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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, November 26, 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: Voices Carry by 'Til Tuesday

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
America is the Stingiest Rich Country in the World

By Kevin Drum
. . . a recent New Yorker piece on income inequality by John Cassidy. Its most revealing chart, Mazie says, is one that compares raw income inequality in various rich countries (as calculated by GINI scores) to income inequality after taxes and government transfers. In other words, it helps us see which countries do the most to fight the relentless rise in income inequality over the past three decades.

But I wanted to see that more directly, so I re-charted the data. All I did was calculate how much taxes and transfers reduced inequality in every country that had high inequality to begin with. Unsurprisingly, whether you use raw number or percentages, the United States is #1:

7 Reasons Why It's Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution

By Chris Mooney
. . . even as creationists keep trying to undermine modern science, modern science is beginning to explain creationism scientifically. And it looks like evolution—the scientifically uncontested explanation for the diversity and interrelatedness of life on Earth, emphatically including human life—will be a major part of the story. Our brains are a stunning product of evolution; and yet ironically, they may naturally pre-dispose us against its acceptance.

. . .

If essentialism is a default style of thinking, as much research suggests, then that puts evolution at a major disadvantage. Charles Darwin and his many scientific disciples have shown that essentialism is just plain wrong: Given enough time, biological kinds are not fixed but actually change. Species are connected through intermediate types to other species—and all are ultimately related to one another.

. . .

Dualistic thinking is closely related to belief in phenomena like spirits and ghosts. But in a recent study, it was also the cognitive factor most strongly associated with believing in God. As for evolutionary science? Dualism is pretty clearly implicated in resistance to the idea that human beings could have developed from purely natural processes—for if they did, how could there ever be a soul or self beyond the body, to say nothing of an afterlife?

. . .

Fear and the Need for Certainty. Finally, there appears to be something about fear and doubt that impels religiosity and dispels acceptance of evolution. "People seem to take more comfort from a stance that says, someone designed the world with good intentions, instead of that the world is just an intention-less, random place," says Norenzayan. "This is especially true when we feel a sense of threat, or a feeling of not being in control."

. . .

In any event, the evidence is clear that both our cognitive architecture, and also our emotional dispositions, make it difficult or unnatural for many people to accept evolution. "Natural selection is like quantum physics...we might intellectually grasp it, with considerable effort, but it will never feel right to us," writes the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom. Often, people express surprise that in an age so suffused with science, science causes so much angst and resistance.

Astonishing picture of Earth compared to all its water and air

By Jesus Dia
I've seen Earth compared to all its water before, but this image really gives you a perfect idea on how fragile our planet is by adding all the air in another sphere. The density of the air pictured here corresponds to its density at sea level (one atmosphere.)
Newspaper barbs and US bombers flying after China's air defence move

By Anthony Zurcher
As US bombers fly into China's recently declared air defence zone over the East China Sea, tensions are spilling onto editorial pages in Japan, China and the United States.

. . .

China's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) creates an overlapping area over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are claimed by both China and Japan. As the parties test each other's resolve, a rapidly escalating war of words is breaking out to pre-emptively assign blame if the military sabre-rattling ends in actual conflict.

. . .

"The Chinese government led by President Xi [Jinping] has been absorbed in the 'Chinese Dream' of surpassing the United States in all aspects," write the editors of the Japanese Mainichi Shimbun. "However, China has been enjoying rapid economic growth thanks to peace and order in Asia. China's provocative acts that threaten the region's peace and order could give the international community the impression that China is dreaming of another violent cultural revolution."

. . .

Currently, on the Diaoyu Islands issue, the Japanese government is continuing to ignore China's position and deny the existence of any dispute. On historical issues, Japan seeks to detoxify its aggression and avoid its responsibilities; on its attitude towards China it plays up the "China threat" and tries to manipulate an "encirclement of China".

. . .

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, director of Asia-Pacific programmes at the US Institute of Peace, writes that the latest events are a sign that Mr Xi is pushing a bolder "great power" foreign policy around the world: "China's recent rhetoric and actions show a move from a defensive, reactive and image-conscious policy to a proactive approach designed to further China's vital interests."

