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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, April 16, 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.

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This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: I'm Going Home by Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Terrence Mann)

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.

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Top News
Terror Attacks on Sporting Events, Especially Marathons, Are Surprisingly Rare

By Adam Serwer
The bloody attack on the Boston Marathon that caused over a hundred casualties Monday seemed designed to maximize media coverage and cause as much harm as possible. But despite the potential for media attention and mass casualties, attacks on sporting events are relatively rare compared to attacks on other sorts of targets, says Bill Braniff, who runs the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.

The Olympics and the World Cup have occasionally been targets for terrorists because of their prominence on the international stage. But attacks on marathons are even less common than attacks on sporting events in general. According to START, counting Monday's attack in Boston there have been seven terrorist attacks on marathons. Only one was more lethal than the Boston bombing. Here's a summary:

. . .

Terrorists might be reluctant to strike at sporting events because "there is so little perception that the people watching a sporting event are responsible for any grievance," Braniff says. "A backlash is very likely because people will see this for what it is, which is an indiscriminate attack on innocent civilians," he adds. "It's very hard to come up with an argument that the people running this marathon are legitimate targets, even for an international terrorist organization." That's not always the case—extremist Islamist groups in Somalia have targeted sports fans and events in part because they see identifying with sports teams as a threat to the strict religious identities they are trying to force on others.

‘Messy’ U.S. climate policy is kinda working

By Tim McDonnell
. . .

Yesterday the Climate Policy Initiative released a sweeping overview [PDF] of climate change policies across the globe. It paints a picture of the U.S. that climate hawks might find distressingly, if familiarly, chaotic: A tangle of federal subsidies, differing state-level clean energy mandates, and a host of natural resources, from wind to coal to natural gas, scrambling for political favor.

. . .

The surprising thing, Nelson said, is that while the U.S.’s approach to dealing with climate change lacks the focus of, say, the E.U.’s carbon trading market, it must be doing something right: Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 13 percent in the last seven years, and yesterday the EPA announced that greenhouse gas emissions fell 1.6 percent from 2010 to 2011.

New data released yesterday by the federal Energy Information Administration indicates that CO2 emissions could soon start climbing. But they are projected to rise much more slowly than in recent decades — and to stay below their 2007 peak — because of new policies that encourage increased vehicle efficiency, promote renewable energy, and clear the way for the extraction of more low-emissions natural gas through fracking:

. . .

Still, Nelson said, the U.S. could see greater improvements if it adopted a national carbon pricing scheme like the ones recently proposed in Congress, and streamlined coordination between state and federal governments. By way of example, he pointed to a deforestation policy in Brazil (where protecting rainforests is a critical area of climate change mitigation) that stalled because local officials weren’t equipped to enforce it, then sprung into action once the federal government provided adequate resources.

Wolf numbers down after U.S. federal species protections removed

By (UPI)
Gray wolf numbers in the northern Rocky Mountains declined about 7 percent last year, the first drop since wolves were reintroduced in 1995, officials said.

The decrease follows the removal of federal endangered species protections and the approval of wolf hunts in several Western states, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

. . .

Wildlife advocates argue removing the wolves from protected status was premature and have criticized the hunts, but the wildlife service said the region's wolf population "is fully recovered."

"The wolf population may be stabilizing at some yet undetermined lower equilibrium," a report by the service said, adding if wolf numbers fall below a certain level the listing of gray wolves could be re-evaluated.

Caste discrimination: Campaigners vow to fight for legislation

By Dil Neiyyar
. . .

Hundreds protested outside Parliament on Tuesday afternoon as the House of Commons debated the issue.

They said legislation was badly needed as thousands suffer abuse and prejudice because they are considered low caste.

. . .

MPs voted against adding caste discrimination to the Equality Act by 307 to 243, a majority 64.

. . .

"Caste discrimination has been going on for decades (in Britain). What we have found is that it has actually increased over the last decade or so because of social media and people have gone back to their previous caste identities."

In the House of Commons the government acknowledged the existence of caste discrimination in Britain. But it said it does not think legislation will help to stamp it out.

International
Venezuela tumbles into bitter election aftermath

By Girish Gupta
Violence broke out Monday in various parts of this South American country following the tightest presidential election in its recent history, with state media reporting seven people killed in the clashes.

