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
Syria Deadline For Chemical Weapons Destruction Will Be Met, Says OPCW
The world's chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the 1 November deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents.
Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the Syrian government had provided complete co-operation with the 27 weapons inspectors in the country.
Luhan said the inspectors had visited 18 of the 23 chemical weapons sites declared by Damascus, and that a complete, official, inventory of all Syria's chemical weapons, munitions, and production facilities, was expected to be delivered to the OPCW headquarters in the Hague in the next 24 hours.
Furthermore, he said Syria was expected to meet next Friday's deadline laid down by the OPCW executive council for the destruction of all equipment involved in the production and mixing of chemical weapons as well machinery used for filling munitions with mustard gas, sarin or other poison agents.
Argentines Link Health Problems To Agrochemicals
Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop-dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison.
The Associated Press documented dozens of cases around the country where poisons are applied in ways unanticipated by regulatory science or specifically banned by existing law. The spray drifts into schools and homes and settles over water sources; farmworkers mix poisons with no protective gear; villagers store water in pesticide containers that should have been destroyed.
Now doctors are warning that uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation's vast farm belt.
"The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases," says Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician and neonatologist who co-founded Doctors of Fumigated Towns, part of a growing movement demanding enforcement of agricultural safety rules. "We've gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses seldom seen before."
A nation once known for its grass-fed beef has undergone a remarkable transformation since 1996, when the St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. promised that adopting its patented seeds and chemicals would increase crop yields and lower pesticide use. Today, Argentina's entire soy crop and nearly all its corn and cotton are genetically modified, with soy cultivation alone tripling to 47 million acres (19 million hectares).
Ok Tedi Mine At Risk
Landowners around Papua New Guinea's giant Ok Tedi mine are threatening to close its operations tomorrow following the government's legislated nationalisation -- so far without compensation -- of the 63.4 per cent of the mine's shares that it did not already own. Richard Zumoi, a spokesman for the 111,000 villagers who signed the Community Mine Continuation Agreement approving the mine's continued operation past its originally scheduled closure at the end of this year, said they wanted the government to grant them the shares instead.Mr Zumoi said they also wanted the government to pay them the $363 million in dividends for last year, which Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has instructed the new Ok Tedi Mining board, which he appointed, not to declare.The dividends would have gone to PNG Sustainable Development, the trust established to replace BHP-Billiton's ownership when it withdrew from operating the mine a decade ago after environmental disasters.
The Ok Tedi environmental disaster caused grave harm to the environment along 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) of the Ok Tedi and the Fly River in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea between about 1984 and 2013. The lives of 50,000 people have been disrupted. One of the worst environmental disasters caused by humans, it is a consequence of the discharge of about two billion tons of untreated mining waste into the Ok Tedi from the Ok Tedi Mine, an open pit mine in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.
This mining pollution, due to the collapse of the Ok Tedi tailings dam system in 1984 and the lack of a proper waste retention facility, was the subject of class action litigation, naming Ok Tedi Mining Limited and BHP Billiton and brought by local landowners. Villagers downstream from Ok Tedi in the Fly River system in the Middle Fly District and the southern and central areas of the North Fly District, in particular, believe that the effect on their livelihood from this disaster far outweighs the benefits they have received from the mine's presence in their area.
Huge GMO News
It hasn't been a good week for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry.
But perhaps the biggest bombshell of all is now unfolding in Washington state. The mail-in ballot state's voters are already weighing in on Initiative 522, which would mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Knowing full well that 93 percent of the American public supports GMO labeling, and that if one state passes it, many others are likely to follow, entrenched agribusiness interests are pulling out all the stops to try to squelch yet another state labeling effort.
This time, however, things aren't going quite as planned. On Wednesday, Washington state Attorney General Bob Feguson filed a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA, a lobby for the junk food industry, has been by far the largest donor to efforts to defeat the labeling initiative. The lawsuit alleges that the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors.
The source of the money has now been exposed, and it turns out to be Pepsico, Coca-Cola, NestleUSA, General Mills and a few other junk food companies. The lawsuit reveals that GMA leadership held a series of secret meetings to plot how to perpetrate a money laundering scheme and illegally hide member donations from Washington state voters, in direct violation of campaign disclosure laws.
All this label fighting and money laundering leads to some very significant questions. Why are Monsanto and the junk food industry willing to spend many tens of millions of dollars every year trying to keep you in the dark about your food? What doesn't big food want you to know? And what are they afraid might happen if you did?
