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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, current leader Neon Vincent, regular editors side pocket, maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, rfall, and JML9999. Alumni editors include (but not limited to) palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7, BentLiberal, Oke and jlms qkw. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

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The Guardian
 

• Aaron Rodgers leads Packers to victory in return
• Cowboys follows usual script even without Tony Romo
• Chargers get lucky

The stage was set for a Hollywood ending. Eight weeks after going down with a fractured collarbone, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was back to wreak vengeance on Chicago, the team who had caused his injury in the first place. Despite winning just two games in his absence, Green Bay still controlled their playoff destiny. Win on Sunday, and they would leapfrog the Bears to finish top of the NFC North.

Rodgers's availability had only been confirmed three days earlier, when he was cleared at last for a full-contact return. The timing could not have been better. This was the grand finale fans had been craving, a comeback so climactic that it demanded its own Dark Knight-themed movie trailer.

NPR
 

Coaches' heads are beginning to roll in the National Football League, now that the 2013 regular season is over.

NFL.com reports that:

— Cleveland Browns coach Rod Chudzinski has lost his job after just one season with the club. The Browns finished with a 4-12 record.

— The Minnesota Vikings have dismissed coach Leslie Frazier. In just more than three seasons, he had a 21-32-1 record. This year, the Vikings went 5-10-1.

And in perhaps the least surprising report, The Washington Post says that the Redskins have fired coach Mike Shanahan after his team finished the season with three wins and 13 losses.

Al Jazeera America
 

The Denver Broncos quarterback broke the previous record of 50 touchdown passes held by New England Patriot Tom Brady

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday broke the NFL record of New England Patriot Tom Brady for most touchdown (TD) passes thrown in a single season with 51.

Manning did it on a 25-yard pass to tight end Julius Thomas with 00:04:28 remaining in a game against the Houston Texans. Just 2 1/2 minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Eric Decker.

"I really feel like it's a team accomplishment, certainly an offensive accomplishment," Manning said. "There's a lot of people that played roles in this."

Manning made the throw to Thomas and walked toward the end zone, where his teammates patted him on the head. He then took off his helmet, walked to the sideline and pumped his fist once. His teammates came out to greet him, and he gave dozens of high-fives as he grinned and walked to the bench.

ESPN
 

Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow has agreed to a multiyear deal to join ESPN as an analyst for the SEC Network, it was announced Monday.

"I am so excited that ESPN has given me this incredible opportunity," Tebow said in a statement. "When I was 6 years old, I fell in love with the game of football, and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC."

Tebow's primary role with the new network will be as an analyst for "SEC Nation," a traveling football pregame show that will originate from a different SEC campus each week. The show will debut before the Texas A&M-South Carolina game in Columbia, S.C., on Aug. 28.

US NEWS

Reuters
 

A Philadelphia judge on Monday set bail at $250,000 for a senior U.S. Roman Catholic Church official whose conviction in a high-profile child sex abuse case was overturned last week.

Monsignor William Lynn, 62, was convicted in June 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child for reassigning a priest with a history of sex abuse to a Philadelphia parish that was unaware of his past.

That priest, Edward Avery, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in the Philadelphia parish.

Lynn, who was not accused of molesting children himself, was the first high-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic Church official to be found guilty of covering up allegations of molestation by a priest. Lynn was secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese from 1994 to 2004,

McClatchy
 

WASHINGTON — Watch out for the governors as the 2016 presidential race starts to sizzle.

Talk to Republicans in Iowa, traditionally the nation’s first caucus state, and they mention Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as potential White House candidates. In New Hampshire, which usually has the country’s first primaries, executive experience also comes up.

“We tend to like governors,” said former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath, a Republican. “We like the idea that they get things done.”

Already, the 2016 presidential cycle is seeing a familiar pattern. Current and former U.S. senators, vice presidents or Cabinet secretaries do well in polls and attract big crowds and big money. They’re national figures, and they’re well known

Al Jazeera America
 

OAKLAND, Calif. — The City Council meeting here in November was a circus that lasted until 2 a.m.

