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The Overnight News Digest is an ongoing evening series dedicated to chronicling the day's news that the editor de la nuit finds of import or interest. Everyone is welcome to add their own news items in the comments. Tonight, I am featuring news from around the world.

Top Story

  • Krugman @ NYT - Those Revolting Europeans
    The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it’s about time...

    What’s wrong with the prescription of spending cuts as the remedy for Europe’s ills? One answer is that the confidence fairy doesn’t exist — that is, claims that slashing government spending would somehow encourage consumers and businesses to spend more have been overwhelmingly refuted by the experience of the past two years. So spending cuts in a depressed economy just make the depression deeper.

    Moreover, there seems to be little if any gain in return for the pain.


  • Guardian - US vice-president Joe Biden 'absolutely comfortable' with same-sex marriage
    Vice-president Joe Biden has strongly backed gay marriage in comments that appear to go beyond the "evolving" views of his White House boss.

    Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Biden said he is "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriages, adding that homosexual couples are entitled to "the exact same rights" as heterosexual ones.

    It makes him the most senior member of the administration to come out in favour of gay marriage and raises the hopes of many that a second Barack Obama term may lead to federal recognition of all unions, irrespective of sexual orientation.
  • WaPo - Barbara Robbins: A slain CIA secretary’s life and death
    The CIA director revealed only a few details about the 21-year-old woman, a secretary among spies. In the agency’s annual memorial service for employees killed on the job, then-Director Leon E. Panetta announced that a new name had been inscribed with calligraphy inside the CIA’s Book of Honor: Barbara Annette Robbins, who had volunteered to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War and died in a 1965 car bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

    The private ceremony inside the agency’s main lobby last year marked the first time the CIA publicly acknowledged Robbins as one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War.

    The bombing and her death generated front-page headlines in U.S. newspapers. Yet Robbins remains one of the CIA’s more phantom-like figures, her mystery fueled by the agency’s decades-long refusal to publicly recognize her employment, despite her family’s pleadings and books that briefly described her CIA stint.
  • Nature - US releases new fracking rules on government lands
    The US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a draft of new rules requiring oil and gas development companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

    “We’ve adopted a flexible approach to disclosure reporting aimed at improving public awareness and oversight without introducing complicated new procedures or delays in developing oil and gas resources on public and tribal lands,” said BLM director Bob Abbey in a teleconference with the press on 4 May...

    “This is a critical first step, but so much more needs to be done,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at the National Resources Defense Council, in a statement. Mall cites the fact that the rules mandate disclosure after, not before, drilling has occurred.
  • Danger Room @ Wired - Some Pilots Refuse to Fly as Stealth Jet’s Oxygen Problems Worsen
    The Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and their faulty oxygen systems are choking their pilots. One attempt at a quick fix only made the problem worse. Despite this the Air Force, ordered its roughly 200 Raptor pilots to keep flying. Now Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Josh Wilson, both experienced Raptor fliers with the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Fighter Wing, have refused to fly an airplane that they claim is fatally flawed.

    In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, Gordon and Wilson say they aren’t alone. A “vast, silent majority” of Raptor fliers fears for their lives as their high- and fast-flying jets cause them to black out or become confused in mid-air. Some pilots have taken out extra life-insurance policies. And Air Force doctors “absolutely” have said no one should fly the $400-million-a-copy F-22 until the jet’s oxygen woes are resolved, Gordon and Wilson claim.


  • AFP - Socialist Hollande ousts Sarkozy in French vote
    Francois Hollande was elected France's first Socialist president in nearly two decades, promising change in Europe after dealing a humiliating defeat to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

    The result has major implications not just for France, the eurozone's second-largest economy and a nuclear-armed permanent member of the UN Security Council, but for Europe as it struggles to emerge from its financial crisis. With only votes from abroad left to count, Hollande had won 51.67 percent of the vote to 48.33 percent for Sarkozy, becoming France's first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

    Greeted after his win by a huge throng of supporters in Paris's iconic Place de la Bastille, Hollande hailed his victory as part of a movement rising in Europe against fiscal austerity. "You are much more than a people who want change. You are already a movement that is rising across all of Europe and maybe the world," he told the cheering masses.
  • Guardian - Greek voters vent anger towards austerity at ballot box
    Voters in Greece sent tremors across the eurozone on Sunday by recording a massive protest vote against EU-dictated austerity. Parties that had participated in an emergency government tasked with passing deeply unpopular belt-tightening measures in return for rescue loans to prop up the near-bankrupt Greek economy were routed at the ballot box.

