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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, November 20, 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: Beginnings by Chicago

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
Insurers’ duties under health care law taking shape

By Tony Pugh
The nation’s health care overhaul took another step forward Tuesday when the Obama administration proposed new rules that clarify insurers’ duties and legal responsibilities under key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

 The law, which critics have long referred to as “Obamacare,” makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, beginning in 2014. The first proposed rule is a series of five market revisions that will help implement that part of the law.

. . .

The law requires that these essential benefits include: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance abuse services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

All the proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register next Monday. There will be a 30- or 60-day public comment period. Health and Human Services officials will weigh the public comments before issuing their final rules.

To avoid overeating, eat slowly

By (UPI)
It often takes upward of 6 to 8 hours before stomachs start to rumble to signal hunger, so most hunger is from the mind, a U.S. medical expert suggests.

. . .

"This is why we can often overeat during holidays, because even though we aren't really hungry and just need more energy, we think about, see or smell food and want to eat," Skelton said in a statement.

. . .

-- People who don't wait and keep eating will eat to the point of fullness, but they will feel uncomfortably full later. Take your time at meals. Sit, talk and take a break.

. . .

-- Plan ahead. Know that you are going to have special foods and schedule them. If you are having a big holiday dinner, then eat lighter for breakfast and lunch, or focus on higher-fiber fruits and vegetables.

CO2 hit record high in 2011 – UN report

By Michael D. Lemonick
. . .

Although CO2 is still the most significant long-lived greenhouse gas, levels of other heat-trapping gases have also climbed to record levels, according to the report. Methane, for example hit 1813 parts per billion (ppb) in 2011, and nitrous oxide rose to 324.2 ppb. All told, the amount of excess heat prevented from escaping into outer space was 30 percent higher in 2011 than it was as recently as 1990.

. . .

These are sobering numbers, not because they come as any sort of surprise, but rather because they don't. Scientists have known about the heat-trapping properties of CO2 since the mid-1800s. They've been documenting the steady rise of CO2 pumped largely out of smokestacks and exhaust pipes since the 1950s.

About half of the excess CO2 going into the atmosphere so far has been absorbed by plants and the oceans, but, said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release, " . . . this will not necessarily continue in the future" as these natural "sinks" for CO2 reach their capacity.

. . .

Yet despite all of this knowledge, the world has largely failed to act on reducing emissions. The best they could do at a UN-sponsored climate meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 was to agree to a non-binding target of limiting the world's greenhouse-gas-triggered temperature increase to no more than 2°C (3.6°F) above preindustrial levels to limit the potential damage. Just a year later, it was already clear that they wouldn't come close to making it.

US marijuana legalisation fuels Mexico drugs war debate

By (BBC)
Earlier this month, two US states voted to legalise, regulate and tax marijuana. The BBC's Will Grant in Mexico City looks at what this shift in stance could mean for Mexico and its fight against the drug gangs.

. . .

"What happened in Colorado and Washington was truly revolutionary," says Beau Kilmer, the co-director of the Rand Drug Policy Research Centre in California. "No modern country has ever removed the prohibition on the production and distribution of marijuana for non-medical purposes."

.. .

Hosting several central American leaders recently, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said the decision in the US was a "change in paradigm" on drug consumption. He called for the United Nations and the Organisation of American States to help clarify the situation.

. . .

Advocates and opponents disagree about the extent to which legalisation of marijuana would hurt the drug cartels' profits - some quoting figures in the billions, others in the mere tens of millions. And there is still a long way to go before President Obama formulates a coherent response to the voters' decision in the two states.

Africa for Norway: raising money in Africa to help poor Norwegians struggle through the frozen winter

By Cory Doctorow
Ntwiga wries (sic), Who says Africa can't contribute: Radi-Aid has Africans singing and working together to send radiators to our cold brethren in Norway in this their time of Christmas need. Choice tidbit: 'It's kind of just as bad as poverty if you ask me... Frostbite kills too.'"
Further big drop in new HIV infections among children

By Jane Dreaper
The UN's latest assessment of global cases of HIV/Aids shows there has been a further drop in new infections among children.

