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Soviet Mobile Laser in Afghanistan, by Edward L. Cooper, 1985
Edward L. Cooper, Afghanistan, 1985, Image Library

We are two weeks from the 11th anniversary of the beginning of the (latest) war in Afghanistan.  I sometimes wonder if there was a mother in the early 1970s who watched the evening news, maybe with Walter Cronkite, while she fixed her family dinner.  She was thinking about her children, who were born in the early 1960s, and wondering about the war going on their entire lives, and if it would ever end.  

And even now that the "surge" is over, and the war is winding down, will there ever be peace on our earth?  

Afghanistan War: Overview

IGTNT:  His life will live on (please rec)

Since 2003 there have been 4486 US casualties in Iraq and since 2001 there have been 2122 US casualties in Afghanistan.
I can't seem to find an optimal Afghanistan story for tonight.  It's the big story I want to feature while the anniversary and elections are coming up.  

In other news, the useless Congress in the USA is out of session until after the Nov. 6 elections.  

Welcome to Sunday OND, tonight's edition of the daily feature.   The Overnight News Digest crew consists of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and ScottyUrb, guest editors maggiejean and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent.  

Tonight I selected all my articles from tweets.  In one or two cases, I selected a different headline from a tweeted source.


** Hard News **

Syria stalemate continues at UN

Over the next week, presidents, prime ministers, ministers and ambassadors from the world over will all be in New York for the annual meetings of the UN General Assembly.

With so many key players in the same place, at the same time, is there any hope of a fresh initiative?

Probably not.

Everyone will be talking about Syria. But there is little likelihood of fresh action.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League special representative on Syria, will brief the Security Council on Monday, before all the leaders start their speeches at the General Assembly on Tuesday. All, including him, agree that he has a near-impossible job, and is unlikely to propose a new initiative.

The so-called Quartet (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt) will meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York, but Western diplomats are already briefing journalists that their efforts will fail.

 Not so much hope for Syria right now, but maybe a bit of hope for Sudan & South Sudan?

Hopes mount for deal as Sudan, South Sudan leaders meet

The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan met late Sunday as international pressure grew to end long-running disputes that have brought the former civil war foes to the brink of renewed conflict.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his Southern counterpart Salva Kiir met for almost two hours to kickstart face-to-face talks, following efforts by rival delegations to bring negotiating positions closer.

The drawn-out talks in the Ethiopian capital began several months before South Sudan split in July 2011 from what was Africa's biggest nation, following a landslide independence vote after decades of war.

"There are still differences, but the teams are working to narrow the gap," said Atif Kiir, spokesman for South Sudan's delegation to the African Union-mediated talks. "We are still hopeful of a deal," he added.

Climate Central reveals telling study of climate change & wildfire
A new analysis on western wildfires by Climate Central released Sept. 18 found that blazes seen this summer are now seven times more likely to occur than they were 70 years ago because of a continued warming trend, researchers say.

Though devastating blazes that affected many parts of the state this summer are linked to a streak of hot weather, it's more difficult to link them definitively to global warming.

Assembling 40 years of fire data from the U.S. Forest Service, the study found fires larger than 1,000 acres burned twice as often each year in the past decade than in an average year in the 1970s.

“Our analysis of fires on U.S. Forest Service land documents a clear, long-term trend toward more frequent and larger fires in the American West,” said Alyson Kenward, principle author from the Climate Central.

The big fires still burning are in western Washington State.  

Poorer Without Aid

The question on aid effectiveness investigates the effects of aid in its generality: the raw sum of everything that enters the flow of money, goods and services classified as development assistance. This approach has been criticised, on the point that, being different components of aid so heterogeneous in nature, aim and function, it is not only difficult but also misleading to search for an aggregate effect. More potential, is argued, lies in the question about specific interventions that more easily meet the requirements for rigorous scientific evaluation with the method of the randomised trial.

