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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

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: Lying to You by Keaton Henson

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
Deal of the century: buyout the US coal industry for $50bn

By Felix Kramer and Gil Friend
. . .

That's the surprisingly low price to buy up and shut down all the private and public coal companies in the US, breaking the centuries-old grip of an obsolete, destructive technology that threatens our present and our future. It's a compelling high-return opportunity available now in the US if some farsighted investors merge purpose and private equity in a new way.

How would it work? The deal would phase out coal companies over 10 years, close and clean up the mines, write down the assets, retrain and re-employ some 87,000 workers, and create job opportunities and prosperity for coal-based communities. If at the same time the US accelerates expansion of renewable energy sources and transmission facilities, this could be accomplished with no interruption to electricity supplies, adding only about a penny or two to each kilowatt-hour on electricity bills.

. . .

The industry's market valuations could plunge further as it faces more taxation or regulation. As what's now being called a "carbon bubble" deflates, insurance companies, markets, and elected officials may all conclude that, of all fossil fuels, coal's deadly poisons put our world most at risk. Institutional investors that don't recognise these risks are already failing in their fiduciary duty to shareholders. And coal company directors and executives may come to see a buyout as the best way to protect shareholder value.

. . .

What if a few shrewd and enlightened investors step up to "do the right thing" – through the marketplace? Leadership could come from the 114 billionaire families who, encouraged by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have already committed through the Giving Pledge to donate half of their assets to charity. What better investment could they make to protect their families, future generations, and their assets? They would be recognised forever as pioneers in responding to climate change.

. . .

A coal industry buyout could then become the inspiring foundation for a global financial strategy to get us off fossil fuels, head off the worst consequences of climate change, and rewrite our future.

If GCHQ wants to improve national security it must fix our technology

By Cory Doctorow
In a recent column, security expert Bruce Schneier proposed breaking up the NSA – handing its offensive capabilities work to US Cyber Command and its law enforcement work to the FBI, and terminating its programme of attacking internet security. In place of this, Schneier proposed that “instead of working to deliberately weaken security for everyone, the NSA should work to improve security for everyone.” This is a profoundly good idea for reasons that may not be obvious at first blush.

. . . computers are badly secured. What’s more, governments and their intelligence agencies are actively working to undermine the security of our computers and networks. This was before the Snowden revelations, but we already knew that governments were buying “zero-day vulnerabilities” from security researchers. These are critical bugs that can be leveraged to compromise entire systems. Until recently, the normal response to the discovery of one of these “vulns” was to report them to the vendor so they could be repaired.

But spy-agencies and law-enforcement have created a bustling marketplace for “zero-days,” which are weaponised for the purpose of attacking the computers and networks of “bad guys”. The incentives have shifted, and now a newly discovered bug had a good chance of remaining unpatched and live in the field because governments wanted to be able to use it to hack their enemies.

. . .

Security is science on meth. There is a bedrock of security that is considered relatively stable – the mathematics of scrambling and descrambling messages – but everything above that bedrock has all the stability of a half-set custard. That is, the best way to use those stable, well-validated algorithms is mostly up for grabs, as the complex interplay of incompatible systems, human error, legacy systems, regulations, laziness, recklessness, naivete, adversarial cunning and perverse commercial incentives all jumble together in ways that open the American retailer Target to the loss of 100m credit card numbers, and the whole internet to GCHQ spying.

Syria crisis: Number of children in need doubles to 5.5 million

By (BBC)
. . .

Children in Syria have lost "lives and limbs, along with virtually every aspect of their childhood", it warns.

UN figures say more than 10,000 have been killed in three years of conflict.

. . .

More than three million been displaced inside Syria - a threefold increase in the space of a year - and 1.2 million - more than half the total number - have become refugees abroad, up from 260,000. Some 425,000 refugees are under five.

In addition, many children have had to start working early and very young girls have been forced to marry for financial reasons. Boys as young as 12 have been recruited to support the fighting.

. . .

"Cut off from aid, living in rubble and struggling to find food, many Syrian children have been left without protection, medical care or psychological support, and have little or no access to education," it says.

Bachelet is back as Chile's president and she wants to address social inequality

By Alexandra Ulmer and Anthony Esposito
Michelle Bachelet took over the presidency of Chile in a ceremony loaded with symbolism on Tuesday, after promising to stick to her tax-and-spend campaign pledges despite a sharp economic slowdown.

