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
Palestinian Ambassador In Prague Killed In Blast
The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in an explosion that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years, officials said. Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the explosion, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, noting that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years. It also appeared that the door of the safe had been booby-trapped, according to Zoulova. It was unclear how al-Jamal tried to open it or what type of safe it was. The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, but it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization's offices in the 1980s, Malki said.
"The ambassador decided to open it. After he opened it, apparently something happened inside (the safe) and went off," Malki told The Associated Press.
It was not immediately clear how Malki knew the safe had been untouched for more than 20 years or why and when the safe would have been booby-trapped.
Antarctic Rescue: Icebound Ship’s Passengers To Be Airlifted ‘Within Hours’
Passengers on a ship trapped in Antarctic ice are expected to be rescued on Thursday as improved weather conditions provide a 36-hour window for them to be airlifted out.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said at 7.30am on Thursday that the rescue mission would start “within hours” but added that there was a time delay in the information it was receiving from Antarctica so the operation could already be under way.
Fifty two scientists, journalists and tourists, along with 22 crew members, have been trapped in sea ice on the Akademik Shokalskiy since Christmas Eve.
Passengers on the stricken ship have stamped a helicopter landing pad into the ice nearby and the chopper will make seven 45-minute round trips, the first five for passengers and the last two for luggage and equipment.Twenty-two crew will stay with the ship.
Pope Francis urges followers to listen to the 'cry for peace'
Pope Francis made an impassioned New Year's peace address on Wednesday, saying the heart of humanity seemed to have gone astray and too many people were still indifferent to war, violence and injustice.
Pope Francis encouraged people to listen to the suffering of others in his New Year's Day address given in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday.
The pontiff, who took his papal name from St Francis of Assisi, the saint most associated with peace, urged the world to listen to the "cry for peace" from suffering peoples.
"What on earth is happening in the hearts of men? What on earth is happening in the heart of humanity?" he said to tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square on the day the Roman Catholic Church celebrates its World Day of Peace.
"It's time to stop!" he said, departing from his prepared text.
Mayor Bill De Blasio Takes Formal Oath Of Office At City Hall (PHOTOS)
Bill de Blasio took the oath of office administered by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday, formally becoming the 109th mayor of New York City while pledging to pursue a sweeping liberal agenda.
"Big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few but the animating force behind every community, in every borough," he said in his speech.
The moment was the pinnacle of de Blasio's unlikely political rise as a symbol of restoration for the city's Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 in one of the nation's most liberal cites yet have not controlled City Hall since 1993.
De Blasio, 52, was first sworn in 12 hours earlier at a brief modest ceremony outside his home in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. Flanked only by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their two teenage children, he was administered the oath by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, signed the official paperwork and, with a broad smile, paid the requisite $9 fee to the city clerk.
The events at City Hall were conducted on a far grander scale.
Most Economists Say Happy New Year — Really
As the new year begins, most economists' annual forecasts are brimming with good cheer.
"The economic news remains broadly encouraging," the Goldman Sachs forecasters write in their 2014 outlook.
And the brighter prospects are not limited to this country. "The global economy is likely to emerge in 2014 with modest growth of 3.3 percent compared with 2.5 percent this year," according to Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight.
Most stock analysts also see more gains coming on Wall Street. JPMorgan chief U.S. equity strategist Tom Lee, who accurately predicted stock advances for 2013, says Americans are now in the midst of "a classic bull market," driven by good earnings.
So, why all the upbeat forecasts? What has changed? These are among the most commonly cited factors:
Science and Technology
Monsanto’s Scary New Scheme: Why Does It Really Want All This Data?
Imagine cows fed and milked entirely by robots. Or tomatoes that send an e-mail when they need more water. Or a farm where all the decisions about where to plant seeds, spray fertilizer and steer tractors are made by software on servers on the other side of the sea.
This is what more and more of our agriculture may come to look like in the years ahead, as farming meets Big Data. There’s no shortage of farmers and industry gurus who think this kind of “smart” farming could bring many benefits. Pushing these tools onto fields, the idea goes, will boost our ability to control this fiendishly unpredictable activity and help farmers increase yields even while using fewer resources.
The big question is who exactly will end up owning all this data, and who gets to determine how it is used. On one side stand some of the largest corporations in agriculture, who are racing to gather and put their stamp on as much of this information as they can. Opposing them are farmers’ groups and small open-source technology start-ups, which want to ensure a farm’s data stays in the farmer’s control and serves the farmer’s interests.
