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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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Top commanders in the U.S. Army have announced publicly that they have a problem: They have too many "toxic leaders" — the kind of bosses who make their employees miserable. Many corporations share a similar problem, but in the Army's case, destructive leadership can potentially have life or death consequences. So, some Army researchers are wondering if toxic officers have contributed to soldiers' mental health problems.

One of those researchers is Dave Matsuda. In 2010, then-Brig. Gen. Pete Bayer, who was supervising the Army's drawdown in Iraq, asked Matsuda to study why almost 30 soldiers in Iraq had committed or attempted suicides in the past year.

"We got to a point where we were exceptionally frustrated by the suicides that were occurring," Bayer says. "And quite honestly feeling — at least I was — helpless to some degree that otherwise good young men and women were taking their lives."

Matsuda might seem like an unconventional choice to study Army suicides. He's an anthropologist; the Army hired him to advise U.S. commanders on how to understand what was really going on below the surface in Iraq. But Bayer says those skills are what prompted him to ask Matsuda to look below the surface of the suicide problem in the Army.


A blast of Arctic air gripped the mid-section of the United States on Monday, bringing the coldest temperatures in two decades, forcing businesses and schools to close and causing widespread airline delays and hazardous driving conditions.

Meteorologists said temperatures were dangerously cold and life-threatening in some places, with 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 Celsius) recorded in Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. The chill was set to bear down on eastern and southern states as the day wore on.

The frigid temperatures in the United States mirrored or outdid those in such parts of the world as Almaty, Kazakhstan where it was minus 2 degrees F (minus 19 C); Mongolia, where temperatures reached minus 10 degrees F (minus 23 C) and Irkutsk, in Siberia, where it was minus 24 degrees F (minus 31 C).


An American-born woman who calls herself Jihad Jane was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for a failed al Qaeda-linked plot to kill a Swedish artist who had depicted the head of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad on a dog.

Colleen R. LaRose, 50, who converted to Islam online and has maintained her faith, was given credit for the four years she has already served. She pleaded guilty to following orders in 2009 from alleged al Qaeda operatives.

LaRose, who could have received a life sentence, has given authorities significant help in other terrorism cases since her 2009 arrest, prosecutors said.

LaRose, who used the name Jihad Jane as she became involved in the Muslim online community, traveled to Europe in 2009 intending to participate in a militant plot to shoot artist Lars Vilks in the chest six times. But LaRose became impatient with the men who lured her to Europe and she gave up after six weeks and returned to Philadelphia, where she was arrested.

McClatchy DC

Same-sex marriages in Utah are now on hold, as the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stayed a trial judge's decision that permitted the marriages to proceed.

The high court effectively stopped the marriages pending Utah's appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Supreme Court did not issue any explanation for the decision, and no dissents were noted.

Utah's original request to block same-sex marriages pending resolution of its appeal went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles petitions from the region that includes Utah. Sotomayor referred the question to the full court.

Al Jazeera America

When Marvin Bing Jr. was 12 years old, he was living in a foster home in central Pennsylvania.

One day he decided to take a kitchen knife to school in his book bag. He didn’t have any intention to use it, but he thought it would seem cool to classmates. When the teacher noticed kids gathered around Bing’s desk, oohing and ahhing, he was sent to the principal’s office.

But that was just the beginning. Bing was arrested, taken away in a police car and sent to a juvenile holding facility to await a court date. “It was lockup,” he said. “I had a cell. It was all blue. I had a little bed and a steel locked door. The whole thing, at 12 years old.”

In a single moment, something that happened in school changed Bing’s life, yanking him into the justice system — all before even becoming a teenager. But he is far from alone.

On any given day in the United States, about 70,000 children are held in residential juvenile centers like the one Bing was sent to, and at least two thirds of them are charged with nonviolent offenses. Another 10,000 are detained in adult prisons and jails. Each year, as many as 250,000 youths under 18 are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults.

The Guardian

The Pentagon indicated Monday that the US-built Iraqi security forces are on their own to recapture the western Sunni province of Anbar from al-Qaida fighters, who have taken control of key locations in the desert near the Syrian border.

Al-Qaida’s Iraqi-Syrian affiliate has declared control of Falluja, the site of two of the bloodiest battles of the nine-year US occupation. It is the latest escalation after some of the worst violence Iraq has experienced since 2007.