It came the day after Sunday's election results showed acting President Nicolas Maduro defeating challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski by barely more than a percentage point.

. . .

This all is hitting Venezuela at a very difficult juncture. Despite being long expected, Chavez’s death last month from cancer at 58 — ending a 14-year rule — came as a shock to a nation that was so used to him; used to his theatrics, his fiery zeal, his ubiquity. The hope for his leftist "Chavismo" movement to endure has rested with 50-year-old Maduro, though commentators say the interim president's un-Chavez-like lack of charisma was underestimated by officials and perhaps Chavez himself.

. . .

Maduro has said he's open to a recount, and the electoral council has signaled it could happen, although this is unlikely to change the result. Rights groups and critics have long accused the country’s electoral council of a bias toward the Chavistas, with four of its five members openly partisan, according to critics.

Pakistan bombings kill 20 across the country

By Alexander Besant
Pakistan saw 20 people dead Tuesday and dozens wounded after bombs rocked different areas of the country.

The bombings came ahead of national elections on May 11, the first transition of power from a civilian government to another after completing a full term.

. . .

The ANP has been a favorite target of the militant group, as it is perceived as secular.

Top general pushing to keep US troops in Afghanistan

By David Trifunov
. . .

Speaking to a senate committee hearing for the first time since taking over in February, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said Afghans are leery of losing international support.

“Many Afghans have told me they no longer fear the Taliban as much as they fear what will happen after 2014,” Dunford said, according to The Washington Post.

. . .

Lawmakers have been pressing US commanders to release recommendations for how many troops should remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when President Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw most US forces, Reuters reported.

Bangladesh simmers as Islamic conservatives and progressives clash

By Jason Burke
. . .

Protests and clashes in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country have diminished in recent weeks but with about 100 dead and thousands injured, tensions remain high. A series of "shutdowns" have been enforced by political groups, more are threatened and many fear violence will flare again.

The battle pits religious conservatives against more moderate, progressive voices in a fight to determine the future direction of the country – the world's eighth most populous – 40 years after it won independence from Pakistan in a brutal war.

The most recent development is the emergence of a radical conservative Muslim party, Hefazat-e-Islam, as the standard bearer of the religious right. Earlier this month, at a huge rally in Dhaka attended by more than 100,000 according to police, the party issued 13 demands. They included the introduction of measures to stop "alien culture" making inroads in Bangladesh, the reinstatement of the line "absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah" in the nation's constitution, which is largely secular, and a ban on new statues in public places.

. . .

There are fears that the pressure from the conservatives is having an effect. Shortly after officials said their demands would be considered last week, police detained four bloggers who are seen as sympathetic to the Shahbag movement and critical of Islamists on charges of "hurting religious sentiment".

Coca-Cola profits lose fizz in Europe

By (BBC)
Profits at soft drink giant Coca-Cola have fallen by 15% on the back of sagging sales in the US and recession-hit Europe.

. . .

Coca-Cola, whose brands include Sprite, Fanta and Minute Maid, also announced a deal to divest itself of some of its distribution operations, a strategy it has been trying to pursue for some time.

Coke is keen to return to a model in which it sells a syrup to independent bottlers, who then package and distribute it.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
IRS ‘falling short’ in tax fraud battle

By (UPI)
Senators on Tuesday took to task the Internal Revenue Service for a litany of problems in addressing taxpayer identity theft, saying the agency is “falling woefully short” in curbing the estimated $5 billion problem.

. . .

IRS representatives blamed part of the problem on sequestration. Nina Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate for the IRS, argued that the recent budget cuts have impaired the IRS’s ability to serve taxpayers and catch fraud.

The IRS saw more than $600 million in reductions, “which the IRS is struggling to absorb,” Olson said at the hearing.

. . .

The proposed Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2013 would compel the IRS to act more quickly and limit access to death records and social security numbers.

