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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, January 22, 2013.

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: Old Before Your Time by Ray LaMontagne

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
NASA's Veteran Mars Rover Ready to Start 10th Year

By (ScienceDaily)
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that bounced to airbag-cushioned safe landings on Mars nine years ago this week, is currently examining veined rocks on the rim of an ancient crater.

Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles (35.46 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, PST (Jan. 25, Universal Time). Its original assignment was to keep working for three months, drive about 2,000 feet (600 meters) and provide the tools for researchers to investigate whether the area's environment had ever been wet. It landed in a backyard-size bowl, Eagle Crater. During those first three months, it transmitted back to Earth evidence that water long ago soaked the ground and flowed across the surface.

. . .

"What's most important is not how long it has lasted or even how far it has driven, but how much exploration and scientific discovery Opportunity has accomplished," said JPL's John Callas, manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project. The project has included both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, which ceased operations in 2010.

Poll: Record High Support For Legal Abortion in the US

By Asawin Suebsaeng
A record-high 70 percent of Americans now oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that affirmed a limited consitutional right to abortion, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. And for the first time since the Journal and NBC started asking this question in 2003, a majority of the country believes abortion should be legal in all or most cases:

A simple explanation:

The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans.

But the poll showed a consistent tension in Americans' attitudes toward the decision. Almost seven in 10 respondents say there are at least some circumstances in which they don't support abortion.

The news of Roe's newfound support comes on a big day—the milestone abortion-rights ruling had its 40th anniversary on Tuesday.
Roe v Wade abortion ruling turns 40 amid demonstrations

By (BBC)
. . .

A new poll suggests that for the first time, most Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

. . .

Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists demonstrated at the state capital in Kansas, a hotbed of anti-abortion politics.

. . .

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, said the Roe v Wade anniversary was an opportunity to "recommit" to supporting abortion rights.

. . .

The Supreme Court's decision on Roe v Wade established that the US Constitution's right to privacy applied to abortion.

. . .

In other cases since then, the Supreme Court has given states broad leeway to restrict abortion, including mandating waiting periods and tightly regulating how abortion providers practice.

China firms to invest $2bn exploring shale gas reserves

By (BBC)
China has stepped up its efforts to explore shale gas reserves as it looks to meet growing energy demand at home.

It has awarded exploration rights on 19 shale gas areas to 16 firms.

. . .

Demand for energy in China has surged in recent years as its economy has expanded. The country is now the world's biggest energy consumer.

However, China relies heavily on imported power and energy sources, something that makes it susceptible to market and price movements, as well as supply issues.

Russia starts bringing its nationals home from Syria

By Martin Chulov in Antakya and Miriam Elder in Moscow
Russia has begun a partial evacuation of its citizens from Syria, with 80 people crossing into Lebanon, where two military planes are waiting to fly them home. The move is being interepreted as a lack of faith by Moscow in the Syrian regime's ability to safeguard Russian citizens from the civil war that is steadily consuming much of the country.

. . .

The conflict has intensified every month since, with al-Qaida-inspired groups taking prominent roles in many battles and friction with non-jihadist rebel groups growing markedly.

. . .

However, the regime's grip on Damascus does not yet apear under threat. It maintains air supremacy and has made regular use of air force jets to bomb rebel positions and the communities that support them.

Israel election setback for Binyamin Netanyahu as centrists gain ground

By Harriet Sherwood
Binyamin Netanyahu suffered a major setback in Israel's general election when television exit polls indicated the narrowest of victories for the rightwing-religious block and a surprisingly strong showing for a new centrist party formed last year, forcing the prime minister to say he will seek a broad coalition to govern Israel.

. . .

Netanyahu remains on course to continue as prime minister, as his rightwing electoral alliance, Likud-Beiteinu, looks set to be the biggest party with partial returns giving it 31 seats out of 120 in the next parliament – a sharp drop from the present combined total of 42 for the two parties.

. . .

Dov Lipman, who is expected to win a seat for Yesh Atid, said: "This is a very clear statement that the people of Israel want to see a different direction. We will get the country back on track."