There were 330,000 new infections in children last year - the figure is 24% lower than in 2009.

But the report by UNAids also warns "significant additional effort is required" if broader targets to tackle HIV/Aids are to be achieved by 2015.

DR Congo rebels keep control of Goma

By (Al Jazeera)
A relative calm has returned to Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after rebels took control of the city, as several thousand people fled across the border to Rwanda, UN and humanitarian workers say.

Heavily armed M23 rebels paraded unchallenged through the centre of the city on Tuesday afternoon, after several days of fighting with UN-backed government forces.

. . .

Earlier in the day, explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city in North Kivu province as the rebels captured the city.

. . .

A UN spokesman said in New York that the nearly 1,500 UN peacekeepers in Goma held their fire to avoid triggering a battle. The peacekeepers "cannot substitute for the efforts of national forces" in DR Congo, said spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

Church of England votes against allowing women bishops

By Lizzy Davies
The Church of England has been plunged into its gravest crisis in decades after legislation that would have allowed female clergy to become bishops, and swept away centuries of entrenched sexism, was rejected by just six votes.

. . .

The legislation had needed a two-thirds majority in each of the three houses of the General Synod to pass, but, despite comfortably managing that in both the houses of bishops and clergy, it was dealt a fatal blow in the laity, where lay members voted 132 votes in favour and 74 against. If just six members of the laity had voted for instead of against, the measure would have been passed.

. . .

While some have suggested the move could even call into question its status as the established church, Baldry said he thought the bigger risk was simple "disinterest". "I think the great danger for the church following this vote is that it will be increasingly seen as just like any other sect," he said.

A source close to the culture secretary, Maria Miller, who is also minister for women and equalities, said: "While this is a matter for the church, it's very disappointing. As we seek to help women fulfil their potential throughout society this ruling would suggest the church is at the very least behind the times." When the measure was put to the church's 44 dioceses earlier this year, 42 approved.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Farewell, CIA Climate Center. We Hardly Knew Ye.

By Kate Sheppard
Last year I reported on the CIA's Center on Climate Change and National Security, which opened in September 2009 to gather and analyze information about the effects of climate change on national security. The center had been a target of Republican ire, which is perhaps part of the reason that the CIA didn't want to talk about what they actually did over there when I tried to interview them for my article.

Apparently the CIA scrapped the Center earlier this year without telling anyone . . .

Former CIA director Leon Panetta launched the center, but the piece notes that it did not receive as much love from David Petraeus when he took over in 2011. (I'll leave it to you to make jokes about that.) There's also speculation that the center was a preemptive cut, as Congress is expected to make further cuts to the intelligence budget in the next few years.

Michigan Republicans Push for Tax Breaks for Fetuses

By Robin Mart
One of the jokes I have often made about so-called personhood amendments is that if you give a fertilized egg full rights as a person, you should get to claim them on your taxes, too.

. . .

Michigan Republicans are now pushing a bill that would grant a tax credit to any fetus proven to be at least 12 weeks along by December 31st. Calling it an "advance" on the actual tax break the family would receive the next calendar year, the GOP frames the financial help as a chance to offset expenses with pregnancy.

. . .

The bill, if it passed, would provide about $160 per family and would cost the state $5 million to $10 million per year, according to the report. Hospital costs associated with a pregnancy tend to range in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, especially for women without health insurance. In the meantime, the state has continued to fight against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the state insurance exchange.

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:
. . .

I've always thought this was one of Chicago's best love songs. Why? Several reasons.

1. It's got a good melody.
2. Good rhythm/beat.
3. Good lyrics.

But most of all, it's not sappy, crappy, ballady, Peter Cetera stuff that dominated the 1980's. The story is so simple, sincere, and sweet. That's the main thing that sells it for me. It's not about how hot someone is, or "banging some chick", or anything like that. It's simply about the enjoyment and love of being with this person. If you ask me, that's a lot of what love is.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Mexico, U.S. sign Colorado River agreement

By (UPI)
. . .

U.S. and Mexico delegations held an official signing ceremony of Minute 319 to the 1944 Treaty with Mexico in San Diego. The agreement, reached through periodic negotiations over the past three years, runs through 2017.

