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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, December 10, 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: I Miss You by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

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
The carbon time bomb in your retirement account

By Todd Woody
. . .

Last year, the International Energy Agency warned that a third of the world’s oil, coal, and other fossil fuel reserves must remain untouched until 2050 to stave off catastrophic climate change. That, naturally, freaked out some investors. What’s the future worth of an ExxonMobil or a Chevron if governments ever get their act together and impose carbon taxes that make burning that dinosaur juice unprofitable? That would transform those fossil fuel reserves into “stranded assets,” turning the billions of dollars spent discovering and securing that untapped oil, natural gas, and coal into liabilities.

Such a scenario would make sources of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, even more competitive, further depressing fossil fuel behemoths’ stock price — and the value of your portfolio. Then there’s a growing and increasingly successful campaigns to persuade pension funds, universities, and municipalities to divest from fossil fuel companies to fight climate change. According to an analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute, a nonprofit institute, just 90 fossil fuel companies have been responsible for 63 percent of the world’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions since 1854. ExxonMobil alone has spewed 3.3 percent of that carbon.

Now Wall Street is starting to take seriously the prospect that a carbon-constrained economy could put fossil fuel companies in the red. Bloomberg terminals — those ubiquitous desktop computer screens that everyone from state treasurers to hedge-fund cowboys rely on to make financial decisions — have quietly added a function called the Carbon Risk Valuation Tool, or CRVT in Bloomberg-speak. The CRVT, for the first time, allows investors to view the impact of say, declining oil prices due to carbon regulations, on companies’ stock prices, or how a carbon tax would affect the value of a portfolio.

. . .  the tool foreshadows a future when algorithms will routinely calculate the financial impact of other environmental risks, such as water shortages and extreme weather spawned by climate change.

John Podesta, climate hawk and Keystone opponent, joins Obama team

By Lisa Hymas
. . .

John Podesta is no stranger to the White House; he served as chief of staff to President Clinton. And he’s no stranger to the Obama team; he led the president’s transition into office after the 2008 election. Since then, he’s served as an “outside adviser,” The New York Times reports, and “has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch as the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration.”

For the coming year, he’ll be advising from the inside. He will help out on health care and “will focus in particular on climate change issues, a personal priority of Mr. Podesta’s,” according to the Times. Podesta is expected to encourage Obama to take action through his executive authority, as Congress is unwilling and unable to pass legislation on climate change or much else. “Podesta has been urging Obama for three years to use the full extent of his authority as president to go around Congress,” Politico reports.

. . .

Podesta has allied himself closely with some of [the environmentalists opposing the pipeline], including the wealthy investor Tom Steyer, who has been mobilizing opposition to the project. They appeared together at CAP’s conference to celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall.

. . .

. . .

Will Podesta make the difference on Keystone? Don’t count on it. There are already plenty of people in the administration on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, the call is Obama’s alone.

Harlem Is Getting the Biggest Free Public Wi-Fi Network In the U.S.

By Leslie Horn
. . .

Mayor Mike Bloomberg—clearly on his farewell I promise I made New York better tour—just announced the initiative today. The network will stretch from 110th to 138th Streets between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Madison Avenue. It'll roll out in three phases, the first of which (110th to 120th between Frederick Douglass and Madison) is already in the works and set to be done by the end of the month. Phase two (121st to 126th) is supposed to be done by February 2014, and Phase three (127th to 138th) is looking at a May 2014 end date.

. . . the Harlem initiative is pretty cool in terms of just how freaking big it is, and for the fact that it will cover thousands low-income residents that might not otherwise have access to the internet.

To put the scope into perspective, when finished, the network will theoretically give an internet connection to around 80,000 Harlem dwellers, 13,000 of which live in public housing.

New York State Lawsuit Contends Chimpanzees Deserve Human(like) Rights

By Jason Mick
. . .

