As your faithful scribe, I welcome you all to another edition of Overnight News Digest.
I am most pleased to share this platform with jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, JLM9999 and side pocket. Additionally, I wish to recognize our alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb along with annetteboardman as our guest editor.
Neon Vincent is our editor-in-chief.
Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Lead Off Story
Israel's Defense Minister Apologizes For 'Offensive' Kerry Remarks
Israel's defence minister has been forced to apologise for "offensive and inappropriate" remarks, in which he described John Kerry as obsessive and messianic, after the ensuing diplomatic row engulfed the secretary of state's mission to broker a peace deal in the Middle East.
Moshe Ya'alon, an ally of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, had dismissed Kerry's efforts to pursue a peace deal in private conversations with US and Israeli officials, which were reported in the Israeli media. He did not deny the accuracy of the comments.
In a sharp rebuke to Israel, state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "The remarks of the defence minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the US is doing to support Israel's security needs.
"Secretary Kerry and his team … have been working day and night to try and promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary's deep concern for Israel's future. To question secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposal is not something we would expect from the defence minister of a close ally."
Green Fade-Out: Europe To Ditch Climate Protection Goals
The EU's reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking -- jeopardizing Germany's touted energy revolution in the process.
The climate between Brussels and Berlin is polluted, something European Commission officials attribute, among other things, to the "reckless" way German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked stricter exhaust emissions during her re-election campaign to placate domestic automotive manufacturers like Daimler and BMW. This kind of blatant self-interest, officials complained at the time, is poisoning the climate.
But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as much.
At the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU member states are no longer to receive specific guidelines for the development of renewable energy. The stated aim of increasing the share of green energy across the EU to up to 27 percent will hold. But how seriously countries tackle this project will no longer be regulated within the plan. As of 2020 at the latest -- when the current commitment to further increase the share of green energy expires -- climate protection in the EU will apparently be pursued on a voluntary basis.
Chinese to Japan: Be More Like Germany (But Not The Nazis)
The war of words between Japan and China seems to have deteriorated into an international trolling match, what with the level of name-calling and Voldemort-referencing by diplomats on both sides.
The latest bit of over-the-top instigation by the Chinese media compares Japan unfavourably to postwar Germany. Such sentiments have been expressed recently by Chinese officials in print and public statements, but the Chinese papers seem eager to join the fray.
"[Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo] Abe wants to rewrite history to whitewash the atrocities Japan committed on the people in neighbouring countries, especially China, during World War Two, and accord pride of place to war criminals in the country's pantheon," writes Cai Hong in the state-run China Daily.
In contrast, Germany is still on the lookout for Nazi war criminals. In fact, on 8 January, an 88-year-old man in Dortmund was charged with the murder of 25 people, and for aiding and abetting the killings of several hundred residents of Oradour-sur-Glane village in central France in 1944. Germany was an ally of Japan during World War II, but the two countries couldn't be more different today.
China needs to encourage Germany to step in and set Japan straight, according to Ou Wen in Huanqiu Shibao.
Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Environment Chapter Unacceptable
Today, WikiLeaks posted a draft environment chapter of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that governments have negotiated in secret for nearly four years.
TPP nations have billed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as an "ambitious, 21st-century trade agreement." However, a joint analysis of the WikiLeaks document, dated November 2013, by environmental organizations reveals that countries are nowhere close to that goal.
“This peek behind the curtain reveals the absence of an ambitious 21st-century trade agreement promised by negotiating countries,” said Carter Roberts, CEO of WWF-US.
“The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers. These nations account for more than a quarter of global trade in fish and wood products and they have a responsibility to address trade’s impact on wildlife crime, illegal logging, and overfishing,” he said.
New Memo: Kissinger Gave The "Green Light" For Argentina's Dirty War
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.
The new document shows that Kissinger was even more explicit in encouraging the Argentine junta. The memo recounts Hill describing the Kissinger-Guzzetti discussion this way:The Argentines were very worried that Kissinger would lecture to them on human rights. Guzzetti and Kissinger had a very long breakfast but the Secretary did not raise the subject. Finally Guzzetti did. Kissinger asked how long will it take you (the Argentines) to clean up the problem. Guzzetti replied that it would be done by the end of the year. Kissinger approved.In other words, Ambassador Hill explained, Kissinger gave the Argentines the green light.
That's a damning statement: a US ambassador saying a secretary of state had egged on a repressive regime that was engaged in a killing spree.
Science and Technology
West Virginia Chemical Spill Poses Unknown Threat To The Environment
On Monday, the 300,000 residents of nine counties in West Virginia were told that they could resume drinking and using their tap water, five days after an estimated 5,000 gallons of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCMH) leaked into the Elk River near Charleston.
Sonya Lunder, a research analyst with the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., told National Geographic that the decision to lift the water ban was based on scant science. "Evidently the one-part-per-million safety level, used to lift the drinking water restriction, is based on an unpublished study of the amount of chemical that killed 50 percent of test animals, a very crude indicator of health concern," she said.
Lunder also reviewed the scientific literature, and she said that there doesn't seem to be any publicly available studies on what the impacts of the chemical would be to either human beings or wildlife, or how long the chemical will persist in the environment. "There's little data with which to draw any conclusions on what effects might be," she said.
