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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, May 13, 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: You've Made Me So Very Happy by Blood, Sweat & Tears

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
Russia to ban U.S. from International Space Station

By Brooks Hays
Russia announced today that it would keep U.S. astronauts from the International Space Station -- an apparent response to the sanctions levied by the U.S. over Russia's role in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Last week, the U.S. announced that it would deny export licenses for several high-technology items sought by Russia as punishment for its annexation of Crimea.

. . .

The space programs of Russia and the United States have cooperated in launching and maintaining the $100 billion ISS project for the last 20 years. The station is shared by 15 nations, but the only way to get to it is via Russia's Soyuz spacecraft -- which will not welcome aboard American astronauts after 2020.

. . .

Russia also said that it will not sell its rocket engines to America for military satellite launches.

EU court backs 'right to be forgotten': Google must amend results on request

By Alan Travis and Charles Arthur
The top European court has backed the "right to be forgotten" and said Google must delete "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" data from its results when a member of the public requests it.

. . .

The case is the first of more than 200 cases in the pipeline against Google in which Spanish citizens want the search engine to delete personal information about them from their search results.

The ruling makes clear that a search engine such as Google has to take responsibility as a "data controller" for the content that it links to and may be required to purge its results even if the material was previously published legally. Data protection lawyers said the ruling meant that Google could no longer be regarded legally as a "neutral intermediary"

. . .

Legal experts said the ruling could give the go-ahead to deletion requests of material including photographs of embarrassing teenage episodes and even insults on social media websites and could lead to a rethink in the way they handle links to content on the web.

. . .

The British justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been a leading opponent of Reding's proposals for an explicit EU "right to be forgotten".The Ministry of Justice has estimated that the European commission's proposals could cost British businesses, which include many leading data and tech firms, £360m a year. The information commissioner has called the "right to be forgotten" proposals "a regime that no one will pay for".

A whole lot of oil spilled in the U.S. in 2013

By John Upton
Tip your 10-gallon hat to the gas and oil guys. The booming industry spilled 26 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, fracking wastewater, and other toxic substances during 7,662 accidents in just 15 states last year.

. . .

Many of the spills were small. But their combined volume totaled more than 26 million gallons … That’s the same volume as what gushed four years ago from BP PLC’s ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well in 11 days.

Some of the increase may have come from changes in spill reporting practices in a handful of states, but the number of spills and other mishaps rose even without counting those states.

. . .

Surprising global species shake-up discovered

By (ScienceDaily)
The diversity of the world's life forms -- from corals to carnivores -- is under assault. Decades of scientific studies document the fraying of ecosystems and a grim tally of species extinctions due to destroyed habitat, pollution, climate change, invasives and overharvesting.

. . .

The causes of this shift are not yet fully clear, but the implications for conservation and policy could be significant. Historically, conservation science and planning has focused on protecting endangered species more than on shifts in which plants and animals are assembled together. "A main policy application of this work is that we're going to need to focus as much on the identity of species as on the number of species," Gotelli says. "The number of species in a place may not be our best scorecard for environmental change."

. . .

Why they didn't find this drop could be driven by many forces. One is related to what science writer David Quammen semi-famously termed our "planet of weeds." In other words, invasive species or successful colonists or weedy generalists -- think kudzu and rats -- may be spreading into new places, keeping the local species tally up, even as the planet's overall biodiversity is degraded.

. . .

Range shifts associated with climate change could be at work, too, quickly pushing species into new terrain. On May 6, the White House released its National Climate Assessment noting that, as a result of human-caused warming, "species, including many iconic species, may disappear from regions where they have been prevalent or become extinct, altering some regions so much that their mix of plant and animal life will become almost unrecognizable."

This study in Science, published on April 18, underlines this emerging reality, giving it a new and worrisome precision and leading Nick Gotelli and his co-authors to conclude that there "is need to expand the focus of research and planning from biodiversity loss to biodiversity change."

China's property market: deflating or worse?

By Linda Yueh
Latest figures show a continued slowdown in credit in China. Aggregate financing, which captures allegedly both official and unofficial lending, fell to 1.55 trillion RMB (£148bn or $249bn) last month from just over 2 trillion RMB in March. It's pushing down property prices as intended, but could it also burst a bubble?

. . .

The Chinese government boosted growth by supporting the expansion of credit. A lot of it went into property. As they have begun to rein back credit, it's affecting the property market.

. . .

Plus, land sales in 20 major cities have dropped 5% from a year earlier. That is adding pressure to local governments which derive an eye-watering 61% of revenues from selling land. Without that revenue, they would be tempted to turn to banks and borrow via off-balance sheet vehicles. That's a problem as the opacity of local government debt is a recurring concern.

. . .

The problem is that commercial developers tend to be more leveraged. It's their share of the property market that raises concerns. And as China increases its urbanisation - currently just above 50%, which is below that of other major economies - more housing will be needed and developers will want to build.

Saudi Arabia: Farmers flout Mers warning by kissing camels

By (BBC)
People are taking photos and videos of themselves kissing camels in defiance of a warning from Saudi health authorities not to go near the animals, which have been linked to the deadly Mers virus.

In recent days, Saudi Arabia has urged people to wear masks and gloves when dealing with camels, to stay away from raw camel meat and camel milk, and not to go near sick animals, the newspaper Gulf News reports. But some people have refused to listen to the government's advice, posting videos and sending messages in support of camels.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Nevada's GOP Stopped Opposing Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage. Here's What Happened Next.

By Josh Harkinson
Last month, the Nevada GOP voted to strip opposition to abortion and marriage equality out of its official party platform. This really shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who'd been paying attention: Brian Sandoval, the state's Republican governor, is pro-choice and doesn't want the state to defend its same-sex marriage ban in federal court. . .

