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Overnight News Digest
Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, current leader Neon Vincent, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999. Alumni editors include (but not limited to) palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7 and BentLiberal. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

Please feel free to share your articles and stories in the comments.

LEAD STORY

Times Square, the best place to ring in the New Year
 

Reuters

Revelers gathered hours ahead of midnight in New York's frigid Times Square on Monday for the traditional New Year's Eve celebration that ends with the descent of a huge crystal ball at the stroke of midnight.

Up to a million people were expected in the blocks around Times Square, and another billion people were expected to watch on television, city officials said.

People filled pens in the center of Times Square hours before the end of 2012. Police set up barricades to keep away the overflow crowd. Once people entered the police pens, they were not allowed to leave, no alcohol was permitted and there were no restrooms.

The spectacle erupted at 6 p.m. when the ball rose to the top to the top of its 70-foot (21-meter) poll and fireworks went off.

A few minutes earlier, the cheering crowd turned silent when the ceremony released balloons for each of the victims of the December 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

US NEWS

New York Times
 

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s blood clot formed in her head, her doctors said on Monday, a potentially serious condition from which they nonetheless stressed they expect her to fully recover.

Mrs. Clinton was hospitalized Sunday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for the blood clot — in a vein between the brain and the skull and behind her right ear — and doctors said on Monday that it had not resulted in a stroke or neurological damage. They said they were treating her with blood thinners to try to dissolve the clot.

“She will be released once the medication dose has been established,” according to the statement from Dr. Lisa Bardack and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi. Clots like the one Mrs. Clinton has can be serious, said doctors not involved in her care. Dr. David Langer, a brain surgeon and an associate professor at the North Shore-Hofstra-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine, said that if this type of clot was untreated, it could cause blood to back up, and could lead to a hemorrhage inside the brain.

Reuters

The State Department's decision to keep the U.S. mission in Benghazi open despite inadequate security and increasingly dangerous threat assessments before it was attacked in September was a "grievous mistake," a Senate report said on Monday.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee's report about the September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission and a nearby annex, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, faulted intelligence agencies for not having enough focus on Libyan extremists. It also faulted the State Department for waiting for specific warnings instead of acting on security.

The assessment follows a scathing report by an independent State Department accountability review board that resulted in a top security official and three others at the department stepping down.

Reuters
 

The gunman who killed 27 people and himself in Newtown, Connecticut, this month in the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was buried at a private service over the weekend, a spokesman for his father's family said on Monday.

The location of Adam Lanza's burial was not disclosed. His father, Peter Lanza of Stamford, Connecticut, claimed the body, said the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Connecticut's chief medical examiner released Lanza's body on December 27, a spokesman for the office said.

Police say Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in her home on December 14 before forcing his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killing 20 first-grade students, six faculty members and himself.

"Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired," Peter Lanza said in a statement the day after the shooting.

Peter Lanza and Nancy Lanza divorced in 2009, and Adam Lanza continued to live with his mother in Newtown about 5 miles from the Sandy Hook school.

Police have so far offered no motive behind the attack. Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance has said it will likely be months before a final report on the incident is released.

Guardian
 

The Philadelphia Eagles were among a number of NFL teams to confirm on Monday that they have fired their head coach – in the Eagles' case, the long-serving Andy Reid. The Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals also removed their coaches a day after the conclusion of the regular season.

New Years' Eve is proving to be a "Black Monday" for NFL administrators as well as coaches. The Browns, Chargers and Cardinals sacked their general managers on Monday, as did the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Read was with the Eagles for 14 years and had a 130-93-1 record in regular-season play; his teams made nine playoff appearances, won six NFC East titles and played in five NFC title games.

The Eagles' owner, Jeffrey Lurie, released a statement which said: "Andy Reid won the most games of any head coach in Eagles history and he is someone I respect greatly and will remain friends with for many years to come. But, it is time for the Eagles to move in a new direction. Coach Reid leaves us with a winning tradition that we can build upon. And we are very excited about the future."