Mozambique 'to evacuate thousands' because of flooding

By (BBC)
Mozambique has started to evacuate some 55,000 people after heavy rains caused sea levels to rise to dangerous levels in parts of the country, officials say.

. . .

The south and centre have been placed on red alert because of the floods, which have claimed several lives.

In 2000, 700 people died and half a million were made homeless in Mozambique's worst flooding on record.

Mali conflict: US begins French troop airlifts

By (BBC)
The US military has begun airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali to support their operation against Islamist militants.

. . .

France began its intervention nearly two weeks ago with the aim of halting the militants' advance south.

. . .

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has praised France's intervention, saying dialogue with the militants was not possible "at this time", AP reports.

Islamist groups and secular Tuareg rebels took advantage of chaos following a military coup to seize northern Mali in April 2012. But the Islamists soon took control of the region's major towns, including Gao and Timbuktu, sidelining the Tuaregs.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Government Spending is Down in the Obama Era

By Kevin Drum
. . . Republicans like to say we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem, but the evidence doesn't back that up. Total government spending didn't go up much during the Clinton era, and it's actually declined during the Obama era. In the last two decades, it's only gone up significantly during the Bush era, the same era in which taxes were cut dramatically.

. . . What we have is a problem with Republicans not wanting to pay the bills they themselves were largely responsible for running up.

Several Kentucky Tea Party groups seek to defeat McConnell in 2014

By Jack Brammer
Many of Kentucky's Tea Party leaders are plotting a strategy to defeat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, a spokesman for a group calling itself the United Kentucky Tea Party said Tuesday.

. . .

Liberty for All is primarily funded by John Ramsey, a college student from Nacogdoches, Texas, who is armed with an inherited fortune.

McConnell, who has represented Kentucky since 1985, is seeking re-election next year. So far, no one has announced to challenge him. He already has a $7 million campaign war chest and the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green, a Tea Party darling.

. . .

Concern about McConnell by several Tea Party members intensified early this year after McConnell successfully brokered a fiscal cliff deal that killed planned income tax hikes on most Americans but postponed deep federal spending cuts.

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:
Singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne has been portrayed as the tragic hero or tortured soul since the release of his perhaps conveniently titled commercial debut Trouble in 2004. One interviewer even referred to his sounds as "a tender blues rasp of exquisite world-weariness” which sounds really good and is fun to write but sometimes journalist and writers enter into things with preconceptions that taint the conversation or composition. And for those that love an artist or are avid readers of music literature, I think it is refreshing when our expectations are challenged. Perhaps that world-weary troubadour has drifted in and out over the years or perhaps it is just an easy formula to follow, I can only speak from experience and the man I met was a reflective, gentle and honest craftsman who has worked very hard to become a better Ray LaMontagne.

. . .

JH: Do you think there is a direct connection between the literature aspect and your writing, in the way of say Joni Mitchell or do you think it's an abstract connection? Is it something that brings you a little peace and then you go on and write your songs.

RL: I don't try to be particularly literate in songs. I mean songs are something else. They just have to unfold the way they want to. I just try to let them happen. I don't really think about it.

. . .

RL: I really don't know, you know. At this point, this is what I am meant to do. This is what I am here to do. At a certain point you realize that, and I just sort of realized that, this is it. That being critical with myself, isn't helping me. I mean, to an extent you always have to want to get better, and I do all the time, I always want to write a better song, to be a better musician, I want to grow as a vocalist, I want to learn to use that instrument better especially. I always want to get better but, there are enough people out there that want to knock you down, there's no sense in knocking yourself down.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Obama stalls for time after Nebraska approves Keystone XL oil pipeline

By Suzanne Goldenberg
. . .

In the first test of Obama's renewed commitment to climate, the administration said on Tuesday it was putting off until April a decision on the project, which is designed to pump crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, the White House told reporters that climate change was just "one of a host of priorities" for the president's second term.

. . .

Obama called a halt on the Keystone XL project a year ago, citing opposition from Heineman and local landowners in Nebraska to the proposed pipeline route. Heineman, a Republican, had balked on approving the pipeline because of concerns about its proposed route. Now with Heineman signing off on the pipeline, that political cover is gone, leaving it up to Obama to make a decision on a project that has come to symbolise the clash between environmental protection and economic growth.

