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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, February 12, 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: Evermore by Ryan Shaw

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
Comcast to buy rest of NBC stake for $16.7 billion

By Liana B. Baker
Comcast Corp on Tuesday said it would buy General Electric's remaining 49 percent equity stake in their NBCUniversal joint venture for about $16.7 billion, speeding up a deal that had not been expected until at least late 2014.

. . .

Comcast bought 51 percent of NBC Universal in 2011 after winning antitrust approval from the Justice Department. The transaction created a $30 billion business that includes broadcast, cable networks, movie studios and theme parks.

. . .

Comcast said it would fund the deal with $11.4 billion of cash on hand, $4 billion in senior unsecured notes to be issued to GE, $2 billion in credit facility borrowings and the issuance of $725 million in subsidiary preferred stock to GE.

. . .

Since reaching the deal to sell its majority stake in NBC Universal, GE officials have made clear that they eventually planned to exit the entertainment business entirely.

Middle East losing water reserves

By (UPI)
. . .

U.S. scientists using data from the gravity-measuring satellites found parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet of total stored freshwater during a seven-year period beginning in 2003.

That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a release Tuesday.

. . .

"Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws."

. . .

"The Middle East just does not have that much water to begin with, and it's a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change," Famiglietti said. "Those dry areas are getting dryer. The Middle East and the world's other arid regions need to manage available water resources as best they can."

Shark attacks hit 12-year high in US, with Florida worst for ocean lovers

By Freya Petersen
Shark attacks have hit a 12-year high in the US, with Florida by far the most dangerous state to go in the water.

The International Shark Attack File survey reports that America also leads the world in shark attacks, with the 53 attacks in 2012 equaling the number in 2000, and well up from 2011, when there were 31 attacks.

. . .

The ISAF defines "unprovoked attacks" as any attack on a human by a shark in its natural habitat without human provocation.

. . .

However, overall the report notes that "such marked year-to-year jumps and drops in shark-human interactions ... are not unusual as a plethora of oceanographic, meteorological, economic and human social variables affect the opportunity for humans and sharks to cross paths in a given year."

French assembly passes gay marriage bill

By (Al Jazeera)
. . .

Tuesday's measure, approved in the National Assembly in a 329-to-229 vote, puts France on course to join nearly a dozen mostly European nations that allow gay marriage and comes despite a string of recent demonstrations by opponents of the so-called "marriage for all" bill.

"This law is going to extend to all families the protections guaranteed by the institution of marriage,'' Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said ahead of Tuesday's vote.

. . .

Polls indicate a narrow majority of French support legalising gay marriage, though that support falls when questions about the adoption and conception of children come into play.

Horsemeat scandal: police and FSA raid two British meat companies

By James Meikle and Felicity Lawrence
. . .

Officers entered Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and Farmbox Meats Ltd near Aberystwyth in Wales, as they investigated the circumstances in which horsemeat was sold as beef "for kebabs and burgers".

. . .

The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, said: "This is absolutely shocking. It's totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horsemeat as beef. I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity."

. . .

It is the first time police have taken action in the scandal over mislabelling of processed beef products and came as the problems spread to the upmarket retailer Waitrose, which withdrew its Essential British Frozen Beef Meatballs after pork was detected in two batches.

Nigeria journalists charged over Kano polio deaths

By (BBC)
Two Nigerian journalists have been charged in court over the killing of nine female polio vaccinators in northern Kano state on Friday.

. . .

Their Wazobia FM radio station had aired the views of people opposed to polio vaccinations in the mainly Muslim north two days before the killings.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reportedly said it was "troubled" by the prosecution.

Some Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria believe polio vaccinations cause infertility among women.

Coca-Cola warns of volatile year to come

By (BBC)
Coca-Cola, the world's biggest soft-drinks maker, saw sales in Europe and China fall in the last quarter of 2012 and warned the year ahead would be unpredictable.

. . .

