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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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The Guardian

When Pope Benedict resigns on 28 February he will leave the office vacant and the process to choose a new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics will begin.

Without the customary mourning period that follows the death of a pontiff, a meeting of the cardinals to elect his successor, called a conclave, could begin by mid-March.

The word comes from the Latin cum clave ("with key") and refers to the fact that the Roman Catholic church's most senior prelates used to be locked in the Sistine Chapel and adjoining buildings. The idea was to make them as uncomfortable as possible to force a choice.

It first took hold in Viterbo, a town in central Italy that was the site of several papal elections in the middle ages at times when Rome itself was judged to be too turbulent.

In 1271 the cardinals had spent 33 months failing to make up their minds, largely for political reasons, when the people of Viterbo lost patience. They persuaded the local authorities to lock the cardinals in a fortress, cut their food rations and remove the roof of the fortress to expose them to the elements.

US NEWS

Reuters
 

Americans are eager to hear President Barack Obama address the U.S. economy and federal deficit in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, with more than half still convinced the nation is in a recession, a poll released on Monday found.

Gun policy and healthcare are also top concerns U.S. voters want the president to discuss in his annual speech to the nation, according to the survey by Quinnipiac University.

Obama, who began his second term last month after winning re-election in November, is expected to use Tuesday night's speech to offer his plan for spurring the tepid economy, including proposals for investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and education.

The nationwide poll found 35 percent of U.S. voters said the economy was a top concern, while 20 percent pointed to the federal deficit. It also showed 53 percent said the U.S. economy is still in a recession even though economists have said the downturn that began in late 2007 officially ended in July 2009.

The Guardian
 

Three people died Monday morning in a shooting at a courthouse in Delaware, including the shooter, authorities said.

Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack confirmed three people died in the shooting at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington. He said the suspected gunmen and two women are dead. The city's mayor said earlier in the day that one of the women killed was the shooter's estranged wife, but Shavack said police had not confirmed that was the case.

Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams said in a telephone interview that he was told the man shot and killed his wife.

Shavack said two police officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

He said officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter in courthouse's lobby before he passed metal detectors. Shavack did not say whether the shooter killed the two women or whether they were killed in the gunfire. Shavack also did not say how the shooter died.

Dozens of police cars and emergency vehicles were on the streets surrounding the courthouse in the hours after the shooting, and police were searching the courthouse room by room as a precaution.

NPR
 

Part one of a three-part series.

Rebecca Weel pushes a baby stroller with her 18-month-old up to the seafood case at Whole Foods, near ground zero in New York. As she peers at shiny fillets of salmon, halibut and Chilean sea bass labeled "Certified Sustainable," Weel believes that if she purchases this seafood, she will help protect the world's oceans from overfishing.

But some leading environmentalists have a different take: Consumers like Weel are being misled by a global program that amounts to "greenwashing" — a strategy that makes consumers think they are protecting the planet, when actually they are not.

At Whole Foods, the seafood counter displays blue labels from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international, nonprofit organization. The MSC is a prime example of an economic trend: Private groups, not the government, are telling consumers what is good or bad for the environment. The MSC says its label guarantees that the wild seafood was caught using methods that do not deplete the natural supply. It also guarantees that fishing companies do not cause serious harm to other life in the sea, from coral to dolphins.

BBC
 

Los Angeles officials say they have received hundreds of calls after offering a $1m (£630,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of an ex-policeman accused of three murders.

Christopher Dorner, 33, has been on the run since last week, after the attacks in southern California.

Los Angeles police Lieutenant Andrew Neiman said more than 600 tips were being followed up as of Monday morning.

Mr Dorner has sworn revenge on police officers he blames for his 2008 firing.

Announcing the reward at a news conference on Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said: "We will not tolerate this reign of terror that has robbed us of the peace of mind that residents of southern California deserve."

Bloomberg
 

When President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the biggest question he’ll face will be how to get an ambitious second-term agenda through a divided Congress.

The answer: Go around it.