Brian Lutz, a biogeochemist who studies the environmental impacts of the coal industry at Kent State University in Ohio, said, “The lack of toxicological data on MCMH is staggering.” He added: "While I'm unaware of any spill of this chemical in the past, there have been multiple high-profile cases in the past in which slurry impoundments—structures holding the residue from coal washing and preparation—have failed. Because of this, it seems reasonable to expect that we should have detailed information available for all chemicals used to prepare coal."
Why Birds Fly In A V Formation
Anyone watching the autumn sky knows that migrating birds fly in a V formation, but scientists have long debated why. A new study of ibises finds that these big-winged birds carefully position their wingtips and sync their flapping, presumably to catch the preceding bird’s updraft—and save energy during flight.
There are two reasons birds might fly in a V formation: It may make flight easier, or they’re simply following the leader. Squadrons of planes can save fuel by flying in a V formation, and many scientists suspect that migrating birds do the same. Models that treated flapping birds like fixed-wing airplanes estimate that they save energy by drafting off each other, but currents created by airplanes are far more stable than the oscillating eddies coming off of a bird. “Air gets pretty darn wiggy behind a flapping wing,” says James Usherwood, a locomotor biomechanist at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London in Hatfield, where the research took place.
The study, published online today in Nature, took advantage of an existing project to reintroduce endangered northern bald ibises (Geronticus eremita) to Europe. Scientists used a microlight plane to show hand-raised birds their ancestral migration route from Austria to Italy. A flock of 14 juveniles carried data loggers specially built by Usherwood and his lab. The device’s GPS determined each bird’s flight position to within 30 cm, and an accelerometer showed the timing of the wing flaps.
Just as aerodynamic estimates would predict, the birds positioned themselves to fly just behind and to the side of the bird in front, timing their wing beats to catch the uplifting eddies. When a bird flew directly behind another, the timing of the flapping reversed so that it could minimize the effects of the downdraft coming off the back of the bird’s body. “We didn’t think this was possible,” Usherwood says, considering that the feat requires careful flight and incredible awareness of one’s neighbors. “Perhaps these big V formation birds can be thought of quite like an airplane with wings that go up and down.”
Society and Culture
GOP Dishonors Lincoln And King With Gun Raffle
In an obscene gesture, the Multnomah County GOP in Oregon is raffling off an AR-15 assault riffle "in honor" of the memories of Abraham Lincoln and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two great Americans cut down by bullets from the guns of assassins. In committing this act, the GOP aligns themselves with voices of hatred and racism, and against all that Lincoln and King stood for.
The Portland weekly newspaper Willamette Week has the GOP's press release:Multnomah Country Republicans recognize the incredible time of year we are in. In successive months to start the year, we celebrate the legacy of two great Republicans who demonstrated leadership and courage that all of us still lean on today: Martin Luther King, Jr and Abraham Lincoln. In celebrating these two men, and the denial of the rights they fought so hard against, the Multnomah County Republican Party announces that we have started our third raffle for an AR-15 rifle (or handgun of the winner's choice). The drawing will be held at our Lincoln Day Dinner on February 15th, 2014.huffpo
16th-Century Manuscript Could Rewrite Australian History
A tiny drawing of a kangaroo curled in the letters of a 16th-century Portuguese manuscript could rewrite Australian history.
The document, acquired by Les Enluminures Gallery in New York, shows a sketch of an apparent kangaroo (''canguru'' in Portuguese) nestled in its text and is dated between 1580 and 1620. It has led researchers to believe images of the marsupial were already being circulated by the time the Dutch ship Duyfken - long thought to have been the first European vessel to visit Australia - landed in 1606. Portugal was extremely secretive about her trade routes during this period, explaining why their presence there wasn't widely known.
The pocket-sized manuscript, known as a processional, contains text and music for a liturgical procession and is inscribed with the name Caterina de Carvalho, believed to be a nun from Caldas da Rainha in western Portugal. The manuscript may precede what is believed to be the first European docking in Australia.
''A kangaroo or a wallaby in a manuscript dated this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travellers' reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal,'' Les Enluminures researcher Laura Light said.
Well, that's different...
Woman Bit Through Car Roof After Row On A Night Out
A furious woman sank her teeth into a car roof after a roadside argument with three shocked strangers on a night out.
A court heard Rhian Jeremiah, 26, left teeth marks in the bodywork of the white Fiat 500 - and was likened in court to villain Jaws in the James Bond movies. Her shocked victims heard a "metal crunching" sound as Jeremiah's teeth pierced the polished metal - causing £220 damage. Car owner Selina Day, 23, and her two friends looked up through the sun roof to see Jeremiah biting the frame above the door.
Prosecutor Gerald Neave said: "Jeremiah approached the occupants of the Fiat at 2am after she had been drinking. She became aggressive and angry but the three people in the car could not understand what she was saying and drove off. They were parked outside a takeaway restaurant called Lip Lick'n Chicken when Jeremiah arrived and tried to wrench open the passenger door. She sank her teeth into the car's frame between the roof and the door. The occupants could hear a loud screeching noise as she bit down on the roof. They could see what was happening through the sun roof."
Magistrates heard Jeremiah had been drinking at a memorial night for her late boyfriend Simon Jones who drowned off the coast of Aberystwyth.
Bill Moyers and Company
Neil deGrasse Tyson: On The New Cosmos