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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, November 12, 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: Alone by Trampled by Turtles

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
China, Saudi Arabia win UN human rights seats

By (Al Jazeera)
China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia have won three-year seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the United Nations' top rights body, despite concerns about abuses and restrictions on freedoms in all four nations.

. . .

"With the return of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, human rights defenders will have their work cut out for them at the Human Rights Council next year," said Hicks, an expert at the New York-based advocacy group.

. . .

Hicks said members of council that are committed to human rights will need to redouble their efforts on a number of problems. These include the civil war in Syria, accountability for crimes committed during the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war and the conflict in the Central African Republic.

According to UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the United Nations, only four of the 16 candidates for the 14 open seats were qualified to be members of the council on the basis of their human rights records. They were Britain, France, Macedonia and Mexico.

How Online Mapmakers Are Helping the Red Cross Save Lives in the Philippines

By Robinson Meyer
. . .

Since Saturday, more than 400 volunteers have made nearly three quarters of a million additions to a free, online map of areas in and around the Philippines. Those additions reflect the land before the storm, but they will help Red Cross workers and volunteers make critical decisions after it about where to send food, water, and supplies.

. . .

Those maps were printed out on Saturday, before volunteers made most of the changes to the affected area in OSM. When those, newer data are printed out on the ground, they will include almost all of the traced buildings, and rescuers will have a better sense of where "ghost" buildings should be standing. They'll also be on paper, so workers can write, draw, and stick pins to them.

. . .

Kunce said the US State Department was negotiating with the NGA for that imagery to be released to the Red Cross. But, as of publishing, it's not there yet.

When open data advocates discuss data licenses, they rarely discuss them in terms of life-and-death. But, every hour that the Red Cross does not receive this imagery, better decisions cannot be made about where to send supplies or where to conduct rescues.

And after that imagery does arrive, OSM volunteers around the world can compare it to the pre-storm structures, marking each of the 30,000 buildings as unharmed, damaged, or destroyed. That phase, which hasn't yet begun, will help rescuers prioritize their efforts.

California, on track for record dry year, is ready to seed clouds

By John Upton
. . .
. . .

“Generally speaking, it has been dry across the state, and it has been remarkably dry where the population centers are and where the bulk of the water storage is,” Hinojosa said. “Most operators plan on multiyear dry years, but nobody plans on as dry as we’ve seen.”

. . .

. . .

As practiced in California and elsewhere in the West, cloud seeding involves spraying fine particles of silver iodide into a cloud system to increase snowfall that is already underway or about to begin. Silver iodide causes water droplets within the clouds to form ice crystals. As the crystals grow larger, they become snowflakes, which fall out to create more snow than the storm would have generated on its own.

Cloud seeding is done only when temperatures within the clouds are between 19 and minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the range at which silver iodide does its best work, as demonstrated by decades of research.

. . .

Of course, cloud-seeding only works when there are clouds in the air to begin with. It’s certainly not a real fix for climate change, which is drying out the American West and fueling wildfires.
Depression 'makes us biologically older'

By Michelle Roberts
Lab tests showed cells looked biologically older in people who were severely depressed or who had been in the past.

. . .

Experts already know that people with major depression are at increased risk of age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

. . .

Telomeres cap the end of our chromosomes which house our DNA. Their job is to stop any unwanted loss of this vital genetic code. As cells divide, the telomeres get shorter and shorter. Measuring their length is a way of assessing cellular ageing.

People who were or had been depressed had much shorter telomeres than those who had never experienced depression. This difference was apparent even after lifestyle differences, such as heavy drinking and smoking, were taken into account.

. . .

But it is unclear whether this ageing process is harmful and if it can be reversed.

Fukushima residents may never go home, say Japanese officials

By Justin McCurry
apanese officials have admitted for the first time that thousands of people evacuated from areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may never be able to return home.

. . .

It now appears that officials will abandon efforts to clean up highly irradiated areas closest to the plant and focus on areas where there is a more realistic chance of success.

. . .

Mental illness, alcohol abuse and physical ailments such as deep-vein thrombosis owing to inactivity are reportedly on the rise among tens of thousands of Fukushima evacuees still living in temporary housing units.

As of August, the number of people in Fukushima who died from illnesses connected to the evacuation stood at 1,539, just short of the 1,599 deaths in the prefecture caused by the 11 March tsunami.

Say goodbye to Kenya's 'nursery for terrorists'

By Tristan McConnell
. . .

