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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.

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BBC
 
The dream of El Dorado, a lost city of gold, led many a conquistador on a fruitless trek into the rainforests and mountains of South America. But it was all wishful thinking. The "golden one" was actually not a place but a person - as recent archaeological research confirms.

Columbus's arrival in the Americas in AD1492 was the first chapter in a world-changing clash of cultures. It was a brutal confrontation of completely opposing ways of living and systems of beliefs.

The European myth that arose of El Dorado, as a lost city of gold waiting for discovery by an adventurous conqueror, encapsulates the Europeans' endless thirst for gold and their unerring drive to exploit these new lands for their monetary value.

The South American myth of El Dorado, on the other hand, reveals the true nature of the territory and the people who lived there. For them, El Dorado was never a place, but a ruler so rich that he allegedly covered himself in gold from head to toe each morning and washed it off in a sacred lake each evening.

POLITICS

The Washington Post
Greg Sargent
So the big story of the day is that House Tea Partyers are vowing up and down that they may be willing to allow the country to default on its obligations to prove to Obama how serious they are about cutting spending.

Today, at his presser, Obama reiterated that there will be no negotiating over the debt ceiling — no concessions will be granted in exchange for the debt ceiling hike, period, full stop. And he explicitly said that “Congressional Republicans” will bear responsibility when Social Security checks, veterans benefits, and paychecks to food inspectors and air traffic controllers stop going out, and if and when the markets go haywire.

US NEWS

Reuters
 

A California boy, now 12, was convicted of second-degree murder on Monday for shooting dead his neo-Nazi father, following a juvenile trial that centered on abuse allegations and the young defendant's grasp of right and wrong.

The verdict by Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard means that Joseph Hall, who shot his father to death in May 2011, could be sentenced to a juvenile facility until he is 23.

Hall's attorneys had conceded during the trial that Hall, who was then 10 years old, shot his father at point-blank range while the older man was sleeping, but argued that the boy should not be held criminally responsible.

The case in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has made headlines because of Jeffrey Hall's neo-Nazi associations and the rarity of a parent being killed by a child so young.

Reuters

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday he thinks that 10,000 U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when President Barack Obama wants to withdraw most combat troops.

McConnell has just finished a visit to Afghanistan with a small group of his fellow Republican senators, his seventh trip there in the past decade.

"I think we're going to need a minimum of about 10,000 troops here to provide adequate training and counterterrorism in the post-2014 period. And we anticipate there'll be forces from other countries who will remain here beyond 2014 as well," McConnell told reporters on a conference call during a stop in Italy after leaving Afghanistan.

The Salt Lake Tribune
 

Embattled St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson says new Utah Attorney General John Swallow helped broker a deal in 2010 in which Johnson believed he was to pay Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid $600,000 to make a federal investigation into Johnson’s company go away.

But when the federal government filed a lawsuit Johnson thought he had paid to quash, he demanded Swallow return some of the $250,000 initial payment. Then, just days before the Nov. 6 election, Johnson engaged in a frenetic but unsuccessful effort to get Swallow to drop out of the race, saying information about what Johnson called a "bribe" would come out and force the Republican’s resignation if he became attorney general.

Johnson’s allegations come less than a week after Swallow took the oath of office. Federal agents have interviewed several Utahns about Johnson’s relationship with Swallow, among other issues, according to those interviewed. The FBI would not comment.

Johnson said he does not know if any of the money he paid in the deal actually reached anyone connected to Reid.

Reid’s office declined to comment, spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said Friday.

NECN.com
 

(NECN: Brian  Burnell) - "Our hearts are broken; our spirit is not."

Nelba Marquez-Greene read the first words of the Sandy Hook Promise. Her six-year-old daughter Ana was one of the 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings one month ago.  

Sandy Hook Promise has been formed by people in Newtown, Conn., where it happened, and it has a simple yet complicated goal: Make sure it never happens again. Victims’ families who have joined the effort to start a national dialogue shared their pain.

"On Friday, Dec. 14, I put two children on the bus and only one came home,” Marquez-Greene said. “I pray that no mother, father, grandparent or caregiver of children ever have to go through this pain."

"I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand to walk through a parking lot or expecting him to crawl into bed beside me for early-morning cuddles before we get ready for school,” said Nicole Hockley. “It's still hard to believe he's gone."

Their goal is to turn this tragedy into a moment of transformation for the entire nation. They want to prevent massacres like Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora and others by forging a discussion on public safety, gun control and mental health.  

Avielle Richman's parents started the Avielle Foundation to focus on the latter.

"It is our hope to honor our beautiful Avielle and all others who have fallen to such senseless, senseless violence,” said Jeremy Richman.