Yet Another Media Blackout

By Kevin Drum
Yesterday I linked to Jonathan Cohn's "The Hell of American Day Care," whose title pretty much speaks for itself. However, I didn't mention the framing device for his piece: a young mother named Kenya Mire, who was desperate to find day care for her daughter Kendyll and eventually put her in the hands of a woman named Jessica Tata. It turned out that Tata had a history of negligence, and one day left the children at her day care center alone while she went shopping. A pan of oil on a hot stove caught fire while she was gone, and the resulting blaze killed Kendyll and three other toddlers. It's a horrific story about the death of four small children and a neligent bureaucracy that allowed it to happen.
Today, Dylan Matthews interviewed Cohn about his story:

DM: How did you hear about the Tata case? How did you find Kenya Mire?

JC: . . . I was actually surprised the Houston story got so little national coverage. The local television stations were all over it. Two reporters from the Houston Chronicle did a terrific reconstruction of the day. But almost nobody outside of Texas seemed to notice.

As I learned later, the lack of national coverage was typical.

Very typical, I imagine. There was no partisan axe to grind, so nobody at the national level ever wrote a column about how the mainstream media was ignoring this grisly and obviously important case. . .
Bombs frequent in U.S.; 172 ‘IED’ incidents in last 6 months, by 1 count

By Matthew Schofield and Erika Bolstad
. . .

In fact, in the last six months, there have been 172 IEDs reported in the United States, according to a government count that an official revealed Tuesday in answer to questions about U.S. preparedness. The official shared the figures, which were gathered before Monday’s explosion, only on the condition that neither the official nor the official’s office be identified.

. . .

But the information also notes that American officials have long understood the threat, and includes a warning that’s been distributed to other agencies: “Expect IED attacks by Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) and individuals to continue throughout the United States. High profile events will present additional targets for HVEs and other individuals.”

. . .

Officials say that with the growth of Internet instruction videos on bomb making, little stands between someone wanting to make a low-grade weapon and being able to do so.

70 percent of U.S. employers to keep health insurance

By (UPI)
Almost 70 percent of U.S. employers say they will continue to provide employer-sponsored healthcare when health exchanges begin in 2014, a survey indicates.

. . .

Estimates of cost increases directly associated with the Affordable Care Act increased from 2012 to 2013. Employers with 50 or fewer employees report the largest anticipated cost increase, but larger employers are the least likely to see significant cost increases.

With implementation of the Affordable Care Act only months away, 90 percent of employers moved beyond a "wait and see" attitude and more than half say they are developing tactics to deal with the implications of reform.

Congressional Research Service says states can legalize cannabis

By Mark Frauenfelder
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is part of the Library of Congress, and it provides "policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation." This month the CRS issued a report that says Colorado and Washington (where cannabis is legal, according to state laws) can't be coerced to enforcing federal cannabis laws. "While the federal government can ban what it wants," reports Reason, "the Tenth Amendment allows the states to opt out of participating in the law or assisting in enforcement in any way, leaving federal officials to do the heavy lifting themselves."
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:
It's Wednesday lunchtime at the Groucho Club in Soho and I'm determined to buy Richard O'Brien a drink. He won't have it.

. . .

"I'm at peace with myself," he says. "I like being in the middle of the sexes and I'm very happy there. I can go out in a frock or whatever and nobody ever says anything. I'm completely and totally free to be myself without any fear of rejection."

. . .

I ask him whether there is any room for reinvention with each new production. He has a straightforward answer to this. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We've got the same dialogue, the same characters, the same locations, so it's kind of written in stone. And I think probably, from the actor's point of view, that's the challenge isn't it? Because our original Frank-N-Furter, Tim Curry, was definitive. We had one actor twenty or thirty years ago who said to me: 'I hope you know, Richard, I'm stealing everything off Tim Curry'. And I thought that was an honest way to approach it."

Perhaps this consistency is the key to the show's longevity. Richard thinks it's more to do with the fairytale essence of the piece. "That's its charm, that's the reason it has a life. Rocky falls into this tradition: children's fairy tales, Greek myths and legends, the Bible and other documents of faith. I'm a Darwinist, so I have no problems saying that the story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden is a parable. Rocky is like that. Brad and Janet are Adam and Eve. The serpent is Frank-N-Furter."

This is a particularly interesting analogy given that by the end of the show, after Frank sings the sentimental number "I'm Going Home", we invariably feel sorry for him. "Sympathy for the devil? Yes, exactly. And you should do so. A tyrant doesn't think of himself as a tyrant."