He said that last year had seen "the extension of prolonged uncertainty in Europe, the ongoing transition of the economy in China, the lukewarm recovery in the United States and ongoing challenges for Japanese consumers" .

. . .

One problem facing the company, whose other brands include Sprite, Fanta, Dasani and Minute Maid, is another rise in the cost of raw materials, including sweeteners, juices, metals and plastic.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
IRS Wins Big Tax Ruling against Bank of New York Mellon

By Jeff Gerth
A federal tax court judge yesterday ruled that the Bank of New York Mellon had improperly claimed foreign tax credits through a complex deal arranged by Barclays. In the wake of the ruling, BNY Mellon said it will take a charge of $850 million but also said it would appeal.

. . .

The opinion was a triumph for the Internal Revenue Service which had challenged six U.S. banks over some two billion dollars of such deals, called Stars, short for Structured Trust Advantage Repackaged Securities. Barclays arranged deals for all of the banks but is not a party to any of the cases.

The cross-border deals took advantage of different countries’ tax rates and rules, effectively allowing American financial firms to minimize their total tax payments.

Attorney-client meeting room was bugged, Navy lawyer testifies at Guantánamo

By Carol Rosenberg
The military had a hidden microphone in a room where defense attorneys met detainees awaiting death-penalty trials, a senior prison official disclosed at the war court Tuesday.

 But, eavesdropping equipment aside, nobody was using it to listen in on the confidential conversations prisoners have with their lawyers or the Red Cross, Navy Capt. Thomas Welsh, the prison camps’ chief staff attorney testified.

. . .

The courtroom was designed specifically to thwart outside eavesdropping, and was brought in specially by barge several years ago for the 9/11 trial. It has 32 microphones arrayed inside capable of capturing eight different channels of sound, Elkins said, that are piped to a court reporter, recorders and unidentified intelligence agencies through a classified system.

Defense lawyers made clear in questioning that they were not informed in a briefing on the courthouse on the eve of the May 5, 21012, arraignment that outside intelligence agencies were listening in on the court through a special surround-sound-style feed — live and amplified, not on the public’s 40-second delay.

California bill to release the state's building codes online for free

By Cory Doctorow
Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California has introduced Assembly Bill 292, which would open source the California Code of Regulations (including the Building Codes). The summary reads:
"This bill would provide that the full text of the California Code of Regulations shall bear an open access creative commons attribution license, allowing any individual, at no cost, to use, distribute, and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes."

. . .

 The bill sponsor, Assemblyman Nestande, has a long background in public policy and IP. He was campaign manager for Sonny Bono's successful 1994 congressional campaign.

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:
. . .

SHAW: Well, yeah. Growing up, we couldn't listen to anything except for gospel in the house. My mother's a southern Pentecostal minister, so everything was like, you know, what are you all playing up there? Nothing. Turn it off. So there was a lot of that happening and so I didn't really get my start in really, like, listening on my own until I left home and got to New York and started - had my first job at the Motown Café.

MARTIN: And you did have your starving artist phase, as I understand it. That was not easy.

. . .

But - yeah. That was kind of the starting, just couch to couch for a couple of years, but never - I say struggling artist because, for some reason, I'm pretty sure it was God's will for me to be where I was because I was never hungry. I didn't have a home, but I was never outside, so it was always a couch or somebody's random floor or somewhere for me to be and always a meal to have, so - yeah. It was...

MARTIN: How does your mom feel now? You didn't tell her all that, I hope.

. . .

SHAW: My mother - she - yeah. My mom - she didn't think that singing was a career. You know, she's, like, you need to get a real job and stop all that foolishness. I'm like, ma, you just don't - you don't know what I feel. You don't know. You don't see what I see. She's - uh-huh. So, finally, when I got here and got my first job singing at the Motown Cafe, I called her and was like, ma, guess what I'm doing? She's like, what you doing now? I'm singing at Motown Cafe for a living. That's paying all your bills? I was like, yes, ma'am, it is. And she's - oh, OK. I guess - well, well - and that's about it.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Kids Teach Parents to Respect the Environment

By (ScienceDaily)
A child can directly influence the attitude and behaviour of their parents towards the environment without them even knowing it.

