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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, November 27, 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: Cosmic Love by Florence + the Machine

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
Obama fails first climate test by rejecting EU aviation carbon regime

By Suzanne Goldenberg
. . .

"The Obama administration is firmly committed to reducing harmful carbon pollution from civil aviation both domestically and internationally," a White House statement to reporters said. But "the application of the EU ETS to non-EU air carriers is the wrong way to achieve that objective".

The White House said the Obama administration would work to resolve airline emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

. . .

But American airlines had pushed hard for the bill, which had support from Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress.

Commercial carriers argued the EU's carbon tax was unfair because it would require airlines to pay for emissions on the entire transatlantic flight, not just through European air space. The main airline lobby group said it would cost the industry $3.1bn by 2020.

Apple fires head of mapping team after backlash from customers

By Rory Carroll
Apple has reportedly fired the head of its mapping team following software glitches which annoyed customers and rained mockery on the company.

. . .

Senior vice-president Eddy Cue pushed out Williamson as part of a management shake-up and he was now enlisting help from outside mapping-technology experts, Bloomberg reported.

. . .

Customers took to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media to vent anger and scorn, a rare pillorying for Apple just as it tried to recover from Jobs's death. The criticism did not appear to dent sales of the iPhone 5 but Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook apologized to customers.

. . .

The bungle led to the ousting of mobile-software chief Scott Forstall in October – apparently because he refused to sign the apology for the app. He is is followed, it now seems, by Williamson. His title was vice-president of iOS platform services.

Looking for antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Try raw pork

By Twilight Greenaway
In the seeming avalanche that is bad food news, it can be hard to know just how riled up to get about bacteria in meat. Yes, raw meat is a silent time-bomb, but then you cook the heck out of it, scrub your counters with bleach, and the problem is solved — right?

On the surface this may seem to be the case, but what happens when those bacteria have mutated to resist antibiotics? Several studies, including one last January out of the University of Iowa, have found that such bacteria are widely present in grocery store pork. And now Consumer Reports has found similarly alarming results in nearly 200 samples of both pork chops and ground pork. In fact, like others, today’s study shows that more pork contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria than doesn’t.

. . .

Rangan says today’s study results underscore a larger conversation Consumer Reports and Consumers Union have been having for over a decade about the overuse of antibiotics in meat production. “Our position is that these drugs should not be used for purposes other than treating sick animals,” she says.

. . .

Given the fact that a full 80 percent of the antibiotics we have in this country are being fed to factory farm animals, and the residue is ending up in our waterways, our farm fertilizer, and our bodies, it’s not hard to see why Consumer Reports and other groups are working hard to keep the issue on the radar of the government agencies that have the power to regulate these growth-promoting drugs.

US servicewomen challenge combat role ban

By (BBC)
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a challenge on behalf of four US servicewomen against a ban on women being deployed in most combat roles.

.  ..

Women can serve in front line positions in the US military, but they are barred from ground combat units.

. . .

Women account for about 14% of the 1.4 million active US military personnel.

The lawsuit launched on Tuesday says they are barred from 238,000 positions, but also alleges that they are already serving unofficially in combat units.

Egypt crisis: Mass rally held against Mohammed Mursi

By (BBC)
Tens of thousands of people have held protests in Cairo against Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who last week granted himself sweeping new powers.

Flag-waving demonstrators chanted slogans accusing the president and the Muslim Brotherhood of betraying last year's revolution.

. . .

"We don't want a dictatorship again. The Mubarak regime was a dictatorship. We had a revolution to have justice and freedom," protester Ahmed Husseini was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Journalists, lawyers and opposition figures - including Nobel Peace prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei- joined Tuesday's rally,

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto wants to help U.S. overhaul immigration

By Lesley Clark
Mexico’s incoming president told President Barack Obama on Tuesday that he hopes to help him pass a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policy.

. . .

Pena Nieto – who’s hoping to broaden Mexico’s profile beyond drug violence and border turbulence – told Obama he’s committed to reducing the violence that’s plagued parts of the country. He added, speaking through a translator, that, “We want the border to be a safe, modern, connected border.”

He said he also was looking forward to talking with Obama about the need to spur job growth on both sides of the border, as well as the issue of strengthening the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest trade pact proposed in U.S. history.

. . .

Pena Nieto also met with congressional leaders. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told him that leaders there hoped to address immigration “by having comprehensive immigration reform brought before the Congress when the president sends it to us.”

US refuses to call China a currency manipulator

By Alexander Besant
. . .