His teaching credentials are impressive; he's a regular instructor at Harvard Law School, Vermont Law School, Chicago's John Marshall Law School, Portland, Oregon's Lewis & Clark Law School, and Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (Boston).  But it was not until this year that Professor Wise felt the time was right to pursue his boldest legal stand -- contending that some primates should be entitled to human-like protections under the U.S. Code of Law.

 Last week the law professor's nonprofit, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), filed a suit against three chimpanzee owners.  The case was initiated via a 70-page memo filed with the State Supreme Court in Fulton County, N.Y.  It targets a specific chimpanzee, named Tommy.  Three other chimps -- two of which live in New York State -- are expected to be included in follow-up, claims this month.

This petition asks this court to issue a writ recognizing that Tommy (the chimp) is not a legal thing to be possessed by respondents, but rather is a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.

. . .

Some researchers regard Professor Wise's legal "hobby" with derision.  They contend that the ability to freely medically experiment on primates, subjecting them infection, brain surgery, and potential treatments, has been critical to studying human neurology and diseases.  In particular Great Apes are being employed to study the hepatitis C virus and to develop treatment strategies to combat the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

. . .

But regardless of these academics viewpoint, the fact is that they are in minority worldwide.  Currently only the U.S. and Gabon officially allow medical trials on primates.  In many ways other industrialized have already granted higher primates some legal standing.  Spain recently became the first country to officially recognize Great Apes as limited "people" rights-wise; some lower courts in India have made similar rulings.

'Volcker rule' ban on risky trades passed by regulators

By (BBC)
All five US financial regulators have approved the Volcker rule, designed to restrict the finance industry in the wake of the 2008-09 financial collapse.

Named after former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, it bans banks from using their own funds for trading activities.

. . .

Although the Volcker rule was passed as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation in 2010, it has faced difficulties in implementation, mostly due to opposition from the banking industry.

US President Barack Obama applauded the passage of a rule proposed more than three years ago.

. . .

Although banks had been hoping for a less strict interpretation of the rule, recent trading debacles, including JP Morgan's "London whale" loss, seemed to have led to a stronger measure.

GCC states hope Iran deal will end tension

By (Al Jazeera)
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has welcomed the preliminary landmark deal between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China and Germany), further depicting that a fresh leaf is turned over in the relationship between the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf region that make up the GCC and their Shia neighbour.

"The GCC states have expressed their comfort towards the preliminary Geneva agreement pertaining to the Iranian nuclear programme, and we look forward to its success to lead to a permanent pact, that drives away the specter of tension from our region," Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, said on Tuesday at the opening session of the 34th summit in Kuwait City.

This is the first such summit since Iran struck a deal with the P5+1 in late November, to curb its controversial nuclear activity in exchange for partial easing of sanctions that have exhausted Tehran’s economy. The interim agreement is seen as a step towards concluding a final deal over Iran's nuclear programme.

. . .

Washington has been trying to reassure its Gulf allies of their security following the deal reached with Iran.

Why did Israel snub Mandela? 3 Questions with our correspondent

By (
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's clumsiness coping with what should have been a simple matter of attending a state funeral for Nelson Mandela has garnered Israel baffled, damning headlines everywhere from The Daily Beast to The New York Times.

. . .

Israel was one of a few countries —in addition to the United States — that in the 1970s and 1980s sold weapons to the apartheid regime in South Africa, for which many South Africans have never forgiven Israel.

In addition, in the post-Mandela era, successive South African governments have attacked Israel for its oppression of the Palestinians, who always stood by South African blacks fighting for equality, often drawing close comparisons between the predicaments of the two peoples.

. . .

The consensus here is that this is just the latest example of Netanyahu's personal gracelessness and lack of ability to gauge international reaction to his behavior, and the tin ear and clumsiness of his staff.

Uruguay bill pioneers state control of cannabis market

By Ignacio de los Reyes
. . .