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
A Smarter Algorithm Could Cut Energy Use in Data Centers by 35 Percent

By David Talbot
New research suggests that data centers could significantly cut their electricity usage simply by storing fewer copies of files, especially videos.

For now the work is theoretical, but over the next year, researchers at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs and MIT plan to test the idea, with an eye to eventually commercializing the technology. It could be implemented as software within existing facilities. “This approach is a very promising way to improve the efficiency of data centers,” says Emina Soljanin, a researcher at Bell Labs who participated in the work. “It is not a panacea, but it is significant, and there is no particular reason that it couldn’t be commercialized fairly quickly.”

. . .

The new technology, called network coding, cuts way back on the redundancy without sacrificing the smooth experience. Algorithms transform the data that makes up a video into a series of mathematical functions that can, if needed, be solved not just for that piece of the video, but also for different parts. This provides a form of backup that doesn’t rely on keeping complete copies of the data. Software at the data center could simply encode the data as it is stored and decode it as consumers request it.

Threatened iconic deer in Chile on the way back to recovery

By (UPI)
. . .

Huemul deer, a national symbol for Chile that appears on the country's coat of arms, are returning to areas of their natural Patagonian habitats from which they had completely disappeared, researchers from Britain's University of Cambridge reported Tuesday.

. . .

But the new conservation effort in the last decade has seen the Huemul population in the national park not only stabilize but begin to increase, conservationists said.

Deer have been returning from the hostile mountain areas where they had sought refuge to the sea-level valleys where they naturally thrive, they said.

China should have a say in future of Arctic – Iceland president

By Suzanne Goldenberg
Iceland's president has called for an expanded role for China and other Asian countries in the future of the Arctic, arguing that the rapid melting of the summer sea ice was having effects far beyond the region.

. . .

"It is a wrong scenario to think that this will only be of concern to those people living in the Arctic. It will be a concern to every nation," Grimsson said in an interview. "There is no country that will escape the consequences, either through rising sea levels or extreme weather patterns."

With that in mind, Grimsson argued that oil companies and countries as far away as China, India, Singapore and South Korea should have a voice in the future of the region. At present, only the eight countries of the Arctic Council have a say in setting policy in the region. "We realise that there are other nations in Asia and Europe that have legitimate concerns and enterprises in the Arctic and it's important to involve them in a co-operative effort," Grimsson said.

. . .

Decisions on the development and the environment of the region are now the preserve of the eight countries involved in the Arctic Council: America, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden in addition to Iceland.

Japanese Bank Pours $2B USD Into America's First Offshore Wind Farm

By Jason Mick
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.'s (TYO:8306) Bank of Tokyo has offered up $2B USD in funding to the ambitious effort to build America's first offshore wind farm.  The commitment by the Bank of Tokyo to act as the Coordinating Lead Arranger (primary lender) removes the final hurdle from the Cape Wind project, according to its developers.

. . .

 Governor Romney public opposed the project, alluding that he might use his power to veto any approvals.  He insisted that the market tampering was necessary to "protect" residents.

. . .

 Similar fights were occurring elsewhere across the country.  After years of lobbying for alternative energy, environmentalists turned to fighting the projects they begged for, and local politicians were more than happy to help.  Such a marriage of protests and bureaucratic red tape led to regulators to refuse to connect what would have been the nation's largest interior wind farm to the grid.  Oil mogul T. Boone Pickens -- after pledging billions was left to throw up his hands as he watched it die.

. . .

 One of Mr. Gordon's most effective tools has been a series of computer renderings he sponsored which showed residents in digital renderings just how hard it would be to even see the turbines from the shore or from boats in shallow waters.

Science and Health
'Survival of the Fittest' Now Applies to Computers: Surprising Similarities Found Between Genetic and Computer Codes

By (ScienceDaily)
"Survival of the fittest" originally referred to natural selection in biological systems, but new research from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University scientists shows that this evolutionary theory also applies to technological systems.

. . .

Using data from the massive sequencing of bacterial genomes, now a part of the Department of Energy's Systems Biology Knowledgebase (KBase), the researchers examined the frequency of occurrence of genes in genomes of 500 bacterial species and found a surprising similarity with the frequency of installation of 200,000 Linux packages on more than 2 million individual computers. Linux is an open source software collaboration that allows designers to modify source code to create programs for public use.