The more general question on aid still begs an answer, though. Foreign assistance has been disbursed for decades and is still seen as a major tool of development policy. A hot debate about how the aid system can be improved, or whether any improvement is feasible, is ongoing. In this article, we voluntarily shy away from this debate. More modestly, our goal is to uncover what can be said about aid effectiveness in the past 40 years. Our answer is clear and robust across specifications. The effect of aid has been, on average, positive. Whether the size of the effect – a 15% increase in the income of the average developing country citizen – was worth the while is out of the scope of this article.

I jumped straight to the conclusion - this is a nerdy statistical article.  

Nine climbers killed, four missing after Himalayan avalanche hits two camps on Mount Manaslu

The deaths will undoubtedly provoke further argument about whether big Himalayan mountains favoured by large, fee-paying or sponsored expeditions are becoming too crowded and too commercialised.

Several climbers high on the mountain were aiming to be the first-ever to ascent Manaslu without oxygen and ski down. Two teams with around 20 climbers appear to have been waiting at Camp Three for the weather to clear when the avalanche struck.

Massive snow falls have made conditions treacherous on and around Manaslu recently. Several climbers had expressed concerns over the avalanche risk before heading up the mountain last week.

One Nepalese official said the popularity of Manaslu, first climbed in 1956, was not a problem.  “Yes, base camp might have been a bit crowded but the route higher up was not. This is a natural disaster. Not man-made in any way,” he said.

Authorities in poverty-stricken Nepal are sensitive to charges that too many permits for climbing mountains are sold to foreign expeditions. However, the permits generate much needed hard currency.

 I liked this article not just for the news, which is of course tragic, but for the perspective.  

What 100 years of voting looks like

The story of American politics over the last few generations is one of ever increasing partisan polarization. Barack Obama was able to pick off a few Republican states in 2008, but ideology and party identity have largely synced up, draining the electoral map of much of its fluidity. When it comes to presidential politics, there are a lot of red states, a lot of blue states, and only a few true swing states.

Over the years, the partisan divide at the top of the ticket has steadily crept down the ballot.  And if there was a moment that the red state/blue state divide we now know was formalized, it was the 2000 election, when George W. Bush swept the South and the Great Plains but was shut out on the Pacific Coast, in much of the Midwest, and (except for New Hampshire) north of the Mason-Dixon line. This marked the culmination of two trends: 1) the South’s steady march away from the Democratic Party, which began sometime around the Depression but didn’t really kick into gear until the national Democratic Party embraced racial equality – first at its 1948 convention, then through the Civil Right Act of 1964 (Al Gore  couldn’t even carry his native Tennessee); 2) the mass rejection of the modern, Southern-dominated, religion-infused national Republican Party by culturally moderate voters in the Northeast and on the Pacific Coast.

There is a little movie at the salon site.

China in Revolt

Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikes – there is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place.

More importantly, workers are winning, with many strikers capturing large wage increases above and beyond any legal requirements. Worker resistance has been a serious problem for the Chinese state and capital and, as in the United States in the 1930s, the central government has found itself forced to pass a raft of labor legislation. Minimum wages are going up by double digits in cities around the country and many workers are receiving social insurance payments for the first time.

Labor unrest has been growing for two decades, and the past two years a-lone have brought a qualitative advance in the character of worker struggles.

But if there are lessons for the Northern left in the experience of Chinese workers, finding them requires an examination of the unique conditions those workers face – conditions which, today, are cause for both great optimism and great pessimism.

Reframing a group that has been "othered."

This is What Plutocracy Looks Like

The folks in the room all but advise Romney to simply tour around the country reading passages of Ayn Rand novels out loud at his campaign rallies and hectoring the idiotic masses to bow before their obvious superior. Romney, who is many things, but not a total fool, gently explains that that probably is not the best way to go about attempting to win over the Obama voters he needs to be elected. Almost none of the advice Romney gets during the tape is very good, some of it's terrible.

 That's not novel, of course, everyone who watches politics closely thinks they have the secret insight that will win the election. Unlike the millions of other political junkies and backseat drivers, this small coterie of folks, by sole virtue of their wealth, gets to impose their invaluable insights on the actual candidate. It would be like the head coach of the Giants, Tom Coughlin, having to spend most of the week between games meeting with the opinionated fans who call into sports talk radio with their theories about how the Giants should be blitzing on every down, or lining up two quarterbacks under center.

