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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, February 05, 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: Cape Canaveral by Conor Oberst

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
Paying the Bin Laden Tax

By Tom Engelhardt
Consider Inauguration Day, more than two weeks gone and already part of our distant past. In its wake, President Obama was hailed (or reviled) for his "liberal" second inaugural address. On that day everything from his invocation of women's rights ("Seneca Falls"), the civil rights movement ("Selma"), and the gay rights movement ("Stonewall") to his wife's new bangs and Beyoncé's lip-syncing was fodder for the media extravaganza. The president was even praised (or reviled) for what he took pains not to bring up: the budget deficit. Was anything, in fact, not grist for the media mill, the hordes of talking heads, and the chattering classes?

. . .

"[T]he airspace above Washington... [will be] a virtual no-fly zone for 30 miles in all directions from the US capital. Six miles of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers will be shut down, with 150 blocks of downtown Washington closed to traffic, partly out of concern for car or truck bombs... with counter-snipers on top of buildings around the capital and along the parade route... [and] detectors monitoring the air for toxins... At the ready near the capital, thousands of doses of antidotes in case of a chemical or biological attack… All this security will cost about $120 million dollars for hundreds of federal agents, thousands of local police, and national guardsmen from 25 states."

. . .

Bin Laden, of course, is long dead, but his was the 9/11 spark that, in the hands of George W. Bush and his top officials, helped turn this country into a lockdown state and first set significant portions of the Greater Middle East aflame. In that sense, bin Laden has been thriving in Washington ever since and no commando raid in Pakistan or elsewhere has a chance of doing him in.

. . .

In the meantime, he—and 9/11 as it entered the American psyche—helped facilitate the locking down of this society in ways that should unnerve us all. The resulting United States of Fear has since engaged in two disastrous more-than-trillion dollar wars and a "Global War on Terror" that shows no sign of ending in our lifetime. (See Yemen, Pakistan, and Mali.) It has also funded the supersized growth of a labyrinthine intelligence bureaucracy; that post-9/11 creation, the Department of Homeland Security; and, of course, the Pentagon and the US military, including the special operations forces, an ever-expanding secret military elite cocooned within it.

Will Democrats Sell Your Political Opinions to Credit Card Companies?

By Lois Beckett
For years, state Democratic parties have been gathering information about individual voters' political leanings. They have noted down the opinions voters shared with canvassers — which candidates they said they supported or their positions on policy issues.

 Now, the record of what people told Democratic volunteers may go up for sale — and not just to political groups. Democrats are looking into whether credit card companies, retailers like Target or other commercial interests may want to buy the information.

. . .

 But local Democratic parties also have information about voters' views and preferences collected over many campaign cycles. (We wrote about Minnesota's data-collecting "Grandma Brigade" last month.) Some state Democratic parties have used this raw data to create sophisticated estimates of how likely any voter is to vote for a Democrat, support Barack Obama or have certain opinions, say, on abortion or gun control.

. . .

 Individual states have different laws about how their public voting records can be used. Many states mandate that public voter rolls can only be used for "political purposes," and some states explicitly ban using voting records for "commercial purposes." The co-op and its clients must abide by these rules.

. . .

 "Generally, information freely provided to the party by the voter, or data about who participated in a primary [that the party collects] is not subject to any prohibition on it being sold," said Karl Sandstrom, a former vice-chairman of the Federal Elections Commission and an attorney for the co-op.

Motorcycles deadly no matter rider's skill

By (UPI)
No matter how skilled or experienced motorcyclists are, they have far higher risk of being killed while riding than someone in a car, U.K. researchers say.

. . .

The researchers investigated population-wide motor vehicle driver and motorcyclist casualties, excluding passengers, recorded in Britain between 2002 and 2009. To adjust for exposure and measure individual risk, the researchers said they used the estimated number of trips of motorcyclists and drivers, which had been collected as part of a national travel survey.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found motorcyclists were 76 times more likely to be killed than were drivers for every trip. Older motorcyclist age -- with more experience, better skill sets and superior riding behavior -- did not abate the risks of high-powered motorcycles, the study said.

How can we prepare for climate change without screwing poor people?

By David Roberts
. . .

