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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, July 2, 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: Fair Exchange by Be-Bop Deluxe

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
Energy companies say releasing CO2 data would jeopardize trade secrets

By John Upton
Energy and chemical companies are urging the Obama administration to dump a proposal on greenhouse gas emissions reporting. They say new reporting requirements could put their trade secrets at risk. From The Hill:
The White House is currently reviewing a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that could require companies to publicly release the information they use to calculate the emissions, like the volume of production or raw materials that are used.

Companies and market regulators worry that that data can be “reverse-engineered and reverse-calculated to basically give away trade secrets,” according to Lorraine Gershman, director of the environmental, regulatory and technical affairs office of the American Chemistry Council.

. . .

The energy industry uses the “trade secrets” cry a lot. Frackers use it to prevent the public from knowing which chemicals they’re pumping underground, for example. And ExxonMobil has been using it to argue that it should be allowed keep secret its inspection reports on the tar-sands oil pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., earlier this year.
Pentagon civilian workers in Germany get raises while those in U.S. get cuts

By Renee Schoof
American civilian employees of the Defense Department have put up with pay freezes and are going on furloughs starting next week, but German civilian workers at U.S. military bases in Germany are getting a pay increase.

 Some U.S. lawmakers say it’s unfair that the German union ver.di, which represents about 2 million workers, successfully negotiated a pay increase in June. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., complained about the raise for German workers in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel dated Monday and released by her office Tuesday. She asked him to suspend it.

. . .

Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Hagel that the pay raise in Germany takes place while about 650,000 American Department of Defense civilian employees in the U.S. and abroad are being furloughed. The furloughs begin next week, mostly one day per week, and continue through the end of the fiscal year in September.

. . .

The German union said a pay increase was due because there hadn’t been raises since 2010. According to news reports in Germany, ver.di was particularly interested in raises at the base in Bamberg because it said the base would close soon and unemployment would be determined by pay at that time.

Afghan army chief: 'Pakistan controls Taliban'

By (BBC)
Fighting in Afghanistan could be stopped "in weeks" if Pakistan told the Taliban to end the insurgency, the head of the Afghan army has told the BBC.

Gen Sher Mohammad Karimi said Pakistan controlled and gave shelter to Taliban leaders, deliberately unleashing fighters on Afghanistan.

. . .

But Pakistan consistently denies wielding influence over the Taliban, saying many militants have based themselves across the border in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, from where they are known to have carried out attacks in north-western Pakistan.

. . .

US and Afghan leaders want the Taliban to join the Afghan government as a result of the peace process.

They say peace talks will succeed when the Taliban finally sever all ties with al-Qaeda, end violence and accept the Afghan constitution, including its protections for women and minorities.

Judge says yoga does not promote Hinduism in California schools

By Amanda Holpuch and agencies
A judge has refused to block yoga from being taught in a California school district, dismissing a claim by a small group of parents who want to end the classes because they think yoga promotes Hinduism.

. . .

"A reasonable student would not objectively perceive that Encinitas School District yoga does advance or promote religion," said Meyer, in a ruling on Monday. The curriculum uses "kid-friendly" terms including "gorilla", "turtle" and "peacock" to describe poses instead of the traditional names.

Of the school district's 5,000 students, between 40 and 45 were taken out of the classes by their parents. The case petitioners are backed by the National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP), a Christian civil liberties group that released a four-page document (pdf) listing reasons why it thought the district was promoting a religious form of the activity.

. . .

The NCLP's yoga expert, Candy Gunther Brown, who is a professor of religious studies, testified that yoga indoctrinates Hindu religious practices whether the individual knows it or not. She also cited research that suggests yoga changes people's thoughts, but the judge said: "Dr Brown has an obvious bias and can almost be called being on a mission against yoga."

Health tourism: Foreigners face charge to access NHS

By (BBC)
Non-EU nationals who come to the UK for more than six months could be charged at least £200 a year to access NHS treatment, it will be announced later.

. . .

Some doctors have claimed the move would turn surgeries into border posts.

. . .

Foreigners were entitled to various treatments, including emergency care and treatment for diseases like HIV and TB, he said.

. . .

The Department of Health says the cost of treating foreigners is at least £30m a year for the NHS in England alone.

Pirate trial reveals brutality on high seas

By Tara McKelvey
Three Somalis are on trial for piracy in Norfolk, Virginia, the home of the US Navy's Atlantic fleet.

. . .