. . .

In a possible reflection of the strategic importance of Chile — a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council — US Vice President Joe Biden was in Santiago to attend the ceremony. He has been meeting with Bachelet and other Latin American leaders. Apart from the troubles in Venezuela, Biden was expected to use his visit to discuss the TransPacific Partnership free trade agreement.

. . .

The 1973 coup and years of repression that followed it have left unresolved issues in Chile, with the 40th anniversary last year inflaming sensitivities just as the election campaign was getting started.

. . .

Barred constitutionally from immediate re-election, the popular and charismatic Bachelet easily beat her right-wing opponent when she returned to fight for the 2013 presidential vote. She is the first Chilean leader to serve a second term since the return to democracy, and will take over from unpopular conservative Sebastian Pinera.

Oscar Pistorius had 'big love' for guns

By (BBC)
A friend of Oscar Pistorius has told his murder trial that the athlete "had a big love" for guns.

. . .

Mr Pistorius had once accidentally fired a gun in a restaurant but made him take the blame, Mr Fresco said.

. . .

He said Mr Pistorius had become angry after a police officer handled his gun, which was on the back seat of the car.

. . .

Mr Fresco's testimony, our correspondent adds, has given the court a glimpse into the fast life he shared with his friend - guns, sports cars, beautiful women and a seeming disregard for police officers.

Uganda anti-homosexuality law challenged in court

By (BBC)
Ugandan rights activists and politicians have filed a legal challenge to overturn a tough anti-gay law condemned by Western donors.

. . .

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which represents about 50 groups, filed the petition in the Constitutional Court, asking for the law to be annulled.

. . .

Uganda's authorities have defended the law, saying President Museveni wanted "to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation".

The World Bank has postponed a $90m (£54m) loan to Uganda to improve its health services after the law was approved.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Podcast: The Military’s Slow and Backward Approach to Identifying MIAs

By Minhee Cho
The Pentagon spends roughly $100 million a year to identify service members “missing in action” from World War II, Korea and Vietnam – a noble effort to try and bring closure to families and loved ones. But the process has proven incredibly slow and inefficient, ProPublica’s Megan McCloskey reports, with only 60 identifications made in all of 2013.

In her latest investigation with NPR, McCloskey uncovered how the Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, has been reluctant to use forensic science to its fullest potential, often relying on DNA as a confirmation tool rather than using it to spearhead the process.

Opposition to Obamacare Remains Under 40 Percent, the Same as Always

By Kevin Drum
Greg Sargent points us to the latest CNN poll on Obamacare today, one of the few polls that accurately judges public attitudes on the subject. Instead of just asking whether people support or oppose the law, CNN asks if their opposition is because the law is too liberal or not liberal enough. The latter aren't tea partiers who hate Obamacare, they're lefties and Democrats who mostly support the concept of Obamacare but want it to go further. Counting them as opponents of Obamacare has always been seriously misleading.

I went ahead and charted CNN's poll results over time, and they've been remarkably stable. Ever since the law passed, about 40 percent of the country has opposed it, while more than 50 percent have either supported it or said they want it to go even further. . .

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:
. . .

In an era in which the boundaries of relationships are shifting to a digital landscape, perhaps it's not surprising that some of the more interesting acts now emerging are questioning the nature of human interaction. And for Keaton Henson, a man who gains comfort from the idea of solitude, this new world is both an exciting and puzzling affair. "Does the essence of 'meeting' someone lie in the ability to touch them?" he asks at the start of what is for him an extremely rare interview.

. . .

A series of panic attacks plagued his childhood – this much he admits, but he won't explain why. After a series of live dates supporting the BalletBoyz at Sadler's Wells in 2010, he went into hiding after finding he suffered from crippling stage fright. "I've always struggled with live music, both as a spectator and performer," he tells me. "I used to enjoy going to live shows, but felt a strange jealousy. No part of me wanted to share the music with which I had such a profound relationship with a room full of (often drunk and chatty) strangers."

. . .

Henson's not a man comfortable with fame, and the idea of being on stage is one that he concedes as the idea of his own nightmare. "I don't see how much wearing a mask or having another name would even help, the fact that this other guy is on TV and the radio is enough to separate him from the me, who sits indoors doing crosswords tripping in the street [sic]. Sometimes I forget we both have a beard [sic]."

. . .

