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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

OND is a regular community feature on Daily Kos, consisting of news stories from around the world, sometimes coupled with a daily theme, original research or commentary.  Editors of OND impart their own presentation styles and content choices, typically publishing near 12:00AM Eastern Time.

Creation and early water-bearing of the OND concept came from our very own Magnifico - proper respect is due.


This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic

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
Federal court panel upholds EPA rules aimed at global warming

By Renee Schoof
. . .

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA’s 2009 finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment was based on “an ocean of evidence,” saying the agency’s move to limit those emissions from cars and trucks was “neither arbitrary nor capricious.”

The ruling was a defeat for groups that question evidence that gases from burning coal and other fossil fuels trap heat in the atmosphere. The coalition of groups that brought the complaints against the EPA said restricting the emissions would be too expensive.

. . .

“The decision completely rejects all of the challenges to EPA’s climate protection standards. That shows how hollow and political those challenges were all along,” said David Doniger, senior attorney for the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It won’t help their cause in Congress that a unanimous panel of the D.C. Circuit composed of both conservative and liberal justices rejected each and every attack on EPA’s science-based and common-sense actions.”

. . .

ClearView Energy Partners, an analysis group, said in a report Tuesday that the ruling on all components of the Obama administration’s greenhouse-gas emissions rules “could meaningfully increase prospects for increased GHG (greenhouse gas) regulation irrespective of whether President Obama or Governor Romney wins the national election in November. Most environmental cases at this scale have either headed to a rehearing before the D.C. Circuit or an appeal before the Supreme Court, usually within months. We would be surprised to see today’s ruling entirely overturned in either context.”

Rising sea levels: It’s worse than you think

By David Roberts
. . . All the dangerous scenarios around sea levels are based on those melting ice sheets. It’s a potentially far larger effect that thermal expansion. When Al Gore shows a slide of the seas swamping Manhattan, that’s what he’s talking about. The “official” sea-level numbers, from the IPCC, don’t support those kind of high-end sea-level scenarios, so Gore and many others have long come in for all sorts of sh*t from Very Serious People for exaggerating. For years, some people have tried to raise alarm about sea levels, others have accused them of “alarmism,” and the public has tuned out.

As it happens, ice sheet research has come a long way since 2005 (the effective cutoff for the 2007 IPCC report) and so more comprehensive projections are possible. A new paper in Nature Climate Change will, I hope, help drag this debate into the scientific present. Lead author Michiel Schaeffer and his colleagues developed a model that combines paleoclimate data — how temperatures and sea levels correlated in past centuries — with more recent satellite data to project sea-level rise for various climate scenarios.

. . . The bad news, as anyone who’s read my brutal logic posts knows, is that limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C is probably flatly impossible at this point, and limiting to 2 degrees C is, while technically and economically possible, probably politically impossible. We’re currently on a trajectory for as much as 6 degrees.

. . .

In the RCP4.5 scenario, SLR [sea-level rise] approaches 2-5 m by 2300 and reaches rates of SLR much higher than observed over the twentieth century, or estimated using satellite-based data over the period 1993-2007. The RCP4.5 to 3PD scenario shows that if mitigation is delayed for many decades, not even a massive mitigation effort (starting in 2100 when SLR is still under 1 m) can prevent sea levels from rising by at least 1.6 m and possibly even 4.2 m by the year 2300, because of the large inertia in the system.
China proposes $10bn loan for Latin America countries

By (BBC)
China has offered to set up a $10bn (£6.4bn) credit line for Latin American countries to support infrastructure projects in the region.

. . .

He also proposed a free trade pact between China and South American trade bloc Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

. . .

Analysts said that the offer of a credit line by China, may turn out to be a win-win situation for both sides.

They explained that Latin American nations could benefit from Beijing's expertise, while Chinese firms may play a big role in developments of these projects.

Assad says Syria 'in a state of war'

By (Al Jazeera)
Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has said that his country is in a state of war and has ordered his new cabinet to crush the uprising against his government, even as Turkey vowed to retaliate against the shooting down of one of its air force jets.

Opposition forces and Syrian army units, meanwhile, have engaged in deadly combat around elite Republican Guard posts in the suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday, as 116 people were killed across the country, a monitoring group said.

. . .

The United States said a "desperate" Assad was slowly losing his grip on power, citing defections and fighting raging increasingly close to Damascus, and offered new support to NATO ally Turkey after Syrian forces shot down one of its fighter planes last week.

. . .

Washington also pushed back on Russia's insistence that Iran should take part in a planned international conference on Syria in Geneva on Saturday.

Egypt leader plans female, Christian VPs

By (UPI)
. . .