6,000 cases of women raped during Syrian conflict, human rights group says

By Allison Jackson
A new report estimated 6,000 cases of women being raped during the Syrian conflict. The actual number, however, is likely to be much higher given that most cases go undocumented.

. . .

“Syrian women exposed to sexual abuses subsequently found themselves victimized not only by the crime itself, but also by enduring the silence that surrounds the crime and the social pressure related to it,” the report said.

. . .

Seventy percent of the abuses documented by the group were committed by government or government-allied forces. Wolfe said this pattern is common in conflicts where military forces clash with rebel fighters heavily reliant on civilian support.

. . .

The report also found that more than 5,400 women were detained during the first two years of the conflict, and “the whereabouts of many remain unknown.” There have been numerous documented cases of women "detained indefinitely without being presented to the judge, with no access to lawyers or family, and exposed to torture and ill treatment."

Thailand protesters back on the streets

By Jonathan Head
In almost any other country, the scenes I have witnessed in Thailand the past couple of days would have been unthinkable.

An unarmed crowd of demonstrators, some of them elderly and most decidedly unthreatening, stormed and then occupied the finance ministry in Bangkok.

. . .

A protest movement armed with little more than whistles and plastic hand-clappers has been able to mount what comes close to an insurrection against the government, in a middle-income country and economic hub for the South East Asian region.

. . .

They are a mix of middle-class city-dwellers and provincial folk from the south, the stronghold of the opposition Democrat party, and they all repeat the same mantras we heard during the last round of "yellow" protests in 2008.

That the former prime minister elevated corruption, always a pernicious problem here, to new heights; that he tried to control everything, and is still doing so from self-imposed exile, through his sister Yingluck, the current prime minister.

French heroin dealer hit with tax bill

By (Al Jazeera)
A convicted heroin dealer has been presented with an $108,000 tax bill on his earnings by French authorities, who even gave allowances for personal consumption of the drug and travel expenses.

The dealer, currently in prison in Nancy in eastern France, recently received a demand for payment based on his supposed 2008-11 earnings, his lawyer Samira Boudiba told the AFP news agency.

"He is being treated as if he was a small businessman - it is quite extraordinary," Boudiba said. "How can you tax an activity that is completely illegal?" she said, adding that she was seeking a review of the demand by France's Constitutional Council.

. . .

It goes on to state that since the dealer's main supplier was based in Namur in Belgium, a total of $2700 a year in travel expenses could be classified as a deductible expense.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
The IRS Moves to Limit Dark Money – But Enforcement Still a Question

By Kim Barker
The IRS and Treasury Department announced proposed guidelines clarifying the definition of political activities for social welfare nonprofits Tuesday afternoon, a move that could restrict the spending of the dark money groups that dumped more than $254 million of anonymous money into the 2012 elections. . .

. . .

Social welfare nonprofits are allowed to spend money on election ads without reporting their donors, as long as they can prove that social welfare – and not politics – is their primary purpose. But the IRS guidelines for political spending have been vague. They state that the agency will apply a “facts and circumstances” test to each ad, meaning that if an ad walks and talks like a political ad, it’s a political ad.

. . .

The regulations represent the first time the IRS has pushed back against political activity by these groups since revealing that the agency targeted the applications of conservative groups for extra review in May, kicking off a political firestorm. (Conservative groups accounted for about 85 percent of the spending by social welfare nonprofits in 2012.)

. . .

If adopted, the rules would also make social welfare nonprofits operate much differently than unions and trade associations, nonprofits that are also allowed to spend money on political activity. If that happens, it’s likely trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will become the vehicle of choice for anonymous money in politics, experts said.

US charges against Julian Assange unlikely, officials say

By Sarah Wolfe
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is unlikely to face US charges for publishing classified documents, according to several Justice Department officials.

. . .

"The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told the Post. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

. . .

But Assange and his lawyers aren't buying it.

