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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, January 22, 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: War Again by Balkan Beat Box

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
Chart of the Day: The End of Fish?

By Kevin Drum
. . .

Note that 91 percent of all fish stocks today are either fully exploited or overexploited. There are some success stories of fish stocks being rebuilt, but that's the almost invisible dark green line near the top. It represents less than 1 percent of all global fish stocks.

But all is not lost. Most of these success stories are in advanced economies, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Norway, which is exactly where you'd expect progress to begin. Low-income countries lag behind, but that may change as the success stories start to percolate downward:

Yet many low-income countries lack the resources to monitor their fisheries. And even richer nations struggle to enforce the laws they have: In Europe, regulators have consistently set lax fishing quotas — in part due to lobbying from the fishing industry. ("Europe is not one of the places that's doing well," says Pitcher, "with a few exceptions like Norway.") Meanwhile, as climate change warms the ocean and disrupts ecosystems in unpredictable ways, regulating fisheries may become even more difficult.

"Attempts to remedy the situation need to be urgent, focused, innovative, and global," the paper concludes. But that's harder than it sounds.

How Poverty Molds the Brain

By (ScienceDaily)
Groundbreaking research nearly two decades ago linking a mother's educational background to her children's literacy and cognitive abilities stands out among decades of social science studies demonstrating the adverse effects of poverty.

. . .

In urban populations, income and amount of noise exposure are known to be correlated. Consistent with the idea that noisy auditory environments increase neural noise, the new Journal of Neuroscience study found that the adolescents from the lower maternal educational group have increased neural activity in the absence of sound input.

According to the study, "Neural models indicate that when the input to a neuron is noisier, the firing rate becomes more variable, ultimately limiting the amount of sensory information that can be transmitted."

. . .

Ongoing work in Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory is investigating whether auditory enrichment in the form of music education and other school-based activities can offset the negative impact of an impoverished acoustic environment.

Syria polio outbreak confirmed by WHO

By (BBC)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 10 cases of polio in war-torn Syria - the first outbreak in the country in 14 years.

. . .

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in the Swiss city of Geneva says there has been speculation that foreign groups fighting in Syria may have imported it.

. . .

The highly contagious disease is most often spread by consuming food or liquid contaminated with faeces.

. . .

There are more than 100,000 children, all under age five, now at risk of polio in Deir al-Zour province alone, which has been caught in fierce battles between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters.

Russia and Ukraine edge closer to 'gas war'

By Shaun Walker
. . .

Russia wants Ukraine to join its own Customs Union of former Soviet states, and has repeatedly sent dire warnings that by signing the deal with Europe, Ukraine will lose billions of dollars and face myriad problems. One Kremlin economic adviser even predicted that if the deal is signed "political and social unrest" will ensue and Russia could cease to recognise Ukraine's status as a sovereign state.

. . .

Former premier Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in 2011 on charges of abuse of office, related to a gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009 when she was prime minister. The current government says the deal forced cash-strapped Ukraine into paying unfairly high prices for gas.

. . .

Russia has repeatedly warned Ukraine that the consequences of aligning with Europe will be painful, but despite Moscow's harsh rhetoric, it seems the Kremlin is resigned to seeing Ukraine slip out of its orbit. The focus now is on proving to Kiev what a terrible mistake it has made.

Drug rooms: Admirers eye Copenhagen model

By Maddy Savage
As a senior police official in northern England calls for safe rooms for the injection of hard drugs, attention has focused on similar projects around Europe.

. . .

Copenhagen is home to the biggest, most open drug scene in Scandinavia, with up to 8,000 users concentrated in a 2.5km radius.

. . .

"We are providing a clean environment for long-term addicts and we have found that they are now much more likely to access other health services in the area," says Ivan Christensen, who manages the drug rooms in Copenhagen.

He says it is impossible to know how many lives have been saved by the project, but there has not been a single death on the premises, despite more than 100 overdoses.

. . .

They say the amount of drug-related litter on the cobbled streets has reduced tenfold over the past year, there are fewer street fights between addicts and there has been a drop in burglaries in the area.

Turkey opens tunnel linking Europe and Asia

By (Al Jazeera)
Turkey has for the first time connected its European and Asian sides by opening a railway tunnel that fulfils a vision first proposed by an Ottoman sultan about 150 years ago.