But as bitter as it may be within the Pentagon to see the black banners of al-Qaida above the buildings of a city where soldiers and marines twice fought house-to-house assaults, there is little appetite to recommit precious US military resources, and secretary of state John Kerry has ruled out the return of US troops to aid the Iraqis they once trained.

“We’re not doing tactical work with the Iraqis,” said army colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, who raised doubts about the severity of the past days events in Anbar.


Spot wholesale electricity in Texas topped $5,000 a megawatt-hour for the first time as frigid weather boosted demand and prompted the grid operator to import generation from Mexico and ask users to conserve power until at least tomorrow.

The temperature in Dallas was 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius) at 10:30 a.m. local time, down 17 degrees from the average low for the day, according to AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. Houston was projected to see a low of 22 degrees, 23 below normal.

“Ercot this morning got hit with multiple plant outages because they had temperatures below freezing and they are not really designed for that,” Kate Trischitta, director of trading at Consolidated Edison Inc.’s wholesale energy trading division in New York, said in a telephone interview.

Power consumption on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. network, which covers most of the state, averaged 53,369 megawatts for the hour ended at noon, a 6.7 percent increase from the day-ahead forecast of 50,034 megawatts, according to the grid’s website.


Janet Yellen won U.S. Senate confirmation to become the 15th chairman of the Federal Reserve and the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.

Yellen, 67, was confirmed today by a 56-26 vote, with 11 Republicans supporting her. She’ll replace Ben S. Bernanke, whose second term as chairman expires Jan. 31, as the Fed trims monthly bond purchases in a first step toward lessening the unprecedented stimulus.

Currently Fed vice chairman, Yellen has backed Bernanke’s efforts to steer the economy through its most severe crisis since the 1930s with record-low interest rates and three rounds of bond buying that have swelled Fed assets to $4.02 trillion. She pledged in a Nov. 14 confirmation hearing to press on with accommodation until achieving a “strong recovery.”

NY Times

The N.F.L. and lawyers for the more than 4,000 former players who said the league hid from them the dangers of repeated hits to the head have agreed on the details of a $760 million settlement that could determine how retirees with head trauma are compensated.

The filing in federal court on Monday is a key step toward resolving a long-running legal battle and may serve as a blueprint for other concussion-related suits.

Assuming the judge in the case gives preliminary approval, the retired players will be notified of the plan’s details and have several months to accept or opt out of the settlement. The proposal would allow the N.F.L. to avoid legal liability while providing retired players who have cognitive disorders money and medical treatment without them having to prove that their injuries were caused by concussions received during their pro football careers.



Al Qaeda gunmen seeking to form a radical Islamic state out of the chaos of Syria's civil war are fighting hard to reconquer the province they once controlled in neighboring Iraq, stirring fears the conflict is exporting ever more instability.

Exploiting local grievances against Baghdad's rule and buoyed by al Qaeda gains in Syria, the fighters have taken effective control of Anbar's two main cities for the first time since U.S. occupation troops defeated them in 2006-07.

Their advance is ringing alarm bells in Washington: The United States has pledged to help Baghdad quell the militant surge in Anbar -- although not with troops -- to stabilize a province that saw the heaviest fighting of the U.S. occupation.

Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has a tough potential foe in Anbar's well-armed tribes, fellow Sunnis ill-disposed to ceding power to al Qaeda even if they share ISIL's hostility to the Shi'ite-led central government.

Spiegel Online

German Chancellor Angela Merkel fractured her pelvis in a skiing accident while on Christmas vacation in Switzerland, her spokesman said Monday. She has cancelled appointments and will have to spend much of the next three weeks lying down.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 59, has cancelled many of her appointments after injuring her pelvis while cross-country skiing in Switzerland during the Christmas break.

"She fell. While cross-country skiing. We think it was at low speed," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. He said she had suffered "heavy bruising combined with an incomplete fracture of the left rear pelvic ring."


A statement released by Centre Hospitalier Universitaire clinic in Grenoble on Monday said there was no change in Michael Schumacher's condition since its last update, issued on Saturday.

"The clinical state of Michael Schumacher is stable as he's under permanent care and treatment," the statement said. "However, the medical team in charge stresses that it continues to assess his situation as critical."