If found guilty of piracy, Beyle and the other Somalis could be sentenced to death, under piracy laws introduced in 1819. Murder is also a capital offence in Virginia.

. . .

The defendants shot all four of the Americans to death, the prosecution claims, and their bodies were riddled with bullets. The defendants deny they fired the shots.

. . .

The decline in Somali piracy is attributed to trials such as the one in Norfolk, as well as to ramped-up international efforts in the region. Navies patrol the Indian Ocean, for example, and armed guards watch over ships.

Portugal PM vows to stay despite resignations

By (Al Jazeera)
Portugal's prime minister says he "won't resign" despite the resignations of two key members of his Cabinet in a spat over country's controversial austerity policies.

. . .

Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar, the architect of the country's reforms under its EU-IMF bailout, quit a day earlier, complaining he lacked political support for his austerity programmes.

Though Portas did not say whether his party would pull its support from the government, the resignations pitched what for two years had been a stable administration into disarray within the space of 24 hours.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
It's Pretty Unlikely That American Companies Pay Their CEOs on Expected Performance

By Kevin Drum
Matt Yglesias thinks it's hopeless to argue about whether American CEOs are overpaid:
Take CBS, which I write about in the column. They had almost $15 billion in revenue in 2011. So the value to the company of a CEO who can boost revenue 1 percent higher than a replacement-level CEO would to the company is about $150 million. So if you have a 50 percent confidence level that CEO Leslie Moonves is 1 percent better for the company than a replacement-level CEO, then you'd be justified in paying him as much as $75 million a year—making him "underpaid" with 2012 compensation of around $60 million.
As a practical matter, I agree. There are certain metrics that suggest CEOs are overpaid, and there are others that suggest they're just earning fair market value. We liberals can point to gigantic yachts and gold-plated toilet seats as ways of swaying public opinion on this subject, but we'll never win on empirical grounds.

. . .

Now ask yourself another question: how many Fortune 5000 CEOs are actually paid this way? Answer: not many. This suggests pretty strongly that neither companies nor CEOs are truly confident in their ability to do better than the 2nd best guy out there. And that in turn suggests that fat CEO pay packages are based on something else entirely.

BP compensation fund for Gulf oil spill victims at risk of running out

By Dominic Rushe
BP could soon run out of cash in the compensation fund set up for victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, unless it is successful in a legal challenge that will be heard in court next week.

The company has been fighting the compensation formula drawn up to pay businesses and individuals harmed by the 2010 spill, ahead of a court hearing in New Orleans on July 8.

. . .

BP is currently embroiled in a two-part court case in New Orleans with the US government that aims to settle the extent of its liabilities for the deadly disaster. The first phase, to establish whether or not the company was grossly negligent or not, has ended. Judge Carl Barbier will begin hearing phase two in September and will determine how much oil was spilt in the disaster. The extent of BP's negligence and the amount of oil spilt will determine the eventual fine.

US mother wins lawsuit over poppy seed bagel

By (BBC)
A US woman whose newborn was taken from her because she failed a hospital drug test after eating a poppy seed bagel has won a settlement, says her lawyer.

. . .

The lawsuit argued that the opiate test in question had a far lower threshold than federal guidelines.

. . .

Child welfare officials arrived the day after the family returned from hospital with an emergency protective custody order and took Isabella.

She was later returned after the agency could find no evidence Ms Mort had used illegal drugs.

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:
An often overlooked masterwork in the United States, Be-Bop Deluxe’s melodic and sinuous Sunburst Finish from 1976 is the highpoint of this revolving-door British group’s 1972 to 1978 creative burst of a career, a showcase really for guitar virtuoso Bill Nelson. From his joyously soaring solos to delectably sublime accompaniment, his transcendent skills can transport the listener with an enthralling force.

The one-two counterpunch of the opening tracks set the all-embracing tone for this cohesive, wide-ranging album. The infectiously playful and punchy “Fair Exchange” may evoke Mott the Hoople and T. Tex, and the bridge of Robin Trower-like sighs and yearning that interlace throughout the heart-tugging “Heavenly Homes” practically ache with longing, but there’s nothing really derivative about this striking album in its special alchemy of glam, pop, progressive-rock, and metal.