Another aspect of the money = speech hypothesis.  

Fight erupts over ownership of land above Brighton

"We’re looking to a possible swap of this land for land outside of this heavily used area. We feel like it would be a much better situation if we could transfer our land ownership through some sort of swap or sale," he said. "If this area is popular with the public, we ought to get our value out of it."

Great Western Mining’s claims date to 1907 when a company called Mountain Lake Mining Co. filed mining-claim patent requests with the federal General Land Office for the four parcels, known as the Ida May, Carnegie, R.A.B. and Martha. At that time, Salt Lake City resisted the patent applications, seeking to secure reservoir easements around seven small lakes at the top of the canyon.

There is no dispute that on Dec. 12, 1908, the General Land Office granted Mountain Lake Mining Co. the mineral rights to those four parcels. Or that the company’s board had, three months earlier, approved a resolution saying title to the surface lands would be transferred to Salt Lake City.

Beyond that, perspectives differ.

This canyon is watershed for the Salt Lake Valley. Also, I love the "perspective" of "we should get our value out of it."

Contributions Tree Chart

This chart shows the share of all contributions given by the top ten donors to super PACs still active in the 2012 election, through August, 2012. Some corporations are affiliated with individual donors, such as the Contran Corporation, which is owned by Harold Simmons | See all contributions at PAC Track »

Hover over each super PAC's name to see the total raised by its top ten donors, and hover over each donor to see how much they gave. Click a month to see top donors' contributions as of that month.

So you can know who is trying to outbuy your vote.  

** Soft News **

Portrait of the Artist as a Postman

The artist behind Faune et Flore du Texas, said the assistant designer, first caught the attention of Hermès in the eighties. According to company lore, Jean-Louis Dumas, the CEO at the time, loved driving across the United States. On one trip, while visiting Texas, he encountered a painter whose work was so bold but simple, so impressive in its portrayal of animals, that Dumas immediately commissioned a scarf design. That scarf had since been reissued several times and always sold out. The painter’s style was so popular that in the past thirty years, the company had commissioned fifteen more original designs from him. He was the only American artist ever to have designed scarves for Hermès.

Who was this man? I asked the assistant designer. He was very special, she told me. His name was Kermit Oliver, and he was a postal worker in his late sixties who lived in Waco.

Art and every day life should be in more constant contact.  IMHO.  

15 Ways To “Instant Happy”

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

― Charles M. Schulz

Karen Salmansohn is author of Instant Happy and contributor to Her work includes happiness tools that work as “pattern interrupts” to stop negative thoughts.

Here are 15 of her “Happiness Tools” that originally appeared in 15 Tools For An “Instant Happy” on psychology, September 22, 2012:

1. Do a Shower Power Meditation. Take a shower and multi-task washing away your stress and anxiety.

2. Get Lit. Studies show that sitting in dark rooms can lead to darker thoughts and that, alternatively, spending time in bright light (from being outside in the sun or inside in very well-lit rooms) can create happier brain chemistry.

3. Stare at something yellow. Put on a yellow shirt. Buy some yellow flowers. “Yellow can lift your spirits and self-esteem,” says color psychologist Angela Wright.

You can probably add some more of your own.  ;-)    Also, I love daffodils.  

Permission to Yarnstorm: Tate Britain Unexpected Artworks

What happens when one of London’s most famous art museums invites two of London’s most infamous sneaky stitchers through the doors and lets them bring the yarnstorm with them?

Simple really. We took the art world and our world of woolly mischief and squished them together. Deadly Knitshade and The Fastener yarnstormed Tate Britain in arty style…

The Fastener conjured up colours from the Tate’s collection. All that painty potential squeezed into tiny tubes ready to break free and run riot on the canvas, patiently waiting to be dabbed onto the end of a brush and turned into art.

The Fastener’s Crochet Tubes of Tate Colour were a needle-made nod in the direction of some of the most famous paintings in the Tate’s collection:

The side-by-side photos are darling!  And creative.  And accessible.  
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