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
Afghanistan And US Agree Text Of Security Deal
The US says it has agreed the text of a bilateral security agreement with Afghan officials. The deal paving the way for some US troops to remain after 2014 will be discussed by delegates at a meeting known as the Loya Jirga on Thursday.
Late on Wednesday the Afghan foreign ministry published a draft deal that would give US troops remaining after 2014 immunity from Afghan courts.
The US had said all its troops would be withdrawn if no immunity was agreed.
"We have reached an agreement as to the final language of the bilateral security agreement that will be placed before the Loya Jirga tomorrow," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Cheap But Imperfect: Can Geoengineering Slow Climate Change?
Canadian environmental scientist David Keith wants to change the world's climate by creating a type of sun filter in the sky to halt global warming. In an interview, he argues the technology is effective and inexpensive, but critics liken it to a nuclear bomb.
While delegates meeting in Warsaw at the United Nations climate talks push for targets for reducing greenhouse gases, a small splinter group of scientists is promoting an entirely different approach to fighting climate change: They want to artficially manipulate the planet's climate to help stop global warming.
The name most commonly associated with this "geoengineering" is David Keith, a 50-year-old environmental scientist from Canada. Keith is arguably the best-known advocate of geoengineering. When he first devoted himself to the idea more than 20 years ago, it was considered dangerous nonsense. It enraged climate activists, and even Keith received death threats on his answering machine.
Since then, the concept of geoengineering has increasingly won over supporters, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) even grappled with the issue in its most recent report.
He recently sat down with SPIEGEL for an interview about his work.
Just 90 Companies Caused Two-thirds Of Man-made Global Warming Emissions
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
"There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world," climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado said. "But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two."
Half of the estimated emissions were produced just in the past 25 years – well past the date when governments and corporations became aware that rising greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal and oil were causing dangerous climate change. Many of the same companies are also sitting on substantial reserves of fossil fuel which – if they are burned – puts the world at even greater risk of dangerous climate change.
Climate change experts said the data set was the most ambitious effort so far to hold individual carbon producers, rather than governments, to account.
Food Stamp Cuts Leave Rural Areas, And Their Grocers, Reeling
One recent evening, some shoppers at the Countryside Market in Belvidere, Ill., were loading up on staples, like milk and eggs. Others, like Meghan Collins, were trying to plan Thanksgiving on a newly tightened budget.
"My work has been cut," says Collins. "I'm working half the hours I used to work. So yeah, I'm making half of what I made last year."
That could be bad news for stores like Countryside, which are already bracing for the ripple effect from the recent $5 billion reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. It's the first Thanksgiving since a temporary increase in those benefits expired on Nov. 1, affecting some 47 million Americans.
Countryside is not sure yet just how much the reduction in benefits has cut into their bottom line. But over time, the store says sales might fall between 5 and 10 percent. While that plays out, Schultz wonders if they will sell fewer turkeys this year: "Hopefully not, because I have a whole freezer full of 'em."
Quinn Signs Illinois Gay Marriage Bill
Gov. Pat Quinn today signed a historic measure into law making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to allow gay marriage.
The Democratic governor put pens to paper at a desk brought up from Springfield that his administration says President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address. That speech, delivered on March 4, 1861 as the Civil War was unfolding, called on Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.”
“Love never fails and I’m going to sign this bill right now,” said Quinn, who used many pens to sign his name to the bill so that those who helped pass the measure could have a souvenir.
"It's time to stop planning rallies and start planning weddings," said Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.
Science and Technology
Fire May Smolder Under Antarctic Ice
Quivers in the remote West Antarctic have all the hallmarks of volcanoes and magma under the ice, according to a study appearing November 17 in Nature Geoscience.
Volcanic activity in the continent’s crust could hasten the flow of its ice sheet to the ocean, scientists say.