On climate change, gun control, gay rights, and even immigration, the White House has signaled a willingness to circumvent lawmakers through the use of presidential power. Already, plans are being laid to unleash new executive orders, regulations, signing statements and memorandums designed to push Obama’s programs forward and cement his legacy, according to administration aides and allies.

“The big things that we need to get done, we can’t wait on,” said White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer. “If we can take action, we will take action.”

WORLD NEWS

Reuters
 

The British government on Monday intensified its campaign to stop Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, publishing a legal opinion saying it would forfeit its membership of international bodies such as the European Union if it chose independence.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) that runs Scotland's devolved government plans to hold a referendum on emotionally charged subject next year, and has played down the impact of a "Yes" vote on Scotland's international status.

But the 57-page legal opinion - drafted for the British government by two independent experts on international law - said the implications could be far-reaching, likening the situation to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union when Russia was declared the USSR's legal successor but the 14 other Soviet states had to forge their international relations anew.

Reuters
 

The Group of Seven nations are considering a statement this week reaffirming their commitment to "market-determined" exchange rates in response to heating rhetoric about a currency war, G20 officials said on Monday.

The language, which could be subject to change, implies that the major powers would not indulge in unilateral currency devaluation and reads very similarly to the last statement issued by the G7 on currencies in 2011.

"It focuses on a commitment to market-determined exchange rates and (governments) not using policies to drive currencies," one official said.

Two officials from different countries told Reuters that if agreed, the statement could be released around the time G20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Moscow on Friday and Saturday.

Reuters
 

An underground methane gas explosion killed up to 18 miners at a coal pit in northern Russia on Monday and President Vladimir Putin dispatched his disasters minister to the scene to oversee rescue efforts.

Rescue workers said they had brought 10 bodies to the surface at the Vorkutinskaya mine, owned by large Russian steel company Severstal, in the icy Komi region and were trying to recover eight other corpses.

About 250 people had been at the pit at the time of the blast, about 800 meters (2,600 feet) below the surface but most had escaped or been rescued, government officials said.

Although mine safety has improved since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, fatal accidents are frequent in Russia's ageing pits. Most accidents have been attributed to methane blasts, negligence or a failure to follow safety regulations.

"We need a clear and understandable picture of what happened," Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told local officials and rescue workers via a video link-up soon after the explosion.

The Guardian

The Syrian government is ready to send a minister abroad for talks with Moaz al-Khatib, leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, who recently threw rebel politics into turmoil by coming out in favour of dialogue with the regime.

"I am willing to meet Mr Khatib in any foreign city where I can go in order to discuss preparations for a national dialogue", Ali Haidar, the minister for national reconciliation, told the Guardian. His remarks were the most positive response the Syrian government has yet given to the opposition leader's surprise change of line.

Exiles and their affiliated armed groups have long said they would never talk to the regime unless Bashar al-Assad first left office. Their leader's switch has been severely criticised by some of his colleagues because the coalition's charter states it will not talk to the regime except about its departure.

In explaining the purpose of the national dialogue, Haidar raised the prospect of a genuine contest for a multiparty parliament and for the presidency when Assad's mandate runs out next year.

Millions of Kenyans watched and listened to Monday's debate, broadcast live on national television, as well as YouTube.

Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister, and his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces trial for crimes against humanity, were seen as the favourites in the vote.

During the debate, Kenyatta insisted that the crimes against humanity charges he faces at the International Criminal Court won't hinder him from running the country.

Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister and son of Kenya's founding president,  faces trial along with his running mate William Ruto at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged roles in orchestrating murder of around 1,000 people, rape and violence after the 2007 poll.

Kenya's next presidential election is set for March 4.

All eight presidential candidates cleared by Kenya's electoral authority were present during Monday's live debate, which was widely aired.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Science Blog
 

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that one of the most aggressive invasive ant species in the United States – the Argentine ant – appears to have met its match in the Asian needle ant.

Specifically, the researchers have found that the Asian needle ant is successfully displacing Argentine ants in an urban environment, indicating that the Asian needle ant – with its venomous sting – may be the next invasive species to see a population boom. In the world of invasive species, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is a success story. Its aggressive, territorial behavior and ability to create huge “supercolonies” – consisting of thousands of queens and millions of workers – have enabled the Argentine ant to spread across the United States, displacing native species and changing ecosystems to suit its needs. No other ant species had been seen successfully pushing back – until now.