Nelson, who also wrote all the songs and is the lead singer, is not as strong with lyrics and vocals as he is with guitar and other instruments (when is the last time you’ve seen anyone since Mike Oldfield credited with playing tubular bells?). But he doesn’t take himself too seriously when it comes to lyrical expression, and whatever tendencies he has toward spouting any prog-rock cosmic debris over the occasional complex arrangement is undercut with a sense of humor, or with a poignancy that befits and indeed enhances the tenor or meaning of the song.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Wildfire Season So Far: Tragic, Destructive And Below Average

By Howard Berkes
It may seem like wildfire Armageddon out there, given the tragic deaths of 24 wildland firefighters this year, more than 800 homes and businesses burned to the ground, nearly 1.6 million acres scorched and over 23,000 blazes requiring suppression.

But as dramatic as it's been, the 2013 wildfire season has yet to kick into high gear.

. . .

Credit a wet spring in the Southeast for stemming the usual outbreak of big blazes there. And in the opposite corner of the country, in the Northwest, "they've had cooler and wetter weather coming into the summer months," says Ed Delgado, a fire weather forecaster for the federal Bureau of Land Management.

How suburban sprawl makes wildfires more deadly

By Claire Thompson
. . .

Think of the subdivisions wiped out by Colorado’s Waldo Canyon fire last year, or of the canyon outside Santa Barbara, Calif., where Grist writer Susie Cagle’s family home once burned to the ground. Wildfires in and of themselves are a natural and essential part of forest ecology, but more people living close to flammable wilderness means more people carelessly tossing smoldering cigarette butts or doing a shoddy job of putting out their campfires. From 2001 to 2011, an estimated 85 percent of wildfires in the U.S. were caused by people. And wooden houses, not to mention the aesthetically pleasing but non-native landscaping that often surrounds them, provide extra fuel for fires once they do start.

Ironically, the poor land-use planning that puts spread-out neighborhoods of sprawling homes right up next to fire-prone forests, exacerbating the potential for fire damage, is the same poor land-use planning that traps Americans in the kind of energy-intensive lifestyle that exacerbates climate change. For the most part, these WUI communities tend to represent the opposite of the kind of sustainable design we must strive for to reduce carbon emissions. They’re not dense or walkable or served well by public transit; they’re overwhelmingly residential, meaning you have to get in your car and drive just to get a roll of toilet paper or a quart of milk. And think of the energy cost of air-conditioning a five-bedroom house. Simply put, exurban development patterns worsen climate change, and they also make residents more vulnerable to one of climate change’s myriad indirect effects.

. . .

But the question remains: Should we be building in such areas at all anymore (especially if living there necessitates a carbon-intensive lifestyle)?

Science and Health
Test Can Accurately and Swiftly Detect Most Leading Causes of Bacterial Blood Stream Infections

By (ScienceDaily)
A new automated diagnostic test can quickly and accurately identify most leading causes of Gram-positive bacterial blood stream infections and the presence of three antibiotic resistance genes, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine. The findings from the study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Nathan Ledeboer from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), USA, suggest that the new technology could lead to faster diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from sepsis.

Severe sepsis is a life-threatening condition that is usually triggered by a bacterial infection of the bloodstream. In the most severe cases of sepsis multiple organs can fail and in the US alone sepsis causes up to 250,000 deaths a year. The outcome of sepsis is affected by many factors, but fast, accurate identification of the bacterial infection and determination of its antibiotic susceptibility is essential to ensure that patients receive appropriate antibiotics. In the study published this week the researchers evaluated a new test, called Verigene BC-GP, that has been designed to simultaneously detect the DNA of 12 species of Gram-positive bacteria, which are the most common cause of bacterial bloodstream infections, and three antibiotic resistance genes in cultures grown from patient blood samples.

. . .

The faster diagnosis should improve the care of patients with sepsis by allowing physicians to prescribe appropriate antibiotics much earlier than is currently possible.

Why Do We Gesticulate?

By (ScienceDaily)
If you rely on hand gestures to get your point across, you can thank fish for that! Scientists have found that the evolution of the control of speech and hand movements can be traced back to the same place in the brain, which could explain why we use hand gestures when we are speaking.

. . .

Studies of early development in fishes show that neural networks in the brain controlling the more complex vocal and pectoral mechanisms of social signalling among birds and mammals have their ancestral origins in a single compartment of the hindbrain in fishes. This begins to explain the ancestral origins of the neural basis for the close coupling between vocal and pectoral/gestural signalling that is observed among many vertebrate groups, including humans.