    Instead, with the recession-hit country lurching deeper into poverty and despair, voters backed groups on the left and right that had virulently opposed the deficit-reduction policies demanded by international creditors.

    "This is a message of change, a message to Europe that a peaceful revolution has begun," said Alexis Tsipras, who heads Syriza, a coalition of radical left and green groups that took 16.6% of the vote – the second largest share. "German chancellor Angela Merkel has to know that the politics of austerity have suffered a humiliating defeat."
  • RIA Novosti - Russian Police Break Up Anti-Putin Rally
    Police cracked down hard on an anti-Putin rally in Moscow on Sunday, clubbing demonstrators and making scores of arrests after hundreds of people briefly broke through their lines in a bid to take their protest to the Kremlin walls.

    “Fascists!” "Russia without Putin!" shouted protesters as they advanced once more on police lines, holding metal crowd barriers to shield themselves.

    The violence came on the eve of Vladimir Putin's inauguration as president. Putin secured a third term in the Kremlin at disputed elections in March.


  • AJE - World Heritage Site in Timbuktu attacked
    A World Heritage Site in Timbuktu in northern Mali has been attacked and burned. The act on Sunday threatens to raise tensions that have been building between the people in Timbuktu and the Islamists who occupied the city in April.

    "A new member of the Ansar Dine group came to Timbuktu and went to the tomb of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar on Friday to tell the faithful praying there that the saints" should not be adored, said Sanda Ould Boumama, a spokesman for Ansar Dine.

    The tomb for Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar is among 16 cemeteries and mausoleums classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu, according to a UNESCO website. The city has 333 tombs for saints. Timbuktu also has mosques classified as World Heritage Sites.
  • allAfrica - Nigeria: Security Chiefs Blame Greedy Politicians for Boko Haram
    Security Chiefs and other top officials yesterday rose from a crucial meeting in Abuja with a unanimous decision to expose top selfish politicians said to be supporting the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.

    The decision became necessary following security report that some key political leaders in the country had been financing the terrorist group with the intention to distabilise the government of President Goodluck Jonathan.

    The meeting which came sequel to an earlier National Security Council session also discussed the statement credited to the NSA, Mr Andrew Azazi that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning policy should be blamed for Boko Haram insurgency.
  • Reuters - Egypt extends curfew in Cairo district for 3rd night
    Egypt extended an overnight curfew around the Defence Ministry on Sunday to deter a repeat of Friday's deadly violence, less than three weeks before a presidential vote.

    A soldier died and almost 400 people were wounded in Friday's clashes, the second time in a week that protests over the army's handling of Egypt's troubled transition from army rule to civilian government have turned violent.

    The military re-imposed the curfew in the Abbasiya district around the Defence Ministry for the third straight day, the state news agency quoted a military source as saying.

Middle East

  • PA - Al Qaida man killed by US drone
    An airstrike has killed a top al Qaida leader on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, US officials said.

    Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al-Qaida operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. The drone strike that killed Quso was carried out by the CIA, after an extended surveillance operation by the CIA and US military, two US officials said.

  • BBC - Netanyahu calls for early general election in Israel
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for an early general election in four months' time. The vote is expected to take place in September, a year before he is required by law to seek a new mandate.

    Mr Netanyahu leads a centre-right coalition which includes his own Likud and ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu. Mr Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009. Opinion polls suggest that he is by some distance the most popular politician in Israel.

  • Haaretz - 'Undercover Israeli combatants threw stones at IDF soldiers in West Bank'
    Undercover soldiers hurled stones in the "general direction" of IDF soldiers as part of their activity to counter weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Bil'in, the commander of the Israeli Prison Service's elite "Masada" unit revealed during his recent testimony in the trial of MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash ).

    Barakeh has been charged with assaulting a border guard in Bil'in who was attempting to arrest a demonstrator.

    Since 2005, the weekly protests against the separation barrier in Bil'in, which cuts the village off from much of its residents' land, have attracted international attention as well as the participation of Israeli and international activists.
  • AJE - Syria goes to polls amid deadly unrest
    Syrians are due to vote in the first parliamentary elections under a new constitution that paved the way for a multiparty system in the country. The vote, initially scheduled for September 2011, was postponed to May 7 after President Bashar al-Assad announced the launch of a reform process.

    Violence rocked the east of the country ahead of Monday's vote, underlining the challenge of holding a credible poll while bloodshed continues and complicating the task of UN observers monitoring a ceasefire declared on April 12.