. . .

The study took part on the Mahé Island in the Republic of Seychelles, where there is a very strong history of environmental education. The researchers based their study around the degradation of freshwater habitats in the country's wetlands, which is being caused by litter, wetland reclamation and household wastewater.

. . .

Results showed that a child's participation in the activities not only increased their parent's knowledge of the wetlands but also their behaviour -- parents were more inclined to conserve water if their child participated in the wetland activity.

. . .

"Within this study, parents were often shown to be unaware that they were gaining environmental knowledge via their children. This finding alone highlights the need for more quantitative, experimental style investigations into the capacity of children to influence their parent's knowledge and household behaviours.

Glenn Ross gives ‘toxic tours’ of neighborhoods you’ve seen in ‘The Wire’

By Andrea Appleton
When Glenn Ross was a child, in the early 1960s, he liked to take a shortcut through a field of sunflowers on his way to school. “It was beautiful, all these yellow sunflowers,” Ross recalls. “We’d bring home the seeds and fry ‘em up with butter and salt.”

A charming memory, but for the fact that Ross grew up in an industrial section of East Baltimore and this bucolic scene bordered a steel plant. One day he was at the neighborhood playground when word went around that “men in spacesuits” were collecting the flowers. When he went to investigate, he says he saw workers in Hazmat gear harvesting the plants, having surrounded the area with caution tape. Many years later, Ross learned that sunflowers are used in phytoremediation projects to pull lead from the soil. (Trail mix, anyone?)

. . .

But residents of these communities still suffer disproportionately from a huge range of maladies, from asthma to cancer to lead poisoning (not to mention homicide). A recent city health department study found that the average resident’s life expectancy differs by as much as 20 years depending on the neighborhood they live in. In McElderry Park, it is less than 65 years.

. . .

Instead, Ross says, environmental activists should focus on topics closer to home, like how local demolition is conducted, why it’s important to plant more trees, what’s causing kids to develop asthma, and where litter goes once it’s washed down the storm drain.

Science and Health
Lower Autism Risk With Folic Acid Supplements in Pregnancy

By (ScienceDaily)
. . .

The findings only apply to a lower risk of childhood autism, the most severe form of autism. The results show no reduction in the risk of atypical or unspecific autism. The study also investigated the prevalence of Asperger syndrome, but the number of examined children was too low to give a reliable result.

. . .

In recent years, researchers have begun to investigate whether folic acid supplements may also have other beneficial effects on the development of the brain and spinal cord in the fetus. A study from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study showed that mothers who took folic acid supplements early in pregnancy halved the risk of having children with severe language delay at three years-old. A study of autism spectrum disorders from California found a lower risk of autism among children of expectant mothers who had taken multivitamin supplements containing folic acid.

PSTD vets given drugs against guidelines

By (UPI)
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are prescribed psychiatric drugs not supported by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines, researchers say.

. . .

The study, published in Psychiatric Services, found in 2009, among all veterans with PTSD who had continuous VA medication use, 65.7 percent were prescribed elective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors; second-generation anti-psychotics were prescribed for 25.6 percent of these veterans; and benzodiazepines were prescribed for 37 percent.

Connection Between Narcissism and Envy Explained

By (ScienceDaily)
Understanding the relationship between narcissism and envy may provide some insight into sudden outbursts of aggressive behavior. Narcissism has long been associated with envy in the field of psychology, but an Iowa State study provides new evidence about that connection.

. . .

"Narcissism is a more multi-faceted construct than we believe," Krizan said. "I think that's an important point, because this public image of narcissism that most people have of this grandiose, dramatic individual is only one side of the coin."

. . .