. . .

With Nebraska on board, the state department review of the 1,800-mile route is the last remaining hurdle for the Keystone XL. Campaigners say the decision could determine Obama's legacy.

The project is crucial for landlocked Alberta, which is facing difficulty getting its vast store of crude out of the ground and into American and European markets. But it would also unlock a big source of carbon, and tie America's economy more closely to the burning of fossil fuels.

The 14 fossil-fuel projects poised to f*ck up the climate

By David Roberts
. . .

If we want a reasonable hope of hitting our 2 degree target, we have to leave about 80 percent of the known fossil fuels in the ground.

. . . Toward that end, today saw some fascinating new work from the research consultancy Ecofys. Commissioned by Greenpeace, it attempts to rank the most dangerous fossil-fuel projects currently being planned.

The metric is simple: how many additional tons of CO2 the project will emit by 2020. . .

China’s Western provinces / Coal mining expansion / 1,400
Australia / Coal export expansion / 760
Arctic / Drilling for oil and gas / 520
Indonesia / Coal export expansion / 460
United States / Coal export expansion / 420
Canada / Tar sands oil / 420
Iraq / Oil drilling / 420
Gulf of Mexico / Deepwater oil drilling / 350
Brazil / Deepwater oil drilling (pre-salt) / 330
Kazakhstan / Oil drilling / 290
United States / Shale gas / 280
Africa / Gas drilling / 260
Caspian Sea / Gas drilling / 240
Venezuela / Tar sands oil / 190

Science and Health
Injectable Foam Expands in the Belly, Stops the Bleeding

By Susan Young
Two liquids that turn into a solid foam after being injected into the body may one day save the lives of injured soldiers and wounded civilians by slowing internal bleeding so that they can make it to a hospital. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded Arsenal Medical a $15.5 million grant in December to further develop the foam technology, which would be delivered to a wounded soldier through the belly button.

Currently, battlefield medics and paramedics have no tools to stop internal bleeding before an injured person reaches a hospital. “The only thing you can do for that is get to the hospital as soon as possible,” says David King, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-investigator on the foam project. King, who has served as a military doctor in both Iraq and Afghanistan, says death in these military contexts from uncontrolled internal bleeding is a “regular and routine occurrence.”

. . .

To address this issue, Arsenal Medical in Watertown, Massachusetts, has designed a substance that fills the abdominal cavity and forms a solid foam that can slow internal bleeding. It starts with two liquids. “Mixing those two liquid components causes a chemical reaction that drives the material throughout the abdominal cavity,” says Upma Sharma, head of the foam-technology research at Arsenal. The idea is that the foam would put enough pressure on the site of the injury to slow bleeding for up to three hours so that the soldier could be transported to a hospital. There, a surgeon would remove the block of foam and tend to the soldier’s wounds.

BPA Substitute Could Spell Trouble: Experiments Show Bisphenol S Also Disrupts Hormone Activity

By (ScienceDaily)
A few years ago, manufacturers of water bottles, food containers, and baby products had a big problem. A key ingredient of the plastics they used to make their merchandise, an organic compound called bisphenol A, had been linked by scientists to diabetes, asthma and cancer and altered prostate and neurological development. The FDA and state legislatures were considering action to restrict BPA's use, and the public was pressuring retailers to remove BPA-containing items from their shelves.

. . .

According to a study by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers, though, BPS also resembles BPA in a more problematic way. Like BPA, the study found, BPS disrupts cellular responses to the hormone estrogen, changing patterns of cell growth and death and hormone release. Also like BPA, it does so at extremely low levels of exposure.

. . .

Watson and Viñas focused on key biochemical pathways that are normally stimulated when estrogen activates membrane receptors. One, involving a protein known as ERK, is linked to cell growth; another, labeled JNK, is tied to cell death. In addition, they examined the ability of BPS to activate proteins called caspases (also linked to cell death) and promote the release of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates lactation and influences many other functions.

Men do more scientific fraud than women

By (UPI)
Male scientists are far more likely to commit fraud than women at all levels on the career ladder from trainees to senior scientists, U.S. researchers say.