"The listeners aren't really thinking about my heartache, or my long walks. Music is entirely subjective, and we don't listen to an artist to feel sorry for them we listen to feel sorry for ourselves."

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
The Numbers Behind Japan’s Renewed Embrace of Nuclear

By Mike Orcutt
. . .

After the disaster, the government ordered all reactors to be shut down for stress testing to determine whether they could survive extreme events, and only two have since been restarted. In 2012, the prime minister said Japan would phase out nuclear power entirely by 2030.

. . .

Japan has virtually no fossil fuel resources of its own, though, and must buy its fuel from other countries. In 2012, the most recent full year for which the Energy Information Agency has data, Japan was the second-largest fossil fuel importer in the world, behind China. Between 2010 and 2012 annual oil imports rose 4 percent, and imports of liquefied natural gas increased by 24 percent.

Because of this, the cost of power generation in 2012 was $30 billion higher than it was in 2010—a 41 percent jump, according to a report by the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan.

San Francisco moves to ban plastic water bottles, scoffs at every other sad city

By Eve Andrews
On Tuesday, the city’s board of supervisors unanimously approved a ban on selling single-use plastic bottles of water on city property. The ban, which still needs a second vote and the sign-off of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, will go into effect in October of this year for indoor events, and 2016 for outdoor events. Sporting events that require excessive water consumption — such as the San Francisco Marathon — could be excluded from these restrictions, but not without first attempting to secure other, more sustainable sources of water.

. . . Since 1991, U.S. bottled water consumption per capita has tripled. And this is in spite of the fact that bottled water is widely acknowledged as an enormous scam: 25 percent or more of bottled water is just straight tap water, but you pay as much as 2,000 times more for it than the stuff that comes out of your kitchen faucet.

As scams go, bottled water also has an undeniable environmental impact. In 2007, production of water bottles for U.S. consumption alone used up to 54 million barrels of oil. Seventy-five percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled, instead ending up on beaches, in rivers, and partially full of unidentified liquid on nearly all the empty bus seats you’ve ever tried to sit in.

Depressing new study says you’re right to freak out about climate change

By Holly Richmond
Bad news, buffalos: The carbon dioxide we’re belching into the atmosphere will warm the planet even more than previously thought. A study the IPCC published in September taunted us with the possibility that the Earth might not heat as quickly as expected, but a new one from this weekend set the record straight. Here are the deets:

. . .

It sounds like the IPCC assumed smog and other aerosols were spread evenly around the globe like a spherical beer cozy. Turns out aerosols are concentrated over cities in the Northern Hemisphere.

In any case, the new data suggest temperatures worldwide will increase by about 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 70 years, instead of 1.8 degrees F. So … almost double. Might not sound like much, but higher temperatures mean more heat waves, more acidic oceans, and more intense storms. And THAT translates to fun stuff like malaria and other major bummers!

Canada: Tax breaks to support Moose Sex Project

By (BBC)
Canada is offering tax incentives to supporters of the Moose Sex Project - an initiative to build a land corridor connecting endangered moose with other herds to increase their numbers.

There are less than 1,000 moose left in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, and human activity has made it difficult for animals to migrate, Andrew Holland of the Nature Conservancy of Canada tells the BBC. But a land bridge would mean that about 29,000 healthy moose from neighbouring New Brunswick could move in and replenish the gene pool.

The charity is trying to join up some 20,000 acres of private and Crown land spanning the narrow, environmentally sensitive Chignecto Isthmus - which connects Nova Scotia to the rest of America. It is using the country's tax-efficient Ecological Gifts Program to "receive strategic parcels of land from individuals" to allow the animals to move freely, Holland adds.

Science and Health
What Creativity and Dishonesty May Have in Common

By Francesca Gino
. . .

The ability to generate novel ideas or solutions to problems has long been considered an important skill, not only for individuals but also for organizations and societies. Creative problem solving can result in new products and services, which, in turn, create jobs and opportunities for others. And societies need new inventions, original scientific findings, and novel social programs to advance, just as organizations need them to adapt to changing contexts and compete in the marketplace. Given that creativity is essential to human progress and adaptation, it is not surprising that creativity is often encouraged and that scholars across disciplines have long attempted to understand how creative thinking occurs and how it can be fostered.

 Creativity research in the field of psychology has been conducted from various perspectives, from exploring the processes that lead to creative ideas to examining the contextual factors that influence creative thinking and problem solving.