SF Gate
Chronicle News Services
 
1 Pump prices: Gas prices are back on the upswing after months of dropping. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline surged seven cents in the past three weeks to $3.32, according to the Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday. Salt Lake City has the nation's lowest average price at $3.04, while stations on New York's Long Island have the highest at $3.75.

NPR
 

A Pew Research Center survey on gun laws shows overwhelming support among Americans on a few issues, like closing the so-called gun show loophole; a wide partisan split on more contentious measures, like banning assault weapons; and a glimpse into why the nation's gun lobby may be so successful.

The survey results, released on the same day President Obama received recommendations from Vice President Biden and his guns task force, found near universal support for one item expected to be on Biden's list: requiring background checks before private gun sales and those at gun shows. That was supported by 85 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats.

The survey also found 80 percent of Americans across the political spectrum want to tighten laws to prevent people with mental illness from buying a gun.

WORLD NEWS

Reuters
 

Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counteroffensive in Mali on Monday after four days of French air strikes on their northern strongholds, seizing the central town of Diabaly and promising to drag France into a brutal Afghanistan-style war.

France, which has poured hundreds of troops into the capital Bamako in recent days, carried out more air raids on Monday in the vast desert area seized last year by an Islamist alliance grouping al Qaeda's north African wing AQIM alongside Mali's home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine militant groups.

"France has opened the gates of hell for all the French," a spokesman for MUJWA, Oumar Ould Hamaha, told Europe 1 radio. "She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia."

BBC
 

An Italian court has denied the request of former PM Silvio Berlusconi to halt a trial where he is accused of having sex with an under-age prostitute.

The court in Milan also decided it did not need to hear testimony from the woman - dancer Karima El Mahroug.

Mr Berlusconi's lawyers requested the trial be halted while he runs in the current election campaign.

Both he and Ms Mahroug - better known by her stage name "Ruby Heartstealer" - have denied ever having sex.

Mr Berlusconi stepped down from a third term as prime minister in November 2011, when he was replaced by the technocrat Mario Monti.

His People of Freedom (PDL) party is hoping to form a centre-right coalition government with another party but have not named a candidate for prime minister.

On 7 January, an ally of Mr Berlusconi's said that he would not return as prime minister even if his party won the elections next month.

NPR
 

In China's capital, they're calling it the "airpocalypse," with air pollution that's literally off the charts. The air has been classified as hazardous to human health for a fifth consecutive day, at its worst hitting pollution levels 25 times that considered safe in the U.S. The entire city is blanketed in a thick grey smog that smells of coal and stings the eyes, leading to official warnings to stay inside.

Environmentalists say it's the worst pollution since monitoring began last year, while many others believe the levels are unprecedented in Beijing's history. The smog has affected more than 30 cities in China, leading even the official mouthpiece, the People's Daily, to ask plaintively: "How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?"

The conditions are expected to linger for two more days.

China is choking on its own breakneck development, with thousands of new cars taking to the road every day. This year, the pollution has been exacerbated by weather patterns, combined with an unusually cold spell.

NPR
 

Evidence of loss remains even three years after a massive earthquake claimed the lives of as many as 200,000 people in Haiti. In the middle of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, there is a cathedral whose sun-washed walls reach into the sky where a roof used to be.

A lone flagpole marks the spot where the National Palace, a symbol of Haiti's government, once proudly stood.

And on a downtown street that once bustled with storefronts, there is now a row of vendors who sell their wares under tent poles and umbrellas.

These are some of the "then and now" images from NPR photographer David Gilkey. One of the first photojournalists to capture the grim aftermath of the quake, he traveled back to Haiti to revisit images he originally took in 2010

Al Jazeera English
 

Saudi Arabia has criticised world reaction to its beheading of a Sri Lankan maid convicted of killing her employer's baby, the official Saudi news agency SPA reported.

Riyadh "deplores the statements made... over the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who had plotted and killed an infant by suffocating him to death, one week after she arrived in the kingdom", the government spokesman said.

Rizana Nafeek was beheaded on Wednesday in a case that sparked widespread international condemnation, including from rights groups that said she was just 17 when she was charged with murdering the baby in 2005.

Nafeek was found guilty of smothering the infant after an argument with the child's mother.

The case soured diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka which on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in protest.

The government spokesman condemned what he called "wrong information on the case", and denied that the maid was a minor when she committed the crime.

"As per her passport, she was 21-years-old when she committed the crime," he said, adding that "the kingdom does not allow minors to be brought as workers".

Spiegel Online International
 

How critical can one be of Israel? It is a question that Germany has been debating since SPIEGEL ONLINE columnist Jakob Augstein was included on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of the world's worst anti-Semites. Political leaders in Berlin have a different answer than Germans at large.

Does Angela Merkel mistrust the very people she governs? Is she uncomfortable with the German people?