. . .

"Bacteria are the ultimate BitTorrents of biology," he said, referring to a popular file-sharing protocol. "They have this enormous common pool of genes that they are freely sharing with each other. Bacterial systems can easily add or remove genes from their genomes through what's called horizontal gene transfer, a kind of file sharing between bacteria," Maslov said.

Parkinson's sufferers 'face regular discrimination'

By (BBC)
Nearly half of those with Parkinson's face regular discrimination, such as having their symptoms mistaken for drunkenness, a survey suggests.

. . .

Parkinson's sufferer Mark Worsfold was arrested during last year's Olympics because police thought he looked suspicious.

. . .

The main symptoms of Parkinson's are tremors or shaking that cannot be controlled, and rigidity of the muscles, which can make movement difficult and painful.

. . .

The survey found that one in five people living with Parkinson's had been mistaken for being drunk, while one in 10 had been verbally abused or experienced hostility in public because of their condition.

Human genome: US Supreme Court hears patents case

By (BBC)
The US Supreme Court has heard arguments questioning whether the human genome can be claimed as intellectual property.

. . .

Currently, researchers and private companies work to isolate genes in order to use them in tests for gene-related illnesses, and in emerging gene therapies.

. . .

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the Public Patent Foundation, relates to seven patents on two human genes held by US firm Myriad Genetics.

Technology
Plasma Device Could Revolutionize Energy Generation and Storage

By (ScienceDaily)
University of Missouri engineer Randy Curry and his team have developed a method of creating and controlling plasma that could revolutionize American energy generation and storage. Besides liquid, gas and solid, matter has a fourth state, known as plasma. Fire and lightning are familiar forms of plasma. Life on Earth depends on the energy emitted by plasma produced during fusion reactions within the sun.

. . .

Curry's device launches a ring of plasma as far as two feet. The plasma doesn't emit radiation, and it is completely safe for humans to be in the same room with it, although the plasma reaches a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun. The secret to Curry's success was developing a way to make the plasma form its own self-magnetic field, which holds it together while it travels through the air.

. . .

Curry warns that without federal funding of basic research, America will lose the race to develop new plasma energy technologies. The basic research program was originally funded by the Office of Naval Research, but continued research has been funded by MU.

Watch a Face Morph Eerily With Nothing But Lighting Shifts

By Michael Hession
. . .

Video director and designer Nacho Guzman created this teaser for an upcoming music video. Careful, it is hypnotizing. A single female face sits stationary in the frame while the light source circles around her over and over. The effect is that the subject's countenance seems to shape-shift in front of your eyes.

 photo lighting-face_zps8c2bcc79.gif

Aside from looking sweet, this video is a great reminder for camera-wielders everywhere to pay close attention to lighting. It could mean the difference between your subject looking like an angel or a zombie.

Why This Simple Government Website Was Named the Best Design of the Year

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
When was the last time you tried to find a government form on the Internet? For me, it was a few months back, trying to track down an absentee ballot. And while I love American flag GIFs as much as the next patriot, I was amazed at the labyrinth of independent sites I had to visit before I found what I was looking for. Bringing the web presence of an entire government under one roof is a Sisyphean task, and the UK is one of the only countries that's managed to do it, with Gov.uk, a one-stop-web-shop that launched earlier this year.

Today, at a ceremony in London, the site was named the 2013 Best Design of the Year by the Design Museum, beating out 99 shortlisted buildings, inventions, and cars for the honor. It's the first website to ever win the six-year-old title, too—which illustrates just how remarkable the achievement really is.

. . .

Why does a straightforward, cut-and-dry website deserve the award? Because of that straightforwardness, actually. "There were thousands of websites, and we folded them into Gov.uk to make just one," says Ben Terrett, head of design at the UK's Government Digital Service, in a Dezeen-produced video. "Booking a prison stay should be as easy as booking a driver's license test."

Report: Windows 8.1 Will Allow You to Bypass Metro, Restores Start Button

By Jason Mick
The upcoming Windows 8.1 (code-named "Windows Blue") is rumored to be preparing to win back critics of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Metro user interface by reportedly allowing them to skip Metro and boot directly to desktop.