. . .

 As these studies demonstrate, even subtle environmental factors can boost our creativity. More specifically, factors such as messiness and dim lighting appear to free people from constraints and inhibitions, which allows them to break rules and think outside the box. Could such factors also lead them to break other types of rules, such as the social principle that people should tell the truth?

  . . .

 In follow-up experiments we found further evidence of a relationship between dishonesty and creativity. Consistently, across studies, participants showed greater creativity on various measures after they had been induced to cheat on an earlier task. We also found that cheating encouraged greater creativity by making participants feel less constrained by rules.

Restoring order in brain: Brain cell regeneration may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's diseas

By (ScienceDaily)
. . .

After introducing stem cells in brain tissue in the laboratory and seeing promising results, Prof. Offen leveraged the study to mice with Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms. The gene (Wnt3a) was introduced in the part of the mouse brain that controls behavior, specifically fear and anxiety, in the hope that it would contribute to the formation of genes that produce new brain cells.

According to Prof. Offen, untreated Alzheimer's mice would run heedlessly into an unfamiliar and dangerous area of their habitats instead of assessing potential threats, as healthy mice do. Once treated with the gene that increased new neuron population, however, the mice reverted to assessing their new surroundings first, as usual.

. . .

After concluding that increased stem cell production in a certain area of the brain had a positive effect on behavioral deficits of Alzheimer's, Prof. Offen has moved to research into the area of the brain that controls memory. He and his team are currently exploring it in the laboratory and are confident that the results of the new study will be similar.

Gesturing with hands a powerful tool for children's math learning

By (ScienceDaily)
hildren who use their hands to gesture during a math lesson gain a deep understanding of the problems they are taught, according to new research from University of Chicago's Department of Psychology.

Previous research has found that gestures can help children learn. This study in particular was designed to answer whether abstract gesture can support generalization beyond a particular problem and whether abstract gesture is a more effective teaching tool than concrete action.

. . .

"Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between," said senior author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology. "Our findings provide the first evidence that gesture not only supports learning a task at hand but, more importantly, leads to generalization beyond the task. Children appear to learn underlying principles from their actions only insofar as those actions can be interpreted symbolically."

Elderly may need more protein to preserve functional ability

By (UPI)
Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, and her colleagues in Tohoku University and Teikyo University, said due to increasing life expectancies in many countries, increasing numbers of elderly people are living with functional decline, such as declines in memory and problem solving as well as eating, bathing and dressing.

. . .

No consistent association was observed between plant protein intake and future higher-level functional decline in either sex, the researchers said.

. . .

Research suggests that as people age, their ability to absorb or process protein may decline and it might be needed to compensate for this loss and increase protein requirements as people age, Tsubota-Utsugi said.

Sigma to pay Nikon $14.5 million for VR patent infringement

By (
The Tokyo District Court has ruled in favor of Nikon in a patent infringement case brought against Sigma. The lawsuit, filed in 2011 and settled last month alleged that six of Sigma's interchangeable lenses infringed on certain Nikon patents relating to VR (vibration reduction) technology. The lawsuit originally sought $120 million US (12.4 billion JPY).

Last month, the court ruled in Nikon's favor, and estimated that Nikon's patented VR technology amounted to a 15% contribution to the Sigma lenses in question. . .

How Implants and Prosthetic Limbs Get Recycled and Reused

By Sarah Zhang
Every year, millions of pacemakers, metal hips, and prosthetics outlast the bodies they're designed for. But these medical devices could very well go on to have a second-life—in cars, wind turbines, and even another person.

. . .

The Dutch company Orthometals, for example, collects 250 tons of metal every year from European crematoriums and sells it all to car and airplane manufacturers. The city of Bristol in England has even proposed recycling these metals into road signs. And, in the U.S., Implant Recycling sells crematorium metal back to medical device makers. So there's never telling where grandma's old hip might end up.

. . .

But plenty of implants still get buried with the people they're in. "So it's likely that the archaeologists of future centuries will uncover peculiar objects in the graves of the millennial dead: silicone bags, plastic teeth and sculpted metal bones," writes Swain. You have to wonder what cyborg graveyard future archeologists will think they have encountered, but heck, they'll probably be be real cyborgs by then.