Professor Bass said: "Coupling of vocal and pectoral-gestural circuitry starts to get at the evolutionary origins of the coupling between vocalization (speech) and gestural signalling (hand movements). This is all part of the perhaps even larger story of language evolution."

“Undocumented Doctors” and the Health of the Dreamers

By Nancy Berlinger and Michael K. Gusmano
Loyola University Chicago Stitch School of Medicine’s recent announcement that it would accept applications from Dreamers – young undocumented immigrants eligible for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status – is an innovative and welcome response to the promise implicit in DACA. . .

Once they enroll in medical school, future “undocumented doctors” will be eligible to buy health insurance through Loyola, which requires all students to do so if they are not already insured, with the premium cost being part of the calculation used to determine aid packages.  However, Dreamers currently face the same barriers to access to health care and health insurance as do other undocumented immigrants. The Obama Administration’s announcement of the DACA program in June 2012 was followed, two months later, by the clarification that DACA beneficiaries would not be eligible for “public benefits,” including the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, and the insurance provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  It is difficult to reconcile the idea that young undocumented immigrants should be encouraged to be stakeholders in American society, through work, education, or military service, with the idea that they should be left out of the reform of the American health care system, including ACA initiatives that aim to promote insurance coverage among young adults  and among Hispanics, who constitute 80 percent of the undocumented population.

Tools To Help You Hide Online Raise The Ire Of Advertisers

By Martin Kaste
. . .

For the past few years, the online advertisers have been negotiating with browser makers and privacy groups over the details of the "Do Not Track" system. The DNT option is already built in to most of the newest browsers. You can check if yours is on by visiting this test page.

The problem is DNT doesn't do much, yet. The parties haven't been able to agree on what websites should do when they see that you've set the Do Not Track option on your browser (or your mobile device). The negotiations, hosted by the W3C organization, have been bogged down by a lot of details. But the core difference is that advertisers believe DNT should limit which ads you see, while privacy groups think DNT should block websites from collecting your information.

. . .

The IAB's Rothenberg says ad-supported Internet companies support user education about privacy options, and he wants people to make informed decisions. But he's also worried about the rise of what he calls "the fairly reactionary point of view that all third-party cookies are bad."

Still, between Edward Snowden's NSA revelations and the new privacy tools being developed by Mozilla and other browser makers, Rothenberg is facing an uphill battle to convince people that they should feel good about third-party companies that put tracking cookies on their hard drives.

Where the Most Important Part of Your Battery Comes From

By Andrew Tarantola
Lithium's kind of a big deal. It powers everything from our gadgets to our cars—really our entire modern world. And that's not changing any time soon; some analysts estimate that demand could grow up to 25% over the next several years. . .

Just four companies—Talison Lithium, Rockwood Holdings, Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile, and FMC—account for 95 percent of worldwide lithium production and all use the industry standard method of precipitating pure lithium from molten lithium chloride (LiCl) using electrolysis. This process is of course performed in an air and water free environment to avoid a reaction.

. . .

"To make just 60 million plug-in hybrid vehicles a year containing a small lithium-ion battery would require 420,000 tons of lithium carbonate - or six times the current global production annually," William Tahil, research director at Meridian International Research, told Barrons. "But in reality, you want a decent-sized battery, so it's more likely you'd have to increase global production tenfold. And this excludes the demand for lithium in portable electronics."

To span that supply shortage, numerous alternative sources for lithium have been explored. One promising system is to use the brine pulled up by geothermal pumps. A cadre of seven geothermal plants in the Salton Sea have been able to pull about 16,000 tons of lithium (as well as a fair amount of zinc) from their pipes annually. It's simply a matter of filtering the dissolved minerals from the water.

Detroit Automakers Vie for App Devs Amid Infotainment Arms Race

By Jason Mick
In today's era of smartphones and smart TVs -- even smart watches -- an oft forgotten, but fast growing sector is the smart vehicle.  Today's vehicles come packed with infotainment software.  Some even have live connections to the cloud via your smartphone or built in modems.  Some automakers are opening their door to apps (e.g. drivers ed apps, driving log apps, apps to tell you where the closest fast food joint is, or apps to suggest a fun date location nearby).

. . .

 The state -- famous for the "Big Three" and countless automotive suppliers -- is certainly recovering post-recession, but the software development field is spring back faster than any other technical field in the state.

. . .

 There are obstacles to becoming an automotive app developer -- namely the cost of development kits (at least based on Ford's model).  And Detroit lacks the cachet of the hipster havens of the West Coast.  But ultimately developers go where there's money and there's a lot of money in Detroit, plus low living costs.