Uruguay is set to become the first nation in the world to regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis after a new law was passed by the country's senate on Tuesday.

. . .

It bears some similarities to drug laws in the US states of Colorado and Washington, where the sale of cannabis for medicinal or recreational use was made legal in 2012.

But Uruguay is the first nation state to regulate the production, distribution and sale of the drug.

The country, which has a population of fewer than 3.5 million people, has so far been spared much of the drug-related violence that other Latin American countries have suffered from, but officials say it is time to tackle drug gangs before they get too strong.

French troops in Central African Republic 'to avoid carnage'

By (BBC)
President Francois Hollande has defended France's military intervention in the Central African Republic - after two French soldiers were killed in the capital Bangui.

Speaking in Bangui, he said last week's deployment of 1,600 troops had been necessary to "avoid carnage".

. . .

The CAR has been in chaos since rebel leader Michel Djotodia ousted President Francois Bozize in March.

Fuelled by ethnic rivalries, the conflict has also now become sectarian in nature as he installed himself as the first Muslim leader in the Christian-majority country sparking months of bloody clashes between rival Muslim and Christian fighters.

Israel-Romania row over settlements building

By (Al Jazeera)
A diplomatic spat has erupted between Israel and Romania after Bucharest reportedly refused to allow Romanian construction workers to be employed in settlements being built in the occupied West Bank.

. . .

Differences centre on Bucharest's request that Israel guarantee no Romanian construction workers would be employed on settlements on occupied Palestinian territory that are considered illegal under international law.

. . .

The European Union guidelines, which go into effect in January, ban funding for and financial dealing with projects linked to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.

Same-sex weddings can take place in England and Wales from March 2014

By (The Guardian)
The first same-sex weddings in England and Wales can take place from 29 March, the equalities minister, Maria Miller, has announced.

The date is several months earlier than expected at the passage of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act in July, when it was thought gay couples would have to wait until summer 2014 to tie the knot.

. . .

Miller said she was working hard to ensure that couples wishing to convert civil partnerships into marriages – and married people wanting to change their legal gender while remaining married – would be able to do so before the end of next year.

Same-sex couples who married abroad under foreign law and are currently treated as civil partners will be recognised as being married in England and Wales from March 2014.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Congress Wants More Scrutiny of New Arms Export Rules – and Obama Administration Doesn’t

By Cora Currier
As part of the administration’s larger changes to what many view as an antiquated arms export system, thousands of military items have moved out from under the State Department’s long-standing oversight to the looser controls of the Commerce Department.

. . .

Brittany Benowitz, who was a defense adviser to former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and is the co-author of a paper on the export changes, said that the administration’s standard was too narrow. “The export control criteria are focused on sophisticated technologies that foreign militaries are trying to obtain, but in this day and age, the U.S. faces threats from not-so-sophisticated, often non-state actors,” she said.

. . .

The administration has said its changes to arms export rules are a necessary update to an outdated oversight system. By loosening controls on “items that pose a low risk to national security,” officials at the State and Commerce Departments told ProPublica, the government can “improve its ability to safeguard those items that most require protection.”

Defense manufacturers have pushed for the rule changes, which they believe will boost their competitiveness overseas. The Defense Department has also said that the changes will make it easier to equip allies.

Iowa Wants Its Poor to Give Up Smoking and Drinking to Qualify for Medicaid

By Kevin Drum
The Obama administration gave Iowa a waiver today to expand Medicaid along lines similar to what Arkansas did earlier this year, in which Medicaid dollars will be used to buy insurance in the private marketplace. I'm OK with this as an experiment, and curious to see how it turns out. But there was another wrinkle to Iowa's waiver application:
. . .

Health and Human Services essentially split the difference with the state here: They're allowing premiums for those who earn between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty line, but not for those who earn below that. The premiums are limited at 2 percent of income (for someone at the poverty line, this is about $19 a month), and enrollees have the chance to reduce their payment by participating in a wellness program.

