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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, September 24, 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: The Kitty Cat Dance by Steve Ibsen

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
Neurological Basis for Lack of Empathy in Psychopaths

By (ScienceDaily)
When individuals with psychopathy imagine others in pain, brain areas necessary for feeling empathy and concern for others fail to become active and be connected to other important regions involved in affective processing and decision-making, reports a study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow affect, glibness, manipulation and callousness. Previous research indicates that the rate of psychopathy in prisons is around 23%, greater than the average population which is around 1%.

. . .

When highly psychopathic participants imagined pain to themselves, they showed a typical neural response within the brain regions involved in empathy for pain, including the anterior insula, the anterior midcingulate cortex, somatosensory cortex, and the right amygdala. The increase in brain activity in these regions was unusually pronounced, suggesting that psychopathic people are sensitive to the thought of pain.

. . .

Taken together, this atypical pattern of activation and effective connectivity associated with perspective taking manipulations may inform intervention programs in a domain where therapeutic pessimism is more the rule than the exception. Altered connectivity may constitute novel targets for intervention. Imagining oneself in pain or in distress may trigger a stronger affective reaction than imagining what another person would feel, and this could be used with some psychopaths in cognitive-behavior therapies as a kick-starting technique, write the authors.

Leading climate change scientist brands sceptics 'irrational'

By Fiona Harvey
Climate change sceptics who claim the dangers of global warming are small and far-off are "unscientific" and "irrational", and should not dissuade governments from tackling rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, the author of the world's landmark review of economics and climate change said.

Lord Nicolas Stern told the Guardian: "It is astonishing, irrational and unscientific to suggest the risks are small. How can they say they know the risks are small? The clear conclusion from 200 years of climate science and observations show a strong association between carbon dioxide rises and global surface temperature.

. . .

He said many economists had misread the impacts of future warming because their risk models were not good at taking this into account. He added that the effects of any delay in reducing greenhouse gases were of key concern, because delay means greater emissions and these will continue to wreak effects on the climate system long after the gases were first poured into the atmosphere.

"If delay did not matter, then we might have time to wait (before tackling emissions) but delay is dangerous, because of the effect on higher emissions," he said. Infrastructure, such as new fossil fuel power plants, buildings and transport networks would continue to require large volumes of fossil fuels, and building such fossil-fuel dependent new infrastructure now commits the world to higher emissions for decades to come.

. . .

Myron Ebell, of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Guardian: "Global warming, although it may become a problem some decades in the future, is not a crisis and is highly unlikely to become a crisis.

The whitewashing of the environmental movement

By Katie Valentine
The traditional environmental movement has a diversity problem.

That’s according to Van Jones, founder of Green for All and environmental and civil rights advocate. But Jones says it’s not just that the staffs of many large, mainstream environmental organizations have been historically mostly white – it’s that most of the smaller environmental justice groups are getting a fraction of the funding that the big groups receive.

. . .

These environmental justice groups work on a smaller scale than the major mainstream groups like the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund – they’re groups like the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles and West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) in New York City, groups that are working towards improving the environmental health of their communities. Danielle Deane, Energy and Environment Program Director at the Joint Center, said the groups don’t always get the credit they deserve for their support of environmental issues.

. . .

Jones said diversifying the donor lists of foundations that usually give to environmental groups would help black Americans in particular make their voices heard in the environmental movement. Polls show that, as a group, black Americans support environmental and climate change specific regulations as much or more than white Americans do. A 2010 poll [PDF] from the Joint Center found black Americans in four swing states supported action on climate change and a solid majority of respondents said they wanted the U.S. Senate to pass legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the 2012 election. The poll also found a majority of respondents said they would be willing to pay up to $10 per month more in electric rates if the extra charge if it meant climate change was being addressed, and more than 25 percent said they would pay an additional $25 per month.

A Yale poll [PDF] from 2010 yielded similar results: it found Hispanics, African Americans, and people of other races and ethnicities were “often the strongest supporters of climate and energy policies and were also more likely to support these policies even if they incurred greater cost.” It also found 89 percent of black respondents said they would strongly or somewhat support regulating carbon as a pollutant, compared to 78 percent of white Americans.

YouTube Comments Will Soon Be Less Racist, Homophobic, and Confusing

By Brent Rose
. . .

Right now, the way comments work on YouTube is that the last rando person who said anything is featured up toward the top. This person didn't necessarily say anything insightful, useful, or even intelligible. So why feature them? The new system will use algorithms to determine the people you most likely want to see up top. That includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).

. . .