Kenyan government officials believe that northeastern Kenya's Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee settlement, is a breeding ground for Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-aligned group that claimed responsibility for the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in September.

On Sunday Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto and Somalia’s Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam signed an agreement, together with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), enabling the voluntary return to Somalia of refugees from camps in Dadaab and Kakuma as well as from Nairobi over the next three years.

. . .

Al Shabaab has lost control of many towns over the last two years but continues to dominate large parts of the countryside in southern Somalia. Guerrilla attacks on African Union troops, suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are commonplace. In recent weeks Kenya has stepped up aerial bombardments of suspected Shabaab bases.

. . .

The timing of the agreement has dismayed some observers. “There’s a direct contradiction between the resumption of the war and the pushing of the refugees back,” said Ben Rawlence, an Open Society Fellow who is researching a book about Dadaab.

Egypt 'worst for women' out of 22 countries in Arab world

By (BBC)
Egypt is now the worst country for women's rights in the Arab world, according to a poll of gender experts.

The study found sexual harassment, high rates of female genital mutilation and a growth in conservative Islamist groups contributed to the low ranking.

. . .

Iraq ranked second-worst after Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

. . .

A UN report in April said 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt had been subjected to sexual harassment.

. . .

But the conservative country scored better than many other Arab states when it came to access to education and healthcare, reproductive rights and gender violence.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
A single U.S. birth delivery costs $21,000, triplets $400,000

By (UPI)
. . .

"On average, combined all-cause healthcare expenses for mothers with twins or higher-order multiple births were about five and 20 times more expensive, respectively, than singleton delivery," Zhang said in a statement.

"The greater expenses were likely to have been due to increased maternal morbidities -- hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, edema/renal disease, genitourinary infection, thyroid disease and anemia -- significantly increased use of Caesarean section and longer hospital stay for the deliveries in women with multiple pregnancies, and increased admission and longer stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for newborns of multiple births."

There was also an increased mortality for both mothers and infants associated with multiple pregnancies, although the absolute rates were small, Zhang added.

One World Trade Center is 'tallest building in US'

By (BBC)
A committee of architects has declared New York City's newly erected One World Trade Center the tallest building in the US, at 1,776ft (541m).

. . .

The previous title holder was that city's tallest building, the Willis Tower, at 1,451ft (442m).

. . .

A ruling the other way would have been far more controversial - the One World Trade Center is 1,776ft tall - marking the year of America's independence. And without the spire, it's the same height as Twin Towers, destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.

Antony Wood, executive director of the committee, which is seen as the final official word on building heights around the world, said the needle counted as a permanent structure.

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:
. . .

Q. Most of the members of Trampled By Turtles came from rock backgrounds, not folk or bluegrass backgrounds. Is that what drew you guys to this kind of music?

A. It’s different reasons for different guys. Dave Simonett has the most dramatic story. He had his electric guitar and his amp stolen, so he had no choice but to play acoustic music.

I was playing bass in rock bands, but I owned a mandolin. When I was sitting around a campfire, I was sick of being another guy with a guitar, so I was itching to play that out.

One of Dave’s first solo acoustic shows was opening for one of my band’s last shows. I more or less invited myself to play mandolin with him. That’s how he and I started playing together. Then we met the other guys while we were playing.

. . .

Q. I’ve been asking this of a lot of people lately, but there seems to be a folk and bluegrass trend going on all at the same time. Where do you think that comes from?

A. I think a lot of it comes from, if you notice a similar thing in a variety of places, they see a trend, so another person looks for that trend.

. . .

From my perspective, there isn’t a trend. I don’t know the Mumford guys and I don’t know the Dawes guys. People will say to me, “Obviously, those guys are a huge influence on you.” No, I didn’t even know them. Our biggest influences were records of guys like Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Floating offshore wind turbines spinning near Fukushima

By John Upton
. . .

A floating wind turbine began operating about 12 miles off the Fukushima coast on Monday, the first of many planned in a region best known for the 2011 meltdown. . .

. . .

The 11-member group’s project so far consists of a 2-megawatt turbine from Hitachi Ltd. nicknamed “Fukushima Mirai.” A floating substation, the first of its kind, has also been set up and bears the name “Fukushima Kizuna.” Mirai means future, while kizuna translates as ties.