The tunnel is 13.6km long, with 1.4km running under the Bosporus, the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, and divides Istanbul between Asia and Europe.

. . .

Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid is said to have first proposed the idea of a tunnel under the Bosporus in around 1860. One of his successors, Abdulhamid, had architects submit proposals in 1891, but the plans were not carried out.

. . .

The projects have provoked charges that the government is ploughing ahead with city-changing plans without sufficient public consultation. Those concerns fuelled protests that swept Turkey in June.

UN urges end of US embargo on Cuba

By (Al Jazeera)
The UN General Assembly has urged the US to end more than 5-decade-old economic embargo against Cuba, which Havana describes as barbaric and amounted to genocide.

This came in a symbolic vote of the 193-nation General Assembly on Tuesday. The unenforceable resolution was 188-2. The United States and Israel voted against it, while Pacific island states of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau abstained.

. . .

Speaking before the General Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez railed against the embargo, saying "The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion."

"Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower," Rodriguez said. "The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable."

. . .

In return, US envoy Ronald Godard dismissed the resolution, saying that while Washington welcomed some of the recent changes in Cuba, the country "still has one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world."

DR Congo M23 rebels 'all but finished', says UN

By (BBC)
The UN's special envoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo has told the organisation's Security Council that the M23 rebel movement is all but finished as a military threat.

. . .

Several issues lie behind the unrest, including a competition for resources and a history of ethnic rivalry.

. . .

The UN has deployed a new intervention brigade to eastern DR Congo with a stronger mandate to confront armed groups.

. . .

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Elderly, At Risk, and Haphazardly Protected

By A.C. Thompson and Jonathan Jones
Over the past two decades, assisted living has undergone a profound transformation. What began as a grassroots movement aimed at creating a humane and innovative alternative to nursing homes has become a multibillion-dollar industry that houses some 750,000 American seniors. Assisted living facilities, at least initially, were meant to provide housing, meals and help to elderly people who could no longer live on their own.

. . .

 Leaders in the assisted living industry deride the idea that federal oversight would improve residents’ circumstances and say that allowing standards to vary state to state allows for more flexibility and options in assisted living settings. They say they have adapted to the more serious needs of their residents, but continue to insist that assisted living has not become an actual health care enterprise, and does not need to be regulated like one.

. . .

 An examination of California’s regulatory system – inspection filings, investigation reports, lawsuits and data from the state ombudsman’s office -- reveals the consequences of the cutbacks: Routine inspections are sometimes delayed and death investigations can take months to complete; even facilities with track records of repeated violations tend to receive slap-on-the-wrist punishments.

. . .

 New York spent four years crafting a battery of enhanced standards and enforcement tools. But in 2008, just as the measures were going into effect, the industry successfully sued to void some of the more rigorous regulations, such as requiring a nurse to be on staff if a facility was providing dementia care, and mandating that there be emergency call systems in resident bedrooms. A state judge ruled that the measures were unnecessary and too expensive.

. . .

 Some think federal involvement of some kind is just a matter of time. While most people in assisted living pay for their own care, the amount of federal money going into the industry has been ticking upwards. Today Medicaid helps to pay the bills for nearly 20 percent of assisted living residents nationwide, according to a 2010 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Alabama Agrees To Permanently Gut Immigration Law

By Bill Chappell
Opponents of Alabama's strict immigration law are declaring victory Tuesday, as the state agreed not to pursue key provisions of a measure critics had called an endorsement of racial profiling. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal of a federal court's ruling that gutted the law.

Widely considered the toughest immigration law in the U.S. when it took effect in 2011, the measure known as HB 56 was challenged soon after it was approved. Its opponents included the U.S. Justice Department, a coalition of civil rights groups, and religious groups. Critics often called it the "show me your papers" law.

. . .

This past spring, Supreme Court justices voted 8-1 to let a lower court ruling stand that blocked essential parts of the law, "after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration law is primarily the responsibility of the federal government," as The Two-Way reported.

The NSA Strikes Back

By Kevin Drum
The great European spying scandal just got a little more complicated. There's been an uproar in France and Spain over reports that the NSA has collected millions of phone records in those countries, but today brought this news:

. . .

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, said reports to the contrary, based on revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, were “completely false.” He said European intelligence services collected phone records in war zones and other areas outside their borders and shared them with the NSA.

