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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, April 08, 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: The Letter by Joe Cocker

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
Fox News leads all TV news in misleading climate change coverage

By Brooks Hays
No one gets it right all the time. But when it comes to reporting on climate science, Fox News gets it wrong more often than not -- that according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

. . .

According to the research, roughly 72 percent of all climate science segments broadcast by Fox News included misleading statements. CNN offered viewers misleading information in 30 percent of segments, while MSNBC had the best global warming coverage, fudging the facts in only 8 percent of segments.

UCS's study found that half of all Fox's climate science faux pas happened on the show The Five.

Nobody Cares What You Think Unless You're Rich

By Kevin Drum
Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page studied 1,779 policy outcomes over two decades and came to a pretty simple conclusion: the collective opinion of average citizens doesn't matter a whit:
When the preferences of interest groups and the affluent are held constant, it just doesn't matter what average folks think about a policy proposal. When average citizens are opposed, there's a 30 percent chance of passage. When average citizens are wildly in favor, there's still only a 30 percent chance of passage. Conversely, the odds of passage go from zero when most of the affluent are opposed to more than 50 percent when most of the affluent are in favor.
Young U.S. teens ages 15 to 17 give birth to 1,700 babies a week

By Alex Cukan
Seven out of 10 U.S. teens age 15 to 17 have not had sex yet, but teens in this age group give birth to 1,700 babies a week.

. . .

"Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement. “Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes. Efforts to prevent teen childbearing need to focus on evidence-based approaches to delaying sexual activity and increasing use of the most effective methods of contraception for those teens who are sexually active.”

. . .

In 2012, the birth rate per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 17 years was 25.5 for Hispanic teens, 21.9 for non-Hispanic black teens, 17 for American Indian/Alaska Native teens, 8.4 for non-Hispanic white teens and 4.1 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.

. . .

More than 80 percent of the sexually active ages 15 to 17 had no formal sex education before they lost their virginity.

EU's highest court strikes down mass surveillance under the Data Retention Directive

By Cory Doctorow
The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, has  invalidated the European Parliament's Data Retention Directive, which required phone companies and ISPs to store your clicks, email subjects and to/from info, your location data, and other sensitive "metadata" for up to two years. The ECJ cited the UN Human Rights Committee's condemnation of this sort of data-retention and its call for the USA to halt its surveillance. We have Digital Rights Ireland and AK Vorrat Austria to thank for the ruling.
While the decision comprehensively rejects the current directive, some states may put up a fight to keep their laws, while others could take this opportunity to become champions of their citizens' privacy. The Finnish Minister of Communications, Krista Kiuru, has already declared a full review of Finnish law in the light of the decision, declaring that "if [Finland] wants the be a model country in privacy, Finnish legislation has to respect the fundamental rights and rule of law." The German and Romanian data retention laws have already been declared unlawful by their national constitutional courts. Governments advocating retention, like the UK, may argue that they can still maintain their existing data retention laws, or there may even be an attempt to introduce a whole new data retention directive that would attempt to comply with the ECJ's decision.

 However the data retention regime unwinds in Europe, this decision sends an important signal to other countries in the world who are considered the same path as the EU. Brazil's online activists have been fighting hard to keep data retention out of their flagship Internet Bill of Rights, the Marco Civil. The law, which is about to be considered by the Brazilian Senate, would require ISPs to record personal data for one year, and other service providers log keep private information on their users for six months. New laws requiring mandatory data retention by companies in the United States have also been championed by the Obama administration's Department of Justice, and have been proposed by the Whitehouse as a "solution" to the NSA spying scandal. As the ECJ's decision shows, the indiscriminate recording and storage of every aspect of innocent civilians' online lives is a travesty of human rights, no matter where that collected data is housed.

Brazil's energy giant Petrobras is mired in controversy

By Paula Adamo Idoeta
. . .

The company has been under public scrutiny since the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo uncovered a 2006 deal that led to the purchase of an US oil refinery for almost $1.2bn.