The group is planning to install two more turbines by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. with 7 megawatts of capacity each. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said the floating offshore capacity may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts.
 For comparison, the Fukushima Daiichi plant had a capacity of about 4,400 megawatts of electricity, so the new wind farm won’t replace all of its output. Then again, there’s very little chance that the floating wind turbines will ever produce nuclear waste or melt down, triggering years-long evacuations.

Key West Awash With Plans For Rising Sea Level

By Greg Allen
. . .

Under ordinances recently adopted in Key West, all new buildings will have to be raised at least a foot and a half higher than the old standard, use green building codes, and have large, freshwater cisterns. The water will be used in gardens, swimming pools and toilets. By collecting rainwater, cisterns help reduce flooding by keeping it out of the streets.

. . .

In Key West, those who are planning for sea level rise say it's unlikely important historic and cultural areas will be abandoned. They point to Venice, Italy, as a likely model. Regular tidal flooding there has become a way of life for residents and visitors. It's a place where it's not unusual to see people wearing rubber boots, sitting in cafes where water laps around their feet.

. . .

New federal flood insurance rates recently took effect have dramatically raised the premiums for many who live here. Chris Bergh with the Nature Conservancy says increasing the cost of living in paradise is one more impact of sea level rise.

. . .

Key West also has something else in its favor. For nearly 200 years now, the U.S. Navy has had a major presence here. And rising seas or not, that's not expected to change.

Science and Health
Evidence of 3.5-Billion-Year-Old Bacterial Ecosystems Found in Australia

By (ScienceDaily)
. . .

The Pilbara district of Western Australia constitutes one of the famous geological regions that allow insight into the early evolution of life. Mound-like deposits created by ancient photosynthetic bacteria, called stromatolites, and microfossils of bacteria have been described by scientists in detail. However, a phenomenon called microbially induced sedimentary structures, or MISS, had not previously been seen in this region. These structures are formed from mats of microbial material, much like mats seen today on stagnant waters or in coastal flats.

. . .

"This work extends the geological record of MISS by almost 300 million years," said Noffke, who is also a professor at ODU. "Complex mat-forming microbial communities likely existed almost 3.5 billion years ago."

. . .

MISS are among the targets of Mars rovers, which search for similar formations on that planet's surface. Thus, the team's findings could have relevance for studies of our larger Solar System as well.

Altering Surface Textures in 'Counterintuitive Manner' May Lead to Cooling Efficiency Gains

By (ScienceDaily)
Researchers across the globe are racing to find ways to improve the cooling of hot surfaces -- for technologies ranging from small handheld electronics all the way to industrial-sized applications such as nuclear power plants.

. . .

To overcome the vapor film issue, Varanasi and colleagues textured surfaces using sparsely packed micron-scale structures coated with nanoparticles to create a capillary attraction effect to hold droplets in place.

"Vapor that forms as the evaporation of the droplet is able to escape through the surface texture," Varanasi explains. "Interestingly, there are two simultaneous competing forces occurring in this situation. As the vapor forms, it exerts an upward force on these droplets. And the texture pulls on the droplet with capillary attraction. This allows the liquid to come into contact with the surface and cool it."

. . .

Key markets that may benefit from greater cooling efficiency gains include, but aren't limited to, nuclear power plants, semiconductors and electronics, oil and gas, fire suppression, desalinization, and metallurgy.

Simple physics and climate

By rasmus
No doubt, our climate system is complex and messy. Still, we can sometimes make some inferences about it based on well-known physical principles. Indeed, the beauty of physics is that a complex systems can be reduced into simple terms that can be quantified, and the essential aspects understood.

. . .

Even though we have discussed this question several times here at RC, Sloan and Wolfendale introduce some new information in connection with radiation, ionisation, and cloud formation. Even after having dug into all these other aspects, they do not find much evidence for the cosmic rays plying an important role. Their conclusions fit nicely with my own findings that also recently were published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

. . .

Some may ask why we keep revisiting the question about cosmic rays and climate, after presenting all the evidence to the contrary.

One reason is that science is never settled, and there are still some lingering academic communities nourishing the idea that changes in the sun or cosmic rays play a role. For this reason, a European project was estaqblished in 2011, COST-action TOSCA (Towards a more complete assessment of the impact of solar variability on the Earth’s climate), whose objective is to provide a better understanding of the “hotly debated role of the Sun in climate change” (not really in the scientific fora, but more in the general public discourse).

Stores Sniff Out Smartphones to Follow Shoppers

By Verne Kopytoff
In many big-box stores, equipment is already in place to sniff out customers’ smartphones and log data such as how many minutes a person spends in the shoe department.