New "Wi-Vi" System Uses Motion Sense to "See" Through Walls

By Tiffany Kaiser  
. . .

An MIT research team -- led by Dina Katabi, a professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science -- has developed a low-power and portable device that allows you to detect people through walls and closed doors.

. . .

 It works like this: Wi-Vi uses two transmit antennas and one receiver. Both antennas transmit the same signals, except one is the inverse of the other. This means that they cancel each other out when they hit static objects, because they create identical reflections. However, when a person is moving on the other side of the wall, the reflections change according to the movement. Put more simply, when the reflections are identical, its a static object; when they change, it's a moving person, thus can be detected through a wall and distinguished from objects like a table.  

. . .

 This new tech could have a wide range of uses, such as rescuers trying to find people trapped in a disaster area; police searching a building for criminals; video game gestures, and even the general public for when they're walking in dangerous areas or at night.

NSA revelations: why so many are keen to play down the debate

By Nick Hopkins
. . .

This week there have been more revelations about the way the US spied on the EU, which followed the Guardian's disclosures about how the British snooped on diplomats from Turkey and South Africa, among others, at the G20 summit in London four years ago. This has caused genuine fury among those targeted, particularly the Germans and the French. But their anger has been met with shoulder-shrugging indignation from former British diplomats and security experts, who say this sort of thing happens all the time.

. . .

But there is a story. It gets lost, all too conveniently, in the diplomatic rows and the character-assassinations, but ultimately it is the legacy of the Snowden files. The documents have shown that intelligence agencies in the UK and the US are harvesting vast amounts of information about millions of people. This is fact, not fantasy. They are doing this right now, on a scale that could not have been envisaged five years ago, let alone when the laws covering the collection and retention of data were drafted. They are also sharing this treasure trove of intelligence with each other, and other close allies.

. . .

Those who wail about the leaks affecting national security might consider the words of Bruce Schneier, a security specialist, who wrote in the New York Times: "The argument that exposing these documents helps the terrorists doesn't even pass the laugh test; there's nothing here that changes anything any potential terrorist would do or not do."

And where are the telecoms companies in all this, and the internet service providers? For now, they are still keeping quiet. But at some point they will be asked to explain to their millions of customers what they knew about this industrial-scale snooping. None of this is easy, and ministers and intelligence officials would like nothing more than to shut down the debate. The clues are in their discomfort.

How to turn young people into climate change activists

By Lucia Grenna
When it comes to climate change, people generally look towards experts for solutions. There is no doubt that scientists, policymakers, and thought leaders must collaborate to find a solution to this complex problem. But we have much to learn from a community that is often overlooked: university students.

. . .

We took a multi-tiered approach to marketing the competition to universities and students worldwide: we wrote directly to universities and distributed competition rules and materials in multiple languages; we asked our coalition of more than 150 partners to promote the competition amongst their youth networks and via their social media channels; and we made numerous presentations and conducted iChange workshops at local and international universities.

. . .

More impressive than the success of the campaign however, is something that goes beyond the competition itself: with different voices, tools, and talents, students from Angola to Bhutan, Indonesia to New Zealand demonstrated the power of global youth participation and creativity when thy were asked to confront a pressing global issue that will impact their future. Students from around the world rose to the challenge and presented multiple facets of the same problem, putting climate change in a local context, while still situating it within a broader global perspective. There were no national or financial barriers in their imaginations, just a willingness to be creative and be part of a call to action.

. . .

We learned through iChange that if you are able to tap into national and regional networks, share information in local languages; communicate the sense of being part of a bigger movement; make the ask clear and provide the right incentives, then young people can achieve what their politicians sometime struggle to do: speak with singular clarity about the issues that matter. As the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, said: "We need young people to lead on a social movement for climate by saying, 'Come on old folks, you may be gone by the time this hits, but our world is going to be awful and we need to work together to prevent this …'"

Chinese court orders woman to visit mother

By (BBC)
A Chinese court has ordered a woman to visit her mother once every two months, state media say, in the first case since a new law on parental visits came into effect on Monday.

. . .

The court also ruled that the daughter and her husband had to provide financial help, reports said.

. . .

The law was aimed primarily "at urging all of society to pay more attention to elders", it quoted a professor of population studies as saying.

China's population is aging and in recent years there have been a number of cases of elderly people being poorly treated or neglected that have shocked the nation.

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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