As your faithful scribe, I welcome you all to another edition of Overnight News Digest.
I am most pleased to share this platform with jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, JLM9999 and side pocket. Additionally, I wish to recognize our alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb along with annetteboardman as our guest editor.
Neon Vincent is our editor-in-chief.
Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Lead Off Story
Iran Nuclear Talks Called 'Substantive'; Next Round Set For November
Iran and six world powers Wednesday hailed the latest round of negotiations on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program as “substantive and forward looking” and set an accelerated schedule of meetings to find whether they can strike the deal both sides want.
The discussions, begun at a moment of renewed hope for progress, were described as difficult and tense at times. Yet the Iranians and their negotiating partners were able to reach a rare agreement on a joint statement praising each side and signaling their commitment to a diplomatic solution to the standoff.
A senior U.S. official said that in years of diplomacy, the two sides had never had such “intense, detailed, straightforward, candid” talks. The Iranian government, which until the arrival of a new administration in August had been mostly hostile to world pressure against its nuclear program, praised the discussions in the state-controlled press.
Even so, the two sides provided few details of their talks, leaving it unclear whether Iran has come any closer to accepting immediate curbs to the program, which many countries fear is aimed at acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Plummeting Morale At Fukushima Daiichi As Nuclear Cleanup Takes Its Toll
Dressed in a hazardous materials suit, full-face mask and hard hat, Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, left his audience in no doubt: "The future of Japan," he said, "rests on your shoulders. I am counting on you."
Abe's exhortation, delivered during a recent visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was only heard by a small group of men inside the plant's emergency control room. But it was directed at almost 6,000 more: the technicians and engineers, truck drivers and builders who, almost three years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown, remain on the frontline of the world's most dangerous industrial cleanup.
The hazards faced by the nearly 900 employees of Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and about 5,000 workers hired by a network of contractors and sub-contractors were underlined this month when six men were doused with contaminated water at a desalination facility.
Commenting on the leak, the head of Japan's nuclear regulator, Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters: "Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don't make silly, careless mistakes when they're motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems."
Xenophobic Riots: Moscow Nervous after Violence Erupts
Moscow authorities are apprehensive following anti-immigrant riots in a southern suburb on Sunday night. And though neo-Nazis continue to stir xenophobic sentiments, it's clear that the Kremlin has done its own part to fuel these attitudes.
Far to the south lies the district of Biryulyovo, home to some 90,000 residents. Just one of the Russian capital's dozens of suburbs, it was relatively obscure until Sunday -- when xenophobic rioting made international headlines.
The riots were sparked by the death of a young Biryulyovo resident, 25-year-old Yegor Sherbakov, who was allegedly stabbed by a "non-Russian" on his way home on Thursday night, according to his girlfriend. After the man allegedly harassed the couple around 2 a.m. there was a scuffle, and media reports say that the blade injured Sherbakov's heart. He died at the scene.
On Sunday afternoon, several thousand demonstrators gathered to demand action from city officials -- namely the arrest of the murderer and the deportation of the area's guest workers from central Asia and the Caucasus. A number of right-wing extremists from throughout the Moscow area were reportedly on hand after neo-Nazis put out the call on Internet forums the day before, and several hundred clashed with police for hours. Though officers from the feared OMON special unit were also present, the police failed to gain the upper hand.
On Kauai, Marathon GMO Hearing Ends With Strict Rules For Biotech
After a marathon hearing, the Kauai County Council passed a hotly debated bill on Wednesday that could lead to prison time or fines for employees of agricultural companies if they don’t divulge specifics about pesticide use, abide by strict setback rules for spraying chemicals or disclose when they grow genetically engineered crops.
The council voted 6 to 1 to make Bill 2491 into law. The lone vote against the bill came from Councilman Mel Rapozo, who said the measure unfairly targets biotech companies and sets the county up for lawsuits.
Supporters of the bill erupted in celebration of the vote, which came at 3:35 a.m., following the culmination of a hearing in which about 100 people argued for one side or the other. Cheers echoed inside the hearing room, while others could be heard on the front lawn where the public had remained around loudspeakers to listen to deliberations.
"To the seed companies, I want to make sure you understand that we have to envision the future for our island," said Council Chair Jay Furfaro minutes before the vote. "Your companies have your policies. But we need to envision Kauai in the future and this is a start for us."
Science and Technology
Study Shows GM Corn Could Harm Aquatic Ecosystems
A study by an Indiana University environmental science professor and several colleagues suggests a widely planted variety of genetically modified corn has the potential to harm aquatic ecosystems. The study is being published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS).
Researchers, including Todd V. Royer, an assistant professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, established that pollen and other plant parts containing toxins from genetically modified Bt corn are washing into streams near cornfields.