. . .

It emerged that the same refinery had been bought by the previous owner for only $42m just one year earlier.

To add to the sensitivity the purchase was authorised by the Petrobras board, which at the time was led by Dilma Rousseff, who was then a cabinet minister and is now Brazil's president.

. . .

Petrobras' debt is said to have risen 64% during Ms Rousseff's first term, to $114bn at the end of last year, the largest of any of the major oil companies.

Analysts say that one of the main reasons for the high debt levels is that the government uses the state company to control fuel prices to try to curb inflation, which is a growing concern in Brazil.

Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical hit with $6bn Actos damages bill

By (BBC)
A US jury in Louisiana has ordered Japanese firm Takeda Pharmaceutical to pay $6bn (£3.6bn) in punitive damages, over claims it was hiding cancer risks associated with diabetes drug Actos.

US firm Eli Lilly, a co-defendant in the case, has been ordered to pay $3bn in punitive damages.

. . .

Mr Allen's case is the first of more than 2,500 Actos lawsuits pending in the US federal court system, which all involve similar allegations that Takeda Pharmaceuticals failed to give adequate warnings to users or the medical community about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos.

In May 2013, a California jury awarded $6.5m in damages over claims of an Actos-related bladder cancer. But a judge reversed the verdict later and threw out the claim.

Fund crunch forces UN to cut Syria food aid

By (Al Jazeera)
The United Nations has been forced to cut the size of food parcels for those left hungry by Syria's civil war by a fifth because of a shortage of funds from donors, a senior official has said.

Nevertheless, the United Nations' World Food Programme managed to get food to a record 4.1m people inside Syria last month, just short of its target of 4.2m, WFP deputy executive director Amir Abdulla told a news conference on Monday.

. . .

Guterres's office needs more than $1.6bn to fund fully its operations this year in response to the crisis, but has received only 22 percent to date, a UNHCR statement said.

Some 2.6m Syrian refugees have registered in neighbouring countries, while hundreds of thousands more have crossed borders but not requested international assistance.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
As UConn Celebrates, State Legislators Look to Help Players Unionize

By Matt Connolly
The University of Connecticut men's basketball team may have beaten Kentucky in the national championship last night, but star guard Shabazz Napier immediately turned his attention to a bigger foe: the NCAA. Napier used his postgame interview to take the NCAA to task for banning the Huskies from postseason play last season due to poor academic standing. Two weeks ago, after calling the Northwestern unionization efforts "kind of great," he said players sometimes don't have enough money for food.

. . .

The NCAA banned UConn from the 2013 postseason when the team's academic progress rate—a measure of academic eligibility that predicts graduation rate—from 2007 to 2011 did not meet league standards. Dillon said it's hypocritical for the NCAA and others to ban a team for academic reasons while defending the billion-dollar system that has players practicing and playing full-time. "You work them like horses and then you bad mouth them if their academics aren't any good," she said. "The team is punished if they try to make sure these kids get a good education. Of course, they’re punished if they don’t either."

. . .

This wouldn't be the first time Connecticut legislators took on NCAA athletics—the state passed a law in 2011 requiring schools to fully disclose all athletic scholarship terms, including expected out-of-pocket expenses for athletes, details about who's responsible for medical expenses, and the renewal process for scholarships that only last one year. A step forward on unionization, though, might be harder to pass, Dillon said. "Starting to do the right thing can actually hurt you with the NCAA," she said. "[Lawmakers] would be worried it would hurt UConn’s recruitment. They wouldn’t say it, but I’m sure they would."

New York man exonerated after 25 years in prison for murder

By (BBC)
A New York man has been exonerated over a 1989 murder as part of larger review of questionable convictions.

. . .

Neither the receipt nor the police letter had been provided to Mr Fleming's first defence lawyer, despite rules that generally require investigators to turn over such material.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement he had dropped the case against Mr Fleming because of "key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder".