Council members and citizens butted heads over the Domain Awareness Center— a surveillance hub that elected officials said would use thousands of live feeds from cameras, gunshot detectors and license-plate readers to protect the public. Critics worried it would violate rights.

In the post–Edward Snowden era, the tug-of-war between privacy and security has become more charged. Cities around the country continue to grapple with whether to accept federal post-9/11 grants to monitor residents.

Oakland is a singular site for this conflict. It is a city so progressive that a councilman at the hearing wore a skirt in honor of Transgender Remembrance Day. Yet it is also a place where crime is so pervasive that the sheriff wanted to purchase drones to circle over murder hot spots, and it is struggling with a tax base eroded by the foreclosure crisis.

Spiegel Online
 

The NSA has a secret unit that produces special equipment ranging from spyware for computers and cell phones to listening posts and USB sticks that work as bugging devices. Here are some excerpts from the intelligence agency's own catalog.

When agents with the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division want to infiltrate a network or a computer, they turn to their technical experts. This particular unit of the United States intelligence service is known internally as ANT. The acronym presumably stands for Advanced Network Technology, because that's what the division produces -- tools for penetrating network equipment and monitoring mobile phones and computers. ANT's products help TAO agents infiltrate networks and divert or even modify data wherever the NSA's usual methods won't suffice. You can read more about the TAO division, its strengths and tricks in a SPIEGEL feature that was published in English on Sunday.

The Guardian
 

On a chilly Christmas Eve, it took only a minute for a group of staff and residents at a homeless shelter in Harlem to list what the city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, needs to do when he takes office on 1 January.

“Reinstate rent-subsidy vouchers, bring back after-school programs to keep the kids away from drugs and violence, supply more affordable housing for low-income families, sort out food stamps,” one woman rattled off sternly, as she dashed from the anonymous red-brick building on a quiet residential block to talk to a staff member on a cigarette break. “You want me to go on?”

The woman wasn’t a user of the facility, listing demands for herself. She was a security guard, angry at the deterioration in the circumstances of the people she is employed to supervise and protect. Her colleague, shivering in the freezing temperatures, flicked his cigarette butt into the road and pointed to a building across the street – a typical example of low-income housing subsidised by the city but owned and run by a private landlord, he said.

New York Times
 

Two days before his swearing in, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Monday appointed a lifelong educator, Carmen Fariña, as the next leader of the New York City school system.

The appointment puts Ms. Fariña, 70, in charge of the nation’s largest school system at a time of sweeping change, though with a mandate to rethink many of the Bloomberg administration’s educational policies of the last 12 years.

“We cannot continue to be a city where educational opportunity is predetermined by ZIP code,” Mr. de Blasio said, describing how Ms. Fariña as chancellor will help all children realize their potential.

Ms. Fariña worked in the city’s school system for about 40 years, serving as a teacher, principal and superintendent of a Brooklyn school district. She retired in 2006 as deputy chancellor over concerns about the growing use of student test scores to evaluate schools.

NPR
 

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday unveiled the names of the six applicants who have been granted the right to test the commercial uses of "unmanned aircraft systems" — drones.

The FAA's approvals were highly sought after because the test sites are expected to bring high-tech jobs and investments to the states where they're located. The six winners are:

BBC
 

A Californian teenager declared brain dead after a routine operation went badly wrong is due to be removed from life support later.

Jahi McMath, 13, had a tonsillectomy this month to treat a sleep disorder, but she began bleeding heavily after surgery and went into cardiac arrest.

Children's Hospital & Research Center, which carried out the procedure, wants to turn off her ventilator.

A court order keeping Jahi alive expires on Monday evening.

Jahi's family believes she is still alive, but the hospital in Oakland, California, has argued in court papers that there is no medical treatment they can give to the teenager because she is "practically and legally" dead.

UPDATE: #BREAKING: Judge grants TRO extending #Jahi McMath life support until 5pm Jan. 7. WATCH ABC7 News for latest

Reuters
 

Wells Fargo & Co will pay a net $541 million to Fannie Mae to settle claims over defective home loans, completing the government-controlled mortgage company's efforts to have banks buy back troubled loans made before the financial crisis.