In its semi-annual report to Congress on international exchange rates, the Treasury Department said that China had decreased its level of intervention regarding its currency's value.

. . .

The Wall Street Journal said that when accounting for inflation, the value of the yuan had increased by 12.6 percent since June 2010.

The value of the yuan is believed to be held down by China's large foreign currency reserves and its massive trade surplus.

France to support Palestinian 'statehood'

By (Al Jazeeera)
. . .

With Tuesday's announcement, France - a permanent member of the Security Council - becomes the first major European country to come out in favour of potential Palestinian statehood.

Portugal and Spain are also supporting plans for the Palestinians to get non-member status.

. . .

The draft seeking the status upgrade also calls on the UN Security Council to "consider favourably" the Palestinian request for full membership made one year ago. The US has been blocking that move at the 15-nation council.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Obama signs whistle-blower protection bill into law

By Priyanka Boghani
President Barack Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law on Tuesday, expanding protection for federal workers who blow the whistle on fraud, waste and misconduct.

. . .

A statement from the White House said the act would clarify the scope of protected disclosures, tighten requirements for non-disclosure agreements, expand the penalty for violating whistle-blower protections and estabilish an ombudsman in agencies who would educate employees on their rights.

. . .

"This is a small but meaningful step," said Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center, in a statement, according to The Journal. "The bill contains important reforms, but federal employees still lack most of the basic rights available to whistleblowers in the private sector."

US court orders tobacco firms to admit lying

By (BBC)
A US judge has ordered tobacco firms to pay for a public campaign laying out "past deception" over smoking risks.

The ruling sets out the wording of a series of "corrective statements" that the companies are being told to make over a period of up to two years.

. . .

District Judge Gladys Kessler used proposals from the US justice department as the basis for the statements.

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:
Florence Mary Leontine Welch . . . better known as Florence and the Machine, is the most peculiar and most highly acclaimed female singer of the moment: poetic, literate, hurricane-voiced, prone to climbing up lighting rigs on stage because “flight is what I aspire to!” In the year that Lady Gaga became the world’s biggest new pop star by pretending to be bonkers, Florence Welch actually is — a bamboozling concoction of cake-berserk seven-year-old child, mystical soothsayer and will-o’-the-wisp for whom life is “a constant acid trip”. She can erupt in theatrical reverie — “love is a yearning for the divine, a mania, a sickness” — then literally jump for joy: “I can get excited by a peanut!” Endearing, exhausting, heroically free from self-consciousness: no wonder the public is transfixed, its senses long dulled by immaculate studio sheen and lairy perv-pop “moves”.

. . .

Paul Epworth, one of the producers . . . describes her as “away with the fairies… but very connected to her heart”. He worked with Florence in the dark, a colossal full moon projected on the studio wall providing workable moonlight. One session resulted in Florence’s favourite song, Cosmic Love (created with her keyboard player, Isabella Summers, “in about half an hour”, as Florence notes, “with the worst hangover ever”). It’s a song about how being in love means “you give yourself up to the dark, to being blind”.

A harp, drums and piano spectacular, “it’s a beautiful piece of music anyway, but that vocal performance was otherworldly”, shivers Paul. “She reduced me and the other staff to tears. Her voice is almost like a field holler, and combined with the tenderness of the lyrics, it’s lethal.”

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Cutting Real Christmas Trees Less Environmentally Harmful Than Using an Artificial One for Six Years, Biologists Say

By (ScienceDaily)
Given recent extreme weather events -- the summer's brutal heat and subsequent drought, followed by Superstorm Sandy's disastrous path -- newly green-conscious consumers may be wondering how to lessen their carbon footprint this holiday season. Plant biologist Clint Springer, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, says that buying a real Christmas tree may not solve the world's climate ills, but it is better than using an artificial one for a few years and tossing it.

. . .

"At this time of year, choosing a real Christmas tree is one way that an average person can make a difference in terms of climate change," Springer says. "A study as recent as 2009 (Ellipsos) concluded that a 7-foot cut tree's impact on climate is 60 percent less than a 7-foot artificial tree used for six years. So while cut trees are not carbon-neutral, in terms of carbon-use, they are better than artificial trees."

. . .

But the question remains for some: Do live Christmas trees bring mold into the home? "From what we know about household allergens like mold spores, a house with a real tree does not usually show a higher rate of indoor air pollution than a house with an artificial tree, because mold spores found on live trees do not usually become air-borne." (Wyse and Malloch, 1970.)

When it comes to fuel efficiency, car companies are seeing the light

By Dan Morrell
. . .