On Monday, an adviser said Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who won a narrow victory, plans to name a woman and a Christian as vice-presidents.

In an interview with CNN, Ahmed Deif, Morsi's policy adviser, promised Egypt will not become an "Islamic Republic" like Iran. He said Morsi's plans for his vice presidents are proof of that.

"For the first time in Egyptian history -- not just modern but in all Egyptian history -- a woman will take that position," Deif said. "And it's not just a vice president who will represent a certain agenda and sect, but a vice president who is powerful and empowered, and will be taking care of critical advising within the presidential Cabinet."

Sex in prisons to be studied by Howard League

By Dominic Casciani
The Howard League for Penal Reform says it will spend two years looking at all elements of the issue, from consensual to coercive sex in jails.

The investigation in England and Wales will also look at what can be done to improve the sex education of adolescent and teenage inmates.

There is virtually no reliable information about the extent of consensual and coercive sex in jails, although ministers recently told Parliament there were almost 140 sexual assaults in 2010, up on the two previous years.

The study has partly come about after the charity got involved in the cases of three teenagers who said they had been raped by other inmates.

Africa's Islamist militants 'co-ordinate efforts'

By Mark Doyle
Three of Africa's largest militant Islamist groups are trying to co-ordinate their efforts, the head of the US Africa Command has warned.

Gen Carter Ham said in particular North African al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was probably sharing explosives and funds with Nigeria's Boko Haram.

. . .

The reality, however, may be that the real driving forces behind Boko Haram are inequality and poverty in northern Nigeria; a historic grudge between the Nigerian north and south; and an underequipped and corrupt police force.

China forced-abortion woman suffering state harassment, lawyer says

By Tania Branigan
The family of a woman whose forced late-term abortion caused outrage in China have been attacked as "traitors" for discussing her plight with foreigners, while her husband has not been seen for two days, according to a a relative and a lawyer.

Authorities in Ankang, in Shaanxi province, last week apologised to the couple and said they had suspended three local officials after the publication of a photograph showing Feng Jianmei with the bloodied body of her seven-month-old foetus sparked outrage on microblogs.

. . .

Forced abortions in China are illegal, but critics say they are carried out because of the pressure on officials to meet strict birth-control targets.

Feng said she was coerced into the abortion. Her husband added that she had been hooded, abducted and forcibly injected to induce the abortion because they were unable to pay a 40,000-yuan fine for breaking birth-control rules. Local officials said at the time that Feng had agreed "after repeated persuasion".

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
In Iowa, Paying Your Debt to Society Isn't Quite Enough

By Kevin Drum
Via Ed Kilgore, we learn today that voter suppression is alive and well in Iowa. On his first day in office after winning the 2010 election, Gov. Terry Branstad reinstituted a long and laborious process that prevents most released felons from voting:
Henry Straight, who wants to serve on the town council in the tiny western Iowa community of Arthur, is among those whose paperwork wasn't complete. Straight can't vote or hold office because as a teenager in Wisconsin in the 1980s, he was convicted of stealing a pop machine and fleeing while on bond.

. . .

Felons, of course, tend to be poorer, blacker, and younger than the general population, which means they're more likely to vote for Democrats than the general population. So who cares if they've paid their debt to society? A tendency to vote for Democrats is mighty suspicious behavior all on its own, no? Surely anyone foolish enough to belong to one or more of these demographic groups should expect to have a hard time voting whenever a Republican machine is in charge.
'Patent trolls' cost other US bodies $29bn last year, says study

By (BBC)
The direct cost of actions taken by so-called "patent trolls" totalled $29bn (£18.5bn) in the US in 2011, according to a study by Boston University.

It analysed the effect of intellectual rights claims made by organisations that own and license patents without producing related goods of their own.

. . .

"This [$29bn] figure does not include indirect costs to the defendants' businesses such as diversion of resources, delays in new products, and loss of market share," they wrote.

"Even so, the direct costs are large relative to total spending on [research and development], which totalled $247bn in 2009, implying that NPE patent assertations effectively impose a significant tax on investment in innovation."

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:
Jim Capaldi started writing this in Morocco, where he was getting ready for a movie with actor Michael J. Pollard that never got made. Said Capaldi: "Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.' For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The 'Low Spark,' for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The 'Low Spark' meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level."
Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Environmentalism is not a religion

By James Murray
. . .

We can handle the scientifically illiterate and ethically questionable attempts to undermine evidence of climatic change using cherry-picked data and discredited theories, just as we can counter the increasingly futile attempts to question the importance of the green economy and the efficacy of clean technologies. The scientific evidence linking greenhouse gas emissions and potentially dangerous levels of climate change is now so well proven, and the physical demonstration of effective clean technologies so prevalent, that the guileless smears attempted by self-styled "climate sceptics" lack their former sting.