The new conversation platform isn't actually powered by YouTube. It's powered by Google+. This actually makes a fair amount of sense. After all, maybe you want to put a comment on a video that your friends or followers can see, but you don't feel like being screamed at for your opinions by a bunch of anonymous internet trolls. When you comment on a YouTube video you'll be able to decide if you want it to be public, only visible to people within your Circles, or even just to specific people of your choosing. This will also enable content creators to start conversations that only their fans (or paying subscribers) can see, if they so desire.

. . .

With filters, content creators will not only be able to assign people to an Approved list or a Blocked list (which will auto-approve or auto-reject comments, respectively), but they will be able to add keywords to a Blacklist. This will flag comments that contain those words (or words closely resembling them) and send them into a sort of limbo, where the content creator can go through and approve later, if they so desire. One might filter words commonly associated with hate-speech, or the word “spoiler,” or “stupid,” and so on.

Now, idiots are very good at intentionally misspelling horrible words to get them through filters, so we'll see how good YouTube's filters are are catching the variations, but really, anything that reduces the amount of intolerant and/or cruel jackassery on the internet is a good thing.

Empty F-16 jet tested by Boeing and US Air Force

By Leo Kelion
Boeing has revealed that it has retrofitted retired fighter jets to turn them into drones.

It said that one of the Lockheed Martin F-16 made a first flight with an empty cockpit last week.

Two US Air Force pilots controlled the plane from the ground as it flew from a Florida base to the Gulf of Mexico.

. . .

The firm added that the flight attained 7Gs of acceleration but was capable of carrying out manoeuvres at 9Gs - something that might cause physical problems for a pilot.

. . .

Boeing said that it had a total of six modified F-16s, which have been renamed QF-16s, and that the US military now planned to use some of them in live fire tests.

Former pope denies covering up sexual abuse

By (Al Jazeera)
Former Pope Benedict has denied that he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, in his first direct published comments since he stepped down in February.

. . .

Victims groups have accused Benedict of not doing enough to stop the abuse of children by priests while he was pope and before when he was head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) rejected his assertion.

. . .

"As head of CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover up," the SNAP statement said.

Peru overtakes Colombia as world's top coca leaf grower

By (BBC)
Peru has become the world's main grower of coca leaves- the raw ingredient for cocaine - despite a small drop in the area under cultivation.

. . .

But Peru remains one the world's top three producers of cocaine, alongside Colombia and Bolivia.

. . .

"The government eradicated over 14,230 hectares of coca crop in Alto Huallaga and Aguaytia. These areas, together with the Apurimac-Ene and Mantaro River Valley (known as VRAEM), are strongly associated with drug trafficking and terrorism," said the UNDOC report.

"Nevertheless, the arrest of Artemio [a key leader of the left-wing rebel group Shining Path] has facilitated the involvement of farming communities in alternative development programmes."

Australia Climate Council revived after being axed

By (BBC)
An Australian climate change body scrapped by the new government has been relaunched as a non-profit organisation reliant on public donations.

. . .

Supporters of the rebranded Climate Council say it will provide impartial and fearless advice about impending threats to Australia from more bushfires, droughts and rising sea levels, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney reports.

Sceptics in Australia argue that warming temperatures are the result of naturally occurring cycles, and are not caused by society's excesses, our correspondent adds.

Mr Abbott intends to repeal Australia's controversial carbon tax, which was introduced under the previous Labor government.

Kenya's balancing act after Westgate attack

By (BBC)
Kenyan authorities face a delicate balancing act to limit social and economic fallout from the Westgate shopping mall attacks, while pressing ahead with military strikes on militants in Somalia, writes the BBC's Africa security correspondent Moses Rono.

Despite threats by Somali Islamists to carry out further attacks in the country, Kenya will not withdraw its troops from Somalia.

. . .

Kenyan authorities had accused the Islamists of a series of kidnappings inside Kenya, which threatened to negatively affect one of its major foreign exchange earners - tourism.

. . .

It is believed that one of the reasons for the attacks is to stir anti-Somali and anti-Islam sentiment in the mainly Christian nation of Kenya, and possibly cause a backlash similar to one which led to violence in 2011.

. . .

