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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, January 14, 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: No No No by Deep Purple

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
UN Climate Chief Calls for Tripling of Clean Energy Investment

By Suzanne Goldenberg
The United Nations climate chief has urged global financial institutions to triple their investments in clean energy to reach the $1 trillion a year mark that would help avert a climate catastrophe.

. . .

The UN's climate panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said for the first time in its blockbuster climate report last September that there was a finite amount of carbon that could be burnt to stay within 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

About half of that carbon budget is already spent—which means much of the remaining coal and oil can not be burned without crossing into dangerous warming.

. . .

That would mean a quadrupling of clean tech investment—instead of the tripling in investment that Figueres estimates.

"Cost-competitive renewable technologies and attractive investment opportunities exist right now, but we're still not seeing clean-energy deployment at the scale we need to put a dent in climate change," said Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres.

Young 'Pranksters' Skewed Landmark Sexuality Study

By (ScienceDaily)
The joke's on a generation of human-sexuality researchers: Adolescent pranksters responding to the widely cited National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the mid-1990s may have faked nonheterosexuality.

. . .

"We should have known something was amiss," Savin-Williams said. "One clue was that most of the kids who first claimed to have artificial limbs miraculously regrew arms and legs when researchers came back to interview them."

. . .

Joyner and Savin-Williams offered three hypotheses for the gay-gone-straight phenomenon: Perhaps many of the self-reporting nonheterosexuals went back in the closet as they aged. Maybe they misconstrued the researchers' questions -- or it could have been a sophomoric joke to claim, in the confidential survey, to be romantically attracted to the same sex.

. . .

They gave more credence to the idea that politically correct language about "romantic attraction" might have been misinterpreted. Questions in subsequent Add Health surveys actually used the "S word," as in sexual orientation. "We're guessing," Savin-Williams says, "that some research subjects ultimately understood the message, that they said: 'Now I know what you're asking -- and, no, I'm not.'"

. . .

Yet he is saddened that the Add Health data led researchers, clinicians and policymakers to an inflated sense that gay youth are more suicidal, depressed and psychologically ill than are straight youth.

New Memo: Kissinger Gave the "Green Light" for Argentina's Dirty War

By David Corn
Only a few months ago, Henry Kissinger was dancing with Stephen Colbert in a funny bit on the latter's Comedy Central show. But for years, the former secretary of state has sidestepped judgment for his complicity in horrific human rights abuses abroad, and a new memo has emerged that provides clear evidence that in 1976 Kissinger gave Argentina's neo-fascist military junta the "green light" for the dirty war it was conducting against civilian and militant leftists that resulted in the disappearance—that is, deaths—of an estimated 30,000 people.

In April 1977, Patt Derian, a onetime civil rights activist whom President Jimmy Carter had recently appointed assistant secretary of state for human rights, met with the US ambassador in Buenos Aires, Robert Hill. A memo recording that conversation has been unearthed by Martin Edwin Andersen, who in 1987 first reported that Kissinger had told the Argentine generals to proceed with their terror campaign against leftists (whom the junta routinely referred to as "terrorists"). The memo notes that Hill told Derian about a meeting Kissinger held with Argentine Foreign Minister Cesar Augusto Guzzetti the previous June. What the two men discussed was revealed in 2004 when the National Security Archive obtained and released the secret memorandum of conversation for that get-together. Guzzetti, according to that document, told Kissinger, "our main problem in Argentina is terrorism." Kissinger replied, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you must get back quickly to normal procedures." In other words, go ahead with your killing crusade against the leftists.

. . .

In August 1976, according to the new memo, Hill discussed "the matter personally with Kissinger, on the way back to Washington from a Bohemian Grove meeting in San Francisco." Kissinger, Hill told Derian, confirmed the Guzzetti conversation and informed Hill that he wanted Argentina "to finish its terrorist problem before year end." Kissinger was concerned about new human rights laws passed by the Congress requiring the White House to certify a government was not violating human rights before providing US aid. He was hoping the Argentine generals could wrap up their murderous eradication of the left before the law took effect.

. . .