“This is not information that we collected on European citizens,” Alexander told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations.”....The French and Spanish intelligence agencies have had extensive, long-running programs to share millions of phone records with the United States for counterterrorism purposes, according to current and former officials familiar with the effort.

. . . The obvious implication is that European leaders should cool it on the feigned outrage over NSA wiretapping of their citizens.
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:
. . .

The Rumpus: Why the name Balkan Beat Box?

Ori Kaplan: When we started it was just Tamir, myself, a computer, and a saxophone. We were doing all kinds of experimental stuff. Our first track was Bulgarian Chicks, which was with Vlada Tomova, and we were taking Bulgarian vocals and putting it into a drum machine (a beat box). Balkan is the folk attitude and Beat Box is the contemporary modern attitude. It’s a juxtaposition. It really made sense then, and still does now.

Rumpus:  BBB’s music has been labeled as Gypsy Punk, World, Political, among many others. . . Is that freeing for you in the creative process, to not feel pigeonholed to a certain genre?

Kaplan: Very much. Sometimes the beats and the melodies are so varied that I just don’t know how we’re going to put the album together. But at the end it makes sense because the album builds around the dynamic of Tomer, Tamir, and myself.

Rumpus:  With songs like “War Again” (from Blue Eyed Black Boy) and “Political Fuck” from your new album Give, people might get the impression that you’re a political band. How would you respond to that?

Kaplan: We’re not a political band, but it’s inevitable that we will talk about things that we care about. I think it comes naturally with the clash of cultures; we have Jews and Arabs together on stage. All three of us were not born in New York, but most of our adult life has been spent in New York, so we’re kind of New Yorker/Israelis that take a step backward to the past, and you just can’t ignore the fact that the people that make the music are in war sometimes.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Peak Oil May Keep Catastrophic Climate Change in Check

By Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire
Even as governments worldwide have largely failed to limit emissions of global warming gases, the decline of fossil fuel production may reduce those emissions significantly, experts said yesterday during a panel discussion at the Geological Society of America meeting.

. . .

 Rutledge said of the four IPCC scenarios, he found the second RCP scenario, RCP 4.5, where carbon dioxide emissions flatten out around 2080, to be more plausible under a business-as-usual scenario for coal exploitation.

. . .

 He said it is likely that the Bakken Shale oil play will peak in 2015 or 2016 and that the Eagle Ford Shale play, another significant U.S. oil production area, will peak soon after.

. . .

 The United States should see the temporary bounty of oil from these sources as an opportunity to develop alternative energy sources, Hughes added.

Taking on the big six energy giants is not a leftwing delusion – ask Hungary

By Neil Clark
For daring to deviate from the neoliberal script on the subject of energy company profiteering, Labour leader Ed Miliband was portrayed as a sinister hardcore Marxist whose dastardly plan was to fulfil his late father's dream and transform Britain into the old Soviet Union. According to this dominant narrative, if you want to take any meaningful action against the "big six" energy giants, and interfere with market forces, you must be some kind of unreconstructed Bolshevik – or at the very least a misguided leftie who wants to take the country back to the nightmare 1970s, the decade when the gap between rich and poor in Britain reached its lowest level in history.

However, in another European country, a political leader has been getting far tougher with profiteering energy companies than Miliband has suggested. In this country, the government has imposed a cut of over 20% in energy bills – a 10% reduction came into force in January, a further 11.1% cut will be implemented in November. It is also drafting a bill that would ban utility companies from paying dividends to shareholders. The aim of the government is to return natural monopolies to the public sector, to operate on a non-profit basis. "We must once and for all bring an end to the era where energy providers can ride roughshod over people," the country's leader declared.

. . .

Fidesz contends that there were 15 price increases in gas bills during the period 2002-10, when they were in opposition, and that urgent action was essential to ensure cheaper energy bills for households and businesses. Hungarian politicians have sneered at Orbán's populist stance on energy, but the government's policies have brought relief to ordinary people and made everyday life more bearable in a country where around 20% of the household budget was going on gas bills. It's the government's interventionist approach on energy prices that helps explain its commanding lead in the opinion polls – a recent poll showed that the governing coalition was 15% ahead of its nearest rivals and it's likely that Orbán will be returned to power in next year's general election.