. . .

Religion can mean a "pursuit or interest followed with great devotion" – a definition which could just about allow environmentalism to be classified as a "religion". But it is more commonly defined as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods", or "a particular system of faith and worship". Equate "greens" with this type of religion, with faith and deities, adherence and heresy, and it becomes all but impossible to prove or disprove the central tenets of environmentalism.

"Climate change is a matter of faith," say the climate sceptics, "green actions are acts of religion – they have no place in the real world of politics and business." Frustratingly, you can argue against this accusation all you like, but any response is tainted in the eyes of your critics by the fact it is made with a "religious conviction" that will brook no argument.

. . .

People who suggest climate change might not be happening are not heretics, but they are guilty of a quite staggering lack of intellectual rigour and those who suggest green is a religion, including the estimable James Lovelock, are guilty of a remarkable category error.

Science and Health
Mind Reading from Brain Recordings? 'Neural Fingerprints' of Memory Associations Decoded

By (ScienceDaily)
Researchers have long been interested in discovering the ways that human brains represent thoughts through a complex interplay of electrical signals. Recent improvements in brain recording and statistical methods have given researchers unprecedented insight into the physical processes under-lying thoughts. For example, researchers have begun to show that it is possible to use brain recordings to reconstruct aspects of an image or movie clip someone is viewing, a sound someone is hearing or even the text someone is reading.

A new study by University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University scientists brings this work one step closer to actual mind reading by using brain recordings to infer the way people organize associations between words in their memories.

. . .

Critically, differences across participants in the way these meaning signals were reactivated predicted the order in which the participants would recall the words. In particular, the degree to which the meaning signals were reactivated before recalling each word reflected each participant's tendency to group similar words (like "duck" and "goose") together in their recall sequence. Since the participants were instructed to say the words in the order they came to mind, the specific se-quence of recalls a participant makes provides insights into how the words were organized in that participant's memory.

Food allergy rate worse than thought

By (UPI)
. . .

"This study reinforces the importance of doctors, parents and other caregivers working together to be even more vigilant in managing food allergy in children," Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

. . .

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found 53 percent of the children had more than one reaction, with the majority of reactions being to milk, eggs or peanuts. This translated into a rate of nearly one food-allergic reaction per child per year, the researchers said.

Approximately 11 percent of the reactions were classified as severe and included symptoms such as swelling in the throat, difficulty breathing, a sudden drop in blood pressure, dizziness or fainting, the study said.

Autism can be diagnosed with a simple EEG test, says study

By Alexander Besant
A simple EEG test may be all that is needed to find autism in children, says a new study.

. . .

According to Medical News Today, the study found that those children with autism had poor short range connectivity in the left hemisphere of the brain.

They also found increased connectivity in other regions.

BBC reported that researchers suspect that the brain's increased connectivity in some parts were compensating for reduced connectivity in other parts.

Sifting Through a Trillion Electrons

By (ScienceDaily)
Modern research tools like supercomputers, particle colliders, and telescopes are generating so much data, so quickly, many scientists fear that soon they will not be able to keep up with the deluge.

. . .

According to Karimabadi, one of the major unsolved mysteries in magnetic reconnection is the conditions and details of how energetic particles are generated. But until recently, the closest that any researcher has come to studying this is by looking at 2D simulations. Although these datasets are much more manageable, containing at most only billions of particles, Karimabadi notes that lingering magnetic reconnection questions cannot be answered with 2D particle simulations alone. In fact, these datasets leave out a lot of critical information.

. . .

To address the challenges of analyzing 3D particle data, Karimabadi and a team of astrophysicists joined forces with the ExaHDF5 team, a Department of Energy funded collaboration to develop high performance I/O and analysis strategies for future exascale computers. Prabhat, of Berkeley Lab's Visualization Group, leads the ExaHDF5 team.

. . .

The Police Are Using Minority Report Technology to Fight Bad Guys

By Casey Chan
It's not all the way sophisticated like the precogs of Minority Report but the San Francisco Police Department have left their no Internet having, no email using days behind them and upgraded to a much more sophisticated system that'll help 'em nab more criminals.

Buzzfeed FWD took a look at the police app that SFPD will be using which allows the officers to upload images, scan license plates, dictate notes, capture interviews, pin location points and do all of it in real time. The database is constantly updated so that police officers can work together in predicting where the criminals will end up next. It's fighting crime with data. Or as the SFPD put it, using the "bat computer".