In July 2011, the Obama administration reached an agreement with 13 major automakers — Ford included — along with the United Auto Workers and the Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards on all cars and light trucks sold in the United States: By 2025, every carmaker’s fleet would have to average 54.5 miles per gallon. It represented a near doubling of the current standard of 29 miles per gallon — roughly the highway fuel efficiency of a Ford Taurus.

Environmental groups mostly celebrated the move — the Union of Concerned Scientists, for instance, deemed it “a very positive development.” (Although, as financial writer Felix Salmon at Reuters has noted, the new standard will still leave us lagging behind just about every government fuel efficiency standard in the developed world.) Conservatives were, predictably, not enthused. When the terms were finalized a year later, a post-primary and pre-centrist Mitt Romney called the measures “extreme,” arguing that they would “limit the choices available to American families.” In an article titled “Obama’s Sneaky, Deadly, Costly Car Tax,” conservative columnist and paid hysteric Michelle Malkin warned that the “draconian environmental regulation … will cost untold American lives.”

Perhaps a bit more amenable to regulations because of the bailout, automakers publicly offered their endorsement. But there was some market wariness about both the desire for such vehicles and the quick timeline for such a major move. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry trade group, called the new standards “ambitious,” “aggressive,” and “very, very challenging,” noting how slow the market pickup has been for hybrid cars, which in their decade or so of availability have failed to crack 2.5 percent of vehicle sales.

. . .

All of this new materials research and these innovative approaches to reducing car weight, though, are just reducing the fuel problem — not solving it. Most of these vehicles — even the Very Light Car — still rely on the internal combustion engine and its baggage of bad state actors, finite capacity, and deleterious environmental effects.

Climate change is self-perpetuating threat with permafrost question

By Alexander Besant
Scientists warn that thawing permafrost may significant worsen global warming and make the problem self-perpetuating.

. . .

A new UN report has warned that the issue of permafrost is getting worse and that its effects has not yet been factored into climate models.

. . .

"Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet's future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a statement.

Science and Health
Prescribing morning-after pill before sex?

By (UPI)
A policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for U.S. doctors to discuss contraception with teens and prescribe "morning after" pills.

. . .

Breuner said teens were more likely to use emergency contraceptives if they were readily available. Currently, women age 17 or older can buy emergency contraceptives over-the-counter if they show proof of age and pay for the medication, which costs about $50, Breuner said.

Younger teens require a prescription, and some pharmacies require parental consent, but there are no federal or state laws requiring parents be informed when their children get contraceptives, said the Emergency Contraception website, a joint project of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and Princeton University's Office of Population Research.

About 80 drugs interact with grapefruit

By (UPI)
More than 80 common medications interact with grapefruit -- about half with serious complications, including death, Canadian researchers say.

. . .

Many of the drugs are common, such as some cholesterol-lowering statins, antibiotics and calcium channel blockers used to treat high blood pressure. Other medications include agents used to fight cancer or suppress the immune system in people who have received an organ transplant, Bailey said.

. . .

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said of the 85 known drugs that interact with grapefruit, 43 can have serious side-effects, including sudden death, acute kidney failure, respiratory failure, gastrointestinal bleeding and bone marrow suppression in people with weakened immune systems.

There’s Now Proof That Chemo Brain Is Real

By Leslie Horn
Cancer survivors have long reported that chemotherapy changes their brains for the worse, leaving them with memory loss and an inability to concentrate. And now there's firm evidence from West Virginia University School of Medicine that proves the existence of what has long been known as Chemo Brain.

. . .

After looking at images from the brains of 128 people who had been through chemo treatment for breast cancer, doctors found a very clear cut connection. Post-chemo, there are specific areas of the brain—the ones devoted to planning and prioritizing—that use less energy. While this might be an unfortunate and unavoidable side-effect, now doctors are aware that it's real. . .

Mobile slowdown hits Cyber Monday shopping

By (UPI)
. . .

Mobile retail sites on average took more than 18 seconds to load Monday, twice their normal load time, the Mobile Commerce Index from Keynote, a mobile and website monitoring company, reported.

. . .

Tablets and smartphones are becoming popular with shoppers. The number of people using them to make online purchases rose by 70 percent over 2011.

. . .

Online shoppers typically won't wait more than 3 seconds for a website to load, Rudger said, and online retailers risk losing shoppers to competitors' sites if they don't present pages fast enough.

Upgrading may be part of the art of mobile photography

By Star Rush
. . .