Shit is getting real. Coastal cities are facing decisions about how to plan for higher seas and more frequent floods, about which lands to abandon and which to “up armor” with levies and seawalls. These are present-day decisions, not something for the distant future. Whether or not the particular plans in SF and NYC go through — they are expensive, and will face much local resistance — they are only the beginning. And it’s not just the coasts. Decisions of a similar spirit will face places like Las Vegas and Phoenix, which exist only by virtue of a steady supply of outside water. What will happen in 10, 20, 30 years, when there are more droughts and less rain? What can be sustained and what must be abandoned?

. . .

So, when these decisions are made, who benefits? Who gets protected when the weather comes? Who gets made whole after the weather has done its damage? If a community needs to be abandoned to nature, how is it compensated and where are its people put?

. . .

In the wake of Katrina there was talk of abandoning some areas rather than continuing to subsidize them through public insurance. But in the stew of class and racial suspicion during and after the hurricane, such discussions had very little chance of unfolding rationally. Blacks quite reasonably suspected that such talk was code for screwing them even more, driving their communities from the city entirely.

. . .

I wish I could offer some sort of Grand Idea about how these stresses can be anticipated and mitigated, probably something that uses the words “stakeholders,” “collaborative,” and “open” a lot. But honestly, I have no idea. The cynic in me thinks that poor and minority people getting screwed is a kind of axiom, a feature of public life as predictable as the rising sun. Climate will increasingly force big, rushed, fear-based decisions on us, and those are precisely the circumstances in which poor and minority folk are most likely to get screwed.

Secret DOJ Memo Suggests Drone Strikes May be Necessary to Kill American "Terrorists"

By Jason Mick
. . .

The U.S. Department of Justice and Obama administration likely wished that a 16-page memo/white paper building a detailed case justifying killing American citizens with drone strikes never made it into the hands of the media.  But that is precisely what ended up happening.  The memo -- titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force" -- leaked to NBC News via a source who had access to it.  And the memo's suggestion of highly qualified scenarios for death strikes is reviving a major debate over due process and terrorism.

. . .

 The memo leak comes on the eve of the confirmation hearing for potential U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan.  Mr. Brennan, a former counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, was among the first to make the case publicly for deadly drone strikes on Americans involved with terrorist groups.  At a speech last year he argued such strikes were "consistent with the inherent right of self-defense."

. . .

 But the white paper goes beyond the public comments of Mr. Brennan and the Attorney General, arguing that even in cases where there is not a known imminent risk, use of deadly force is justified.  This principle is described therein as a "broader concept of imminence", which suggests that mere membership and training activities in high-profile terrorist groups represents an imminent risk.

 . . .

 Sen. Ron Whyden (D-OR) and a bipartisan group 10 other senators, have written a letter [PDF] to President Obama asking him to release the rumored classified DOJ memos on drone strikes on Americans.  In the letter the group writes, "[T]here will clearly be circumstances in which the president has the authority to use lethal force [against Americans who fight against their own country]... [However] it is vitally important ... for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority."

Somali government assailed after woman who accused security forces of rape is sentenced to prison

By Hannah Allam
. . .

The story of a 27-year-old Somali woman who told a freelance reporter, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, that she was gang-raped by state security forces runs counter to the narrative Somali officials – and their Western supporters – are pushing of a once-failed state that’s on the upswing after years of isolation and warfare. The woman and the reporter were each sentenced to a year in jail, with the woman’s sentence deferred until she finishes nursing her child.

A court in Mogadishu, the capital, announced that the convictions were based on medical evidence that the woman was not raped, according to news reports. The woman was found guilty of insulting a government body and making false claims; her interviewer was convicted of insulting state institutions.

Critics say the case smacks of political manipulation to cover up what human rights groups call rampant sexual abuse in state-run camps for people who were displaced by years of civil war.

. . .

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office issued a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” in the yearlong sentences and noted that the U.N. has “repeatedly expressed alarm over reports of pervasive sexual violence” in camps for displaced Somalis. Such assaults, the U.N. statement said, are rarely reported because of the risk of retaliatory attacks and the stigmatization of the victims.

Obama to visit Israel and the West Bank

By Lesley Clark
President Barack Obama will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan this spring, the White House said Tuesday, amid signs the administration is interested in revisiting stalled Middle East peace talks.

. . .

The visit comes as incoming Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed interest in reviving the peace talks, which largely stalled in 2010. Kerry, a former senator who started his new job this week, spoke over the weekend with Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

. . .