Hill, who died in 1978, never did testify that Kissinger had urged on the Argentine generals, and the Carter administration reversed policy and made human rights a priority in its relations with Argentina and other nations. As for Kissinger, he skated—and he has been skating ever since, dodging responsibility for dirty deeds in Chile, Bangladesh, East Timor, Cambodia, and elsewhere. Kissinger watchers have known for years that he at least implicitly (though privately) endorsed the Argentine dirty war, but this new memo makes clear he was an enabler for an endeavor that entailed the torture, disappearance, and murder of tens of thousands of people. Next time you see him dancing on television, don't laugh.

Kazakhstan: President's daughter wants to let drug firms farm its cannabis crop

By (Tengri News)
A Kazakh MP - who is also the president's daughter - has suggested leasing swathes of land where wild cannabis grows to major pharmaceutical companies, reports say.

The move follows decades of unsuccessful efforts to eradicate vast cannabis crops which grow freely in the country.

. . .

Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov appeared receptive to the idea. He cited of Chu Valley - an area more than twice the size of France - where the authorities have been battling wild marijuana crops for years. "You can't just seal off these 140,000 hectares of land," he said. "Cannabis is spreading across all our country."

Thai protesters target ministries, threaten stock exchange

By Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat and Amy Sawitta Lefevre
Protesters trying to topple Thailand's government tightened a blockade around ministries on Tuesday and their leader warned the prime minister that she could be targeted next, as some saw more than two months of turmoil inching towards an endgame.

. . .

A student group allied to Suthep's People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) threatened to attack the stock exchange, with faction leader Nitithorn Lamlua telling supporters on Monday it represented "a wicked capitalist system that provided the path for Thaksin to become a billionaire."

. . .

Suthep says he is not interested in any election. He wants a "people's council" to take power and eradicate the political influence of Thaksin and his family by altering electoral arrangements in ways he has not spelt out.

. . .

It is widely thought that, if the agitation grinds on, the judiciary or the military may step in. The military has staged or attempted 18 coups in 81 years of on-off democracy, although it has tried to stay neutral this time and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has publicly refused to take sides.

US returns missing sculptures to India

By (BBC)
The US has returned to India three ancient sculptures that had been smuggled into the US by art dealers and accomplices.

. . .

The 11th-12th Century sandstone sculptures had been offered for sale in the US by art dealers and their accomplices, media reports say. One of them had been stolen from a temple in India.

The handover comes days after India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid played down the row with Washington, saying there was "no stand-off" with the US.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

. . .

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

. . .

There is no evidence that the N.S.A. has implanted its software or used its radio frequency technology inside the United States. While refusing to comment on the scope of the Quantum program, the N.S.A. said its actions were not comparable to China’s.

. . .

Over the past two months, parts of the program have been disclosed in documents from the trove leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. A Dutch newspaper published the map of areas where the United States has inserted spy software, sometimes in cooperation with local authorities, often covertly. Der Spiegel, a German newsmagazine, published the N.S.A.’s catalog of hardware products that can secretly transmit and receive digital signals from computers, a program called ANT. The New York Times withheld some of those details, at the request of American intelligence officials, when it reported, in the summer of 2012, on American cyberattacks on Iran.

General Motors to pay first dividend since 2008

By (BBC)
US carmaker General Motors (GM) said it will resume dividend payments, capping a remarkable turnaround since its 2009 bailout by the US government.

. . .

GM filed for bankruptcy at the height of the global financial crisis and was rescued after the government pumped in billions of dollars.

. . .

"They are doing exceedingly well in countries like China and India, as they have come with models that are better suited for developing markets," Vivek Vaidya, an auto analyst with consulting firm Frost & Sullivan told the BBC.

Mr Vaidya added that a recovery in demand for pick-up trucks and similar vehicles in the US had also helped GM.

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:
Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. They are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although their musical approach changed over the years. Originally formed as a progressive rock band, the band's sound shifted to hard rock in 1970. Deep Purple, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, have been referred to as the "unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-Seventies". They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as "the globe's loudest band" for a 1972 concert at London's Rainbow Theatre, and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide, including 8 million certified units in the US.