Using 37 seismic stations, earth scientist Amanda Lough of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues recorded hundreds of rumbles on the frozen continent in 2010 and 2011. The tremors’ frequencies and depths – between 25 and 40 kilometers below the ice — are similar to those recorded under active volcanoes in other parts of the world.
Though it’s unclear whether the quakes signal an impending eruption, the authors say that lava is not likely to burst through the continent’s thick ice sheet. But the churning of molten rock could thaw the sheet’s underside. Such heat could accelerate flow in the West Antarctic ice sheet, the authors say, which is already shrinking from warming ocean waters.
MAVEN To Take A Peek At Comet ISON While En Route To Mars
Despite last-minute worries about the weather, the Mars orbiter Maven successfully launched Monday from the Kennedy Space Center, which adjoins the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Merritt Island in Florida. NASA launched the unmanned spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket at 1:28 EST in a perfect send-off Monday amid a round of applause from Mission Control. Fifty-eight minutes after launch, the craft separated from the upper-stage booster that set it on its course to Mars.
Maven’s primary objective is to study the Martian atmosphere in order to better understand what caused it to drift away into space, leaving the Red Planet a cold and barren wasteland. Evidence gathered by NASA’s Mars rovers shows the ancient planet once had a warmer climate and liquid water that flowed across the Martian landscape–an environment suited for the existence of microbial life.
In early December, Maven will make a course-correction maneuver after which the mission team will activate the scientific instruments on board to confirm they survived the launch. Then the instruments will be shut down for the 10-month journey to Mars.
But before those instruments are turned off, NASA scientists plan to make observations of the sun and want to use Maven’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph to take a look at comet ISON. The comet is currently hurtling toward the sun and on Nov. 28 will pass within 740,000 miles of the its fiery surface. Then the comet will continue its cosmic journey through the solar system and vanish from Maven’s field of view.
Society and Culture
First Woman Diocesan Bishop For Australia
Australian Church history has been made with the election of the Revd Dr Sarah Macneil as the first woman to be the diocesan bishop of an Anglican diocese.
Dr Macneil, who is from Canberra, has accepted her appointment as 11th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton. She will be consecrated and installed early next year.
Other women have been consecrated as assistant bishops within Australian Anglican dioceses and, overseas, women have been made diocesan bishops but this is a national first for Australia.
The Diocese of Grafton is facing a number of significant challenges, not least the hearings that begin this week before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in relation to historical cases from the North Coast Children's Home.
Northern Ireland Attorney General Calls For End To 'Troubles' Prosecutions
Northern Ireland's attorney general has called for an end to prosecutions against crimes committed during a violent, 30-year period known as the Troubles.
John Larkin's suggestion, though, has sparked outrage from victims' relatives and political parties, BBC reported. Larkin said fewer cases are opened every year since representatives from Northern Ireland and Great Britain signed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and winning conviction gets more difficult with time.
"More than 15 years have passed since the Belfast Agreement, there have been very few prosecutions, and every competent criminal lawyer will tell you the prospects of conviction diminish, perhaps exponentially, with each passing year, so we are in a position now where I think we have to take stock," Larkin told the BBC.
"It strikes me that the time has come to think about putting a line, set at Good Friday 1998, with respect to prosecutions, inquests and other inquiries."
Well, that's different...
Train Gets Lost In Philadelphia Suburbs
Amtrak said it is investigating after a train headed from Philadelphia to New York ended up lost in suburban Pennsylvania.
Officials said Amtrak Train 644 departed Philadelphia's 30th Street Station Tuesday night and accidentally ended up on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority tracks, KYW-TV, Philadelphia, reported Wednesday.
The train traveled several miles on the wrong tracks before the mistake was noticed and it stopped at a station in Bala Cynwyd, a suburb of Philadelphia.
Amtrak said the 130 passengers on the train were taken back to Philadelphia, where they boarded another train for New York.
"An investigation was launched and the crew has been held out of work until they can be fully debriefed and additional training can be conducted," Steve Kulm, Amtrak's media relations director, said in a statement.