Analysts say Netanyahu was weakened by a January election that saw Israeli centrists gain seats in the Parliament, and that “could very well be the reason why they (the administration) see this as an opportunity to at least go out and put a toe in the waters to see whether that’s going to make any difference in the otherwise obstructionist attitudes on the part of the Netanyahu government,” said Wayne White, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and a former State Department policy and intelligence analyst.

CIA renditions 'aided by 54 countries'

By (Al Jazeera)
. . .

The report, released on Tuesday, claims that foreign governments in Europe, Asia and Africa have been secretly involved in global kidnap, detention and torture of at least 136 people on behalf of the United States after September 11, 2001 attacks.

. . .

The governments accused of helping the CIA programmes included some staunch US allies such as Australia, Israel, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland and Ireland, and some not usually viewed as US-friendly such as Iran and Syria.

. . .

Amrit Singh, author of the report, described the involvement of foreign governments as "a continuum" which included the hosting of secret CIA prisons, providing intelligence and capture and detention of prisoners.

. . .

While Barack Obama, US president, after taking office in 2009 ordered the closing of secret CIA detention facilities, the
executive order "did not repudiate extraordinary rendition," the report said.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Gay military spouses to get more benefits

By (UPI)
Same-sex spouses may soon get some of the U.S. military benefits now granted heterosexual wives and husbands, officials say.

. . .

Homosexuals have been able to serve openly in the military since Congress repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2011. With gay marriage now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, the Pentagon has to reconcile DOMA, which denies federal recognition to gay couples, with service members legally married to same-sex spouses.

. . .

Advocates say gay spouses should be able to get some benefits, including military ID cards that would give them access to recreation facilities and other amenities on bases.

Goldman’s Blankfein to Join Obama Immigration Meeting

By Lisa Lerer and James Rowley
President Barack Obama is trying to rally business support for his immigration proposals at a White House meeting today with a dozen chief executive officers, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS)’s Lloyd Blankfein and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)’s Marissa Mayer.

. . .

Obama also is lobbying for the support of unions and Democratic-leaning activist groups, telling them in a meeting this morning that rewriting immigration law is his top legislative priority for the next few months.

“We are all on the same page,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation. He is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to find common ground on the issue.

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:
Both as a prodigy addled with "new Dylan" acclaim and an emo icon with a bratty attitude and nose-grazing bangs, Conor Oberst has been a squirrelly performer, whipping between genres and moods. Still, whether it's Desaparecidos' frantic punk-rock or Bright Eyes' folksy mewling, Oberst infuses most everything he touches with an awkward, frantic desperation; as a vocalist he sounds perennially uncomfortable, muscles tight and prepped to sprint away from the microphone. On his self-titled Merge debut, Oberst is focused on making escapes-- moving on, moving over, breaking out, hitting the streets, leaving it all behind, don't look back. . .

. . .

Opener "Cape Canaveral", with its acoustic strums and barely-there percussion, is a lovely, quasi-nostalgic meditation of the 1969 moon mission (the "red rocket blaze over Cape Canaveral"-- an epic escape if there ever was one). The song ultimately transforms into an ode to movement-as-salvation, setting the scene for the eleven tracks which follow. "Hey, hey, hey mother interstate,/ can you deliver me from evil,/ make me honest make me wedding cake?" he wonders. "Atone, I will atone."

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
A Manmade Island to Store Wind Energy

By Martin LaMonica
. . .

The idea is to place the island a few kilometers off shore near a wind farm, according to Vande Lanotte’s office. When the wind farm produces excess energy for the local electricity grid, such as off-peak times in the overnight hours, the island will store the energy and release it later during peak times.

It would use the oldest and most cost-effective bulk energy storage there is: pumped hydro. During off-peak times, power from the turbines would pump water up 15 meters to a reservoir. To generate electricity during peak times, the water is released to turn a generator, according to a representative.

The Belgian government doesn’t propose building the facility itself and would rely on private industry instead. But there is sufficient interest in energy storage that it should be part of planning exercises and weighed against other activities in the North Sea, the representative said. It would be placed three kilometers offshore and be 2.4 kilometers wide, according to a drawing provided by Vande Lanotte’s office.

Impact of Fla. marine reserve measured

By (UPI)
Both fish and commercial and recreational fishermen have benefited from "no-take" protections in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, officials say.