. . .

"Our other finding -- that males are overrepresented among those committing misconduct -- implies a gender difference we need to better understand in any effort to promote the integrity of research," said Casadevall, who is also editor in chief of mBio.

. . .

"It may also be that males are more competitive, or that women are more sensitive to the threat of sanctions. I think the best answer is that we don't know. Now that we have documented the problem, we can begin a serious discussion about what is going on and what can be done about it."

Geneticist says Neanderthal story misread

By (UPI)
A U.S. geneticist says he never said he wanted to clone a Neanderthal -- he said science should simply talk about such cloning if it's "technically possible."

. . .

He said his comment that cloning of Neanderthal DNA might theoretically someday be possible morphed into a news story he was actively looking for an "adventurous" woman to give birth to such a baby.

. . .

Church told the Herald his own work focuses on using genetics, DNA and genome sequencing to improve healthcare -- not reproduce prehistoric human beings.

Loneliness corrodes health

By (UPI)
Loneliness boosts inflammation, which is linked to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers suggest.

Lead author Lisa Jaremka, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University, and colleagues found people who were more lonely showed signs of elevated latent herpes virus reactivation and produced more inflammation-related proteins in response to acute stress than people who felt more socially connected.

. . .

"It is clear from previous research that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of health problems, including premature mortality and all sorts of other very serious health conditions. And people who are lonely clearly feel like they are in poor-quality relationships," Jaremka said in a statement.

Disease Outbreaks Trackable With Twitter

By (ScienceDaily)
This flu season you've probably seen a number of friends on social media talking about symptoms. New research from Brigham Young University says such posts on Twitter could actually be helpful to health officials looking for a head start on outbreaks.

. . .

"One of the things this paper shows is that the distribution of tweets is about the same as the distribution of the population so we get a good representation of the country," said BYU professor Christophe Giraud-Carrier. "That's another nice validity point especially if you're going to look at things like diseases spreading."

. . .

The net result is that public health officials could capture state-level info or better for 15 percent of tweets. That bodes well for the viability of a Twitter-based disease monitoring system to augment the confirmed data from sentinel clinics.

Groupon to stop gun deals after deciding they are 'not a fit right now'

By Amanda Holpuch
Groupon, the online discount coupon website, has ended its practice of offering gun deals.

. . .

"Groupon has been testing firearm-related deals like shooting ranges and concealed weapons courses for the last eight months," Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler said in a statement. "Based on performance and customer feedback, it's clear they're not a fit right now."

. . .

"Enough consumers have contacted us to warrant ensuring that we don't place ads on The Apprentice homepage in the future," the post said. "It's the same reason we don't run deals on guns or abortion … this isn't a political statement; it's avoiding intentionally upsetting a segment of our customers."

The announcement relates to deals for Groupon North America. The company is also reviewing its international policy.

Microsoft to Pour up to $3B USD Into Dell to Help it go Private, Survive

By Jason Mick
Following a rocky year on the markets and in sales, one of America's largest computer OEMs, Dell, Inc. (DELL) is reportedly considering going private and word is that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is willing to chip in an investment of $1-3B USD to help it with the plan.

. . .

 Microsoft's past investments have included Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS), a 5 percent stake in Facebook, Inc. (FB) (pre-IPO), and Microsoft's 90s bailout of Apple, Inc. (AAPL) that saved the rival from almost certain bankruptcy.

 Microsoft may be able to convert the loan to private shares at some point, which could pay handsome dividends if the privatization works and Dell recovers.  

Ordering pizza with a computer, 1974

By David Pescovitz

December 4, 1974: Donald Sherman, who lives with the neurological disorder Moebius Syndrome that results in impaired speech among other challenges, used a computer to order a pizza over the telephone. . . Domino's hung up on Sherman and the computer. Several tries later, Mr. Mike's Pizza patiently took the order . . .
Japan: Taro Aso, deputy PM, 'sorry' for saying old people should 'hurry up and die'

By Freya Petersen
Japan's deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, has been forced to apologize after suggesting that old people should "hurry up and die" to save the state the cost of providing them with medical care.