It also said there would be no further updates on his condition "for the time being."
The medical team treating the former driver, along with his manager, Sabine Kehm, also repeated a call to the media to respect the right to privacy of both the patient and his family.

"We ask you again, insistently, to ... stick to the information provided by the medical team in charge or his management because they are the only valid ones," the statement said.

Al Jazeera America

Rebel fighters, including ones from the newly formed Islamic Front, laid siege Monday to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in their northern stronghold of Raqqa, freeing 50 captives, including a Turkish journalist, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Raqqa emerged as a new front Sunday in fighting among rebels battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad, with various groups joining forces against Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and and the Levant (ISIL).

Raqqa is the only provincial capital to have fallen out of regime hands since the conflict erupted after a bloody crackdown by Assad's forces on democracy protests in March 2011.

Al Jazeera America

Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to consider setting up a joint force to protect vital oilfields during the ongoing crisis in the South, Sudan's foreign minister has said.

The discussion was broached on Monday during a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the South Sudanese capital of Juba, where South Sudan requested talks on deploying a joint force to secure at-risk oil fields.

"Sudan and South Sudan are in consultations about the deployment of a mixed force to protect the oilfields in the South," Sudanese foreign minister Ali Ahmed Karti said, adding that Juba had come up with the proposal.

Karti spoke at the airport in Khartoum after visiting Juba, where Bashir met Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, in a diplomatic effort to halt fighting in South Sudan. Sudan fears the three-week-old conflict in its southern neighbor could disrupt oil flows and damage its own struggling economy.

Bashir's visit came as negotiators in Ethiopia began a process of direct ceasefire talks on Monday to end weeks of fighting.

Spiegel Online

Women in Africa are making great strides in politics and business, and are considered more reliable partners for international aid projects than their male counterparts. Welcome to what the African Union calls the "African Women's Decade."

The skirt? Much too short! And those loud colors! Two older women at a table in the back of the room begin to whisper to each other. A stout woman is standing at the front of the room. She is wearing a tomato-red dress and a knit bolero jacket in cobalt blue.

The woman places her hands on her hips and smiles at the crowd. Then she begins speaking. She attacks the president, rattles off the latest corruption scandals and sharply criticizes the new Protection of Information bill that curbs press freedoms. "We must be alert, so that South Africa doesn't become a police state," she says.

Al Jazeera America

Iran on Monday appeared to rule out participation in Syrian negotiations later this month, dismissing a U.S. suggestion that it could be involved "from the sidelines" as not respecting its dignity.

Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Sunday there might be ways Iran could "contribute from the sidelines" in a so-called Geneva 2 conference in Switzerland on Jan. 22, and on Monday U.S. officials said Tehran might still be able to play a helpful role.

In remarks quoted by state television, the Iranian foreign ministry's spokeswoman said Tehran supported a political solution to end the Syrian civil war, in which at least 100,000 people have been killed and millions uprooted.

"But in order to take part in the "Geneva 2" conference, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept any proposal which does not respect its dignity," the spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, was quoted as saying.

While there has been a warming in U.S.-Iranian ties this year, including a Nov. 24 deal to curb the Iranian nuclear program, there are no visible signs that this has led to greater improvement in other areas such as Syria, where they are on opposite sides of the civil war.


As an undergraduate major in the Symbolic Systems Program at Stanford University, I had amazing opportunities to interact with scholars from a variety of disciplines, and also plenty of awkward small talk ... of the in-flight variety.

On trips to and from Silicon Valley during school vacations, I inevitably found myself seated next to a well-meaning businessman who sensed my student status and asked the inevitable question:

Well-meaning businessman: What are you majoring in?

Al Jazeera America

China destroyed about 6 tons of illegal ivory from its stockpile on Monday in an unprecedented move wildlife groups say shows growing concern about the black market trade by authorities in the world's biggest market for elephant tusks.

Authorities displayed a pile of ornaments, carvings and tusks to reporters, diplomats and conservationists before feeding them into two crushing machines. Tusks that were too long were cut up into smaller chunks by workers with circular saws before they could be pulverized.

Forestry and customs officials organized what they said was the country's first large-scale ivory destruction in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province, where much of China's ivory trade is focused.

Conservation groups say China is the world's biggest market for ivory.

Demand is fueled by rapid growth in the world's second biggest economy, which has created a vast middle class with the spending power to buy ivory carvings prized as status symbols.