Fannie Mae said on Monday it has reached settlements worth roughly $6.5 billion over loan buybacks with eight banks, including Wells Fargo, the nation's largest mortgage lender and fourth-largest bank by assets.

The settlements include a $3.6 billion accord in January with Bank of America Corp over loans from that bank and the former Countrywide Financial Corp. Fannie Mae Chief Executive Timothy Mayopoulos was once general counsel at Bank of America.

It also includes a $968 million accord in July with Citigroup Inc.

In the Wells Fargo settlement, the San Francisco-based bank will pay Fannie Mae $541 million in cash after adjusting for credits from prior repurchases. Before adjustments, the settlement totaled $591 million.

WORLD NEWS

Reuters
 

A bomb ripped a bus apart in Volgograd on Monday, killing 14 people in the second deadly attack blamed on suicide bombers in the southern Russian city in 24 hours and raising fears of Islamist attacks on the Winter Olympics.

President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his prestige on February's Sochi Games and dismissed threats from Chechen and other Islamist militants in the nearby North Caucasus, ordered tighter security nationwide after the morning rush-hour blast.

Investigators said they believed a male suicide bomber set off the blast, a day after a similar attack killed at least 17 in the main rail station of a city that serves as a gateway to the southern wedge of Russian territory bounded by the Black and Caspian Seas and the Caucasus mountains.

The blue and white trolleybus - powered by overhead electric cables - was reduced to a twisted, gutted carcass. Bodies were strewn across the street as Russians prepared to celebrate New Year, the biggest annual holiday.

Reuters
 

Uganda's president said on Monday east African nations had agreed to move in to defeat South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar if he rejected a ceasefire offer, threatening to turn an outburst of ethnic fighting into a regional conflict.

Two weeks of clashes have already killed at least 1,000 people in the world's newest nation, unnerved oil markets and raised fears of a civil war in a region ravaged by fighting in Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We gave Riek Machar four days to respond (to the ceasefire offer) and if he doesn't we shall have to go for him, all of us," Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni told reporters in South Sudan's capital, Juba.

Asked what that meant, Museveni said: "to defeat him".

He did not spell out whether South Sudan's neighbors had actually agreed to send troops to join the conflict that erupted in Juba on December 15.

DW
 

The German National Party (NPD) is in a state of existential crisis. Its money supply has all but dried up, its chairman has resigned, and it once again faces the threat of being banned altogether. "2013 was not a good year for the NPD," says Alexander Häusler, a specialist researcher on right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences.

The party is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, after a German Supreme Court ruling put an end to the supply of state funding. Technically, like all political parties in Germany that win over a certain amount of votes in national and European elections, the NPD is entitled to receive funding proportional to the number of votes cast in its favor. However, the party has to pay a fine of 1.27 million euros ($1.75 million) after submitting faulty accounting records, which will be taken directly from the funds it would have been entitled to from the state.

Matters have not been helped by the NPD's dwindling popularity with the electorate: In the recent general election on September 22, it only managed to scrape 1.3 percent of the vote.

The Guardian
 

A second suicide bombing in as many days in the Russian city of Volgograd has killed at least 14 people, injured dozens more and shredded Kremlin claims to have security under control in a region that will host the winter Olympics in less than six weeks.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a security clampdown in Volgograd and across the country after the bombing of a crowded trolleybus, which came less than 24 hours after 17 people were killed in a suicide attack at the city's main railway station.

The latest blast ripped the rush-hour trolleybus apart, leaving behind a grotesque tangle of metal and glass. At least 40 people were injured, including a one-year-old child who was in critical condition. The explosion occurred as the trolleybus approached a stop near the hospital where many casualties from the railway station attack were taken on Sunday.

The Guardian
 

Gales and torrential rain will usher in the new year for most parts of Britain as a fresh storm sweeps in from the Atlantic, forecasters have said.

There will be no letup for the storm-hit south-east of England as it prepares to face the worst of further heavy downpours on New Year's Day.

However, there was a glimmer of festive cheer for revellers in Scotland as forecasters said there was only a very small chance of showers at Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations.

"For the evening of New Year's Eve the driest in the UK will be across Scotland," said Met office forecaster Helen Chivers.