This Week In Poverty:
The Immokalee Way
I was thrilled to see the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) honored at the Roosevelt Institute’s Four Freedom Awards on Wednesday night. Having followed the organization’s work for seven years, I believe their effectiveness is unmatched, and their achievements constantly offer a reason for hope.
The CIW way is non-hierarchal, led from the grassroots, fearless and savvy—and they have defeated Goliath so many times that they can no longer be considered a David. I think many community-based and national anti-poverty organizations can learn a lot from them.
The Four Freedom Awards honor those who exemplify Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision of democracy—“a world founded upon four essential human freedoms”—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. Past recipients include President Jimmy Carter, Senator Ted Kennedy, Studs Terkel, Barbara Ehrenreich, Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and Carlos Fuentes. The farmworkers were introduced by Roosevelt Fellow Dorian Warren, who outlined some of CIW’s key campaigns and victories.
Science and Technology
Astronomers Discover Ionized Nebula Around Largest Star In Known Universe
An international group of astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile to discover and observe an ionized nebula surrounding the red supergiant star W26.
W26 is located in the southern constellation of Ara about 16,000 light years from Earth. The star belongs to the most massive star cluster in our galaxy – Westerlund 1. The cluster is home to several hundred of thousand stars, and is the closest analogue to some of the truly massive star clusters seen in distant galaxies.
The red supergiant W26 is probably the largest star ever discovered, with a radius 1,500 times larger than the Sun and is also one of the most luminous red supergiants known.
When the astronomers studied the images of Westerlund 1 they spotted something unique. They discovered a huge cloud of glowing hydrogen gas around W26. Such clouds are ionized, meaning that the electrons have been stripped away from the atoms of hydrogen gas. The discovery is described in a paper appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Iowa State Astronomer Helps Research Team
See Misaligned Planets In Distant System
Using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, an international team of astronomers has discovered a distant planetary system featuring multiple planets orbiting at a severe tilt to their host star. Such tilted orbits had been found in planetary systems featuring a "hot Jupiter," a giant planet in a close orbit to its host star. But, until now, they hadn't been observed in multiplanetary systems without such a big interloping planet.
The discovery is reported in a paper, "Stellar Spin-Orbit Misalignment in a Multiplanet System," published in the Oct. 18 issue of the journal Science. The lead author of the study is Daniel Huber of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Steve Kawaler, an Iowa State University professor of physics and astronomy and a leader of the Kepler Asteroseismic Investigation, is a co-author.
"This is a new level of detail about the architecture of a planetary system outside our solar system," Kawaler said. "These studies allow us to draw a detailed picture of a distant system that provides a new and critical test of our understanding of how these very alien solar systems are structured."
Society and Culture
Holy Logic: Computer Scientists 'Prove' God Exists
Two scientists have formalized a theorem regarding the existence of God penned by mathematician Kurt Gödel. But the God angle is somewhat of a red herring -- the real step forward is the example it sets of how computers can make scientific progress simpler.
But unsurprisingly, there is a rather significant caveat to that claim. In fact, what the researchers in question say they have actually proven is a theorem put forward by renowned Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel -- and the real news isn't about a Supreme Being, but rather what can now be achieved in scientific fields using superior technology.
When Gödel died in 1978, he left behind a tantalizing theory based on principles of modal logic -- that a higher being must exist. The details of the mathematics involved in Gödel's ontological proof are complicated, but in essence the Austrian was arguing that, by definition, God is that for which no greater can be conceived. And while God exists in the understanding of the concept, we could conceive of him as greater if he existed in reality. Therefore, he must exist.
That is where Christoph Benzmüller of Berlin's Free University and his colleague, Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo of the Technical University in Vienna, come in. Using an ordinary MacBook computer, they have shown that Gödel's proof was correct -- at least on a mathematical level -- by way of higher modal logic. Their initial submission on the arXiv.org research article server is called "Formalization, Mechanization and Automation of Gödel's Proof of God's Existence."
Well, that's different...
Alleged Dog Abuser Eaten By Dogs
If the accusations against 67-year-old Patricia Ritz are true, then I guess there's a certain amount of poetic justice here.
Ritz, who had been accused and convicted of cruelty to animals, was found in her Kentucky home... eaten by her pet wolf-dogs, according to reports cited by HuffPo Crime.
After Ritz hadn't been seen for more than a week, police entered her home and found her so consumed that all that remained was a skull, believed to be hers, according to the reports.
Ritz had been accused of animal cruelty at least six times, and at one point was found guilty of five counts of animal abuse and ordered not to transport dogs into Indiana.
Police believe that she died of illness or injury and the animals - without food - had no choice but to turn on their one-time provider.