. . .

NOAA reported overfished species like grouper, yellowtail and snapper have increased in numbers and size since the reserve was designated in 2001, even as commercial catches of reef fish in the surrounding region increased and no financial losses were experienced by regional commercial or recreational fishers.

. . .

Key West commercial fishery landings had an estimated value of $56 million in 2011, up from $40 million in 2001, NOAA said, while ocean recreation and tourism support approximately 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys.

Alaska climate body hasn't met since 2011, documents show

By Suzanne Goldenberg
A rapid-response taskforce, intended to protect Alaska from the worst effects of climate change, has failed to meet for two years, according to newly released documents.

. . .

Both bodies were set up by Palin, who appointed the sub-cabinet in 2007 to begin work on a strategic climate change plan for Alaska. Two years later, the immediate action work group set out a detailed report, outlining the risks to dozens of Alaskan communities.

. . .

"On issues ranging from village relocation, to growing wildfire vulnerability and high erosion and flooding dangers, to sea ice loss, to impacts to infrastructure (ironically, including the Alaska pipeline), the state has abandoned a pro-active posture," the organisation said in a statement.

Science and Health
Number of Multiple Births Affected by Congenital Anomalies Has Doubled Since the 1980s

By (ScienceDaily)
he number of congenital anomalies, or birth defects arising from multiple births has almost doubled since the 1980s, suggests a new study published February 6 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

. . .

Furthermore, the risk of congenital anomalies was 27% higher in multiple than singleton births, with this risk increasing over time. The authors indicate that this increase may be related to ART rather than multiple birth status.

. . .

"The increase in multiple birth rates may be explained by changes in maternal age and increased use of ART. It is clear that more research needs to be done to determine the contribution of ART to the risk of congenital anomalies in multiple births."

Puppy successfully born from frozen embryo

By (UPI)
A puppy has been born from a frozen embryo using technology that could be used to conserve endangered wild species like wolves and foxes, U.S. researchers say.

. . .

Klondike's beagle mother was fertilized using artificial insemination, and the resulting embryos were collected and frozen until Klondike's surrogate mother, also a beagle, was ready to receive the embryo, they said.

. . .

"Reproduction in dogs is remarkably different than in other mammals," Alex Travis of Cornell's Center for Wildlife Conservation said. "We're working to understand these differences so we can tackle issues ranging from developing contraceptives to preserving the genetic diversity of endangered animals through assisted reproduction."

Diet soda and alcohol a bad mix, says study

By Alexander Besant
. . .

Researchers at North Kentucky University found that diet soda (or "pop" in certain parts of the country) increases breath alcohol content more than other sugary mixers.

They found breath alcohol levels higher in those who drank the same amount of alcohol mixed with diet soda compared with those who drank regular soda.

. . .

"What you choose to mix your alcohol with could possibly be the difference between breaking or not breaking the law," said lead author Cecile Marczinski, reported CNN.

The “Free Wi-Fi” Confusion

By David Zax
A Washington Post report has sparked some confusion over whether the FCC is proposing large public WiFi networks. In fact, the FCC is not directly proposing such networks. Which isn’t to say that the FCC doesn’t have an interesting idea up its sleeve.

. . .

So what exactly is going on here? VentureBeat’s Dylan Tweney’s pair of posts on the topic show a measured take; his second post is exemplary in the way it humorously dismantles the first, while clarifying what’s going on. In his first post, Tweney dutifully reported that the Post was reporting that the FCC was proposing a nationwide Wi-Fi network, which indeed the Post story did seem to suggest (Tweney added that he wasn’t able to find documentation for such a plan on the FCC site). Tweney’s second post clarified that what was actually going on here was that the FCC is simply proposing to “reserve some new bands of wireless spectrum for free, unlicensed use.”

. . .

It’s not out of the question that some of this spectrum could be used for municipal WiFi networks. But it’s leaping to conclusions–wildly–to presume that this is how the spectrum will be used, or to even say that the FCC is advocating that it be used that way. As Slate’s Matthew Yglesias points out: “just because Wi-Fi spectrum is free doesn’t mean that Wi-Fi service is free.”

Instagram users begin fightback against stolen photos

By Katie Rogers
After a backlash from users, Instagram clarified its terms of service to ensure they would have absolute ownership of their own images. But photographers on the site are finding that terms of service and community guidelines don't stop businesses, publishers and other users from helping themselves.