. . .

Google has already expanded its maps to include diagrams of the inside of museums, airports, and large stores in 17 countries, like Hong Kong’s Tai Po Mega Mall. The company is betting maps will continue to gain importance for people on foot once it begins selling its head-mounted computer, Glass. “Indoor location is going to be huge,” Dodge says. “It’s going to be the biggest thing to hit retailing and couponing that we’ve ever seen.”

Before that happens, retailers may have to brave a privacy debate. Nordstrom suffered a public-relations black eye this year after it began tracking customers in 17 stores using a Wi-Fi system developed by Euclid Analytics. Some customers who read signs at store entrances explaining the technology complained about an invasion of their privacy.

. . .

Since the Nordstrom episode, retailers have become reluctant to acknowledge their use of indoor tracking. But RetailNext, a company offering “comprehensive in-store analytics,” says its products are being used by 100 large retailers and in thousands of stores. Euclid also says it has 100 customers, including Home Depot.

International Space Station attacked by ‘virus epidemics’

By Samuel Gibbs
. . .

Kaspersky, head of security firm Kaspersky labs, revealed at the Canberra Press Club 2013 in Australia that before the ISS switched from Windows XP to Linux computers, Russian cosmonauts managed to carry infected USB storage devices aboard the station spreading computer viruses to the connected computers.

. . .

The Windows XP-based laptops on the ISS were infected with a virus called W32.Gammima.AG in 2008, after a cosmonaut brought a compromised laptop aboard which spread the malware to the networked computers.

. . .

In May, the United Space Alliance, which oversees the running of if the ISS in orbit, migrated all the computer systems related to the ISS over to Linux for security, stability and reliability reasons.

These New Graphene Supercapacitors Could Finally Power An Electric Car

By Adam Clark Estes
. . .

Scientists from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea made the breakthrough by creating an especially porous form of graphene. (See below.) Incredibly, a single gram of this specialized graphene has the same amount of surface area as a basketball. This greatly increased surface area enables the supercapacitor to store far more energy than previous versions of the material, which had been keeping graphene supercapacitors out of the running as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. Because they don't use chemicals, graphene supercapacitors also have a much longer life than lithium ion batteries. Oh, and did I mention how fast it charges? That's right; I did. 16 seconds.

Finding success in the lab and bringing a product to market are two very different things, so it's unclear how quickly we might see this impressive technology at work in electric cars. The South Koreans say that these "supercapacitor energy storage devices… can be scaled up for manufacturing in the near future for electric vehicle applications."

Some Mad Genius Made Play-Doh That's Safe To Eat

By Andrew Liszewski
The exact science behind what could be one of the greatest innovations in children's afternoon activities isn't clear, but what's certain is that somewhere some brilliant chemist has found a way to make a type of Play-Doh that's as delicious—and safe—to eat as it looks.

After all, any kid will tell you that technically all Play-Doh is edible—as long as you can stomach the awful flavor, horrible aftertaste, and damage it does to your colon. But this Edible Sweet Art supposedly makes the mouldable material downright tasty so you don't have to think twice about nibbling at the bowl of faux soft serve you just extruded.

Tesla-Inspired Metamaterial Converts 900 MHz Microwaves to Power

By Jason Mick
It's been a while since Nikola Tesla -- one of the greatest inventors mankind has ever known -- claimed to demonstrate wireless power transfer in 1891.  Mr. Tesla even claimed to drive an electric car on wireless power in the 1930s, recording a top speed of 90 miles per hour in his lab notebooks -- a feat that would put it on par with the best gasoline engines of the time.  In his notebooks he claimed to have achieved 95 percent efficiency in transmitting the power over radio frequencies -- an incredible accomplishment, if true.

. . .

 Microwaves -- electromagnetic waves in the 1 Megahertz (MHz) (10^6 Hz) to 1 GHz (10^9 Hz) range -- are most commonly used to cook food (in microwaves that use the 915 MHz band) or carry out radar signaling.  Today perhaps the most common use of microwaves is in wireless data transmission -- for example the 802.11 family of wireless transmission technologies transfers data on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands (in the microwave range).

. . .

These waves have wavelengths in the meter to millimeter range.  After visible light and the infrared spectrum, they're the next longest wavelength, followed by radio waves -- the frequencies used by Mr. Tesla purportedly used.