Guardian
 

A 31-year-old woman accused of shoving an immigrant from India to his death in front of a subway train because she believed he was Muslim laughed and smiled during a court hearing where she was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

On Saturday night Erika Menendez was charged with murder as a hate crime after she told police she spontaneously pushed Sunando Sen, according to prosecutors.

"There is no reason. I just pushed him in front of the train because I thought it would be cool," she said, according to the Queens district attorney's office.

She laughed so hard during her arraignment in Queens criminal court that Judge Gia Morris told her lawyer: "You're going to have to have your client stop laughing."

Her attorney, Dietrich Epperson, said her behaviour in court was no different from how she had been acting, and said his client did not really think the proceedings were funny, according to Newsday. He represented her for the arraignment only and had no further comment.

Menendez was held without bail and ordered to have a mental health exam.

WORLD NEWS

Reuters
 

Explosions killed at least 16 people and wounded 76 across Iraq on Monday, police said, underlining sectarian and ethnic divisions that threaten to further destabilize the country a year after U.S. troops left.

Tensions between Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni factions in Iraq's power-sharing government have been on the rise this year. Militants strike almost daily and have staged at least one big attack a month.

The latest violence followed more than a week of protests against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by thousands of people from the minority Sunni community.

No group claimed responsibility for any of Monday's attacks, which targeted government officials, police patrols and members of both the Sunni and Shi'ite sects.

Seven people from the same Sunni family were killed by a bomb planted near their home in the town of Mussayab, south of Baghdad.

Reuters

He uses Hugo Chavez's bombastic language, brandishes the constitution and showers opponents with vitriol at every turn.

But Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to replicate the extraordinary charisma of his boss, who is battling to recover from cancer surgery in Cuba.

Named as heir apparent by Chavez just before the president returned to Havana for his fourth surgery in December, the 50-year-old former bus driver has become the face of the socialist government in South America's top oil exporter.

Though diplomats say he is easy-going in conversations behind closed doors, in public he can be just as caustic and combative as Chavez, the former soldier who has led Venezuela for the past 14 years.

Having made few notable decisions so far during his three-week tenure as stand-in president, Maduro has not offered many clues as to how he would lead if he were at the helm of a post-Chavez Venezuela.

Reuters
 

Elite Syrian government troops backed by tanks battled on Monday to recapture a strategic Damascus suburb from rebels who have advanced within striking distance of the center of Syria's capital.

Five people, including a child, died from army rocket fire that hit the Daraya suburb during the fighting, opposition activists said. Daraya is part of a semi-circle of Sunni Muslim suburbs south of the capital that have been at the forefront of the 21-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

"This is the biggest attack on Daraya in two months. An armored column is trying to advance but it is being held (back) by the Free Syrian Army," said Abu Kinan, an opposition activist in the area, referring to a rebel group.

Clashes were also reported near the airport in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, which is in the north. Insurgents have made that airport a target in the hope of limiting government access to Aleppo, which is largely under rebel control.

BBC
 

Pakistan has freed the Afghan Taliban's ex-justice minister, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, and three other Taliban prisoners, officials say.

Afghan officials have been in talks with Pakistani counterparts to try to free certain Taliban prisoners in order to push forward a peace process.

Pakistan released 13 Afghan Taliban members in November.

However, the former Afghan Taliban number two, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, remains in Pakistani custody.

Dozens of other Taliban prisoners are also still detained in Pakistan.

Nato troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and Kabul hopes the freed Taliban figures can help bring the militants into formal peace talks.

Spiegel Online International
 

Peer Steinbrück, the chancellor candidate for the center-left Social Democrats, has irritated members of his own party by demanding higher pay for the country's top position. The SPD politician also raised eyebrows by remarking that Angela Merkel enjoys a "gender bonus" that has made her more popular.

After a handful of controversial remarks, some in Germany are asking if Social Democratic Party (SPD) chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück is doing himself any favors with his outspoken demeanor.

n an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), Steinbrück, a former finance minister, complained of poor pay for elected officials, saying that a regional director of one of Germany's Sparkassen savings banks in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia earns more than the country's leader. While the claim may be subject to debate, many are questioning Steinbrück's timing, which comes at the start of the election campaign.

ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Guardian
 

The corner of Goldenrod and Western streets, with its grid of modest homes, could be almost any suburb that went up in a hurry – except of course for the giant screeching oil rig tearing up the earth and making the pavement shudder underfoot.

Fracking, the technology that opened up America's vast deposits of unconventional oil and gas, has moved beyond remote locations and landed at the front door, with oil operations now planned or under way in suburbs, mid-sized towns and large metropolitan areas.

Some cities have moved to limit fracking or ban it outright – even in the heart of oil and gas country. Tulsa, Oklahoma, which once billed itself as the oil capital of the world, banned fracking inside city limits. The authorities in Dallas last week blocked what would have been the first natural gas well in town. The town of Longmont, just outside Denver, meanwhile, is fighting off attempts by industry groups to overturn a fracking ban.

But Gardendale, a suburb of 1,500 people near the hub of the west Texas oil industry, exists in a legal and political environment in which there are seemingly few restrictions on fracking, even inside city limits. For residents here, fracking is part of daily life.

NewScientist News
 

The most comprehensive disease report ever produced confirms that, for the first time, there is a larger health problem from people eating too much than too little

FOR the first time, being overweight has become more of a global health burden than lack of nutrition.

That's according to the largest ever study into the state of the world's health. And that's not all. The Global Burden of Disease report - a massive research effort involving almost 500 scientists in 50 countries - also concludes that we now have a grip on some common infectious diseases, which has saved millions of children from early deaths. Collectively, however, we are spending more of our lives living in poor health and with disability.

"This is the most comprehensive assessment of human health in the history of medicine," says Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, which published the report last week. The report assessed the prevalence of diseases and causes of death across the globe in 2010, and compared these with data collected between 1970 and 1990.

NewScientist Tech
 

If the Leap is anything to go by, the days of the mouse are numbered. The 3D-gesture-sensing device lets you control your computer with a wave of your hand - and it could be yours early next year.

Developed by Silicon Valley startup Leap Motion, the Leap is the size of a smartphone and behaves like a smaller, super-accurate version of Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor. It is also significantly cheaper, at only $70. Connected to your PC or Mac's USB port, the Leap creates a 3D interaction space in front of your computer screen, in which the tiniest motions of your fingers, or gestures of your hands, can be sensed.

As a result, you can wave up with your hand to scroll up a web page, or point into a game with an index finger to move characters where you want them to go. Standard Windows or Mac applications can be controlled by making clicking, grabbing, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom gestures, the company says.

Leap Motion won't say how the software achieves its accuracy - they claim it is 200 times that of existing motion-sensing technologies, able to track movements to one-hundredth of a millimetre. We do know that it uses infrared LEDs and cameras, with light from the LEDs reflected from your hands back to the cameras.

NewScientist Environment

The weather outside was truly frightful across much of the US and UK this holiday season. In the US, a powerful winter storm whipped up heavy snow, icy winds and a record number of tornadoes in late December, causing at least 15 deaths.

Such storms are not unusual at this time of year, but an especially strong jet stream made the storm more intense, says meteorologist Greg Carbin of the US National Weather Service.

"One of the more remarkable places was Little Rock, Arkansas," says Carbin. "It shattered the prior record for snowfall on Christmas Day." Little Rock, which hadn't seen a white Christmas since 1926, was hit with more than 25 centimetres of snow.

At the same time, warmer air mixing with the southern border of the system created thunderstorms along the Gulf Coast that spawned 34 tornadoes across four states. The storm then churned north-east, dumping 30 cm of snow or slushy mix on parts of the Midwest and New England.

BBC
 

Mobile networks are preparing for the "busiest ever" night of texts and calls as people see in the New Year.

One operator, EE, has predicted that its customers alone will use more than 226 terabytes - 236,978,176 megabytes - of mobile data as they took to Twitter and instant messaging services.

The network said it expected around 303 million calls to be made and 234 million texts to be sent.

Last year, the busiest time for sending messages was at 00:05 GMT.

Vodafone told the BBC that at its peak New Year's Eve 2011 saw more than 12,000 texts handled in a single second.

More than two million texts were sent over the network in a five minute period after midnight

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