In October 2011, the German chancellor stood onstage at the academy of the Jewish Museum, in Berlin, next to conductor Daniel Barenboim. The celebratory concert had concluded, and the museum's director had just presented Merkel with its Award for Understanding and Tolerance.

This is one of many awards the chancellor has received from Jewish institutions over the last couple years, including the Heinz Galinski Prize from the Jewish Community of Berlin, the American Jewish Committee's Light Unto the Nations Award and an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Reuters
 

General Motors Corp's Cadillac ATS, a new compact sedan aimed at the popular BMW 3 Series, was named 2013 North American Car of the Year by a jury of automotive writers.

Chrysler's Ram 1500 pickup, which was extensively redesigned for model year 2013, was named North American Truck/Utility of the Year.

BBC
 

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has asked for an internal investigation into its role in Aaron Swartz's prosecution.

Web activist and developer Mr Swartz, who killed himself on Friday, was facing hacking charges in the US.

He was accused of illegally downloading research documents from academic service JSTOR, using MIT networks.

If found guilty, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison following his trial, scheduled to start next month.

He could also have had to pay a fine of more than $1m for downloading material from the subscription-only research archive.

Mr Swartz had intended to plead not guilty to charges of computer fraud and wire fraud.

Mr Swartz's family issued a statement stating the actions of both MIT and the Massachusetts US Attorney's office had contributed to his death.

"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," they said.

NPR
 

Days after the Department of Homeland Security said computer users should remove the latest versions of its Java software, Oracle Corp. says it has fixed the flaw, in a new update released Monday. As we reported Friday, hacking groups included the Java 7 vulnerability in new "exploit kits" this year.

Oracle provides instructions for updating to Java 7, update 11 on its website, saying the update raises the default security level for Java applets from Medium to High — which means that "the user is always warned before any unsigned application is run to prevent silent exploitation," the company says in its release notes.

But the experts who highlighted the Java 7 flaw say that even though it's fixed, users should beware, as other security problems could arise in the software.

"Unless it is absolutely necessary to run Java in web browsers, disable it... even after updating," recommends Carnegie Mellon University's CERT computer security site.

Reuters
 

Dell Inc is in talks with private equity firms on a potential buyout, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, confirming a Bloomberg report that sent its shares soaring 13 percent to near an eight-month high.

The world's No. 3 PC maker is in talks with at least two private equity firms about going private and the discussions are preliminary as the financing has not yet been secured, said Bloomberg, citing two people with knowledge of the matter.

Dell, which has steadily ceded market share to Hewlett Packard and China's Lenovo, declined to comment on what it called rumors and speculation.

Some analysts say taking the company private - an idea that has surfaced sporadically in past years - makes sense.

It has lost 40 percent of its value since last year's peak, and it is trying to reinvent itself as a seller of higher-margin services to corporations - an internal overhaul that might be conducted away from public scrutiny.

ENTERTAINMENT

Jodie Foster comes out
E Red Carpet

 

And while the Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient didn't explicitly come out as a lesbian, the 50-year-old star alluded to her sexuality and relationships in her speech, concluding that she preferred to keep her private life private. Spokesmen for GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign based in Washington D.C. praised Foster for taking a stand.

"Whenever anybody of the stature of Jodie Foster, a respected actress for almost 50 years, comes out and talks about her personal life and sexuality it's a big deal," Wilson Cruz, GLAAD spokesperson and actor on My So-Called Life, told E! News.
Coming out? Retiring? A closer look at Jodie's speech

Cruz noted that while "some people want [Foster] to be more forthright…it is not our job to tell people how or when to come out…" Cruz added that Foster used Sunday as "a great opportunity for her to say I am not ashamed of who I am."

Fred Sainz, spokesperson for Human Right Campaign, thought Foster's speech "took an incredible amount of guts and she should be commended for this and she was under no responsibility to do so.

MTV
 

Once upon a time (the year 2000), in a land far, far away (not really; it was Manhattan), a 30-something sex columnist couldn't help but wonder: "No matter how far you travel or how much you run from it, can you ever really escape your past?" Well, if the CW's new series, "The Carrie Diaries" — a prequel to the beloved "Sex and the City" — is any indication, the answer is a resounding "no."

Based on the young-adult series by "SATC" author Candace Bushnell, "The Carrie Diaries" follows Connecticut teen Carrie Bradshaw, whose life has been turned upside down by the death of her mother. In an attempt to ease his daughter's malaise, Carrie's dad lines up an after-school internship at a law firm in — you guessed it! — New York City. But this isn't the world-wise Carrie Bradshaw fans know from the HBO series. Before the men and the Manolos, the diarist was just your run-of-the-mill suburbanite dreaming of the big city.

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