 The new option was first spotted as a registry entry dubbed "CanSuppressStartScreen" in a leaked build.  That build lacked a UI element to enable the user to trivially disable Metro, but reportedly such an option will be added to the control panel.

. . .

The struggles have triggered a leadership change, with the departure of Windows President Steven Sinofsky.  They also prompted Microsoft to switch to a shorter cycle of OS releases, similar to Apple.  The first result of that shift will be seen in Windows 8.1's release this fall.

Med Express uses broken Ohio law to silence critics who say true things

By Cory Doctorow
Are you a lawyer in Ohio? If so, your pro-bono services are urgently needed to defeat a trollish, bullying legal action from Med Express, a company that sells refurb medical equipment on eBay. The company is suing one of its customers for providing accurate, negative feedback on eBay's comment system, trying to establish a precedent that saying true things on the Internet should be illegal if it harms your business. They're relying on the fact that Ohio has no anti-SLAPP laws -- laws designed to protect people against the use of litigation threats to extort silence from critics -- and have admitted that, while they have no case, they believe that they can use the expense of dragging their victims into an Ohio court to win anyway.
Cultural
Open data platforms: a tool to revolutionise governance

By Jay Naidoo
Having returned from speaking at a conference hosted by the World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on the issue of constituency feedback, I have re-learnt an important lesson: that citizens always know better than the government or the market what works for them. So why don't state officials and policymakers take us, the citizens, into their confidence? Can we begin to see citizens as the greatest ally for good governance? And if so, how do we pursue a partnership between government and citizens?

Part of the answer lies in open data. According to the latest open budget index survey, South Africa ranks second out of 100 countries for the transparency and accountability of its budget processes. Statistics SA has the most comprehensive data sets in Africa. Imagine if we could take the education budget at R230bn (£16.6bn) for 2013/2014 and break that down into the budget per school. Parents, students, teachers would be empowered to demand to see the accounts of expenditure. If salaries have been set aside for 20 teachers but only 15 are actually there, then the school governing board and community would be the government's biggest allies in rooting out corruption. If textbooks are not delivered, toilets not built when money is set aside, then immediate feedback can be given to the authorities. We would be decentralising governance and ensuring that parents have the tools to demand action in the constitutional right of their children to quality education.

. . .

The transformative power of mobile technology in Kenya is well known. It is estimated that over 30% of the Kenyan GDP is circulating on the back of mobile platforms like M-pesa, putting effective financial services into the hands of the previously unbanked. Over 17 million customers can deposit, withdraw and transfer money, pay bills, buy airtime from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets.

. . .

There are lessons also to be learnt from the west. The New York City mayor's office, using the platform allourideas.org, created an ideas marketplace, PlaNYC, with 25 ideas (eg: open schoolyards across the city – to know how public wanted the city to look and feel by 2030. New Yorkers responded by casting about 25,000 votes and uploading more than 400 new ideas. Critically, eight of the top 10 ideas came from citizens. In other words, some of these ideas represented either completely novel ideas or new ways of framing existing ideas.

Mexico's vigilante law enforcers

By Linda Pressly
Insecurity dominates the lives of millions of Mexicans. Caught between the murderous drug cartels and absent or corrupt law enforcement, communities are taking the law into their own hands. In the state of Guerrero, a fledgling vigilante force has grown into an organisation numbering thousands.

. . .

Since they became a force to be reckoned with earlier this year, this is just one of dozens of arrests made by untrained, armed civilians from Ayutla and its surrounding pueblos. But they have no legal authority, and they should not be carrying their guns in the street.

. . .

In January, when the third of their commanders in as many months was bundled into a vehicle by an armed gang, hundreds of men, and some women, joined the self-defence force. They swooped and detained more than 50 people they claimed were guilty of serious crime.

. . .

But in this scary scenario, who were the bad guys? It is an illustration of what can happen when organised crime, an armed population and a power vacuum conspire to create an altogether toxic mix.

And there are allegations of torture against the self-defence force too. Rafael Mendoza Ventura is a lawyer representing some of those who were detained by the vigilantes in January, and who are now in the custody of the state while they are being investigated.

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