    The vote comes amid deadly unrest raging across the country since mid-March 2011 that has claimed more than 11,100 lives, mostly civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence.
  • LAT - Iranians feeling pain of higher prices
    On a recent trip to a city on the Persian Gulf, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood in the back of a pickup as it made its way through a thick crowd clamoring for his attention when an older, disheveled man began to shout at him.

    "Ahmadinejad, I am hungry, Ahmadinejad, I am hungry," he pleaded desperately. The man banged on the pickup's front window to get the notice of the president, who leaned forward as the two exchanged a few words…

    There are stirrings of discontent here as the cash-strapped government trims longtime subsidies on fuel and staple goods. Recent U.S. and European Union sanctions on Iran's central bank and oil industry, in response to the country's disputed nuclear program, have aggravated the dire situation by weakening the currency, the rial.

South Asia

  • WaPo - Secret U.S. program releases high-level insurgents in exchange for pledges of peace
    The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks.

    As the United States has unsuccessfully pursued a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program has quietly served as a live diplomatic channel, allowing American officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips in restive provinces where military power has reached its limits.

    But the releases are an inherent gamble: The freed detainees are often notorious fighters who would not be released under the traditional legal system for military prisoners in Afghanistan. They must promise to give up violence — and U.S. officials warn them that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.
  • BusinessWeek - Clinton to Press India for More Cuts in Iranian Oil Imports
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will seek assurances from India that it is curtailing oil imports from Iran as part of a U.S.-led campaign to pressure the Persian Gulf state over its disputed nuclear program.

    Clinton will meet Indian leaders in New Delhi later today and tomorrow to discuss cooperation with the world’s largest democracy on issues that also include stability in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops and efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment, according to a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview Clinton’s discussions.

    The Obama administration sees India as making progress in scaling back crude orders from Iran, the official said.


  • NYT - In Rise and Fall of China’s Bo Xilai, an Arc of Ruthlessness
    As recently as January, [Bo Xilai, the campaign’s architect and the secretary of Chongqing’s Communist Party at the time,] was aiming for the pinnacle of Chinese political power, a seat on the nine-member Politburo’s Standing Committee, when the Communist Party’s leadership begins a generational turnover this autumn. He was a fixation for the news media and foreign leaders, the handsome convention-flouter who was breaking the calcified mold of China’s leadership caste.

    Today, Mr. Bo’s fall has transfixed the world. He is suspended from the Politburo, under investigation for “serious violations” of Communist Party rules and being held incommunicado at an unknown location. His wife, Gu Kailai, long known for her own zealous ambition, stands accused by party investigators of murdering a British family friend, Neil Heywood, in a dispute over money. Neither Mr. Bo nor Ms. Gu have been given an opportunity to defend themselves publicly.

    For all his success, the seeds of Mr. Bo’s destruction were evident long ago to many of those who knew him.
  • China Daily - Defense minister in crucial tour of US
    A landmark visit to the United States by the defense minister will help diffuse the tense situation in the South China Sea, analysts said, as the standoff between China and the Philippines continues in waters off Huangyan Island.

    Liang Guanglie, the first defense minister to visit the US in nine years, will meet his counterpart, Leon Panetta, in Washington on Monday.

    Su Hao, director of the center for strategic and conflict management at the China Foreign Affairs University, said Liang will discuss Beijing's stance on the South China Sea during his six-day visit. Manila declared on Thursday that Panatag Shoal is its preferred name for Huangyan Island.
  • LAT - Nepal's fierce Gurkha soldiers find themselves under siege
    The Gurkhas' proud two-century tradition with the British army is under siege. Some in the communist-led Nepalese government object to the Gurkhas being hired guns for a former colonial power and are proposing to ban the practice, just as the British government makes deep cuts in its defense spending.Britain's connection with the Gurkhas dates to 1815 when, having barely defeated them in battle, the British decided that if you can't beat them, have them join you. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Gurkhas have served under the Union Jack in peacetime and in war. For much of that history, Gurkhas with their jungle-warfare skills did much heavy lifting but earned less than British soldiers…Chandra Prakash Gajurel, a politburo member with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, says working for foreigners in effect makes Gurkhas mercenaries. "Yes, Nepal has unemployment, but joining someone else's army isn't a good solution," he said. "And, no, the Communist Party does not envy Gurkhas."
  • BusinessWeek - Japan Nuclear Power Free After Shutdown of Last Reactor
    Japan has none of its 50 reactors operating as of today after its sole operating nuclear unit was halted for planned maintenance last week.Hokkaido Electric Power Co. shut the No. 3 unit at its Tomari plant in northern Japan on May 5 as scheduled, leaving the country without an operating reactor for the first time since May 1970.