The Guardian

Millions of Americans from Montana down to as far south as Alabama are being warned that their lives are at risk if they venture out for any length of time into brutally cold conditions that are driving temperatures to their lowest in 20 years.

Severe weather warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Minnesota and Wisconsin said that wind chills caused by gusts of up to 30 mph were causing temperatures to plummet to between -37C (-35F) and -46C (-50F). “Exposed flesh will freeze and cause frost bite in only five minutes,” the warning observed, adding that such dangerous conditions were likely to last until at least Tuesday afternoon.

Twenty six states continue to be under federal warnings for severe wind chills as bitterly cold air is swept down from the Arctic, with Montana recording a wind chill of -52C (-61F). The severe weather has already caused havoc in the Northern Plains and is expected to reach the north-east on Tuesday, extending disruption to airports and travellers. More than 3,000 flights were cancelled on Monday and Chicago’s O’Hare International airport has been particularly badly affected.

A nesting bird peeks out of the budding Japanese Yoshino cherry tree along the Tidal Basin in Washington, Sunday, April 7, 2013. Despite repeated predictions peak blossom time for the historic cherry trees is not yet here, but almost, almost. (AP Photo/Ca
A nesting bird peeks out of the budding Japanese Yoshino cherry tree along the Tidal Basin in Washington, Sunday, April 7, 2013. Despite repeated predictions peak blossom time for the historic cherry trees is not yet here, but almost, almost. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The Guardian
A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood.

It seemed like a worthy plan, both for the volunteer effort and the intended environmental and beautification benefits. Then someone pointed out that there were hardly any oaks on the list, even though the 22 oak species native to the area are known to be wildlife-friendly. Local foresters, much less local wildlife, could barely recognize some of the species that were being proposed instead. As if to drive home the logical inconsistencies, both the school and the neighborhood were named after oak trees.

"Why are we doing this?" someone wondered.


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he remains confident the Keystone XL pipeline will eventually be built even as President Barack Obama delays making a decision on the $5.4 billion project.

“He’s punted,” Harper said of Obama in an interview at an event today hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade. “He said, ‘Maybe.’”

Harper said he still hopes the Obama administration “will in due course see its way to take the appropriate decision.” While he said he couldn’t put a timeline on a decision, Harper said he is “confident” that “the project will one way or another proceed.”


One of the hinge points in human history was the invention of agriculture. It led to large communities, monumental architecture and complex societies. It also led to tooth decay.

When hunter-gatherers started adding grains and starches to their diet, it brought about the "age of cavities." At least that's what a lot of people thought. But it turns out that even before agriculture, what hunter-gatherers ate could rot their teeth.

The evidence comes from a cave in Morocco — the Cave of the Pigeons, it's called — where ancient people lived and died between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago. These were hunters and gatherers; they didn't grow stuff. And what was astonishing to scientists who've studied the cave people was the condition of their teeth.

"Basically, nearly everybody in the population had caries," or tooth decay, says Louise Humphrey, a paleo-anthropologist with the Natural History Museum in London.


Medicare plans to arm itself with broad new powers to better control — and potentially bar — doctors engaged in fraudulent or harmful prescribing, following a series of articles detailing lax oversight in its drug program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services described the effort Monday in what's known as a proposed rule, the standard process by which federal agencies make significant changes.

Two of the changes mark a dramatic departure for the agency, which historically has given much higher priority to making medications easily accessible to seniors and the disabled than to weeding out dange

Al Jazeera English

As new economies boom and global efforts to eradicate malnutrition gain traction, world hunger has dropped 17 percent since 1990, according to the World Food Program (WFP).

But progress on that front has been countered by a burgeoning health crisis many consider a curse of plenty. As diets diverge globally between the haves and have-nots, the world is shifting to a new front in the global war on malnutrition: obesity.

The number of overweight and obese adults in the developing world has expanded by over 360 percent since 1980, according to new data from the Overseas Development Institute. There are now over 900 million obese or overweight people in the developing world alone — up from around 250 million in 1980.

The study’s authors emphasize that obesity and other derivatives of poor nutrition — collectively termed “hidden hunger” — are endemic even as traditional hunger is eroded. ODI found increased consumption of meats, sugars, fats and oils across the globe and noted that “increasingly, the concern is less about macro-nutrition and more about micro-nutrition."

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