Science Blog
 

While prostate cancer is the most common cancer in elderly Western men it also, but more rarely, strikes patients aged between 35 and 50. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, in collaboration with several other research teams in Germany*, have discovered that such early-onset prostate cancers are triggered by a different mechanism from that which causes the disease at a later age. Their findings are published today in Cancer Cell, and might have important consequences for the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer in younger patients.
The researchers compared the genomes of 11 early-onset tumours with 7 late-onset tumours and observed marked differences at the molecular level. The genomes of early-onset prostate tumours undergo a relatively small number of changes compared to tumours that develop in older patients.

SciTech Daily
 

New images show that NASA’s Curiosity rover has successfully drilled and collected a rock powder sample from the Martian bedrock to be analyzed.

Pasadena, California — NASA’s Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars.

The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.

SciTech Daily
 

Winnipeg, MB – A fossil fragment of a human lower jaw recovered from a Serbian cave is the oldest human ancestor found in this part of Europe. The newly obtained radiometric date of the fossil was published today in PLOS ONE by William Jack Rink, McMaster University, Canada, and the international team under the direction of Dušan Mihailović, University of Belgrade, Serbia, and Mirjana Roksandic, University of Winnipeg, Canada.

“The fossil was found to be at least 397,000 years old and possibly older than 525,000 years old,” explained Rink. “We used three independent techniques (electron spin resonance, uranium series isotopic analysis and infrared luminescence dating) which had remarkably consistent results reinforcing our conclusion. This established the mandible as the oldest easternmost European fossil of its kind.”

SciTech Daily
 

A new study from SLAC and Stanford researchers examines the atomic-scale details of how superionic nanoscale materials switch from a state that is poorly conducting to one that is highly conducting, taking a step forward toward using these materials in low-cost solid-state electrical batteries.

A material that could enable faster memory chips and more efficient batteries can switch between high and low ionic conductivity states much faster than previously thought, SLAC and Stanford researchers have determined. The key is to use extremely small chunks of it.

THE ARTS

Slate

Brow Beat is following the Beatles in “real time,” 50 years later, from their first chart-topper to their final rooftop concert. This month we’re looking back at Please Please Me, which the Beatles recorded 50 years ago today. In this weekly installment we take a look at Arthur Alexander, one of the Beatles’ biggest early influences and the songwriter behind Please Please Me’s “Anna (Go to Him).”

The first of the six covers that appear on Please Please Me is a mid-tempo ballad called “Anna (Go to Him),” which was written and first recorded by Arthur Alexander. Chances are that most people who hear the version sung by John Lennon have no idea who Arthur Alexander is—but the Beatles certainly knew, and so did the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan: Alexander is reportedly the only songwriter whose tunes have appeared on studio albums by those three hallowed acts. Elvis Presley recorded one of his songs as well—albeit one that Alexander co-wrote—and so did Otis Redding and Tina Turner and Jerry Lee Lewis and Percy Sledge.

Slate

Six days before she died, Sylvia Plath wrote two very different poems: “Balloons,” which evokes two children at play with inflated “oval soul-animals,” and “Edge,” which paints the image of a woman and two children in death. It is widely held that “Edge” is the last poem Plath ever wrote, though, as with many of the events of her final days, there is debate over sequence and intention.

Plath—a self-aware archivist concerned with the legacy of her papers, especially in the final months of her life—didn’t make it clear which poem she wrote last. In a journal entry, she notes that she submitted “Edge” and “Balloon,” along with a number of other poems, to The New Yorker on Feb. 4, though the handwritten drafts of the two poems are dated the following day.

Ultimately it matters little whether “Edge” was Plath’s final poem, or just a very late one. Whenever it was written, “Edge” is about the very last of known experiences, about perfection achieved only after (and because) the subject’s brief candle has gone out. “The woman is perfected.,” it begins. “Her dead/ Body wears the smile of accomplishment.” Is this a reference to suicide?

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