. . .

A single person at 50 percent of the poverty line makes less than $500 per month. That's obviously not someone who can afford even a nickel in extra expenses. But that was the income level in Iowa's initial application, which means that for all practical purposes the original goal of this program was to (a) deny government benefits to poor people who are smokers, drinkers, drug users, or overweight, but (b) provide the benefits if these poor people agree to fairly intrusive government monitoring that ensures they improve these behaviors.

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:
Founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1950s as The Charlemagnes, the group is most noted for several hits on Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International label between 1972 and 1976, although they performed and recorded until Melvin's death in 1997. However, the remaining members, the Blue Notes, were reunited in 2013 for the Soul Train Cruise.

Despite group founder and original lead singer Harold Melvin's top billing, the Blue Notes' most famous member was Teddy Pendergrass, their lead singer during the successful years at Philadelphia International.

. . .

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes are arguably the most-covered Philly soul group in history: many of their hits have been re-recorded by other artists, including Simply Red, David Ruffin, Jimmy Somerville, Sybil, and John Legend, while dance music DJ Danny Rampling cites "Wake Up Everybody" as his favorite song of all time. . . Several members of various incarnations of the Blue Notes continue to tour as "Harold Melvin's Blue Notes".

. . .

Rapper Big Boi uses a sample of "I Miss You" on his song "Shine Blockas" feat. Gucci Mane. "I Miss You" was also sampled by Kanye West on Jay-Z's song "This Can't Be Life", featuring Beanie Sigel and Scarface.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Chinese media find silver linings in smog clouds

By Jonathan Kaiman
. . .

On Monday the website of the state broadcaster CCTV published a list of five "unexpected benefits" brought by the smog.

It said the haze had unified Chinese people, as they found solidarity in their complaints; equalised them, as both rich and poor people were vulnerable to its effects; enlightened them, as they realised the cost of rapid growth; and "made Chinese people more humorous", as smog-related jokes proliferated on the internet.

. . .

The Oriental Daily newspaper thanked the pollution for "keeping it so that internet users can only lay down and spout vitriol online, creating quite a few good paragraphs". The real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang called the articles "anti-humanity propaganda". Another user wrote: "I've been poisoned for the past few days, hasn't that done enough harm?"

On 6 December Shanghai's air quality index hit 482. Levels above 300 are considered hazardous. Authorities cancelled flights, closed schools and forced cars off the road; for the first nine days of the month, they warned children and the elderly to stay indoors. A cold front on Tuesday cleared much of the smog away.

NASA airborne mission helps manage water supplies in California

By (UPI)
. . .

Despite the driest year in California's recorded history, high-resolution snow maps of the Tuolumne River Basin in the Sierra Nevada provided by the prototype Airborne Snow Observatory mission helped optimize reservoir filling and hydroelectric generation at a reservoir and dam that serves the San Francisco Bay Area, the space agency reported Monday.

. . .

"For the first time, Airborne Snow Observatory data are telling us the total water in the snowpack in the watershed and the absorption of sunlight that control its melt speed, enabling us to estimate how much water will flow out of a basin when the snow melts," said Tom Painter, observatory principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

. . .

Efficient reservoir operations are vital in the face of ongoing climate change, larger weather uncertainties, California's ongoing severe drought and increasing demand for water, he said.

Newly discovered greenhouse gas '7,000 times more powerful than CO2'

By Suzanne Goldenberg
A new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth has been discovered by researchers in Toronto.

The newly discovered gas, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century.

. . .

"From a climate change perspective, individually, PFTBA's atmospheric concentration does not significantly alert the phenomenon of climate change," Hong said. "Still the biggest culprit is CO2 from fossil fuel emissions."

But PFTBA is long-lived. The Toronot researchers estimated PFTBA remains in the atmosphere for about 500 years, and unlike carbon dioxide, that is taken up by forests and oceans, there are no known natural "sinks" on Earth to absorb it.