Canada and South Korea manage a free trade agreement without crazy copyright provisions

By Cory Doctorow
Michael Geist writes, "Canada and South Korea announced agreement on a comprehensive trade agreement earlier today. The focus is understandably on tariff issues, but the agreement also contains a full chapter on intellectual property (note that the governments have only released summaries of the agreement, not the full text, which is still being drafted). The IP chapter is significant for what it does not include. Unlike many other trade deals - particularly those involving the U.S., European Union, and Australia - the Canada-South Korea deal is content to leave domestic intellectual property rules largely untouched. The approach is to reaffirm the importance of intellectual property and ensure that both countries meet their international obligations, but not to use trade agreements as a backdoor mechanism to increase IP protections."
Crowdsourcing volunteers comb satellite photos for Malaysia Airlines jet

By Michael Martinez and John Newsome
You -- the person now reading this story -- can help experts solve the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the open sea.

. . .

So many volunteers have joined the effort that the firm's website -- with its pinpoint pictures of everything floating in the ocean -- has crashed.

. . .

DigitalGlobe's satellite photos taken 400 miles above the Gulf of Thailand can capture a detail as small as a home plate. The challenge is finding the manpower to scour 1,235 square miles of such images on one of DigitalGlobe's websites, -- with more pictures to be posted this week from satellites above the Strait of Malacca, said Abby Van Uum, an Edelman publicist retained by DigitalGlobe.

. . .

In response to the Malaysia Airlines plane's disappearance, DigitalGlobe activated its subscription service to emergency managers, which provides online access to satellite images before and after the incident, the firm said on its website. The photos are used for emergency response, damage assessment and recovery.

The company performed a similar "global crowdsourcing campaign" in November's Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, allowing volunteers to tag online more than 60,000 objects of interest from satellite photos. The information was forwarded to emergency responders, the firm said.

Bolivian women battle against culture of harassment

By (BBC)
Two years after the murder of an outspoken female councillor ushered in new legislation outlawing political violence against women in Bolivia, campaigners say a culture of harassment remains, as Paula Dear reports from La Paz.

. . .

Women's domestic, childcare and - in rural areas - agricultural responsibilities can make fulfilling their public roles difficult, discouraging them from challenging strong socio-cultural barriers that keep them from taking up representative positions.

. . .

Villazon councillor Ada Gutierrez say she is one of the few councillors to have been re-elected. "It's common for [women] to be bullied by colleagues and pressured into resigning," she explains.

. . .

The recognition by the new constitution of practices and customs of indigenous communities - who do not accept women as heads of traditional authorities - is also said to contradict the law on the rights of women.

Acobol legal specialist Jesse Lopez, quoted in a UN Women report, said: "The patriarchal structure has been a limiting factor on [our] work - even though the political constitution of the state has included principles and rights to guarantee the participation of women in politics, attitudes and social structures are difficult to break."

North Dakota oil boom: American Dream on ice

By Jude Sheerin and Anna Bressanin
. . .

Exotic dancers are flocking here from as far away as Russia for the same reason as everyone else - to make their fortune in a place known as "Kuwait on the Prairie".

Williston was once a humble ranching community tucked away near the Canadian border in one of the remotest US states.

But a sea of oil and gas beneath the region's farmland, and the hydraulic fracking technology that began to unlock it in 2006, has turned this small city into the wellhead of the North American energy boom.

. . .

The number of fatal road collisions, drug arrests, physical and sexual assaults have all surged, says Sheriff Busching.

. . .

Domestic violence is also on the rise. And the city's chronic housing shortage means that many victims have little choice but to stay with their abusers.

Say bye bye to parmesan, muenster and feta: Europe wants its cheese back

By (AP via
. . .

As part of trade talks, the European Union wants to ban the use of European names like parmesan, feta and gruyere on cheese made in the United States.

The argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses. The Europeans say parmesan should only come from Parma, Italy, not those familiar green cylinders that American companies sell. Feta should only be from Greece, even though feta isn’t a place. The EU argues it “is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Greek product.”

. . .

That’s clear from recent agreements with Canada and Central America, where certain cheese names were restricted unless the cheese came from Europe. Under the Canadian agreement, for example, new feta products manufactured in Canada can only be marketed as feta-like or feta-style, and they can’t use Greek letters or other symbols that evoke Greece.

. . .

And it may not be just cheese. Other products could include bologna, Black Forest ham, Greek yogurt, Valencia oranges and prosciutto, among other foods.

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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