Mr Odinga asked Western governments not to issue travel advisories discouraging foreign visitors.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Wall Street Tycoons Are Very, Very Hurt by All the Criticism They've Gotten

By Kevin Drum
AIG CEO Robert Benmosche is in trouble for telling the Wall Street Journal that the fight to cut AIG bonuses after the company was bailed out by the federal government was basically the work of a lynch mob, "sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]." Ezra Klein reviews other similar statements by Wall Street honchos and then explains where it comes from:
I was in an off-the-record meeting with top Wall Street folks where similar comparisons to Nazi Germany were tossed around. It really was a meme on Wall Street that the singling out of the wealthy for criticism — and, more to the point, taxation — had a direct historical precedent in Nazi Germany, where the Jews were first demonized, then taxed, and then, well, you know. The sense was that the rich in general, and Wall Street in particular, weren't just being criticized, but that they were being turned into a dangerously despised minority.
. . . Wall Street tycoons really do feel put upon. They simply don't feel any collective responsibility for either the housing bubble or the Wall Street fraud and financial manipulation that made it worse. Nor do they feel any responsibility to support government action that helps ordinary workers who were hurt by the massive recession that followed. Nor do they believe that any further regulation of their activities is warranted in any way. . .
West Hollywood becomes first US city to ban selling fur

By (globalpost.com)
. . .

That ban covers shoes, hats and gloves that contain any fur. Wallets, handbags and leather good are exempt. Second-hand stores and pawn shops are still allowed to sell the items if they are used.

. . .

While some animal rights activists are happy, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has complained it is unfair to the city's fashion businesses. Violators will now be fined starting at $250.

. . .

“This city is not in the business of curtailing business,"  John D’Amico, mayor pro tempore of West Hollywood replied. "[But] someone who is disconnected with the goals of the city and has a rigid point of view [on fur] may have trouble.”

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:
Kitty Cat Dance is a music video created by digital artist Steve Ibsen featuring various photos of his black-and-white cat dancing using a stop motion animation technique. The video has inspired a number of remixes and parodies.

In an interview with Ultra Kawaii, Ibsen revealed that he created the video while he was a senior in high school after taking pictures of his cat Kayla before leaving for school. While scrolling through the photos, Ibsen observed that it appeared as if the cat was dancing in stop motion animation, which inspired him to create the music video. Ibsen originally uploaded the video to his website G-Shack on March 3rd, 2004. The original Ibsen video was uploaded to YouTube by user Batman1225 on October 19th, 2005. As of March 2012, the Batman1225 upload has over 4.3 million views, the Steve Ibsen upload has over 2.4 million views and a Facebook page has over 13,400 likes.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Uphill for the Trees of the World

By (ScienceDaily)
Human civilisation has had an impact on the world, and it continues to have an even greater impact. One of these is that the forests have been cleared and especially so in flat lowlands, so that they have gradually become restricted to steep terrain. This pattern is now emerging all across the world.

Developed countries have been particularly efficient at removing forests from fertile, flat areas of land. The process has been going on throughout the last centuries, for example in Europe. And there is a clear correlation. The better the economy, the better the political organisation, and the more orderly societal conditions a country has, the more efficient the population has been at restricting forests to steep areas, reflecting their lower utility and value.

. . .

The more well-developed societies around the world are now increasingly replanting trees, just as forests are naturally regrowing in areas that have been abandoned as people move to the cities. These dynamics occur in steep areas in particular, given modern efficient land use practices cannot easily be implemented here, strengthening the development leading towards future forests becoming concentrated on slopes.

Global Love Of Bananas May Be Hurting Costa Rica's Crocodiles

By Rhitu Chatterjee
. . .

Many of Costa Rica's banana plantations are in the remote northeastern region, at the headwaters of the Rio Suerte. The area is full of streams and canals, flowing past the banana farms and into protected rain forests that are part of the Tortuguero Conservation Area.

. . .

These are pesticides like DDT, dieldrin, and endosulfan — chemicals that have been banned, some of them for nearly a decade. But they persist in the environment and build up in the bodies of animals.

. . .

"What was revealing to me was the fact that the caiman that were near the banana plantations had not only higher concentrations of pesticides, but also they were in a poorer state of health relative to the caiman in more pristine, remote areas," says Ross.

. . .

Especially as the demand for bananas has been growing worldwide, and farms move toward more intensive methods of cultivation.

Republican solution to wildfires: Sell the trees!

By John Upton
House Republicans have a cunning plan for tackling the wildfires that have been ravaging the American West this fire season: They want to allow loggers to haul away the trees before they burn.

. . .

The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act was approved mostly along party lines by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Friday. The bill would more than double logging nationwide and turn some forestlands into pasturelands.

. . .

It’s not that it’s a bad idea to reduce fuel in the nation’s forests to help preempt wildfires. By taking a hard-line approach to fighting every wildfire, Americans have inadvertently created unnaturally incendiary conditions. Leaf litter, woody detritus, and dense stands of trees that would be cleared out by frequent fires build up, then explode into infernos. Meanwhile, scores of small trees that flourish in the absence of regular fires can damage ecosystems and hog water.