"These individuals still think they're special, entitled, and they want to be great, but they just can't do it," Krizan said. "As a result they're vulnerable, their self-esteem fluctuates a lot, they tend to be self-conscious and not very proactive, but passive, shy, and introverted."

. . .

"If you look at evidence that is often left over, in Columbine for example you had those videos, these shooting escapades seem to be a kind of power grab by these individuals," Krizan said. "The tapes are also narratives, in which they are the person taking control, they're the one in charge and they will determine how things will go."

Hackers call US government's latest cybersecurity efforts 'a train wreck'

By Amanda Holpuch
. . .

Washington insiders expect Obama's executive order to produce information sharing provisions and an outline of cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure and industries. Some of those on the hacking scene, however, are gearing up for what they see as another convoluted attempt at introducing harsh measures to control something they don't quite understand.

. . .

Sebastianowl, an anonymous member of Anonymous, said in an email that many in the hacking scene feel that there needs to be "less laws, that are clearer and more fair."

"Sentencing for any kind of computer related crimes also needs to be brought into line with reality and the bounds of justice, companies tend to inflate their estimates of damages and juries hear 'millions of dollars in damages' and rush to throw the book at someone for exploiting ridiculously lax security and changing a webpage."

. . .

The act has been updated several times since it was first introduced, but was subject to harsh criticism after open-internet advocate Aaron Swartz killed himself on January 11. Swartz was being threatened with more than 30 years in jail and up to $4m in fines for violating the act by downloading material from the JSTOR article archive.

Apple CEO Refers to Einhorn Lawsuit as "Silly Sideshow," "Bizarre"

By Tiffany Kaiser
Apple CEO Tim Cook called David Einhorn's lawsuit against the iPhone maker "a sideshow," citing the number of media and television interviews Einhorn has participated in since it was launched.

 Einhorn, an American hedge fund manager, is suing Apple over a proposed change to the company's charter that would throw out Apple's ability to issue blank check preferred stock per its judgment. More specifically, the lawsuit opposes how this charter change is packaged together with two other proposals in "Proposal 2."

 Einhorn wants Apple to open up its fat wallet of $137 billion in cash and issue prepetual preferred shares that pay dividends to existing shareholders.

American Express launches purchase-via-Twitter service

By (BBC)
American Express (Amex) has launched a purchase-by-tweet service for its US-based customers.

Credit-card holders post a specific hashtag on Twitter to trigger payments from their accounts.

Products from Amazon, Sony and Microsoft are being offered at a discount to entice shoppers to use the new service.

. . .

It has also offered savings to users who tweet promoted hashtags - such as #AmexWarby - listed on its Twitter account.

Euthanasia in Belgium: The Untold Story

By William J. Peace
Belgian twins, Eddie and Marc Verbessem, were euthanized by lethal injection at Brussels University Hospital in Jette in December. The Verbessem brothers, deaf since birth, were cobblers by trade who lived and worked together their entire lives. Several years ago they were diagnosed with a genetic form of glaucoma that would render them blind. The brothers feared dependency and believed being deaf-blind would cause them to experience “unbearable suffering.”

. . .

I am not suggesting that people at the end of their lives and those with  terminal conditions do not suffer or experience pain. However physical pain can be alleviated in most cases. Suffering is far more subjective -- what exactly qualifies as suffering? It is not uncommon for people to associate disability with pain, suffering and end-of-life issues. I contend that fear and a deeply ingrained bias against disability are primary variables in assisted suicide.

Do not be misled by those who use the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to argue assisted suicide is about free choice and self-determination (the right to life, liberty, and security of person). This line of reasoning conveniently ignores the gross lack of social supports that disability activists have fought for here and abroad. No one wants to discuss the practical options the Verbessem brothers had. I saw no discussion about how many independent skill centers are devoted to the deaf-blind. In fact, I can think of only two such centers in North America.

. . .