The Environment Agency said it expected to issue several additional flood warnings for England and Wales on New Year's Eve and into 2014 due to a further storm heading in from the Atlantic.

There were eight flood warnings and 119 flood alerts in place across England and Wales on Monday, with saturated grounds in many areas caused by a week of downpours.

Bloomberg News
 

Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate fell in November and December after President Nicolas Maduro ordered shops to cut prices on everything from refrigerators to Christmas lights.

Consumer prices rose 2.2 percent this month and 4.8 percent in November, compared with 5.1 percent in October, the central bank said in a report posted on its website. The median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for prices to gain 4 percent in November. The central bank didn’t provide the annual inflation figure or the updated scarcity index.

Maduro has blamed shortages and fast inflation on the “parasitic bourgeoisie” and last month ordered more than a 1,000 businesses to reduce prices. Since then, price regulators backed by the military have taken over an electronics chain, a car battery factory, a hardware store and Smurfit Kappa’s packaging plant.

Industry has blamed currency controls for crimping imports in a country that gets about 70 percent of its goods from abroad. Venezuela has the fastest inflation in the world among the 103 economies surveyed by Bloomberg.

CNN
 

Malcolm has an intense gaze. He speaks haltingly, at times pausing, haunted by the memories of the past.
"I used to try too hard to dress like a girl to impress people, but still they would ask are you a girl or a boy," he remembers. "I used to pray. I used to pray to God to change me."
Malcolm is transgender. He was born female, but identifies more as male.
God didn't change him, couldn't help with his sexual or gender identity turmoil, but others decided they would.
"It's painful because it has been mostly done by my family," he says softly, staring off into the distance. "They wanted to teach me how to behave like a woman. They raped me."
Malcolm was 17 at the time.

The Guardian
 

Doctors treating Michael Schumacher said on Monday they were fighting "hour by hour" to save the former Formula One driver's life after he cracked his head on a rock during an off-piste skiing accident in the French Alps.

Dr Jean-Francois Payen, the chief anaesthesiologist at the Grenoble hospital treating Schumacher, said the next 48 hours would be crucial. A brain scan revealed internal bleeding and multiple lesions. "He is in a critical condition … His condition is deemed very serious," Payen told a news conference. "For the moment, we cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher."

The seven-times Formula One champion was airlifted to Grenoble on Sunday after falling heavily and hitting his head while skiing on an unmarked slope at the chic resort of Méribel.

It soon emerged that the accident, initially played down by a spokesman for the resort, had a devastating impact on Schumacher, who was in a coma by the time he arrived at Grenoble.

 

THE ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, HEALTH AND TECHNOLOGY

DW
 

The coming year will start with a bang for the European Space Agency's comet-chasing satellite Rosetta: The craft will awaken from almost three years of deep-space hibernation.

Launched in 2004, the craft has circled the sun five times on its journey. It eventually traveled so far from the energy source that its could no longer charge up its solar cells, and had to be put into hibernation to preserve energy.
But on January 20, an alarm will wake up the craft and it will prepare for arrival to its final destination: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After its system is booted and it points its antennae back at Earth, European Space Agency (ESA) controllers in the German city of Darmstadt will again establish contact.

Rosetta should reach the comet around the middle of summer, and be able to research it up close for about a year. In November, a special landing capsule will be sent to the comet's core to examine materials dating from the beginning of the solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago. It's hoped this will provide clues to the origin of life on Earth.

Al Jazeera America
 

Scientists have found a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of land and water contaminated by mercury surrounding the tar sands in Alberta, where energy companies are producing oil and shipping it throughout Canada and the U.S.

Government scientists are preparing to publish a report that found levels of mercury are up to 16 times higher around the tar-sand operations — principally due to the excavation and transportation of bitumen in the sands by oil and gas companies, according to Postmedia-owned Canadian newspapers like The Vancouver Sun.

Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk recently presented the findings at a toxicology conference in Nashville, Tenn.

The revelations add to growing concerns over the environmental impact of mining the tar sands. Many environmentalists charge that extracting oil from the sands will lead to an increase in carbon emissions, the destruction of the land, water contamination and health problems for Canadians. The debate over the tar sands crossed over into the United States when energy company TransCanada proposed building the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil to the southeastern U.S. for refining and distribution.