The band has gone through many line-up changes and an eight-year hiatus (1976–1984). The 1968–1976 line-ups are commonly labelled Mark I, II, III and IV. Their second and most commercially successful line-up featured Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (organ), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums), and Ritchie Blackmore (guitar). This line-up was active from 1969 to 1973, and was revived from 1984 to 1989, and again from 1992 to 1993.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
UK defeats European bid for fracking regulations

By Damian Carrington
The UK has defeated European Union attempts to set legally binding environmental regulations for the continent's fledgling shale gas industry, the Guardian has learned.

. . .

Leaked documents from the European commission, obtained by the Euractiv news service and seen by the Guardian, show that attempts to safeguard the environment with a new legally binding directive have been defeated by the UK and its allies, which include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Instead, a set of non-binding "recommendations" covering protection against water contamination and potential earthquakes will be published on 22 January.

. . .

The UK and Poland have led the opposition to binding European regulations on fracking, in contrast to France, Germany and Spain. In December, Cameron wrote to the president of the EC, José Manuel Barroso, stating: "It is essential the EU minimise the regulatory burdens and costs on industry and domestic bill payers by not creating uncertainty or introducing new legislation." He added: "The [shale gas] industry in the UK has told us that new EU legislation would delay imminent investment."

The letter was part of a major lobbying effort revealed in another letter, seen by the Guardian, from the UK's top civil servant in Brussels. Ivan Rogers, a former banker at Barclays Capital and Citigroup, wrote in November that "seeing off" the proposals for new laws would require "continued lobbying at official and ministerial level using the recently agreed core script".

Fracking chemicals may make oil extra explosive

By Ben Adler
. . . It appears that the method of extracting oil from the Bakken formation is making it more flammable still. That method is fracking. Fracking relies on injecting a cocktail of chemicals into the ground to crack it open. Companies refuse to disclose exactly what chemicals they use, on the grounds that this information constitutes a trade secret.

. . .

In a July 29 letter to the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based lobbying and standards-setting group for the oil and gas industry, the railway administration said it found increasing cases of damage to tanker cars’ interior surfaces. A possible cause is contamination of crude by materials used in fracking, according to the letter.

. . .

. . .

The energy industry has been reluctant to discuss publicly what might be causing the problem. It is possible, experts say, that unusually large amounts of naturally occurring and highly flammable petroleum products such as propane and ethane are coming out of the ground with the Bakken crude...

. . .

The oil also travels through pipelines, and they too are at risk. Advocates of pipelines, such as the Toronto Globe and Mail, claim that the rail accidents demonstrate the need for more pipeline construction. But environmentalists say the evidence suggests pipelines are no safer than trains. If flammable or corrosive fracking agents are in the oil, they also pose threats to pipeline safety.

Christie’s bullying fails to push pipeline through nature preserve

By Ben Adler
After his resounding reelection victory in November, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was riding high, being talked about as the Republican Party’s strongest potential presidential nominee in 2016. But his image was tarnished last week, as revelations emerged of his administration punishing New Jersey commuters by closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge because of some perceived political slight by the mayor of neighboring Fort Lee. This is not unusual behavior on Christie’s part: In December, The New York Times catalogued a long list of instances in which Christie deployed or withheld state resources to extract political retribution.

It seems that Christie’s strong-arm tactics have backfired once again. As Grist’s Sarah Laskow noted, the New Jersey Pinelands Commission voted on Friday to reject a proposed 22-mile natural-gas pipeline that would have traveled through the national reserve of forests and wetlands.

. . .

But other commissioners may have been offended by the bullying of their colleague. “If anything, this worked in our favor because to have such a distorted process showed the commissioners this wasn’t a good thing,” says Jaclyn Rhoads, assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “People were very upset, the commissioners as well as the public, to have somebody recuse himself when there was no economic connection [between Lloyd and the project] or justification for this kind of recusal.”

It also didn’t help the pipeline that the GW Bridge story broke two days before the commission’s vote. The scandal may have weakened Christie’s leverage, or possibly encouraged commissioners to defy him.

Is Human Pee the Future of Fertilizer?