. . .

Under the new arrangement, regional water agencies in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada will purchase nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water from Mexico's share of the Colorado River, enough to cover the requirements of 200,000 families for a year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mexico will receive $10 million, earmarked to repair damage caused by a 2010 earthquake to Mexicali Valley irrigation canals, a reconstruction effort described by Jorge Zazueta Camacho, president of an irrigation district, as "very slow, and sometimes it stops for months because there's no money."

Stronger regional differences due to large-scale atmospheric flow.

By rasmus
A new paper by Deser et al. (2012) (free access) is likely to have repercussions on discussions of local climate change adaptation. I think it caught some people by surprise, even if the results perhaps should not be so surprising. The range of possible local and regional climate outcomes may turn out to be larger than expected for regions such as North America and Europe.

Deser et al. imply that information about the future regional climate is more blurred than previously anticipated because of large-scale atmospheric flow responsible for variations in regional climates. They found that regional temperatures and precipitation for the next 50 years may be less predictable due to the chaotic nature of the large-scale atmospheric flow. This has implications for climate change downscaling and climate change adaptation, and suggests a need to anticipate a wider range of situations in climate risk analyses.

. . .

The Deser et al. paper also sends a message to people who study regional climate change based on a small selection of climate models (i.e. only from their own country). There is a need to include the maximum amount of reliable information about the local climate, and that would include the range of possibilities and the probabilities associated with these.

It is of course possible that the climate model used by Deser et al. exaggerates the variability in the large-scale atmospheric flow. However, their findings may also potentially explain the observation that led Oldenborgh et al. (2009) to conclude that Europe has warmed faster than projected by the climate models.

This holiday season, consider the farmers — and the corporations that control them

By Tom Laskawy
When you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner, I encourage you to give a thought to the people who grew the food on your table. Did they get a fair shake when they took their bounty to market? For the vast majority of Americans who shop at traditional grocery stores and supermarkets, which are supplied by large distributors and packers, the answer is probably no.

. . .

The negative effects of this consolidation — on the environment, jobs, and income — in rural communities are tremendous. Yet for the last few decades, the government actively encouraged consolidation so that food production and distribution could benefit from economies of scale. Farmers complained about growing abuses from the handful of large companies that came to dominate food processing and distribution (and retailing) — but never seemed to make headway with government regulators.

And that’s because low prices at the supermarket became the Holy Grail of federal policy. Nothing else mattered. We have a system designed to generate huge amounts of cheap food, no matter the collateral damage to the communities where this food is grown or processed.

. . .

So what do to? Promoting alternatives to the industrial system for farmers is a start. The Union of Concerned Scientists just produced a report demonstrating that struggling conventional dairy farmers could thrive by switching to organic production, which would also provide environmental benefits to their communities.

Science and Health
Patent sought for HIV vaccineResearchers aim for lifeling AIDS vaccine

By Richard A. Marini
In addition to a cure for HIV, a top priority of AIDS researchers is a vaccine that can prevent infection.

Researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio recently applied for a patent for a single-dose vaccine they hope will last a lifetime and help control the HIV epidemic by stopping transmission of the virus.

. . .

"One problem with treating HIV once it's in the body is that it keeps mutating," said Marie-Claire Gauduin, a researcher in the institute's department of virology and immunology who, along with Philippe Blancou of the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis in France, invented the vaccine. "The skin is the body's first line of defense and, if we can prevent the virus from entering the body through the skin, we can stop it before it has a chance to mutate."

Reasons for Severe Bleeding in Hemophilia Revealed

By (ScienceDaily)
New insights into what causes uncontrollable bleeding in hemophilia patients are provided in a study published by Cell Press on November 20th in the Biophysical Journal. By revealing that blood clots spread in traveling waves through vessels, the study offers new strategies that could lead to the development of more effective treatments for hemophilia as well as common cardiovascular disorders.

. . .