 The Duke study uses so-called "metamaterials" -- materials that have structures smaller than a target wavelength and are used to create unusual behavior in waves of a certain frequency.

. . .

 That said there's tremendous potential for improvement.  Tesla's work -- if accurate -- suggests that new wave guide designs and different frequnecies may produce much better results.  Chaining together even more cells seems a promising approach as well, as increasing the cell count 5-fold increased the power harvest 2.5-fold.

ITV news presenter hits back after abuse for not wearing poppy

By Shane Hickey
An ITV news presenter who has been subject to racist and sexist abuse for her decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy said she made her decision in order to be "neutral and impartial on-screen".

. . .

"I support and am patron of a number of charities and I am uncomfortable with giving one of those charities more on-screen time than others," she said. "I prefer to be neutral and impartial on screen so that one of those charities doesn't feel less favoured than another. Offscreen in my private life – it's different.

. . .

White said the racist and sexist abuse acted against all of the goals that the fallen soldiers had fought for. "The messages of "go back to where you came from" have been interesting to read, as have the 'fat s--g' comments, and the repeated use of the phrase 'black c--t'," she said. "Mostly because it flies in the face of everything that millions of British men and women and those in the Commonwealth have fought for for generations, and continue to fight for: the right to choose, and the right of freedom of speech and expression."

Google has also been the subject of criticism because it used only a small Remembrance Day poppy on its website. Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe said it was "demeaning not to have something spectacular".

Connecticut rabbi finds $98,000 in desk bought on Craigslist, returns cash to seller

By Jill Langlois
Connecticut Rabbi Noah Muroff bought a desk for less than $200 on Craigslist and found $98,000 in cash hidden behind its drawers, which he promptly returned.

. . .

Muroff's wife called the desk's former owner, Patty, who said she had hidden her inheritance behind the drawers long ago and forgot about the hiding place.

. . .

Patty was speechless when she received the call from the rabbi's wife.

. . .

The couple took their four children with them to return the money to its owner and said they hoped their good deed will send "the message of honesty and integrity."

Denver holds first public hearing for recreational marijuana store

By John Ingold
To little fanfare, Denver on Tuesday held its first public hearing for a marijuana business seeking to open a recreational pot shop.

. . .

The hearings are required for businesses seeking to open recreational marijuana stores in Denver, under rules the City Council approved earlier this year. They are being held in a former courtroom in the Denver City and County Building — a room that still has the stencil "Criminal Matters" on the door.

. . .

Until 2016, only people who currently own an existing medical-marijuana store can apply to open a recreational pot shop in Denver, and the new store must stay in the same spot as the medical dispensary.

Justin Jones, one of the owners of the Dank Colorado dispensary on Elm Street in northeast Denver, was scheduled for the city's second public hearing Tuesday afternoon. Jones said he plans to split his store into two, with one side serving medical-marijuana patients 18 and older and the other serving recreational customers 21 and up. He was one of the first to submit his application on Oct. 1, when the application window opened.

. . .

Denver has 16 more hearings scheduled through the end of November.

Elephant orchestra: Can animals make real music?

By Richard Hooper
. . .

"We thought that maybe elephants would play on instruments if they were ergonomic," says Soldier, an accomplished musician and composer who has performed and recorded with the likes of Bo Diddley and David Byrne. "We thought about designing large instruments that were unbreakable, as even a little hit would break a regular instrument into smithereens."

. . .

The sounds of certain animals have long been considered musical. Mozart transcribed the melody of his pet starling in a diary. The second movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony includes a passage for three woodwind instruments imitating a nightingale (flute), quail (oboe), and cuckoo (clarinet), and the 20th Century French composer Olivier Messiaen made a habit of incorporating transcribed birdsong into his works.

. . .

"The elephants develop and learn to play in different ways," says Soldier, who believes the elephants now enjoy well-tuned instruments. "They learn where the sweet spot on the instrument is, but no-one has taught them how." Soldier conducted a test in which he planted a dissonant note on a ranat, a Thai version of the xylophone, and observed how the elephant then avoided it, preferring those that were in tune.

. . .

Soldier has also conducted tests to see whether other species will play instruments. His conclusion is yes, they will. He designed a system of levers for captive zebra finches which, when pecked, would trigger playback of a sample of music.

. . .

The only reward for the bird was the sound of the music. In another experiment, Pygmy chimpanzees in San Diego Zoo were given hand-bells, and gave every sign of enjoying the opportunity to experiment with sound.

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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