China's coal use forecast to surge

By Michael Lelyveld
Last month, the China National Coal Association (CNCA) forecast that consumption of the high-polluting fuel will reach 4.8 billion tonnes by 2020, the official Xinhua news agency reported. That would be an increase of more than 36% over 2012 levels, based on figures cited by the industry group.

. . .

 China already burns more coal than the rest of the world combined, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. But if the industry's forecast comes true, China would add another 1.28 billion tonnes annually, or about 60% more than total

. . .

 In September, the State Council issued a five-year plan to fight air pollution, promising to reduce coal's share in the country's energy mix to 65% by 2017, compared with 68.4% in 2011. Cuts in coal use were ordered for Beijing and regions near the largest cities. But the industry forecast is a reminder that the total volume of China's coal consumption will still grow.

. . .

 In an article posted earlier this year by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, energy expert Kevin Jianjun Tu argued that the caps are only guidelines, not legally binding targets. Some coal-producing provinces had exceeded their regional caps for 2012 by as much as 18%, Tu said.

Science and Health
Exercise Alleviates Sexual Side-Effects of Antidepressants in Women

By (ScienceDaily)
New psychology research, which could have important public health implications for alleviating some side effects of antidepressants, shows that engaging in exercise at the right time significantly improves sexual functioning in women who are taking the antidepressants.

. . .

The results showed that 30 minutes of exercise just before intercourse can reduce the effect of the libido-dulling drugs. They were based on the participants’ self-reported assessments of their sexual functioning, satisfaction and psychological health before and after each experiment. They also reported each sexual event in online diaries.
 According to the findings, committing to a regular exercise routine improved orgasm function in all women. However, those who exercised immediately before sex experienced significantly stronger libidos and overall improvements in sexual functioning.

Moderately intense exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system, which facilitates blood flow to the genital region. Antidepressants have been shown to depress this system. Scheduling regular sexual activity and exercise may be an effective tool for alleviating these adverse side effects, Lorenz says.

Tourists Are Giving Endangered Iguanas Diarrhea and High Cholesterol

By John R. Platt
Hop on over to the photo-sharing site Flickr and you’ll find dozens of photos and videos of people eagerly feeding grapes to hungry iguanas on the beaches of the Bahamas. It looks like great fun and the iguanas obviously go crazy for the fruit, which is usually fed to the lizards on the ends of long sticks. There’s just one problem with this activity: the food is making the iguanas sick. Health conditions arising from the grapes and other foods that iguanas do not normally eat in the wild include diarrhea, high blood sugar and cholesterol as well as lowered levels of potassium and a high level of parasitic infections. All of these problems “could have deleterious effects on long-term fitness and population stability,” according to Charles Knapp, director of conservation and research at Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium and the lead author of a new study of the iguanas published last week in Conservation Physiology.

. . .

Knapp and his team wanted to find out if the hundreds of weekly tourists visiting iguana habitats were having a positive or negative effect on the animals’ health. They traveled to the islands in 2010 and 2012 and examined iguanas that interact with tourists as well as those in more isolated locations. They found that both groups of iguanas appeared the same externally but the tourist-fed iguanas—especially the more aggressive males—showed signs of nutritional imbalance. Many had diarrhea, all of them carried parasites and their blood showed abnormal levels of calcium, glucose, potassium and uric acid. The tourist-fed males also had aberrant amounts of cholesterol, copper, magnesium and other nutrients. The paper links the high-sugar, low-potassium levels to the grapes, Ground beef and other animal proteins could be causing the high cholesterol and uric acid levels found in the iguanas. (The iguanas are normally herbivorous.)

Tourists aren’t the primary threat to Bahamian rock iguanas, however. The species faces habitat loss due to construction, dangerous feral animals such as goats, collection for pet trade and illegal hunting. (They’re the only iguana species still caught for food.) Those threats aren’t going away anytime soon.