But this bill is a public giveaway to private logging interests masquerading as a fire-prevention effort. . .

Science and Health
Late Cretaceous Period Was Likely Ice-Free

By (ScienceDaily)
For years, scientists have thought that a continental ice sheet formed during the Late Cretaceous Period more than 90 million years ago when the climate was much warmer than it is today. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found evidence suggesting that no ice sheet formed at this time. This finding could help environmentalists and scientists predict what Earth's climate will be as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

. . .

Previously, many scientists have thought that doubling CO2 levels would cause earth's temperature to increase as much as 3 degrees Celsius, or approximately 6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the temperatures MacLeod believes existed in Tanzania 90 million years ago are more consistent with predictions that a doubling of CO2 levels would cause Earth's temperature could rise an average of 6 degrees Celsius, or approximately 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

"While studying the past can help us predict the future, other challenges with modern warming still exist," MacLeod said. "The Late Cretaceous climate was very warm, but the Earth adjusted as changes occurred over millions of years. We're seeing the same size changes, but they are happening over a couple of hundred years, maybe 10,000 times faster. How that affects the equation is a big and difficult question."

Generosity Can Breed Contempt

By Amy Kraft
’Tis better to give than to receive. But if you give too much, you might receive contempt. Because a study finds that people shun group members who are overly generous.

. . .

 Participants also rated how much they wanted other members to remain in the group. They went after those that gave too little and too much. The study is in the journal Social Science Research. [Kyle Irwin and Christine Horne, A normative explanation of antisocial punishment]

 The researchers believe that a group’s members can find conformity within the group more important than the success of the group. As Ben Franklin may have put it, in some cases hanging together makes hanging separately more likely.

The Myth of Executive Stress

By Keith Payne
It’s tough to be the boss. A recent Wall Street Journal article described the plight of one CEO who had to drag himself out of bed each morning and muster his game face. It would be a long day of telling other people what to do. It got so bad, we are told, that he had no choice but to take a year off work to sail across the Atlantic Ocean with his family.

. . .

 This type of silliness usually cites research from the 1950’s on “executive stress syndrome.” The research was not on executives, but rhesus monkeys. In a famous experiment, neuroscientist Joseph Brady subjected one group of monkeys to regular electric shocks every 20 seconds for six hour shifts. Another group of “executive monkeys” had the same schedule, except that they could prevent the shocks by pressing a lever in each 20 second period. The “executive monkeys” quickly learned to prevent the shocks by pressing the levers. This situation sounds awful for both monkeys, but decidedly worse for the monkeys with no escape. And yet, it was the “executive monkeys” with greater responsibility and control who started dropping dead from stomach ulcers. These results seemed to suggest that being responsible for making important decisions was so stressful that it posed a serious health risk. Executive stress syndrome was born.

. . .

 In fact there are hundreds of studies on the relationship between stress, health, and power. And they virtually all show the opposite of the executive monkeys. Biologist Robert Sapolsky has studied baboon troops in Africa. He finds that the lower the baboon’s rank in the pecking order, the more likely it is to have high levels of stress hormones and stress-related illnesses. But a high-ranking alpha male, who can mate with any female he chooses and take out his aggression on any lower ranking male, has much lower stress. If executive apes exist, these are the ones.

 . . .

 When the executive or the general complains that they are “stressed,” we have to pay careful attention to what exactly they mean. They may have more emails in their inbox than they can get to. They may work long hours. But in most cases they can say no to requests and they can decide when and how to deal with challenges. They have much more control over how their lives are arranged than does the secretary who schedules their appointments or the janitor who cleans their office.

Thousands of volunteers compile data on 300,000 galaxies

By (UPI)
Thousands of volunteers helped catalog more than 300,000 galaxies, the first time so much galaxy population information was collected, a U.S. researcher said.

. . .

From February 2009 to April 2010, more than 83,000 Galaxy Zoo 2 volunteers worldwide looked at images online gathered from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The participants answered questions about the galaxy, including whether it had spirals, the number of spiral arms present, or if it had galactic bars, which are long extended features representing a concentration of stars.

. . .

Researchers estimate the volunteers' effort represents about 30 years of full-time work if it were done by one researcher, and represents a boon to scientists gathering more information than ever using telescopes.

3D printers get cheaper, faster - and more mainstream

By Alex Hern
Maker Faire pitches itself as 'the greatest show and tell on earth', a rambling, eccentric, inventive celebration of tech hackers and artists. 3D printing has always been at the heart of this colourful, crafty community, empowering the DIY community to design and build their own artwork and products on 3D printers - and helping the technology edge slowly towards the mainstream.