How to Protect Cities from Sandy-like Storms? It's All About Islands

By Alissa Walker
One year ago, Hurricane Sandy tore a path of destruction up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Earlier this week, ten architecture and planning teams revealed their solutions for rebuilding the city in a way that would promote resilience when the next hurricane comes along. One big takeaway? We need new islands.

The proposals are part of Rebuild by Design, an initiative of the federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and HUD. The team selected dozens of sites for the designers to re-imagine throughout the New York/New Jersey region. While some of the ideas are policy-based, the most powerful ideas include making dramatic changes to the coastline and ocean floor, restoring the natural balance that we've dredged away or demolished over the years. This includes the addition of artificial breakwaters, barrier islands and massive floating reefs.

. . .

Oyster reefs once lined the New York Harbor, protecting the shore from powerful tides. SCAPE suggests returning those colonies to the water as oyster restoration breakwaters, which would not only help soothe waves, they would also help to clean the waters and restore biodiversity. A floating classroom would allow local students to get to know New York's newest resident bivalves.
The Eco-Amusement Pier

. . .

WXY/West 8 envisions a series of new islands—sandbars, really—that would stretch from New Jersey to Rhode Island, providing "wave attenuation" that could help lower the height of storm surges and remove the need for more complicated improvements on the shore. This is part of a larger idea of creating a "tidal society," a city that's more attuned to the meaning of marine-related data, from wave heights to flooding risk.

Science and Health
People biologically take pleasure in the pain of others

By (UPI)
U.S. researchers find people are biologically responsive to taking pleasure in the pain of others -- Schadenfreude -- at least if they envy them.

. . .

Similar results emerged: Participants felt the worst about positive events and the best about negative events in regards to the rich professionals, the study said.

"A lack of empathy is not always pathological. It's a human response, and not everyone experiences this, but a significant portion does," Cikara said. "If you think about the way workplaces and organizations are set up, for example, it raises an interesting question: Is competition the best way to get your employees to produce? It's possible, in some circumstances, that competition is good. In other ways, people might be preoccupied with bringing other people down, and that's not what an organization wants."

Study: Gardening, DIY activities cut risk of heart attack, stroke among the elderly

By Allison Jackson
. . .

Researchers at the Karolinksa University Hospital in Stockholm found physically active lifestyles reduced the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 27 percent and death from any cause by 30 percent.

Being active and doing formal exercise produced the best health outcomes for people. But any sort of activity,whether it was pottering around the garden or doing do-it-yourself repairs around the house, could improve the cardiovascular health of older adults – and help them to live longer, the study found.

. . .

Sitting on the sofa for prolonged periods slows the metabolic rate which can affect hormone production and lead to organ and tissue damage.

The Clever Circuit That Doubles Bandwidth

By David Talbot
A startup spun out of Stanford says it has solved an age-old problem in radio communications with a new circuit and algorithm that allow data to be sent and received on the same radio frequency—thus doubling wireless capacity, at least in theory.

. . .

To solve this, Kumu built an extremely fast circuit that can predict, moment by moment, how much interference a radio’s transmitter is about to create, and then generates a compensatory signal to cancel it out. The circuit generates a new signal with each packet of data sent, making it possible to work even in mobile devices, where the process of canceling signals is more complex because the objects they bounce off are constantly changing. “This was considered impossible to do for the past 100 years,” says Sachin Katti, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford, and Kumu’s chief executive and cofounder.

Other companies, including satellite modem maker Comtech, previously used self-cancellation to boost bandwidth on satellite communications. But the Stanford team is the first to demonstrate it in the radios used in networks such as LTE and Wi-Fi, which required cancelling signals that are five orders of magnitude stronger. (More details can be found in this paper.)

Raising Social Media Teens Means Constant Parental Learning

By Laura Sydell
The social media site has made headlines in connection with the suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl who was the target of intense bullying on the site. Some law enforcement officials are warning parents about But for parents, keeping track of the latest social network can be a game of Whac-a-Mole.

. . .

"We need a sense of privacy. Everyone needs their sense of privacy and how else are we going to grow if we're feeling like we're locked up?" Sallings said. Her mother, Noelani Sallings, said she discovered her daughter's secret account and forced Jennalynn to show her everything. Sallings now regrets it.