They want the Justice Department to make a formal statement that it will not prosecute him, and WikiLeaks tweeted it was "skeptical" of the Post story because it relied on anonymous sources.

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:
. . .

Aimee Mann embarked on a successful solo career and dipped a toe into acting, as well. Look closely, for instance, in a scene in The Big Lebowski where the nihilists are ordering pancakes and the gal on the end has a foot cast as the camera pans down - yep, that's Aimee Mann! In 1998, she married Sean Penn's brother Michael Penn, also a musician.

The band's drummer, Michael Hausmann, started his own artist management company whose clients include Mark Cohn, Suzanne Vega and... Aimee Mann.

. . .

The video was directed by D.J. Webster, and it included some dialogue mixed with the song. In the clip, Aimee Mann's creepy boyfriend (played by Cully Holland), derides her music career and gets rough with her. When they go to Carnegie Hall to watch the symphony, Mann can't take it anymore and has an outburst in the middle of the theater, finally expressing her pent-up frustration. This scene was inspired by the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much, where Doris Day screams during a symphony to thwart a murder.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Search the Web, Plant a Tree—Every Minute

By Mark Fischetti
Google, Yahoo and other search engines make gobs of money from advertisers who pay to have ads pop up when you look for a term. A few more socially minded search engines like Goodsearch and Everyclick donate a few cents to charity when you seek or shop. But one site begun in 2009, Ecosia, donates a whopping 80 percent of its ad revenue to a program that plants trees in the Brazilian rainforest to counter the rapid deforestation there. Ecosia has become popular enough that it recently hit an impressive benchmark: it is now replanting a tree a minute.

About 200,000 people are using Ecosia each day, undertaking about half a million searches every 24 hours. “Since it costs roughly $1 to plant each new tree, Ecosians are now searching and shopping frequently enough to fund the planting of one new tree every 60 seconds,” says Christian Kroll, founder of Ecosia.org, based in Germany.

. . .

Kroll defines his company as a social business, so it also offsets carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that generate the electricity to run its Web servers. It does so by supporting a project at Myclimate.org that funds the sale of solar cookers in Madagascar. The cookers replace old, commonly used wood and gas cookers, reducing emissions and ironically lessening local deforestation for wood as fuel.

Proud moment: The U.S. is no longer the world’s biggest jerk on climate change

By Ben Jervey
What stood out most about the United States’ role in the United Nations climate talks that just wrapped in Warsaw, Poland, was how little the United States stood out.

. . .

Consider this comment by Tim Gore of Oxfam, who was talking specifically about some positions on climate finance (or how rich countries will help poor ones deal with climate change), but who might as well have been talking about the whole UNFCCC process: “Ironically, this is even making the U.S. look good. Not because they’ve actually done anything here, but because other countries are going backwards.”

. . .

China’s emissions have already topped the U.S.’s on a yearly basis, and it won’t be long until the Chinese have emitted more greenhouse gases cumulatively than have Americans. With that inconvenient truth, there’s a growing rift amongst the developing nations over who should be required to cut emissions. China and India and other emerging economies don’t want to have to make the same commitments as rich countries that have spent centuries spewing greenhouse gases.

. . .

Complicating things is a recent study, cited by U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern in a press conference, that by 2020 — the year that this prospective climate treaty will go into force —  the cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases from developing countries will be greater than those from developed countries.

. . .

If you want to look at the Fossil awards as a reasonably good metric for analyzing the true “bad guys” in these climate talks — and, really, it’s the best tool I can think of — then the U.S. wasn’t even in the bottom five. Among the countries with worse Fossil showings: Australia, Poland, Canada, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, and China.

Bid adieu to South Carolina’s drowning shorelines

By John Upton
About 1,200 acres of land have disappeared from Bulls Island and three nearby islands along the South Carolina coast since the 1990s — lost to rising seas and the eroding effects of powerful storms.

The erosion problems at the barrier islands, which are part of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, are so severe that U.S. Interior Department secretary Sally Jewell visited them last week.

