half of what the oil was valued at, at the time. Ecuador wanted $3.6 billion.

When I talked with Ivonne A-Baki, earlier this year, she was traveling the world asking for contributions. This was delicate, because the pitch, viewed a certain way, could sound a bit like blackmail. Pay us or we'll shoot the trees.

Reuters
 

A judicial panel set up by Egypt's military-backed government backed a legal challenge to the status of the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday, compounding a drive to crush the movement behind the elected president deposed by the army in July.

While short of a formal ban on the Brotherhood, which worked underground for decades under Egypt's previous military-backed rulers, the panel's advice to a court to remove its NGO status threatens the million-member movement's future in politics.

An attack on a police station in central Cairo and plans for new mass protests by the Brotherhood on Tuesday showed the stability the interim government says it took over to impose after two and a half years of turmoil is still elusive.

At least 900 people, most of them Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi, have been killed since the army takeover on July 3. The government has accused the Brotherhood of inciting violence and terrorism, and arrested its leaders.

NPR
 

Nelson Mandela, still in critical condition with a chronic lung infection, was discharged from a hospital Sunday and taken by ambulance to his home in Johannesburg after three months of intensive care. The former South African president and anti-apartheid leader is 95.

The news comes a day after mistaken reports that he had already been sent home from a Pretoria hospital.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that the office of South African President Jacob Zuma says Mandela's condition has "vacillated between serious to critical and at times unstable."

"His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there," the statement said. "The health care personnel providing care at his home are the very same who provided care to him in hospital. If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done."

BBC
 

The crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant "has not ended", the country's nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is "unstable".

Watchdog chief Shunichi Tanaka also accused the plan's operator of careless management during the crisis.

He added that it may not be possible to avoid dumping some contaminated water into the ocean.

The comments come a day before the Japanese government is due to unveil plans to rescue the clean-up operation.

Mr Tanaka's comments come after Fukushima's operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said radiation levels near one tank were 18 times higher than previously thought.

However, Mr Tanaka said that reports that this level of radiation could be lethal to workers after four hours of exposure were exaggerated.

SCIENCE, HEALTH AND TECHNOLOGY

Reuters

Verizon Communications Inc said on Monday it has agreed to buy out Vodafone Group Plc's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion, capping its decade-long effort to win full control of the most profitable mobile service provider in the United States.

 

BBC
 

Climate change is helping pests and diseases that attack crops to spread around the world, a study suggests.

Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford have found crop pests are moving at an average of two miles (3km) a year.

The team said they were heading towards the north and south poles, and were establishing in areas that were once too cold for them to live in.

The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Currently, it is estimated that between 10% and 16% of the world's crops are lost to disease outbreaks. The researchers warn that rising global temperatures could make the problem worse.

Dr Dan Bebber, the lead author of the study from the University of Exeter, said: "Global food security is one of the major challenges we are going to face over the next few decades.

"We really don't want to be losing any more of our crops than is absolutely necessary to pests and pathogens."

BBC
 

The average height of men has risen by almost 11cm since the mid-19th century, experts have found.

Data was collected on hundreds of thousands of men from 15 European countries.

For British men, the average height at age 21 rose from 167.05cm (5ft 5in) in 1871-75 to 177.37cm (5ft 10in) in 1971-75.

A public health expert said height was a "useful barometer" but it was crucial to focus on improving health overall.

The paper, published in the journal Oxford Economic Papers, looked at data from sources including military records and modern population surveys from the 1870s to 1980 in 15 European countries.

It looked only at male height because there was too little historical data for women.

ScienceBlog
 

A new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine could help pinpoint ways to counter the effects of the antibiotics-driven depletion of friendly, gut-dwelling bacteria.

A number of intestinal pathogens can cause problems after antibiotic administration, said Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology and the senior author of the study, to be published online Sept. 1 in Nature. Graduate students Katharine Ng and Jessica Ferreyra shared lead authorship.

C/NET
 

Google's browser celebrates its 5th Chrome-iversary, now a driving force behind cutting edge Web innovation that commands around 17 percent of the global market, and Chrome's not done with you yet.

Not long after Google delivered its Chrome browser to an unsuspecting world, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer downplayed the significance.

"Open source is interesting," he said at a Microsoft conference in Australia, describing WebKit, the rendering engine that Chrome was founded on.
It turned out to be a lot more than merely "interesting." Google celebrates Chrome's five-year anniversary this week, while Ballmer just announced that he will be departing the hot seat at Microsoft within a year.

"After the first couple of weeks, people were writing us off as dead," said Erik Kay, a software engineer manager who's been on the Chrome team since before the browser launched.

Al Jazeera
 

Syed Wali desperately wants to immunize his three young children against polio but fears the Islamic militants who banned the vaccine from this remote area in northwest Pakistan will catch him if he tries to smuggle it in.

"I can afford to bring the vaccine for my children, but what answer will I give the Taliban if they recover the vaccine bag from my possession?" Wali asked.

Wali's fears are shared by many in the North Waziristan tribal area as health authorities recently confirmed five new polio cases there and suspect there are many more. It's one of a series of outbreaks this year in parts of the country where security threats have kept out vaccination teams.

Officials worry these outbreaks -- inflamed by militant threats and attacks on vaccination teams -- could worsen and spread to other parts of Pakistan, especially since the country is entering the high season for virus transmission.

"It's not like a pot of boiling water where you see bubbles coming from everywhere, but there is steam coming out from specific areas," said Dr. Elias Durry, emergency coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan for the World Health Organization. "Our fear is that the virus from these areas can go out and seriously jeopardize the success in fighting polio that has been achieved in the past couple of years."

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