"I personally should have given Jennalynn a little bit more room to experiment with what she was doing because I was so involved in school and other various aspects of her life," said Sallings. She says it's more important to talk to kids about how they use social media and about bullying in general. Her daughter agrees.

. . .

Sallings says her generation is pretty inured to all the nastiness on the Internet. "We've all grown up with it, and it's like, we're used to seeing such obscene things that our sense of [obscenity] is less," she said.

Web inventor's open data organisation announces new global network

By Peter Kimpton
Just one year after its foundation in London, an organisation created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt to stimulate economic, environmental and social innovation through a system of open data sharing and analysis, has announced rapid global expansion of its ambitions.

. . .

The ODI is a non-for-profit organisation that has so far helped set up more than a dozen open data-based startup companies in the UK, generating income, research and training. It has also created a certificate for open data allowing all users to access information on many areas such as healthcare, transport, peer-to-peer lending, and energy efficiency. The UK ODI secured £10m funding over five years from the UK innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, $750,000 from global philanthropic investor Omidyar Network created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. It aims for long-term sustainability through match funding and direct revenue through memberships and supporters.

. . .

Big data specialists MastadonC joined the ODI startup programme in December 2012 and has been one of ODI's particular success stories. MastodonC offers an open source technology platform for clients in a zero-carbon structure. It analysed NHS prescribing data with Open Health Care UK and Ben Goldacre, the doctor and writer behind Its study revealed a potential £200m of NHS savings after analysing prescribing patterns for statins, drugs used to prevent cardiovascular problems. It also worked alongside the Department for Climate Change and the Energy Saving Trust, managing data from a project to retrofit more than 100 homes, from which it revealed emissions savings of between 60% and 85%.

. . .

With its new global network, the ODI aims to replicate such achievements internationally. Waldo Jaquith, founder the new US-wide ODI, said: "'The US has a vibrant, fast-growing open data ecosystem. The ODI provides a model that can help to catalyse and connect the organisations, governments, businesses, and individuals who are doing brilliant work with open data. As a nation, we have the resources, tools, and people that we need – they just need to be connected and given a helping hand. It's time to bring the ODI model to the US."

Googlerola Backs Modular "LEGO" Style Build-it-Yourself Smartphone Push

By Jason Mick
The advanced research team at Google Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Motorola Mobility (Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group) has launched a new project dubbed "Project Ara".

 The goal is to create a "modular" smartphone composed of parts that plug in, potentially to a common backplane.  The idea is to make a phone that can have easy hardware upgrades or configuration changes (say swapping a bigger speaker for a bigger camera lens) similar to what you can do with a traditional PC.

. . .

 Nobody quite knows, but judging by this critical thread on Reddit ("This is currently on the front page. A good example of what happens when no one talks to an Engineer") most engineers believe that while the project is feasible it will produce a bulkier, more expensive, and less efficient phone than the dreamers hope.  3D printing may yet change that, but there's a long way to go to overcome the technical hurdles still facing the project.

'They Want To Fit In': An Uphill Struggle For Greece's Roma

By Joanna Kakissis
. . .

As many as 12 million Roma live in Europe — about 300,000 of them in Greece. The Roma have their roots in India but have lived in Europe for centuries, where they have faced persecution and isolation. Many are illiterate and are more likely to be unemployed, impoverished and in poor health than other Europeans.

"It's important to understand the history of Roma in Europe, the history of persecution, where Roma were hunted like animals in some cases, and sterilized, taken away from their families," says Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights. "The media often forget this. And then they wonder why the Roma are suspicious of the majority population, majority institutions and majority media."

There's been an anti-Roma backlash since the continent sunk into recession in 2008.

. . .

Larsen says at least 80 percent of the Roma here can't read or write. She also struggles to keep Roma girls in school; many marry as teenagers and then have babies.

. . .

"At the bus stop, I often talk to the Greeks waiting there," she says. "They always ignore me. But I still keep trying."