They also conducted laboratory trials that found consumption of Bt corn byproducts produced increased mortality and reduced growth in caddisflies, aquatic insects that are related to the pests targeted by the toxin in Bt corn. Caddisflies, Royer said, “are a food resource for higher organisms like fish and amphibians. And, if our goal is to have healthy, functioning ecosystems, we need to protect all the parts. Water resources are something we depend on greatly.”
Other principal investigators for the study, titled “Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems,” were Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of Notre Dame, and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University.
It was funded by the National Science Foundation.
A Hard Look At 3 Myths About Genetically Modified Crops
In the pitched debate over genetically modified (GM) foods and crops, it can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin. In the nearly 20 years since they were first commercialized, GM crop technologies have seen dramatic uptake. Advocates say that they have increased agricultural production by more than US$98 billion and saved an estimated 473 million kilograms of pesticides from being sprayed. But critics question their environmental, social and economic impacts.
Researchers, farmers, activists and GM seed companies all stridently promote their views, but the scientific data are often inconclusive or contradictory. Complicated truths have long been obscured by the fierce rhetoric. “I find it frustrating that the debate has not moved on,” says Dominic Glover, an agricultural socioeconomist at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. “The two sides speak different languages and have different opinions on what evidence and issues matter,” he says.
GM crops have bred superweeds: True
Jay Holder, a farming consultant in Ashburn, Georgia, first noticed Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) in a client’s transgenic cotton fields about five years ago. Palmer amaranth is a particular pain for farmers in the southeastern United States, where it outcompetes cotton for moisture, light and soil nutrients and can quickly take over fields.
Since the late 1990s, US farmers had widely adopted GM cotton engineered to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate, which is marketed as Roundup by Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri. The herbicide–crop combination worked spectacularly well — until it didn’t. In 2004, herbicide-resistant amaranth was found in one county in Georgia; by 2011, it had spread to 76. “It got to the point where some farmers were losing half their cotton fields to the weed,” says Holder.
Is There Really a Science-Based GMO Controversy?
Discover magazine features a troubling cover story on the anti-agricultural biotechnology movement in its April  issue (which you can read for free after registering at its site). Simply said, Discover gives unwarranted weight to anti-GM activists and in the process raises questions about the ability of even the most credible of science publications to avoid the perils of false balance when covering agricultural biotech.
As Keith Kloor pointed out in his sharply worded Collide-A-Scape blog (coincidentally hosted by the Discover website, where he is a respected blogger—points for Discover for encouraging this debate), the cover story focuses on the antics of GM protestors but ignores the recent push back from pro-science advocates in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.
The articles offer up a laundry list of familiar criticisms: biotech crops are untested; they hasten environmental degradation; they result in unstoppable superweeds; they pose health threats; they increase ‘dangerous’ pesticide usage; they could unleash unpredictable Frankenstein-like creatures into the world ecosystem; and so on.
These allegations—all of which are either demonstrably untrue or exaggerations of problems that are present in all of agriculture (including organic farming)—are the currency of such groups as the Environmental Working Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which make no pretense of their ideological rather than scientific opposition to GMOs.
Society and Culture
Iran And Israel Go To Battle ... Over Denim
[The issue] started last week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told BBC's Persian TV that "if the Iranian people had their way, they'd be wearing bluejeans; they'd have Western music; they'd have free elections."
Iranian elections may not be that free, and their music options may be somewhat limited. But young Iranians are proud of their freedom to choose their own pants, and often they choose jeans.
Finally, in his interview, Netanyahu spoke about Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who was fatally shot at an anti-government protest in 2009. She was a key point in Netanyahu's argument about Iran's tyranny.
The moment she died in the street, Neda was wearing jeans.
Well, that's different...
Otis Redding Dies Before He Can Finish "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay"
For a guy renowned for his soulful energy on songs like "Respect" and "Satisfaction," it's almost ironic that Otis Redding's biggest claim to fame is "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," a gentle song about sitting around and doing jack shit. It's so mellow that for the last bit of the song, Redding just starts whistling. You might have thought that it was great symbolism, showcasing how at peace he is, just relaxing and watching ships instead of continuing with this "singing" bullshit.
But the whistling wasn't supposed to be there -- it's meaningless filler. Redding's usual modus operandi was to ad lib at the end of his songs, and he wanted to do the same with "Dock." So his guitarist recorded 10 instrumental bars, allowing Otis to go on about love or sandwiches or whatever else was on his mind that day.
So what was on his mind? Nothing, apparently. He stepped up to the mic and couldn't think of a damn thing to say. So, he started whistling instead. It sounded nice and all, but Redding really wanted actual words there. He was out of time, however, since he had TV and concerts to do. So, he figured he would just think up something and come back later to finish the track.
Sadly, he never got to -- two days later, he was killed in a plane crash.