Many farmers are wary that these giants could use these tools to win unprecedented levels of insight into the economics and operational workings of their farms. The issue is not that these companies would shower the farmers with ads, as Facebook does when it knows you’re looking to buy sneakers. For farmers, the risks of big data seem to pierce right to the heart of how they make a living. What would it mean, for instance, for Monsanto to know the intricacies of their business?
Farm advocacy groups are now scrambling to understand how — if given free rein — these corporations could misuse the data they collect. “We’re signing up for things without knowing what we’re giving up,” said Mark Nelson, director of commodities at the Kansas Farm Bureau. In May, the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national lobbying group, published a policy brief outlining some potential risks around these data-driven farm tools.
RoboCop? How About RoboPenguin!
At the American Physical Society's fluid dynamics conference this winter, there was a healthy infusion of biology. In between talks on propellers and plane wings, there were presentations about flying snakes, fire ants, humpback whales and hummingbirds. Physicists from all over the world are turning to the natural world to help them solve engineering problems.
It's not a new phenomenon. Otto Lilienthal, the "Father of Flight," famously studied storks to help him develop his gliders. But it's still a bit surprising that another scientist has turned to flightless birds for inspiration — specifically, he's turned to African penguins.
Flavio Noca, now a professor of aerodynamics at Switzerland's University of Applied Sciences, first encountered the power of penguins back when he was a grad student. He came across a paper that described the incredible acceleration of emperor penguins: from zero to 15 mph in just a second.
"I was just amazed by their performance," Noca remembers. "That's when, basically, I decided, 'OK, I want to work on penguins.' "
Society and Culture
The “Middle Class” Myth: Here’s Why Wages Are Really So Low Today
Let me tell you the story of an “unskilled” worker in America who lived better than most of today’s college graduates. In the winter of 1965, Rob Stanley graduated from Chicago Vocational High School, on the city’s Far South Side. Pay rent, his father told him, or get out of the house. So Stanley walked over to Interlake Steel, where he was immediately hired to shovel taconite into the blast furnace on the midnight shift. It was the crummiest job in the mill, mindless grunt work, but it paid $2.32 an hour — enough for an apartment and a car. That was enough for Stanley, whose main ambition was playing football with the local sandlot all-stars, the Bonivirs.
Stanley’s wages would be the equivalent of $17.17 today — more than the “Fight For 15” movement is demanding for fast-food workers. Stanley’s job was more difficult, more dangerous and more unpleasant than working the fryer at KFC (the blast furnace could heat up to 2,000 degrees). According to the laws of the free market, though, none of that is supposed to matter. All that is supposed to matter is how many people are capable of doing your job. And anyone with two arms could shovel taconite. It required even less skill than preparing dozens of finger lickin’ good menu items, or keeping straight the orders of 10 customers waiting at the counter. Shovelers didn’t need to speak English. In the early days of the steel industry, the job was often assigned to immigrants off the boat from Poland or Bohemia.
Stanley’s ore-shoveling gig was also considered an entry-level position. After a year in Vietnam, he came home to Chicago and enrolled in a pipefitters’ apprenticeship program at Wisconsin Steel.
So why did Rob Stanley, an unskilled high school graduate, live so much better than someone with similar qualifications could even dream of today? Because the workers at Interlake Steel were represented by the United Steelworkers of America, who demanded a decent salary for all jobs. The workers at KFC are represented by nobody but themselves, so they have to accept a wage a few cents above what Congress has decided is criminal
Rose Parade's Gay Marriage Sparks Boycott
Partners who have been together for more than a decade are going to get married on New Year's Day. In front of more than 50 million people. On live television.
Maybe. It remains to be seen how much camera time will be dedicated to the first-of-its-kind same-sex wedding at the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena Wednesday.
Folks of the narrow-minded variety, many of them from outside California, are having fits about the wedding's inclusion in the annual event.
The people behind the "Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade" Facebook page reached more than 3,000 likes over the weekend. They want those opposed to same-sex marriage to tell parade organizers, parade marchers and the event's sponsors "no":The Rose Parade shouldn't be used by gay activists to promote the gay agenda, and a rose parade float is no place to flagrantly display a gay wedding. But I guess they think they can pervert this year's theme "Dreams Come True," to allow this disgusting exhibition. Tell them NO!Yeah.
Well, that's different...
Four villagers in northeast Kenya, angry that cheetahs were killing their goats, lay in wait one night in November and then chased down and captured the cheetahs. Cheetahs are regarded as the fastest mammals on Earth, but they lack endurance; Kenyans are marathon prodigies. Indeed, the cheetahs were captured only when they ran out of gas after about four miles of pursuit by the Kenyans, and were handed over alive, and exhausted, to the Kenyan Wildlife Service.
Bill Moyers and Company:
Full Show: The Pope, Poverty and Poetry