To answer this question, Ataullakhanov and his team developed an imaging method that allowed them to visualize the spread of fibrin clots by monitoring thrombin activity. After filling an experimental chamber with blood and triggering the clotting cascade, they made a novel observation: thrombin propagates through blood in steady waves from the activation site to distances farther away, similar to how electrical impulses travel through neurons.

These traveling waves were not apparent in blood from a patient with hemophilia C. Computer simulations revealed that factor XI is crucial for the spread of the waves far away from the activation site, a process that is necessary in order to seal large wounds. These results can explain why hemophilia C patients experience severe bleeding in response to large injuries or surgery, but not to minor wounds that do not require long-distance clotting.

Human Obedience: The Myth of Blind Conformity

By (ScienceDaily)
In the 1960s and 1970s, classic social psychological studies were conducted that provided evidence that even normal, decent people can engage in acts of extreme cruelty when instructed to do so by others. However, in an essay published November 20 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, Professors Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher revisit these studies' conclusions and explain how awful acts involve not just obedience, but enthusiasm too -- challenging the long-held belief that human beings are 'programmed' for conformity.

This belief can be traced back to two landmark empirical research programs conducted by Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo in the 1960s and early 1970s. Milgram's 'Obedience to Authority' research is widely believed to show that people blindly conform to the instructions of an authority figure, and Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) is commonly understood to show that people will take on abusive roles uncritically.

. . .

These conclusions were partly informed by Professors Haslam and Reicher's own prison experiment, conducted in 2002 in collaboration with the BBC. The study generated three findings. First, participants did not conform automatically to their assigned role; second, they only acted in terms of group membership to the extent that they identified with the group; and finally, group identity did not mean that people simply accepted their assigned position -- it also empowered them to resist it.

Heart attack risk higher after losing job

By (UPI)
Being unemployed may increase the risk of a heart attack, and the risk is highest in the first year of unemployment, U.S. researchers say.

Matthew Dupre, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, and Linda George, a professor of sociology at Duke, looked at the different aspects of unemployment and the risks of heart attacks among 13,451 men and women ages 51-75 who participated in the national Health and Retirement Study, USA Today reported.

. . .

-- Heart attack risks were about 35 percent higher among the unemployed than employed . . .

-- The harmful effects of unemployment were consistent for men and women, and major race/ethic groups.

Why feeling guilty may make you a better boss

By William Kremer
What character traits make a great leader? Decisiveness, confidence, intelligence… guiltiness? Recent surveys suggest that a sensitivity to feelings of guilt can be good for business, society and the individual.

. . .

"Why would people take charge in a group situation when there's not really an incentive to do so? We started thinking maybe they just feel really guilty about not doing it."

Many psychologists believe we vary widely in the extent which we are susceptible to feelings of guilt, and that the emotion can be a spur to action. Some people stay late on a Friday night to finish a piece of work, knowing they won't enjoy their weekend unless they do. Other people go home and watch a movie.

Twitter slang comes mainly from African-Americans, study shows

By Alexander Besant
. . .

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta found that much of the English shorthand used on Twitter stems from urban African-American populations in the US.

. ..

The authors created a map that allows one to see the influence of phrases, shorthand and expressions; spreading from one place to another.

. . .

For instance, they found that the word "bruh," which is brother, was developed in the southeastern US cities and then moved to Los Angeles.

. . .

The unpublished study may help further the understanding as to whether social media is driving the evolution of language and whether that evolution has recently sped up.

World's Oldest Working Computer Comes Back to Life

By Tiffany Kaiser  
. . .

The Witch was first designed and and built in 1949 to help the UK's Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire with calculations. In 1951, the 2.5 tonne computer was ran for the first time. However, at that point, the Witch was called the Harwell Dekatron.

 . . .

 The Witch had been forgotten until a trustee from The National Museum of Computing, named Kevin Murrell, noticed the Witch's control panel in a photograph brought in by another computer conservationist. He recognized the parts after having seen the Witch many times as a teenager.

 This led to the restoration effort for the Witch, where it's piece were found in storage and reassembled. After cleaning it up and replacing a few parts, the Witch is alive again. About 480 relays and 828 Dekatron tubes are all original on the computer, making the Witch nearly completely original to its former 1950s self.

What does war sound like now?