. . .

It’s not just chunks of land that are disappearing: Entire features of the landscape — like the spit known as Sandy Point — are entirely vanishing. A sign used to warn visitors not to bring their pets onto Sandy Point; now it juts ominously out of the water.

Science and Health
The Lingering Clouds: Why Pollution Results in Larger Storm Clouds, Colder Days, Warmer Nights

By (SCienceDaily)
A new study reveals how pollution causes thunderstorms to leave behind larger, deeper, longer lasting clouds. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences November 26, the results solve a long-standing debate and reveal how pollution plays into climate warming. The work can also provide a gauge for the accuracy of weather and climate models.

. . .

The team found that in all cases, pollution increased the size, thickness and duration of the anvil-shaped clouds. However, only two locations -- the tropics and China -- showed stronger convection. The opposite happened in Oklahoma -- pollution made for weaker convection.

This inconsistency suggested that stronger convection isn't the reason. Taking a closer look at the properties of water droplets and ice crystals within clouds, the team found that pollution resulted in smaller droplets and ice crystals, regardless of location.

. . .

Most models don't simulate convection well, take into account the microphysical processes of storm clouds, nor address how pollution interacts with those processes. Accounting for pollution effects on storm clouds in this way could affect the ultimate amount of warming predicted for the Earth in the next few decades. Accurately representing clouds in climate models is key to improving the accuracy of predicted changes to the climate.

A Whirling Dervish Puts Physicists in a Spin

By (SCienceDaily)
A force that intricately links the rotation of the Earth with the direction of weather patterns in the atmosphere has been shown to play a crucial role in the creation of the hypnotic patterns created by the skirts of the Whirling Dervishes.
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This is according to an international group of researchers who have demonstrated how the Coriolis force is essential for creating the archetypal, and sometimes counterintuitive, patterns that form on the surface of the Whirling Dervishes skirts by creating a set of very simple equations which govern how fixed or free-flowing cone-shaped structures behave when rotating.

. . .

The Coriolis effect accounts for the deflection of objects on a rotating surface and is most commonly encountered when looking at the Earth's rotations and its effect on the atmosphere around it. The rotation of the Earth creates the Coriolis force which causes winds to be deflected clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere -- it is this effect which is responsible for the rotation of cyclones.

. . .

"The flow of a sheet of material is much more restrictive than the flow of the atmosphere, but nonetheless it results in Coriolis forces. What we found was that this flow, and the associated Coriolis forces, plays a crucial role in forming the dervish-like patterns," Hanna continued.

In its wild form, that funny looking turkey can fly. Though it won’t get very far.

By Brian Palmer
Turkeys are an ungainly mess of a bird. Their bodies appear too big for their scrawny legs, and they are pocked with all manner of bizarre anatomical structures, including snoods (fleshy bumps on their foreheads) and a dewlap (that distinctive flappy wattle under its neck). But amazingly, the bird — at least in its wild form — can fly.

. . .

“Turkeys spend 99.999 percent of their lives on their legs, so they’re built a little like a hoofed animal,” notes Ken Dial, a professor of biology at the University of Montana who studies animal flight. “Their bodies are squashed laterally, with their knees pulled in and their legs splayed. The legs have excellent circulation to supply fuel for sustained running.”

. . .

Once airborne, the turkey’s wings come to life. Unlike the muscles of the hind limbs, which are made for sustained use, the breast muscles that power a turkey’s wings are built for rapid but brief exertions. A wild turkey rarely flies more than about 100 yards, which is usually enough to bring it to safety. (Glycogen, the energy-carrying chemical that feeds a turkey’s breast during flight, “is used up very quickly,” Dial says. “It’s something like nitro fuel for a dragster.”)

. . .

A turkey breast gets stronger as it gets larger, but the animal’s power-to-mass ratio diminishes, so it can’t flap quickly enough to support sustained flight. In a sense, its exactly the opposite of what happened to the now-extinct dodo. When that bird’s flying ancestors arrived on the predator-free island of Mauritius, building powerful wings became a waste of energy. Over the generations, the dodo’s breast muscles grew too weak to enable it to fly.