By Sarah Zhang
At the center of our nascent pee movement is the Rich Earth Institute in Battleboro, Vermont. REI talks about "closing the food nutrient cycle:" from food to pee to fertilizer and back to food again. It's a fair proposition to consider because the fertilizers we dump on our food are not renewable resources. Phosphorous, for example, is mined—from guano before we exhausted it and now from rocks in places like Morocco. And the nitrogen in fertilizer is captured through a process that requires natural gas. So instead of letting all the nutrients in our waste go to waste, what if we could recapture it?

. . .

At this point, you might be wondering about urine versus fecal matter as fertilizer. The solid waste industry is looking a lot more, erh, solid; almost 50 percent of "human biosolids" is already used on farmland in the United States. This is in spite of the fact that bacteria-filled fecal matter requires a lot more processing for safety than usually-sterile urine. Poo's relative popularity—if we can call it that—is bound up with the logistics of our existing sewage infrastructure.

To collect urine on a large scale, we need to go beyond the buckets of urine my parents left around. We need a whole new gizmo: the urine-diverting toilet. It already exists, but it's rare in the US. A division in the toilet bowl diverts urine down the front into a holding tank while solid waste and toilet paper fall down the back for composting. That's if you have your own septic system—city-wide reengineering would have to happen on a different, more massive scale entirely.

Science and Health
Brain Structure Shows Who Is Most Sensitive to Pain

By (ScienceDaily)
In a study published in the current online issue of the journal Pain, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have shown that the brain's structure is related to how intensely people perceive pain.

. . .

"Subjects with higher pain intensity ratings had less grey matter in brain regions that contribute to internal thoughts and control of attention," said Nichole Emerson, B.S., a graduate student in the Coghill lab and first author of the study. These regions include the posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus and areas of the posterior parietal cortex, she said.

The posterior cingulate cortex and precuneus are part of the default mode network, a set of connected brain regions that are associated with the free-flowing thoughts that people have while they are daydreaming.

. . .

Areas of the posterior parietal cortex play an important role in attention. Individuals who can best keep their attention focused may also be best at keeping pain under control, Coghill said.

New Recommendations for Research with Human Subjects Who Lack Consent Capacity

By Valerie Gutmann Koch and Susie A. Han
The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law released its Report and Recommendations for Research with Human Subjects Who Lack Consent Capacity today, which analyzes the ethical and legal implications of involving cognitively impaired adults to participate in human subjects research (HSR). The report provides recommendations and guidance to institutional review boards, researchers, and legal authorized representatives to ensure the ethical conduct of research subject to New York State oversight involving adults who lack the capacity to provide  consent as a result of dementia, developmental disabilities, or other conditions.                                                                                                                  

Although New York State law provides mechanisms for ensuring voluntary informed consent for participants and IRB review, it does not provide any oversight of research involving adults who lack consent capacity. Similarly, federal regulations do not provide safeguards or special protections for research involving this vulnerable population, despite calls to do so.

. . .

The report may serve as a model for research in other states and at the federal level, and provides guidance to investigators and IRBs. For entities that previously did not pursue research with adults lacking consent capacity, the report provides the foundation to enable them to pursue research protocols that will lead to a better understanding of conditions that impair cognition. For those who already enroll adults who lack consent capacity in research protocols, the report will help them ensure that consistent and appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the welfare of these vulnerable individuals.

Many eyes on Earth

By Declan Butler
Imagine using Google Earth or other online mapping tools to zoom in on high-resolution satellite images of the planet taken just hours or days ago. Navigating backwards and forwards in time, one could track changes in everything from crops, forests and wildlife movement to urban sprawl and natural disasters, all with unrivalled temporal precision.

. . .

This is the vision of two Californian start-up companies that are set to launch swarms of small imaging satellites, which, by virtue of their sheer numbers, will be able to revisit and photograph huge swathes of the planet as often as several times each day — a frequency much higher than that achieved by current Earth-observing satellites.

. . .

“This sector has for so long been driven by government requirements and, to a lesser extent, big industry players, that the mass-market consumer — the long tail — has been almost completely neglected,” says Scott Larson, chief executive of UrtheCast. Cheaper imagery, he says, will lead to “the democratization of near-real-time Earth-observation data”.