By Vanessa Barford
. . .

Particular noises are associated with particular conflicts, both by those who watch the news and soldiers and civilians who experience it firsthand.

. . .

Sound can be a "two-sided coin" in war, he argues.

"It can boost morale, like the bagpipes on the beaches of Normandy. It can be a statement like shock and awe, or the sirens in German Stuka dive bombers - to make a terrible noise and scare the enemy.

. . .

But Thompson says although war is full of noise, there is also another notable sound that shouldn't be forgotten - silence.

"They are whole days where nothing happens. There is a saying, war is boredom interspersed with sheer terror," he says.

Remember Movember: the science behind the moustache

By Dean Burnett
As I write this, we're currently in the latter half of November. Or, as it's becoming more commonly known, Movember. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, you've probably been wondering why your office is slowly starting to resemble the set of a 70's porno. Simply put, it's now the done thing for men to grow a moustache in November. They are often sponsored in order to raise money for and awareness of men's health issues such as testicular cancer. There are even themed entertainment events about it. It all boils down to growing a moustache in November. Hence, Movember.

. . .

Faces are important, is the overall point. We often notice a feature of someone's face that is more prominent than others, be it eyes, nose, lips or whatever. So growing a moustache is quite a bold move when you consider that it will likely affect how people perceive you, as it means you have a new, prominent facial feature that differs from what people are used to.

If this is the case, why do men grow moustaches and general facial hair at all? The main theory is that it is another secondary sexual characteristic, like breasts in females (which I've discussed before). The sprouting of facial hair signifies that a male is reaching sexual maturity and producing all the required hormones for reproduction. This can occur in specific stages, which vary between individuals, with a strong genetic component.

. . .

Sadly, we men in the west remain under the tyranny of the preference for the clean shaven look, so we have to continue shaving regularly. Consider yourselves lucky, women, that you typically don't have to deal with constantly sprouting facial hair just because society has decided that you should. All you have to worry about is the hair on your head and pretty much every area below the collarbone.

So growing a moustache is more involved than an innocuous aesthetic choice. It's a prominent facial feature that can influence how others perceive you. Some people become very attached to their moustache (metaphorically, it's not your moustache if it's not physically attached), even getting plastic surgery to replace it if lost. And many historical figures are synonymous with a certain type of facial hair. Fu Manchu has a specific moustache style named for him, and he didn't even exist. And arguably the most infamous moustache belonged to everyone's go-to evil dictator, Hitler. That a square inch of facial hair could become so synonymous with the most evil extremes shows just how salient a moustache can be when recognising someone, to the point where adopting this style of moustache is now socially unwise.

Pope Reveals All the Secrets of Baby Jesus—Including His Birth Star’s True Nature

By Jesus Diaz
Pope Benedict XVI has just published a new book, the third volume of his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, talking about the childhood of Jesus. Like Dan Brown's bestsellers, Herr Ratzinger promises to reveal lots of mysteries for just $13. Or you can save your money and read the juiciest bits here, starting with the reality behind the star of Bethlehem:

. . .

There were no ox or donkey in that place. That's just dumb, says the Pope!

The Virgin was actually a virgin. That's not dumb, says the Pope! "Is it true what we said that Jesus Christ is the only son of God and that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary?" he asks. "The answer, without any reservations, is yes." And that's it. His reasoning is that, if God was able to do it because he has full power over matter. Real power, not like that Higgs Boson impostor. "If he doesn't have full power over all energy and matter," the Pope points out, "then he's not God." Of course.

Astrology is stupid, the Pope says. It's baby who guides the star, not the star that guides the kid.

Nudity ban passed in San Francisco

By (BBC)
San Francisco lawmakers have voted to ban nudity in public places, ending a bitter dispute with a group of nudists.

. . .

The city had previously passed a law requiring a piece of cloth between a nude resident and a public seating place. But after that proposal was passed the number of nude men who flocked to the plaza increased.

"The Castro and San Francisco in general, is a place of freedom, expression and acceptance," Mr Wiener said.

But he added: "Our public spaces are for everyone and as a result it's appropriate to have some minimal standards of behaviour."

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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