FDA bans 23andme personal genetic tests

By (BBC)
. . .

Under FDA rules, the company must provide proof about how accurate its detection methods are as well as supplying the error rates from its personal genome service (PGS).

In a public letter the FDA said that 23andme had not supplied this information, despite increasing its marketing campaign and the scope of its tests.

. . .

"The public agency charged with protecting public health has finally lost patience with a private company that seems to think it doesn't have to play by the rules," she added.

. . .

There are an increasing number of companies offering low-cost home genetic testing - but some medical experts have raised questions about the accuracy of the tests, and asked what benefit they offer to consumers.

The Military Is A/B Testing the Future of Warfare

By Adam Clark Estes
. . .

ArmyTimes has all the details. The exercise actually introduced the same war scenario to two armies of the future—or rather, two different versions of what our military could become. It's similar to how web designers might A/B test two different button designs to see which one people click on more. Lance Bacon describes the military's own A/B test:

The war game took place in 2025, and with good reason. Two separate teams independently responded to the same scenario. The first, called the "Evolution Group," was equipped with current and planned capabilities and structures. The second, called the "Innovation Group," was equipped largely with nonexistent but technologically feasible gear and used a variety of unique strategies and force structures.

. . .

It's kind of an A/B test for the future of warfare. SPOILER: The Innovation Group obviously wins . . .
Samsung Question's Apple's "Pinch to Zoom" Patent in U.S. Trial, Has Emergency Motion Denied

By Tiffany Kaiser  
. . .

 Samsung is concerned about Apple patent No. 7,844,915, which covers the "pinch to zoom" feature. This patent is particularly important because it's the only one where Apple can collect money for lost revenue.

. . .

 The two tech giants have been warring over patents with one another for over two years now. It largely began in April 2011, when Apple called Samsung an iPhone and iPad copycat. From there, lawsuits have been flung back and forth all over the world.

 In August 2012, a California jury decided that Samsung infringed on several Apple patents and should have to pay $1.05 billion in damages. However, Judge Lucy Koh -- a United States District Judge for the Northern District of California -- said that sum might not have been calculated correctly.

. . .

 This most recent trial in Silicon Valley aimed to decide if Samsung should pay more or less of that $450 million that was vacated. Judge Koh called a meeting Wednesday to help the jury learn how to properly calculate the final sum. Now that the jury has decided that Samsung should pay $290 million, the South Korean electronics maker now owes Apple about $890 million total.

Those pardoned turkeys are gonna die anyway

By Jess Zimmerman
Today President Obama is “pardoning” two turkeys with conventional taste in music — Caramel, who reportedly likes Lady Gaga, and Popcorn, who’s more into Beyonce. Sure. Anyway, they’re getting a presidential pardon for the crime of being edible, and will be sent to an idyllic turkey farm where they can run free until they drop dead in a year because modern turkeys are just not built to live.

. . .

Or, more accurately, too fat. According to a 2010 Humane Society report, says National Journal, commercially-raised turkeys have been bred so large that they’re “on the verge of structural collapse.” All that tasty meat causes degenerative hip failure, joint deformities, and heart disease. They are simply too big not to fail.

Modern life 'turning people off sex'

By Nick Triggle
A once-a-decade poll of 15,000 Britons found those aged 16-44 were having sex fewer than five times a month.

. . .

"But we also think modern technologies are behind the trend too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails."

. . .

Genevieve Edwards, from Marie Stopes International, said: "A key insight from the survey is that people are having sex earlier and having children later, which means that, on average, women in Britain spend about 30 years of their life needing to avert an unplanned pregnancy, yet many are not being informed about or offered the full range of services.

. . .

But the poll - the full details of which have been reported in the Lancet - also revealed the extent to which people are forced to have sex against their will.

. . .

However, fewer than half had told anyone about it and even fewer (13% of women and 8% of men) had reported the crime to the police.

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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