The Guardian
 

The Australian icebreaker, Aurora Australis, was thwarted on Monday in its initial attempts to reach the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, the scientific research vessel stuck in sea ice off the coast of Antarctica since Christmas Day. It will now wait for better weather before making a further attempt to cut through the thick pack ice around the Shokalskiy.

The Aurora Australis arrived at the edge of the sea ice surrounding the Shokalskiy – 20 nautical miles from the Russian-operated ship – in the early hours of 30 December, local time. Its attempt to cut through had to be called off soon after, due to poor visibility caused by the overnight build-up of snow and fog.

"The Aurora has tried coming in and got a little way into the pack ice, about two nautical miles, but because visibility was so low and the pack was so thick, it decided it was more sensible to go back out to open water and it has done so, as has the Chinese icebreaker vessel, the Xue Long," said Chris Turney, leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE). The Aurora Australis is now waiting 22 nautical miles south-east of the Shokalskiy.

Bloomberg News
 

Rayshauna Gray makes frequent trips around New England from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The 27-year-old doesn’t own a car and says she can’t imagine ever wanting to.

It takes two minutes for her to type relayrides.com into her Internet browser and arrange to rent one of many vehicles sitting unused in her neighbors’ garages.

“It’s super easy,” said Gray, a residential manager at the Cambridge Institute of International Education. “I get a car only when I need it, maybe every month and a half or so.”

Emerging online services are connecting consumers such as Gray to a previously untapped universe of idle assets, enabling them to squeeze more value out of cars, designer dresses, baby toys and bedrooms that belong to other people or businesses. In this leaner, more efficient kind of consumption, just taking hold in major cities, New York University Professor Arun Sundararajan sees the makings of a new wave of productivity gains.

NPR
 

If I say cinnamon, you say ... sugar? It's a popular combination, of course.

But if you're interested in the health-promoting effects of cinnamon, you may want to think anew about the spice.

For instance, says John Critchley, executive chef at Bourbon Steak Restaurant in Washington, D.C., why not add it to savory dishes? He uses cinnamon to create a spice and herb rub for lamb loin. He also whips up a great spinach salad with raisins, pine nuts and cinnamon.

Critchley is a fan of the intense aromatics in cinnamon, especially in Saigon — a cousin of the cassia varieties of cinnamon most commonly used in the U.S. and Europe. And he says adding cinnamon to spice blends is a great way to layer flavors when you're cooking.

And when you start to look at the potential health-promoting effects of the spice, there's even more incentive to experiment with it in the kitchen.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees. It has long been considered a medicinal plant. There are several varieties, harvested from southern China to Southeast Asia.

NPR
 

The Guardian recently published an amusing compilation of science jokes solicited from a variety of scientists. They range from classics you may have come across, like these:
A psychoanalyst shows a patient an inkblot, and asks him what he sees. The patient says: "A man and woman making love." The psychoanalyst shows him a second inkblot, and the patient says: "That's also a man and woman making love." The psychoanalyst says: "You are obsessed with sex." The patient says: "What do you mean I am obsessed? You are the one with all the dirty pictures."
There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don't.
After sex, one behaviourist turned to another behaviourist and said, "That was great for you, but how was it for me?"

C/NET
 

Over the past couple of weeks, there were two interesting developments around Microsoft's "Midori" operating system project.

First, I heard from two of my contacts that Midori -- Microsoft's non-Windows-based operating system project -- moved into the Unified Operating System group under Executive Vice President Terry Myerson. (Before that, it was an incubation project, without a potential commercialization home inside the company.)

Secondly, Microsoft officials seemingly gave the green light to some of the Midori team to go public with more details about the project. Specifically, Joe Duffy, one of the Midori team members, blogged on December 27 about the language used to develop Midori, which the Midori team built alongside the OS itself.

That language, codenamed "M#," ("M Sharp") according to several different sources of mine, is an extension of Microsoft's C# language. According to a self-identified former Softie on a Reddit thread discussing Duffy's post, this new language "grew out of Sing#, the system language of Microsoft Research's Singularity OS."

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