. . .

Market leader Makerbot, targeted at the higher end of the chain, showed not a 3D printer but a 3D scanner. The $1,400 (£875) 'Digitizer' can turn physical objects into files compatible with the company’s Replicant line of printers, giving users who lack 3D modelling prowess a way of finding new things to print.

. . .

But the big push is in the online realm. Youmagine is Ultimaker’s competitor to Thingiverse, the Makerbot-owned repository of 3D printer models. While Thingiverse isn’t specifically limited to designs which work on Makerbot’s printers, Ultimaker is hesitant to rely too strongly on a competitor’s website.

"Baby Veronica" handed over to adoptive parents, Cherokee Nation confirms

By (cbsnews.com)
A South Carolina couple who vowed last month to not leave Oklahoma unless they went home with a 4-year-old Cherokee girl they have been trying to adopt since her birth were given custody of the girl Monday night after the Oklahoma Supreme Court said it didn't have jurisdiction over the child.

. . .

The Capobiancos and the girl's biological father, Dusten Brown, had fought for years over custody of the girl. The dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and a federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together.

Veronica, whose biological father is a member of the Cherokee Nation and whose biological mother in not Native American, had lived with the Capobiancos from birth until she was 27 months old, when Brown was awarded custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision later went against Brown, and a South Carolina court finalized the Capobiancos' adoption of the girl earlier this year. Brown had then turned to Oklahoma's courts.

. . .

Veronica's birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and the Capobiancos took custody of Veronica shortly after birth.

Brown and his family claim the Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation. The law was passed in 1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families.

Why We Should Choose Science over Beliefs

By Michael Shermer
Ever since college I have been a libertarian—socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I believe in individual liberty and personal responsibility. I also believe in science as the greatest instrument ever devised for understanding the world. So what happens when these two principles are in conflict? My libertarian beliefs have not always served me well. Like most people who hold strong ideological convictions, I find that, too often, my beliefs trump the scientific facts. This is called motivated reasoning, in which our brain reasons our way to supporting what we want to be true. Knowing about the existence of motivated reasoning, however, can help us overcome it when it is at odds with evidence.

 Take gun control. I always accepted the libertarian position of minimum regulation in the sale and use of firearms because I placed guns under the beneficial rubric of minimal restrictions on individuals. Then I read the science on guns and homicides, suicides and accidental shootings (summarized in my May column) and realized that the freedom for me to swing my arms ends at your nose. . .

 My libertarianism also once clouded my analysis of climate change. I was a longtime skeptic, mainly because it seemed to me that liberals were exaggerating the case for global warming as a kind of secular millenarianism—an environmental apocalypse requiring drastic government action to save us from doomsday through countless regulations that would handcuff the economy and restrain capitalism, which I hold to be the greatest enemy of poverty. Then I went to the primary scientific literature on climate and discovered that there is convergent evidence from multiple lines of inquiry that global warming is real and human-caused . . .

 The clash between scientific facts and ideologies was on display at the 2013 FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas—the largest gathering of libertarians in the world—where I participated in two debates, one on gun control and the other on climate change. I love FreedomFest because it supercharges my belief engine. But this year I was so discouraged by the rampant denial of science that I wanted to turn in my libertarian membership card. . .

A Serbian Sokal? Authors spoof pub with Ron Jeremy and Michael Jackson references

By (amarcus41)
What do porn star Ron Jeremy, Max Weber and Michael Jackson have in common?  Very little — except the three names appear in the list of references for a recent hoax paper by a group of Serbian academics who, fed up with the poor state of their country’s research output, scammed a Romanian magazine by publishing a completely fabricated article.

The paper is replete with transparent gimmicks — obvious, that is, had anyone at the publication been paying attention — including a reference to the scholarship of Jackson, Weber, Jeremy and citations to new studies by Bernoulli and Laplace, both dead more than 180 years (Weber died in 1920). They also throw in references to the “Journal of Modern Illogical Studies,” which to the best of our knowledge does not and never has existed (although perhaps it should), and to a researcher named, dubiously, “A.S. Hole.” And, we hasten to add, the noted Kazakh polymath B. Sagdiyev, otherwise known as Borat.

The paper, “Evaluation of transformative hermeneutic heuristics for processing random data,” by Dragan Djuric, Boris Delibasic and Stevica Radisic, appeared in the magazine Metalurgia International, according to the website In Serbia, which reported on the story. The authors, from the University of Belgrade and the Health Center ‘Stari Grad’, appear on the manuscript in false wigs and mustaches.

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