I’ve kept my 3GS this long for aesthetic reasons, and because I liked the simplicity. I liked the softness, the appearance of grain and grittiness in black and white photos, and how the device struggled with light. I liked that I was pushing my little 3MP camera and exposure meter to their limits.

. . .

After shooting with the iPhone 5 for nearly a month, I am surprised that my new photos closely resemble, aesthetically, those from my 3GS. Mostly, they look the same. Images are sharper, and they look brighter to my eyes on the retina screen. I have more  pixels to work with for cropping. There’s more sharpness, which I sometimes adjust down by adding blur or grain to keep the look I want.
Comet, Seattle, October 2012. By Star Rush on the iPhone 5.

I've considered why the look hasn’t changed much. I think about my grip, how I hold my body when I photograph with my iPhone as opposed to a conventional camera, what I choose to look at and what I don’t, and my editing choices. I remember my tendency to work my exposure meter toward highlights, and how the movement of my arm, wrist and hand impacts the capturing process. I’m still shooting in black and white and also processing to black and white. I am still who I am, doing what I do. I see these physical habits of mine affecting the way my images look, especially since I’ve kept my editing apps and workflow unaltered through the device upgrade.

. . .

My upgrade hasn’t changed how I make photographs or my relationship to my smartphone all that much on the surface of things -- yet. It has affected how I consume images, though. Faster processing and sharper, richer viewing encourages sharing, as participating in social networks is that much easier.

Why It Sucks to Be a Woman in the Video Game Industry

By Tasneem Raja
Thousands of women working in the video game industry are coming forward with stories of vicious sexism they've faced on the job. The Twitter hashtag #1reasonwhy sprang up overnight seemingly in response to Luke Crane, a fantasy role-playing gamer, who asked, "Why are there so few lady game creators?"

. . .

And then there's the cold, hard question of compensation: According to an annual salary survey of about 4,000 gaming professionals by Game Developer magazine, female animators made $26,000 less than their male counterparts in 2011, on average—female programmers ($83,333) made about 10 grand less then male ones ($93,263).

. . .

Obvious trolling aside, #1reasonwhy posters of both genders have done an admirable job of calling out how sexism makes it harder—and sometimes impossible—for women gamers to make games that they would want to play. A number of female engineers and artists noted that simply joining in on the hashtag and tweeting about the problem felt like a risky career move. But woman-repelling workplaces aren't just bad for the game industry's female employees; they are bad business, too. While the industry continues to cater to the supposed interests of teenage boys, those boys make up just 18 percent of the game-playing crowd—30 percent of gamers are adult women, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and they are the industry's fastest-growing demographic.

Law Commission floats plans to stop jurors researching cases online

By Owen Bowcott
. . .

Confiscating jurors' mobile phones and internet-enabled devices when they attend court should also be considered, the Law Commission contemplates in its consultation paper on reforming the laws governing contempt of court. Online service providers, such as Google and Facebook, may already be seen as publishers under the 1981 Contempt of Court Act but extra controls could be required, the consultation says.

Critics of the initiative may question whether it is practicable to keep raising barriers against new technology at a time when internet use is ever more pervasive, bloggers and citizen journalists proliferate and websites can be read from anywhere in the world.

. . .

"Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networking sites enable ordinary people to engage in public conversation and express their views on a scale and at a speed that has never before been possible."Once information has been released on the web, it is very hard to contain. And, unless steps are taken to remove it, it remains easily available to anyone with access to the internet in a way that is not true of printed materials.

"The commission is asking what safeguards can be put in place to prevent jurors searching for, and being able to find, potentially prejudicial material during the course of a trial, irrespective of when it was published."

Chevrolet Spark EV Priced Below $25k After $7,500 Federal Tax Credit

By Brandon Hill
. . .

Today, we've learned that General Motors has priced the vehicle at "under $25,000" when tax credits are taken into account. In other words, we're expecting that the vehicle will actually priced at $32,495 before the $7,500 federal tax credit is applied.

 For comparison, the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric are priced at $35,200 and $39,995 respectively before the $7,500 federal tax credit kicks in. Depending on where you live, the Spark EV might also quality for state tax credits/rebates that would knock the price down even further.

. . .

 The Spark EV will also be the first vehicle that features SAE Combo DC Fast Charging capabilities. This allows the Spark EV to reach 80 percent of its charge within 20 minutes. Getting recharging times down to reasonable levels is a critical in the adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S. and this is a much needed step in that direction.

Porn Studios Sue Verizon for Defending Its Customers From Torrent Suits

By Jason Mick
. . .