The move comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors' process for reviewing questionable convictions, led in part by Mr Thompson, who was elected last year.

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:
Fans might see Englishman Joe Cocker as a gritty-voiced veteran who for more than 50 years has stayed relevant by evolving from blues rock of such ’60s hits as “Feelin’ Alright” to sing softer, more adult contemporary 1980s fare like “Up Where We Belong.”

Joe Cocker sees himself as lucky.

That explanation’s a bit simplistic for a Grammy Award-winning artist who sang at the storied Woodstock festival, has had 18 Top 40 songs and whom Rolling Stone magazine ranked as one of the Top 100 singers of all time.

. . . Cocker says he can hardly take credit for some of those hits. He notes that his big early successes were covers: “Feeling Alright” was a Traffic song. “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” are Beatles songs.

His biggest early hits in the U.S. were covers — The Box Tops’ “The Letter” and his 1975 take on Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful” that hit the Top 5.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
BT, Shell and corporates call for trillion tonnes of carbon to stay in the ground

By BusinessGreen
Unilever, Shell, BT, and EDF Energy are among 70 leading companies today calling on governments across the globe to step up efforts to tackle climate change.

. . .

The statement urges political leaders to set a timeline for achieving net zero emissions before the end of the century, design a credible strategy to transform the energy system, and create a plan to tackle the global economy's reliance on fossil fuels, especially unabated coal power.

The intervention follows the publication of a renewed warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the world is on track for dangerous levels of warming and needs to urgently strengthen efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience measures.

. . .

"We need to get beyond the concept that progressive climate change policy is bad for business: it can be a huge driver of innovation and create opportunities for growth and prosperity," he said. "Conversely, there isn't an organisation I know of which isn't already being impacted by climate change at some level.

Brits may ban new onshore wind power

By John Upton
Prime Minster David Cameron, leader of the bluntly named Conservative Party (aka the Tories), is overseeing the drafting of a “manifesto” ahead of next year’s national election. That manifesto might come dressed up in a stifling windbreaker. The Guardian explains:
. . .

The Tories will be working out the details of the pledge, which could involve an absolute cap on the output from onshore turbines. Lesser measures, which would all come into force in 2020, would involve lower subsidies or introducing tighter planning restrictions.

. . .

. . .

“We are not going to allow the [opposition] to characterize us as anti-clean-energy just because we want to control the number of onshore windfarms,” one party source told the newspaper. “We are mindful that uncontrolled expansion of onshore wind is alienating people from the whole clean energy debate.”

Scientists say Australia's Tony Abbott is engineering an 'environmental train wreck'

By Lyn Eyb
Abbott came to power last September promising to abolish the country’s landmark carbon and mining taxes, and cut “green tape” that he said hindered development.

. . .

Even more controversially, Abbott’s government has permitted a coal port to dredge up and dump millions of cubic feet of sand into the iconic Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a decision that the Chairman of the Marine Park Authority has rigorously defended.

And in another unprecedented move, the government has asked UNESCO to remove 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from its World Heritage List. A prime ministerial statement has also effectively banned the creation of new National Parks, with Prime Minister Abbott announcing that too much forest was already “locked away.”

. . .

“We are looking at a government that is constantly speaking in terms of nature being there in the service of us, nature being there for us to exploit and use, that nature can only be appreciated by giving us wood or fish or coal,” he says. “But this is nineteenth century or even eighteenth century thinking; We can’t expect a natural resource to go on giving us what we want without it collapsing.”

. . .

“There’s an abundance of scientific evidence showing that a lot of the Australian ecosystems are in trouble,” he says. But “Abbott is almost a fundamentalist type character. I think his view is ‘these people didn’t vote for me, they’re not going to vote for me,’ so he’s effectively written off that constituency, which of course includes a large part of mainstream Australia.

Science and Health
Logo color affects consumer emotion toward brands, study finds

By (ScienceDaily)
Many studies have shown that a company's logo is one of the most important aspects of marketing and advertising a brand, or features that distinctly identifies a company's product or service from its competitors. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has found that the specific colors used in a company's logo have a significant impact on how that logo, and the brand as a whole, is viewed by consumers.