Keller was spot on about the importance of power. The Verbessem brothers were disempowered. When the lack of power is coupled with a country that embraces assisted suicide and seeks to legislate euthanasia the consequences can be deadly. I am concerned that the Verbesssem brothers’ euthanasia is a harbinger of the future. However, I take comfort in the fact there are deaf-blind people who will not be silent. For instance Coco Roschaert, a blind-deaf writer, wrote that what “the Deafblind community of the world can do is rise up, unite, EDUCATE the world of our abilities, FIGHT for our right to a better quality of life, CHANGE laws, society rules and our mindset about how we should live. The world needs to stop pitying us, spoon feeding us, patting us on the head and whispering behind our backs that our live is destined to be a big nothing because of dear, we can’t hear or see.”

Sea slug's 'disposable penis' surprises

By Rebecca Morelle
A sea slug that is able to detach, re-grow and then re-use its penis has surprised scientists.

. . .

They believe this is the first creature known that can repeatedly copulate with what they describe as a "disposable penis".

. . .

Almost all of these creatures, which are also known as nudibranchs, are thought to be "simultaneous hermaphrodites". This means they have both male and female sexual organs and can use them both at the same time.

. . .

Closer examination of the animals' anatomy revealed that the sea slugs had a large part of their penis coiled up in a spiral inside their bodies, which they would then use to replenish their missing part.

Wrestling to be dropped from 2020 Olympic Games

By (BBC)
Wrestling is set to be dropped from the 2020 Olympic Games to make way for a new sport.

. . .

 United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun:  "It is important to remember that today's action is a recommendation, and we hope that there will be a meaningful opportunity to discuss the important role that wrestling plays in the sports landscape both in the United States and around the world. In the meantime, we will fully support USA Wrestling and its athletes."

. . .

 It has been in every Games since, apart from Paris in 1900. At last year's Olympics, it featured 344 athletes competing in 11 medal events.

 The 2004 Olympic gold medallist, American Cael Sanderson said: "Wrestling and the Olympics go hand-in-hand. When you start taking the original sports away from the Olympics, you really change what the Olympic Games are. What are you going to do next - change the name of the Olympics?"

. . .

 Before making its decision, the IOC's programme commission assessed each sport by looking at such factors as TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping and global popularity.

'I want a world where disabled people are valid sexual partners'

By Frances Ryan
Ash King felt as if he had spent his adult life searching for some sort of sexual intimacy. Born with a severe spinal and muscular condition, sex was something he still hadn't experienced by the age of 35 and he was afraid that, with his disability making him increasingly weak, he never would. In 2010, after becoming isolated and depressed, King decided to hire a sex worker.

. . .

Becky Adams, who describes herself as a former madam, runs a not-for-profit, telephone-based service supported by TLC, and says she receives about 12 inquiries a week from disabled and vulnerable people looking for a trusted sex worker. She plans to open the first brothel designed for disabled clients in the UK next year. She says she wants to provide an environment in which people with disabilities can explore their sexuality. "That can be sex," she says, "but also having a cuddle. It could even be someone having an hour cross-dressing who wouldn't normally have the privacy to. I've been overwhelmed by the response we've had."

. . .

Mik Scarlet, a writer and campaigner in sexuality and disability, sees the use of sex workers as a potentially harmful development. "It's like the world telling you that disabled people are so unsexy that the only way they can have sex is to pay for it," he says. "If you're growing up as a disabled child or someone who's just come to disability, how does that affect how you feel about yourself? I don't want a world where it's easier for disabled people to visit sex workers, I want a world that sees disabled people as sexual and valid prospective partners."

. . .

King says he has always wanted a girlfriend. The severity of his disability means he is able to do little for himself, though, and he needs a live-in personal assistant and close contact with his parents, who live across the street from him. "I have a lack of personal privacy that would seem to be essential for [a relationship]," he says. He jokes that there's also the small matter of his body not having the shape that draws "admiring glances". "I've always tried to make light of it," he says. "I've longed to be in a relationship ever since I can remember. It felt, and still feels, impossible."

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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