 Traditionally, piracy attack dogs have filed subpoenas to get ISPs to cough up the name and address of the customer associated with a particular IP address.  The piracy watchdogs then turned around and sent extortion letters to the marks, telling them to pay a settlement or prepare to be sued.

 Verizon is relatively cooperative with some copyright enforcement efforts.  It's among the pioneering members of the so-called "six-strikes" plan, which could lead to customers who pirate having their connections throttled to disabled until they take remedial classes on anti-piracy "education".

 However, that plan only deals with those who pirate content from the major movie studios and major music labels; porn piracy is not part of the deal (which is good news for certain Congressional offices with a taste for porn torrents).  Thus the lawsuit, filed in plaintiff-friendly Texas federal court is likely in part a testament to this media market's frustration at being left out of Verizon, et al.'s anti-piracy pact.

Gilda's Club affiliates changing their name because Gilda Radner died way too long ago

By Jamie Frevele
Four affiliates of the cancer support community Gilda's Club, formed and named in honor of the legendary Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner (who died of ovarian cancer in 1989), have decided to drop Gilda's name for an incredibly depressing reason: the younger patients don't know who she is. "...[O]ur college students were born after Gilda Radner passed, as we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis,” said executive director of Gilda's Club Madison, Lannia Syren Stenz. "We want to make sure that what we are is clear to them and that there’s not a lot of confusion that would cause people not to come in our doors."
Iraq conflict: Crisis of an orphaned generation

By Caroline Hawley
A recent survey in Iraq found that between 800,000 to a million Iraqi children have lost one or both of their parents.

According to aid workers this figure is a conservative estimate of the many thousands growing up in the shadow of violence.

. . .

Many of the play facilities at Baghdad's Dar al-Waziriya orphanage need updating

. . .

The orphanage, home to 52 boys, is a dilapidated and disconsolate place - the playground has fallen into disuse, there is no light in the downstairs toilet, and no sink in the bathroom upstairs.

. . .

Iraq's Deputy Minister for Social Affairs, Dara Yara, told the BBC that he and his staff are doing their best, in difficult political circumstances.

. . .

"They are," he says, "very easy targets for recruitment by terrorists."

Sri Lanka draws up healthy menu for monks

By (BBC)
Buddhist devotees in Sri Lanka who traditionally give food to monks are to be given special menus in an attempt to stop the clergy becoming sick.

. . .

They advise the monks to eat more fruit, vegetables and rice, to drink more water and to cut down on wheat-based foods.

The minister has also instructed health officials to open a ward exclusively for the clergy at all hospitals, the Daily Mirror reported.

. . .

"The main problem is that there are many monks in rural areas who have no nourishment at all. They survive on meagre rations of some rice and green leaves. It will be much more useful to initiate a system to ensure that these poor monks have a square meal a day, than just wasting resources for political gain."

Why women fight women

By Joan Smith
Some women don't want to become bishops. They don't even want other women to become bishops. That much is evident from records released by Church House, which show that women made up almost half of the lay people who voted against legislation to allow female bishops in the Church of England. Voting figures show that 33 of the 74 General Synod lay members who voted against the measure were women, most of them conservative evangelicals or members of the church's Anglo-Catholic wing. They had the support of another 2,200 women who signed a petition opposing reform.

. . .

These women have got where they have – somewhere quite comfortable – without rocking the boat, and they're not keen on women who challenge the status quo. Identifying with men is a traditional means of negotiating patriarchal power, and women who go down that route tend to share reactionary male views of other women. If you're a conservative woman in the Church of England, the prospect of "pushy" women getting power is quite scary, so of course you're going to vote against it. The last thing any traditional woman wants to be accused of is appearing confrontational, even if accepting male power is self-defeating in the long run.

In many ways, women voting against women is hardly a new phenomenon. Before the first world war, the threat of becoming "unsexed" was used against the suffragettes, scaring some women into joining the Anti-Suffrage League founded in 1908 by the novelist Mrs Humphry Ward.

Ward is a cautionary figure in the history of female emancipation, a bestselling novelist who took her campaign to extremes, getting her son Arnold elected as a Conservative MP so that he could campaign against votes for women. Ward had so internalised the notion of power as male that she couldn't see the difference between wanting equality and wanting to be a man. I suspect a similar confusion lies behind the synod's vote, at least on the part of lay members who fear that women would lose their femininity if they became bishops. It's not an unusual fear among women who aspire to some form of political involvement, as we can see from yesterday's news that a WI branch in Devon is holding pole-dancing classes.

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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