. . .

The study revealed that blue logos invoked feelings of confidence, success and reliability; green logos invoked perceptions of environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity and sustainability; purple logos invoked femininity, glamor and charm; pink logos gave the perception of youth, imagination and fashionable; yellow logos invoked perceptions of fun and modernity; and red logos brought feelings of expertise and self-assurance.

. . .

"The results of this study demonstrate that brands should use logo colors that are associated with the personality traits they want their brand to have in the eyes of consumers," Ridgway said. "If a feeling of reliability is desired, blue might be the best choice, while a purple logo may be preferred for a feminine, glamorous brand. Simultaneously, the results also remind brand managers that they cannot rely on traditional color associations alone. They must stay attuned to how colors are viewed and applied in popular culture such as in entertainment, as this tends to influence consumers' color associations."

A Blood Test to Predict Alzheimer’s Disease: What’s the Elephant in the Room?

By Dena S. Davis
I recently gave a talk about Alzheimer’s disease and asked people to imagine two individuals, Manny and Sue. Manny died at 85; he was showing signs of age but living independently and was mentally “all there.” Sue lived until 99. From the time she was 88, she began a slow cognitive decline. By 93, she could no longer live independently. By 95 she could not recognize friends and family. Eventually she became incontinent and was unable to walk, speak, or feed herself. She lived two more years in that state until she died in her sleep.

I asked my audience which they would rather be, Manny or Sue. To a person, they chose Manny. Although Sue had lived much longer than Manny, for most people her long decline into dementia outweighed her extra time on earth. I have given this talk a number of times and it is the rare person who would prefer to live and die like Sue.

I have been thinking of this because of the article in Nature Medicine by a group of scientists who have identified a blood test to predict whether someone will get Alzheimer’s disease in the near future. Basically, they took 525 healthy people age 70 or older. Over five years, 74 of them were diagnosed with either mild cognitive impairment (often a precursor to Alzheimer’s) or Alzheimer’s. Their blood test was able to predict cognitive decline with 90 percent accuracy.

. . .

As more of these predictive tests are created and validated, we must ask whether people will have access to these biomarkers and the information they produce, or whether misplaced paternalism will prompt healthcare professionals to attempt to monopolize control. Prediction is crucial for dementing diseases because, unlike other diseases such as cancer, a person cannot wait until the disease takes hold to decide to end her life; once the disease holds sway it is already too late to act.

Paralysed men move again with spinal stimulation

By James Gallagher
Four paralysed men have been able to move their legs for the first time in years after electrical stimulation of their spinal cords, US doctors report.

They were able to flex their toes, ankles and knees - but could not walk independently.

. . .

"The fact that this can be demonstrated in patients with so-called 'complete' injuries, where there is total loss of muscle and sensation is, on the face of it, remarkable."

. . .

"Significantly, it does strongly suggest that other repair treatments in development may only need to achieve relatively rudimentary additional connections between the brain and the cord below the injury to access functional capacity which will improve quality of life."

. . .

She added: "The implications of this study for the entire field are quite profound and we can now envision a day where epidural stimulation might be part of a cocktail of therapies used to treat paralysis."

Cheap Solar Power—at Night

By Kevin Bullis
. . .

The allure of solar thermal technology is simple. Unlike conventional solar panels, it can generate power even when the sun isn’t shining. But in practice, it’s far more expensive than both fossil fuel power and electricity from solar panels. And that reality has sent researchers scrambling to find ways to make the technology more competitive.

. . .

The new approach, however, is to look for ways to reach much higher temperatures—high enough to be used for generating electricity. Such methods typically involve concentrating sunlight to generate high temperatures, and then diverting some of that concentrated sunlight to solar panels.

. . .