Why Carved Pumpkins Are Called "Jack O' Lanterns"

By Daven Hiskey
The name “Jack O’ Lantern” was originally one of the numerous names given to ignis fatuus (Medieval Latin for “foolish fire”), another of which is “Will O’ the Wisps”, basically the odd light that can occasionally be seen over marshes, swamps, and the like. “Jack O’ Lantern” first popped up being used this way around the mid-17th century in East Anglia, UK and spread from there through parts of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

This name likely originally derived from the practice of calling men generically “Dick, Jack, Tom, etc.” In particular, men who were lower class, were often called generically “Jack” beginning around the 14th century in England. (This practice popped up again in the late 19th century in the United States where “Jack” was used for the name for a man where his real name is unknown). Thus, when you see someone carrying a lantern in a distance at night that you see is a man, but you can’t make out who exactly it is, he is literally “man with a lantern”, a.k.a. “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack O’ Lantern”. This was also commonly used for a nickname for night watchmen and the like around the same time “Jack O’ Lantern” first popped up, referring to ignis fatuus.

. . .

There are numerous versions of The Legend of Stingy Jack, but the general story is there was a sinful drunkard named Jack who encountered the Devil and convinced the Devil to come have a drink with him before the Devil would take him down to Hell. The Devil agreed and after Jack had drunk his fill, as he had no money, he asked the Devil to cover the bill. As the Devil had no use for money, he had none on him, so Jack suggested he transform himself into a silver coin so Jack could pay the bill. . .

. . .

Of course, Jack eventually died (maybe he should have asked for immortality and eternal youth?) and upon arriving at Heaven’s gates, whoops! His sinful life made it so he couldn’t get in. He then went and visited the entrance to Hell to try to get in there (for some odd reason), but the Devil wouldn’t let him in owing to his previous promise. Being once again apparently kind and generous, the Devil did give Jack an ever burning coal from Hell to use to light his way / warn other people of Jack’s presence. Jack then placed it in a carved turnip (which apparently doomed souls have easy access to) and proceeded to wander the Earth for all eternity.

So whether it was a direct jump from the “man with a lantern” British slang to being associated with people holding vegetable lanterns and then the vegetable lantern itself or, probably more likely given how vegetable carving became popular in America, via the Irish Stingy Jack legend, the ultimate origin of why we call carved pumpkins “Jack O’ Lanterns” seems to be a melding of the ignis fatuus nickname, “Jack O’ Lantern”, with the Samuin practice of using hollowed out vegetables with candles inside to ward off evil spirits.

Why young women are going off the pill and on to contraception voodoo

By Hadley Freeman
. . .

According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the unintended pregnancies in the US occur among the 10.7% of women who use no contraceptive method at all (and no, downloading Period Tracker does not count as a contraceptive method). This finding comes only a few months after a study carried out by the amazingly named Dr Annie Dude at Duke University. Dr Dude's findings revealed that 31% of young women in America aged between 15 and 24 had relied on the pull-out method at least once. Unsurprisingly, these women were 7.5% more likely to rely on emergency contraception than others and, even less surprisingly, of those who relied on the pull-out method, 21% had become pregnant. Apparently, these women had never heard the old joke: you know what you call a couple who use the rhythm and pull-out methods? Parents.

When researchers from the Guttmacher Institute asked the women who accidentally became pregnant why they eschewed contraception, answers ranged from the self-deluding ("a perceived invulnerability to pregnancy") to the predictable ("lack of thought or preparation", dislike of contraceptive methods) to the absolutely infuriating ("male partner's objections and fear that pregnancy prevention is an indication of infidelity").

. . .

Talking of men, though, leads to a crucial point that these studies barely touch on: an accidental pregnancy almost certainly requires the involvement of more than one person who is flying contraception-free. It feels a little easy, not to mention predictable, to blame the woman for getting pregnant unintentionally when there is, presumably, a guy in the background who doesn't like to wear a condom, assumed she was on the pill and, hey, let's just get this show on the road already, yeah? Young men today have been spoiled in this regard, growing up in an era when all women of childbearing age in the US and the UK have legal access to contraception. These men also have easy access to porn in which they see only condom-free sex. To say that women should be strong and insist that their partner wear a condom if they themselves are not protected against pregnancy is sometimes easier to say in theory and harder in practice, especially if the young woman is inexperienced and feels that she should impress the guy.

Figures released earlier this year indicate a lax attitude towards contraception, especially among young people. According to Public Health England, sexually transmitted infections (STI) rose by 5% between 2011 and 2012, with people under 25 experiencing the highest rates. As Lisa Power from the Terrence Higgins Trust told the Huffington Post, using a phrase similar to the one in the Guttmacher Report: "Everyone knows about STIs but still think it won't happen to them."

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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