Make your own Google Street View virtual tours

By Lauren Crabbe
. . .

Last year, Google started letting people upload their own 360-degree photo spheres to Google Maps’ Street View — a collection of 360-degree images within Google Maps. In June, users were able to collect and share their photo spheres via Google's Views site. Now, users can create their own connected photo sphere tours in Views and share them in Street View. That's a whole lot of Google speak, but essentially, Google's expanding its efforts to add more and more crowdsourced imagery to its Google Maps database.

Unlike the practical applications of Google Maps for directions or live traffic reports, Google says it has a more poetic aim for Street View.

. . .

Users can now connect their photo spheres into navigable "constellations" using Google's Views site. This is done easily with Android-created photo spheres  which have location tags, though photo spheres can also be compiled from other digital images as long as you add photo sphere XMP metadata. When made public, these connected photo spheres become virtual tours inside Google Maps' Street View, also known as a "Street View experience."

. . .

Users have the opportunity to report images that violate Google Street View's privacy policy. Subjects like the interior of private homes, identifiable faces and license plates are either removed or blurred to protect people's identities and property.

How Shazam uses big data to predict music's next big artists

By Siraj Datoo
. . . beyond individuals sending out information to their social media profiles, there is a huge group actively looking to receive information – and organisations are using predictive analysis to forecast upcoming trends.

Shazam is one app that does just that. Users can upload segments of songs they are listening to – on the television, on the radio or even in a shopping centre – and find out the name and artist of the song. Users make 15 million song identifications each day – and Shazam is using this data to predict artists that will receive mainstream attention next year.

. . .

So how exactly does it work? Shazam combines critics' reviews alongside the number of people that have used Shazam to find a song to understand which artists are generating the most interest. This means that instead of only relying on what the criticism (positive or negative) of the music has been, Shazam is able to use consumer behaviour to better judge the artists that have already started to pique the interests of listeners and are starting to gain traction.

FreeBSD won't use Intel & Via's hardware random number generators, believes NSA has compromised them

By Cory Doctorow
The maintainers of the security-conscious FreeBSD operating system have declared that they will no longer rely on the random number generators in Intel and Via's chips, on the grounds that the NSA likely has weakened these opaque hardware systems in order to ease surveillance. The decision is tied to the revelations of the BULLRUN/EDGEHILL programs, wherein the NSA and GCHQ spend $250M/year sabotaging security in standards, operating systems, software, and networks.
"For 10, we are going to backtrack and remove RDRAND and Padlock backends and feed them into Yarrow instead of delivering their output directly to /dev/random," FreeBSD developers said. "It will still be possible to access hardware random number generators, that is, RDRAND, Padlock etc., directly by inline assembly or by using OpenSSL from userland, if required, but we cannot trust them any more."
Holiday Shopping for Friends? Looking for Unique Gifts Might Not Be Best Plan

By (ScienceDaily)
Finding the perfect gift for that special someone is never easy and the challenge gets even harder during the holiday season. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers shopping for more than one person tend to pass on "guaranteed hits" in lieu of getting something unique for each person on their list.
Share This:

. . .

This behavior is what the researchers term "over-individuation," or the tendency for shoppers to select a variety of gifts even when they know the recipients won't be comparing gifts. Ironically, this means that the more shoppers try to be thoughtful, the more likely they are to pass up gifts that would be better liked in favor of individuated gifts.

. . .

"To help consumers from losing sight of what gifts people would most appreciate, we encourage gift givers to think about the type of gifts the recipient would most likely pick for themselves," the authors conclude.

China bans shark fin soup, other wildlife products at official dinners

By Faine Greenwood
Shark fin soup, your days are numbered — at least when it comes to official Chinese state banquets, after a new regulation was enacted that bans dishes made from shark fins, bird nests, and other wild animal products at official events.

. . .