  • SMH - Time for tears is past: threat to disband black settlement
    A quarter of a century after Marcus Einfeld wept at the sight of Toomelah's children playing in raw sewage, the community has been told it must accept an intervention-style takeover or face the demolition of the township and relocation of residents.

    The former Aboriginal mission just shy of the Queensland border in the state's north-west, which shot to the national spotlight in 1987 when Mr Einfeld's human rights commission inquiry found 500 people were sharing one tap, has reached crisis point again.

    The threat of drastic action to tackle poverty, poor health, truancy, rundown infrastructure, alcohol and drug abuse, violence and chronic unemployment was made during a series of meetings between government agencies and residents over the past three weeks.


  • Guardian - Peru issues public health alert over pelican and dolphin deaths
    Peru's government has declared a health alert along its northern coastline and urged residents and tourists alike to stay away from beaches, as it investigates the unexplained deaths of hundreds of dolphins and pelicans.

    At least 1,200 birds, mostly pelicans, washed up dead along a stretch of Peru's northern Pacific coastline in recent weeks, health officials said, after an estimated 800 dolphins died in the same area in recent months…

    The agriculture ministry said preliminary tests on some dead pelicans pointed to malnourishment. Oscar Dominguez, head of the ministry's health department, said experts had ruled out bird flu.
  • NYT - Brazil’s Rush to Develop Hydroelectric Power Brings Unrest
    The revolt here on the banks of the Madeira River, the Amazon’s largest tributary, flared after sunset. At the simmering end of a 26-day strike by 17,000 workers last month, a faction of laborers who were furious over wages and living conditions began setting fire to the construction site at the Jirau Dam.

    Throughout the night, they burned more than 30 structures to the ground and looted company stores, capturing the mayhem on their own cellphone cameras, before firefighters extinguished the blazes. The authorities in Brasília flew in hundreds of troops from an elite force to quell the unrest.

    Men in camouflage fatigues still patrol the sprawling work site, reflecting a dilemma for Brazil’s leaders. Even as they move to tap one of the world’s last great reserves of hydroelectric power, the Amazon basin, strikes and worker uprisings at the biggest projects are producing delays and cost overruns.
  • MercoPress - Malvinas-Olympic advert “not provocative” argues Argentine ambassador
    Ambassador to London, Alicia Castro, assured that the Malvinas-Olympic Games advert bought by the Argentine Government ‘is not a provocation’ and did not mean to offend the memory of First World War British combatants.

    Castro became the first Argentine official to speak about the controversial advert, which features Argentine hockey team captain Fernando Zylberberg training in the Falkland Islands for the upcoming London Olympics.

    The 90-second ad was made to coincide with the run up to the Olympic Games in London this summer and ends with the voice-over: “to compete on English soil, we are training on Argentine soil.”
  • LAHT - Colombian Rebels Say They Are Holding French Reporter
    French journalist Romeo Langlois is being held as a “prisoner of war,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said in a video released Sunday.

    A rebel calling himself “Ancizar” and “Monazo” says in the video, which was posted on a Web site, that he is the commander of the FARC’s 15th Front and is holding Langlois prisoner.

    Langlois was wounded in the arm but “is in good health,” the rebel commander says.
  • Reuters - Mexico presidential debate puts Pena Nieto in rivals' sights
    Mexico's presidential hopefuls square off in a televised debate on Sunday with the trailing candidates seeking to land heavy blows against hot favorite Enrique Pena Nieto to spoil his chances of victory in the July 1 election.

    Polls show Pena Nieto, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is heading for a comfortable victory, and could capture as many votes as his two main rivals combined.

    Though the gap has lately narrowed slightly, second-placed Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling conservative National Action Party (PAN) and leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the 2006 runner-up, are running out of time to catch up with Pena Nieto.
  • Globe and Mail - Energy industry looks to boost Fort McMurray's highway capacity
    Canada’s energy industry is examining ways it can build new lanes on a critical stretch of highway that connects the oil sands with the rest of Alberta.

    The industry interest in twinning a section of Highway 63 comes as more than 1,500 people in Fort McMurray rallied on Saturday to call for faster investment in a roadway where seven people died in a head-on collision April 27.

    Companies operating north of Fort McMurray have already begun sketching a plan to use industry dollars to upgrade the road. The section of Highway 63 north of Fort McMurray connects workers with many of the largest oil-sands sites.

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