According to the London Telegraph, Aso, 72, told a meeting of the National Council on Social Security Reforms on Monday that patients with serious illnesses — whom he referred to as "tube persons" — should be "allowed to die quickly" rather than spend "tens of millions" a month to treat each one.

. . .

He has also previously declared that believers should learn from Japan's work ethic:

"To work is good. That is a completely different way of thinking to the Old Testament."
Johnny Cash and his prison reform campaign

By Danny Robins
. . .

Fitting the gigs in around his relentless touring schedule, the "Man in Black" performed for inmates all over the US, always unpaid, and in the process, became a passionate and vocal spokesman for prisoners' rights.

. . .

"I think Cash had a feeling that somehow he had been endowed with this fame in order to do something with it, and one of the ways he could do something with it was talking about prison reform," says Streissguth, who also believes Cash's deeply-held religious beliefs were a factor in his championing of the cause. "He connected with the idea that a man could be redeemed."

. . .

As well as singing for the prisoners, Johnny used the platform of the concert, which was being filmed for local TV, to put his money where his mouth was, offering to donate $5,000 (£3,000) of his own money to build a prison chapel - and publically challenging Governor Winthrop Rockefeller to match his donation.

. . .

Cummins today is a very different place to the "dark and evil world" a federal judge declared unconstitutional in 1970. It's a modern prison focused on reforming inmates and preparing them for a return to society.

The chapel in which Cash had campaigned so passionately is one of the lasting legacies, not only of Cash's visit to Cummins but of his entire prison reform crusade. It is durable concrete evidence of Cash's interest in and commitment to the men he met behind bars.

Karl Lagerfeld backs French gay marriage law with two Chanel brides

By Jess Cartner-Morley
Barack Obama was not the only prominent figure to advance the gay rights cause this week with his historic reference to Stonewall in his inauguration speech. At another celebrity-studded, hot-ticket event across the Atlantic, the fashion world had its own watershed moment.

Less than 24 hours after the president's call for equality, Karl Lagerfeld subverted the traditions of Paris haute couture by closing the Chanel catwalk show with not one blushing bride, but two, hands clasped and dressed in identical, ravishing wedding gowns.

Lagerfeld said he wanted to signal his support for the controversial French gay marriage law, which has led protesters to take to the streets of Paris. "I don't even understand the debate," said Lagerfeld. "Since 1904 the church and state have been separate."

However, never one to miss an opportunity for maximum controversy, Lagerfeld added that he was "less keen" on gay couples being allowed to adopt children.

Ohio Board of Education President Wasn’t Comparing Obama to Hitler, Except She Was

By Imani Gandy (ABL)
Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar is kind of irritated that everyone thinks she was comparing President Obama to Hitler when she posted a picture of Hitler on Facebook with a comment about how Obama is coming for your guns:
State Board of Education President Debe Terhar said she was not comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted a photograph of the Nazi leader on her Facebook page with a message critical of the administration’s new gun-control efforts.

. . .

Everyone, relax. She wasn’t comparing President Obama to Hitler. She was just helpfully pointing out that Hitler came for everyone’s guns and then murdered millions of people and tried to take over Europe — and now President Obama is coming for your guns. She’s not saying that Blacky O. is planning anything nefarious or Hitlerian, like, I don’t know, helping the Muslim Brotherhood take over the West, but I bet nobody thought Hitler was planning anything nefarious either, at first.

Everyone, relax. She wasn’t comparing President Obama to Hitler. She was just helpfully pointing out that Hitler came for everyone’s guns and then murdered millions of people and tried to take over Europe — and now President Obama is coming for your guns. She’s not saying that Blacky O. is planning anything nefarious or Hitlerian, like, I don’t know, helping the Muslim Brotherhood take over the West, but I bet nobody thought Hitler was planning anything nefarious either, at first.

::dramatic eyeroll:

As if her comparison of Obama to Hitler, as well as her lunatic gun nut views aren’t bad enough, she is the president of the Ohio State Board of Education, and she is using unsourced Hitler quotes to make her nonsense arguments. There’s absolutely no evidence that Hitler ever said “To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.” The only place that quote shows up is on gun nut websites.

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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