Howard Branz, the program manager in charge of these projects at ARPA-E, says the hope is that the added cost of these hybrid systems will be made up for by two things. First, the systems will be more efficient, potentially converting more than half of the energy in sunlight into electricity, compared to 15 to 40 percent with existing conventional solar panels.

Second, the ability to store heat for use whenever it’s needed will become more valuable as more solar power is installed. Germany, which has far more solar power than any other country, sometimes has to pay its neighbors to take excess solar power generated on some sunny days. “This program is looking out to a future that might be tomorrow in Germany, three years away in California, five years away in Arizona,” Branz says. “But eventually this future will come to everywhere that people want to generate a lot of electricity with solar energy.”

Samsung and HTC's profits fall as smartphones slow

By (
Phone makers Samsung and HTC have reported discouraging first-quarter results, with Samsung recording its second year-on-year decline in operating profit and Taiwan's HTC suffering its third loss in three quarters.

. . .

Analysts now thing that there will be growing pressure on profit margins as competition increases in the smartphone market and average prices fall, driven especially by competition on the Chinese mainland.

. . .

Samsung made more than 30% of all smartphones sold in the world last year, nearly twice the share of its arch-rival Apple. HTC had around 2% of the global market, but suffered in 2013 as Samsung's heftier marketing spend and its own misfires in advertising failed to ignite interest in its phones. Data from the US suggests it has lost users while Samsung and Apple have gained.

. . .

Samsung is also under pressure to set aside more cash for legal bills as years-long patent battles against Apple continue.

DNA Nanobots Turn Cockroaches Into Living, 8-Bit Computers

By Ashley Feinberg
We already have the potential to reconfigure DNA into itty bitty bio-computers programmed to do our bidding. But now, scientists have used high numbers of those nanobots to successfully complete logic operations inside of actual, living organisms. Say hello to the computerized cockroach.

By exploiting the binding properties that give DNA its unique double-helix shape, Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel were able to create DNA with sequences that unravel upon meeting a certain protein. More specifically, they were able to create DNA that unravels upon meeting a diseased cell, allowing it to release the drug carefully stashed inside it.

. . .

With the number of nanobots the team has been able to inject, they expect to be able to increase a single cockroach's computing power to something that would be the equivalent of a Commodore 64 or Atari 800. This would be particularly exciting for cancer treatments, considering the nanobots ability to target individual cells with high levels of precision, and scientists believe human trials could even begin within five years' time.

The remarkable economic boom that began in Poland in 1990 has now become a remarkable economic divide

By Jason Overdorf
Towering green loading cranes stretch along a wide canal leading to the shipyard where Poland's Solidarity movement began three decades ago.

. . .

The government lifted price controls and opened trade to foreign competition, forcing businesses to adapt or die. While that later enabled companies such as Sunreef to thrive, it also put millions out of work and gutted a labor movement that had inspired the world.

. . .

Many of its leaders left Poland or made new careers after the communist collapse, while the idealism of those left behind broke amid the privatization of state assets.

. . .

Borrowing capital costs more than in Germany, while the productivity of Polish workers is far lower. That’s bad for investment, which is sorely needed to create jobs for a workforce that’s still bloated.

. . .

Thanks to the backlash against communism in the 1990s, people naively believed competition could solve every problem and scorned investing in education and social programs, says Andrzej Celinski, a former leader of the independence movement who broke from Solidarity in 1999.

Germany: Oldest message in a bottle shown to relative

By (BBC)
Perhaps the world's oldest message in a bottle, cast into the sea near Germany 101 years ago, has been presented to the sender's granddaughter, it's been reported.

. . .

Researchers at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg were eventually able to track down Angela Erdmann, 62, who lives in Berlin. Platz was her grandfather. She visited the museum last week and was able to hold the bottle.

"That was a pretty moving moment," she tells German news agency dpa. "Tears rolled down my cheeks." Erdmann says she never knew her mother's father, who reportedly died in 1946 when he was 54 years old. But she says the discovery of his message has inspired her to find out more about him.

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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