To slash costs, Planet Labs and Skybox Imaging use off-the-shelf technologies from the automotive, smartphone and other consumer industries — including low-cost electronics, and sensors from high-end digital cameras. Using the latest technologies from these fast-paced industries also allows the rapid, continuous development of better and better satellites, says Will Marshall, chief executive of Planet Labs. And miniaturizing satellites reduces launch costs.

. . .

Precision agriculture, a method that uses remote sensing to aid farm management, will also benefit from swarms, says Berkenstock, because the technology will be able to provide timely crop-yield and health estimates down to the level of rows of plants. Such detail could inform decisions on fertilizer and irrigation use, but is currently out of reach of most farmers.

U.S. Supreme Court Won't Hear Newegg/Soverain Case for Shopping Cart Patents

By Tiffany Kaiser  
. . .
 According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a patent case where Soverain accused Newegg of infringing on three patents regarding the use of shopping carts online.

 Newegg argued that the shopping cart patents, which describe how products are bought and paid for online, "applies the common sense concept of a shopping cart to the Internet."

. . .

 Before the Supreme Court decision, Soverain managed to win against Newegg in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. However, it lost at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

 Newegg is no stranger to patent trolls. In May of last year, it teamed up with Overstock.com and defeated France's Alcatel-Lucent SA, which holds over 29,000 patents due to Bell Labs going belly up in 2006, in a patent case. Many other e-tailers were too scared to fight Alcatel-Lucent SA, but not Newegg.

Felfies help people understand where their food comes from

By Carrie Mess
. . .

While no one is surprised to see Hollywood starlets posting their selfies, some might be surprised to see a Kansas cattle rancher or Indiana popcorn grower posing theirs, but they are. It's time to meet the "felfie" or "farmer selfie".
According to market research, more than half of farmers today are rocking smart phones. Those phones have cameras, and if we have learned anything from Hollywood, a camera means you must take photos of yourself. A camera with an Internet connection means you must take selfies. While the felfie seems to have started in the UK, (farmingselfie.com) it's becoming a popular trend in America and beyond.

But before you start thinking that America's farmers and ranchers are snapping photos of themselves while singing "You're so vain" to the cows, remember the old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words. The felfie provides what many urban people are searching for: a view of where their food starts.

. . .

The felfie isn't just a product of having smart phones, it's also a product of having an all consuming job where you are mostly working alone. Snapping a photo of yourself doing something interesting to share with the world creates a fun and helpful circle for farmers to share what they love doing with others who are passionate about food and the environment. Don't get me wrong, I love my cows – they are part of my family – but it's good to have some interaction with folks with opposable thumbs, too.

As farmers continue to embrace technology – some of the latest moves include Wi-Fi and GPS in tractors and drones above fields to check crops – nobody should be surprised to see the 2% of our population that grows our food pop up in our social media feeds. I encourage you to do a search on Instagram or Twitter for #felfie and connect with some of the farmers, ranchers and agriculture professionals that are out there. Not only will you get to see a view that's different from your own neighborhood, you'll find a source of information as close to the dirt your food is grown in as you can get.

Colombian Farc rebels present drug regulation plan

By (BBC)
Colombia's largest left-wing rebel group, the Farc, has presented its proposals to regulate drug production.

The Farc presented the plan as part of its peace talks with the government.

The guerrilla group, which largely finances itself through drug trafficking, suggested a programme to "regulate the production of coca, poppies and marijuana".

. . .

"The fundamental basis of this plan lies in its voluntary and collaborative nature, and in the political will on the part of the growers to take alternative paths to achieve humane living and working conditions."

Atheist Afghan granted religious asylum in UK

By (BBC)
An Afghan citizen has been granted asylum in the UK for religious reasons - because he is an atheist.

. . .

Non-Muslims, especially Hindus and Sikhs, have been living peacefully in Afghanistan for centuries. In recent times, people have been inspired by different belief systems and ideologies including communism.

. . .

The danger comes when it is made public that a Muslim has stopped believing in the principles of Islam.

. . .

Ms Splawn said: "We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected."

Ms York added: "The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position."

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