Swedish photographer Tuana Aziz was surprised to find a photo he'd posted to Instagram in 2011 screen-printed to a T-shirt and sold in a Mango clothing store. He later checked the retailer's website and found that it was available for £8.99. The company has apparently  removed the shirt after Aziz complained, but he captured and shared a screengrab with his Instagram followers.

. . .

But it's not just professional photographers who find their work stolen for commercial gain – to their confusion, amateurs find that even the most mundane of photos re-purposed on other users' feeds.

Dell and Virgin Media in $20bn deals

By Charles Arthur, Josephine Moulds and Mark Sweney
. . .

Dell announced it would be sold for $24.4bn to a consortium comprised of founder Michael Dell, software giant Microsoft and private equity group Silver Lake. It is the biggest confirmed deal since the credit crunch took hold in 2007, followed by the implosion of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Separately, John Malone's Liberty Global said it is in talks with Virgin Media, which has about 4.9m cable TV customers. Bankers put a price tag of more than $20bn on the business. If successful the takeover will see the US billionaire lock horns with occasional rival Rupert Murdoch in the pay-TV battlefield. Murdoch, who controls BSkyB, was forced to sell Malone his valuable stake in satellite broadcaster DirecTV in 2006, in order to get Malone to offload a threatening stake of almost 20% that the Liberty boss had built up in Murdoch's News Corporation empire.

. . .

The deal has been driven by Dell's desire to reshape the company away from the stock market. Profits from PCs have slumped, and it is being challenged by Asian rivals, Lenovo, Asus and Acer.

The Federal Reserve Said It Was Hacked

By Casey Chan
he Federal Reserve said that one of its internal websites had been hacked today. It's unclear who did the hacking but the Feds say that the hackers were not able to do any serious damage. Reuters says that, "no critical functions of the central bank were affected by the intrusion."

The internal website that the hackers breached was a contact database for banks to use during a natural disaster—basically, execs used it to update the Federal Reserve on whether or not their operations have been damaged in a disaster. It was not a public website. . .

Who the Hell Can Understand the Voyager Disc’s User Manual?

By Jesus Diaz
In a very distant future an alien spaceship will come across one of the Voyager spacecrafts. And when they do, they will find two things: a golden disc—a space-proof metal version of a normal vinyl record containing sounds, music and images from Earth—and a a record player.

. . .

They recorded all this data in analog form on one side of the disc. That was the only technology available at the time, when they launched in 1977. No MP3s or JPEGs or animated GIFs. On the other side of the disc they etched a quick reference card. I can't make any sense out of it, but obviously I'm neither an engineer nor an alien, despite what some of my wives have said.

. . .

Incredibly enough, among the images there weren't any pictures of a naked man or woman, showing us bare as species. Apparently, NASA told Sagan and his colleagues that they wanted to avoid the controversy of the Pioneer plaque, which was attacked by prude conservative groups in the United States—which I guess is a testimony of the sad state of things in this country at the time (and now).

. . .

 In any case, chances are that aliens will hear and see us way before someone crosses paths with this golden greeting card. Radio signals travel way faster than Voyager—at the speed of light—and in every direction. And we have been sending them for decades now. Even if the radio signals degrade after 50 light years, a passing starship flying a few light years away (or perhaps a listening outpost) would catch them sooner and easier than finding Voyager—which, in the immensity of space, it's the perfect example of the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Have young people never had it so bad?

By Tom de Castella
. . . there's a growing belief that the generation of baby boomers born in the two decades before 1965 were lucky to live when they did. Houses were easier to come by when young and rocketed in value. Pensions were generous. Unemployment was mostly low. Now, aged between 50 and 70, they have had it pretty good.

. . .

Today, for the first time, a person in their 80s has higher living standards than someone working in their 20s, the Financial Times reported in October 2012.

. . .

Baby boomers born in the 1940s to mid 60s bought their first home when prices were low and watched property prices shoot up as house-building slowed while the population rose. There was relatively low unemployment up to the 1980s and again in the 1990s and 2000s.

. . .

Gibson alludes to the unofficial redistribution of wealth of parents helping children with their mortgage. But a report for the Resolution Foundation On borrowed time? argued that while bequests like this will play a role, many elderly people may consume their wealth rather than passing it on, especially for long-term care.

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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