Wildlife products aren't the only items covered by the new regulation: officials also are no longer allowed to serve either cigarettes or upmarket liquors at official dinners, and cannot stay in suite rooms on business trips. Meanwhile, local hosts are banned from giving gifts to the officials who visit them.

. . .

"It's going to have a great impact on society, because what the government does shows leadership in society and then the corporate sector will quickly follow suit," said Alex Hofford, executive director of the marine conservation group MyOceanto AFP of the choice.

"From a cultural point of view, it's pretty important that they... recognize how outdated traditions can be left by the wayside eventually like footbinding and slavery -- why not shark fins?" he said.

Canada Confronts its Own “Tuskegee” Studies

By Miriam Shuchman
Last summer’s revelations that malnourished Aboriginals in Canada served as unwitting and unprotected subjects in nutritional experiments in the 1940s and 1950s brought a sharp reaction–though the research took place decades ago, the pain in Canada’s First Nations communities was fresh. First Nations chiefs signed an emergency resolution demanding that the government release all information about the research,  Aboriginal advocates rallied in 12 cities (here and here) to push for the information, and Canadian bioethicists compared the nutrition studies to the Tuskegee syphilis study. Four months later the story is off the front pages, but it continues to unfold.

. . .

 The research began in 1942, when a team of physicians and bureaucrats traveled “by bush plane and dog sled” to reserves in Northern Manitoba, where they documented hunger and interviewed chiefs to understand the conditions causing it. The most experienced nutritionist on the trip was an American, H.D. Kruse, an administrator for the New York-based Milbank Memorial Fund, which was cosponsoring the trip. (As an interesting footnote, the same organization provided ongoing support to the Tuskegee Study over the course of nearly 40 years.) A study doctor reported that people on the reserves “were almost starved,” but the team did not arrange for increased food rations; instead, they designed a controlled study of nutritional supplements, such as thiamine or ascorbic acid. They gave supplements to 125 adults, while 175 others served as controls, with both groups undergoing detailed physical and eye examinations.

. . .

 At a school in Nova Scotia, for example, children were getting less than half of the amount of milk recommended for Canadian children at the time. The researchers designed a study that involved conducting physical exams on the children for two years to establish a “baseline,” and only then increasing the amount of milk and following the students for three more years. At another school they tested vitamin C supplements. Since dental services might interfere with the effects of supplements on the gums and teeth, the scientists blocked certain types of dental care for children in the study schools, depriving them of services that other students received. (The dentists were asked to continue their extraction and filling service for decayed teeth or cavities, since that service would not “interfere with the nutritional study.”)

. . .

For my reporting for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, I also interviewed Susan Zimmerman, director of the federal office for research integrity. “Sadly, this is not the only example we could point to,” she said, noting other cases of research abuse involving Canada’s Aboriginals, but she emphasized that under Canada’s current research rules, Aboriginals are explicitly protected. The Tri-Council Policy Statement-2, in place since 2010, requires that researchers studying First Nations, Inuit, or Métis peoples take direction from those communities and their leaders.

Tackling Uganda's lack of school places

By Sean Coughlan
. . .

At the most fundamental level it has to provide enough places for one of the world's fastest growing populations. There are more Ugandans under the age of 18 than there are adults.

. . .

A social enterprise called Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) is an important part of this, running an expanding network of schools that aims to raise standards and ensure that schools are managed properly and transparently.

. . .

A key difference is the concept of creating schools that will be self-sustaining into the future. The charity's founder, John Rendel, says he wants support from the UK to be no longer necessary after 2021.

As well as creating more places, PEAS provides a structured, systematic approach to standards and the curriculum, which will be able to be replicated. It makes improving the quality of teaching a cornerstone.

. . . PEAS schools charge parents a small fee. The argument is that this money, along with the government payments, will give the school a viable independent financial future. It means teachers get paid.

. . .

But an education ministry official in Kampala says that the reality is that the state sector does not have the capacity to provide all the places needed.

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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Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

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