Google's "Unsupervised" Self-Learning Neural Network Searches For Cat Pics

By Jason Mick

Magic happens at Google Inc.'s (GOOG) X Laboratory, a secret research and development center located at an unknown location in the Bay Area of Northern California.  Some projects previously disclosed have been the augmented reality "Google Goggles" and the self-driving automobiles.  Google X is even rumored to be working on a space elevator.

. . .

 As a test of the nascent cognizant system, Stanford University Electrical Engineering Professor Andrew Y. Ng and Google fellow Jeff Dean fed the machine 10 million thumbnails of YouTube videos.  Without being told exactly what to "look for", the network began to hierarchically arrange data, removing duplicate similar features and group certain images together.

 One example was the cat.  Thanks to the wealth of cat videos on YouTube, the cyber-brain eventually came to a single dream-like image representing the network's knowledge of what a cat looks like.  The network was able to then able to recognize its favorite thing -- cat videos, no matter what subtle variations merry YouTubers come up with to their feline's appearance.

 The significant part, say researchers, is that the network wasn't told what to look for.

"High Roller" Hacker Attack is Stealing Hundreds of Millions From the Rich

By Jason Mick
. . .

 Researchers are currently only 23 percent effective at detecting and removing Zeus variants, although attacks on command and control servers have been somewhat effective.  The malware operates via a browser extension in Firefox or via a Browser Helper Object in Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Internet Explorer.  The Trojan is used to carry out traditional malware activities, such as spamming and bank transaction interception/modification.

 Now even as researchers continue to struggle with Zeus and its successor SpyEye, there's an even more sinister malware storm brewing that Guardian Analytics and Intel Corp. (INTC) subsidiary McAfee have been tracking [PDF], dubbed "Operation High Roller".

. . .

 The new multi-approach malware is able to circumvent typical "chip and pin" physical security features, such as the smartcard reader ID systems commonly used in Europe.  It targets primarily "high rollers" -- accounts with more than €250,000, the kind commonly maintained by wealthy individuals and corporations.  This differs from Zeus and other past attacks that primarily targeted the masses with smaller transactions

Oreo's gay pride post on Facebook prompts threats of boycott

By Adam Gabbatt
Oreo, the self-proclaimed "world's favourite cookie", has stirred up controversy on Facebook by pledging support for gay pride.

An image posted to the Oreo fan page shows rainbow layers betwixt its biscuity wafers, instead of the usual dollop of white cream. The photo was accompanied by the message "Proudly support love!".

. . .

While most commenters were in support of the multi-coloured equal rights cookie, others disagreed with Oreo's tolerant stance, some even threatening a biscuit-boycott.

"This is absolutely disgusting," opined Desean Washington. "Your attempt to 'normalize' the behaviour of homosexuals has cost you a customer."

Map of world weed use

By David Pescovitz

Where in the world do people smoke the most dope? According to the United Nations' World Drug Report 2012 released today, it's the Pacific island of Palau.

The 'baby box' returns to Europe

By Stephen Evans
Boxes where parents can leave an unwanted baby, common in medieval Europe, have been making a comeback over the last 10 years. Supporters say a heated box, monitored by nurses, is better for babies than abandonment on the street - but the UN says it violates the rights of the child.

. . .

So one of the arguments made by those who condemn the system is that it may well be men who are giving the baby away, dumping him or her seems too hard a word. The critics say that baby boxes may be used by unscrupulous fathers or even controllers of prostitutes to put pressure on mothers to dispose of an unwanted baby.

The psychologist, Kevin Browne of Nottingham University told the BBC: "Studies in Hungary show that it's not necessarily mothers who place babies in these boxes - that it's relatives, pimps, step-fathers, fathers.

"Therefore, the big question is: are these baby boxes upholding women's rights, and has the mother of that child consented to the baby being placed in the baby box?"

No way home for Myanmar's Rohingya

By Jacob Zenn
The recent inter-ethnic riots between Rakhine and Rohingya communities in Myanmar highlight some of the major human security issues the country must face as it embarks on democratization and peace-building processes.

While there are no questions asked about the citizenship of 135 officially recognized ethnic groups across Myanmar, the majority of which straddle the country's borderlands with India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand, the Rohingya are viewed by the state as outsiders.

. . .

Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law established that the Rohingya, along with several other communities such as the Gurkhas (an ethnic community with historical links to Nepal), were not among the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar entitled to citizenship.

. . .

Myanmar and Bangladesh will hold talks about the Rohingya situation in early July - Myanmar's President Thein Sein is due to start a three-day visit to Bangladesh on July 15. Some hope the persecuted minority will be granted some sort of quasi-citizenship after the talks. If this should fail, then the Rohingya will remain in a legal and physical limbo hoping for refugee status somewhere abroad.

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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