Even so, a lot of Republicans in other states are freaking out.

"The Nevada GOP action to remove marriage and life from their platform is a disgrace," wrote Oklahoma Republican National Committee member Carolyn McLarty in a recent email to some 100 Republican National Committee delegates. "Both are direct attacks on God and family."

At US gov request, NYT's Bill Keller spiked NSA spying story in 2004

By Xeni Jardin
. . .

After 9/11, the National Security Agency wanted new ways to spy on electronic interactions in the US. "The Program, as it was called, spied on telephones, Internet connections, metadata from emails and almost every form of electronic communication."

But when The Program began, there were people in the NSA and others who questioned its legality, including Department of Justice attorney Thomas Tamm. His father and uncle worked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There’s even a photo of 8-year-old Tamm with J. Edgar Hoover. Tamm worked at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and authorized warrants. And he saw items coming across his desk of investigations and snooping that lacked probable cause. He started to wonder how the NSA was getting the information.

. . .

Tamm claims he tried to blow the whistle on the subject, working with New York Times reporter James Risen to make the story public. But Risen’s editors decided to run the story by the government. They wanted to get the government’s take, before the Times revealed “The Program.” Kirk says top White House officials made three arguments to Times editors, in trying to convince them not to run the story.

. . .

US court halts execution of death row inmate

By (Al Jazeera)
A US appeals court has halted the scheduled execution of a convicted killer in Texas hours before he was to be put to death, to see if the punishment should be suspended because the convict was intellectually disabled.

Convicted rapist and murderer Robert James Campbell was set to die Tuesday evening. He would have been the first inmate executed in the US since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma in April raised new questions about capital punishment.

. . .

Lawyers for Campbell also asked the US Supreme Court for a stay on grounds that the problems in Oklahoma and secrecy surrounding execution drugs demand a halt to allow for a sober reflection on how the death penalty is carried out.

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:
. . .

Q - David, your voice is so unique. I think what makes it unique is your phrasing. When you sing "You've Made Me So Very Happy" or "And When I Die", I believe every word you're saying. You're not just singing a song. You're almost relaying a personal story. And the song never sounds old!

. . .

A - Well, I think especially today when the lyric is not as meaningful as it was in the day that songs like that were written. When Laura Nyro wrote "And When I Die", it came out of an era of (Bob) Dylan and Lennon And McCartney. The songs had real meaning. Today, they're basically music tracks for a dance studio. So, the lyric doesn't have the same meaning. It doesn't have the same depth.

. . .

A - I basically left Canada to go to New York because I was working in an area called the Yorkville Village. It was very much an extension of Greenwich Village. A lot of the singer / songwriters that worked in the Village here and New York kind of interchanged. Joni Mitchell would play here and then she would go down to New York. People like Lonnie Johnson, John Lee Hooker, they would play in the Village of New York and came up to play Yorkville Village. So, there was a lot of interchange back and forth. I had been to New York once. I was very excited about it. I loved New York very dearly. I lived there for almost 40 years. In Canada, in the early 1960s, there really was no music industry. You say we had five Gold records, but to get a Gold record in Canada in those days you had to sell 10,000 copies. There was just no music industry up here. So, most of the people who worked in the Yorkville area, the Yorkville Village, myself, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, John Kay, we all left and went to the States. Some went to New York, some went to L.A. I chose New York 'cause that's where all the Jazz players were.

. . .

Q - After taping the show, you went to Greenwich Village and saw Jimi Hendrix?

A - Among other people. You gotta realize in those years, Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Carole King, Laura Nyro, they were just folks working down on Blecker Street in little clubs. You could go into any club any night and see all these people. They weren't famous at that time. They were just starving musicians like the rest of us.

. . .

A - I still love doing it, but going on the road and doing concerts are two different things. Doing a concert like the big Muddy Blues Festival that I played before, but it's a great Festival. Going on the road playing Indian reservation casinos five nights a week to pay the band and put gas in the bus and make sure the manager gets the money he needs, no. I don't do that anymore. I much more enjoy writing, being in the studio, being involved with my foundation, which is the Pine River Foundation, which I do a lot of work with now. It's a foundation that goes towards helping intervening with the young 15-year-old kids who are on the streets, basically kids like myself. We provide early education. You asked how I could drop out of school. Well, it's very easy. If nobody cares about you, you're on the street. Trust me, there's a lot of kids nobody cares about. Hence, Pine River Foundation. I do fundraisers. It's much more rewarding for me than going out touring and doing oldies shows. I work with the Pine River Foundation to give back and do something for these kids that are thrown out and nobody cares about. We have a 200 acre camp about 90 miles North of Toronto. It is staffed by PhD's, doctors, counselors, teachers. We currently have a student body of about 60 kids. They go up there for about a year and a half to two years. It's a program that follows them right through graduating high school and into college. The families are involved with the program. They're not swept into the reformatory system the way I was and supervised by jail guards. They're supervised and mentored by professionals. Part of my role is I set up a music program for Pine River. We found some very talented kids already, guitar players, sax players, singers. We built a music cabin. We're mentoring a lot of these talented kids. Sometimes the most troubled kids are the brightest and the most sensitive and the most artistic. So, we're encouraging that.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
In Fracking Hotbed, a Muted Approach to Regulation

By Naveena Sadasivam
. . .

A ProPublica review of the legislature's actions shows that just a handful of parties testified before the oversight committees charged with examining the pros and cons of the proposed regulations. And interviews with legislative staffers make clear that the final language of the regulations, including changes that scaled back two measures proposed by the governor, was inserted into the budget bill at the last minute.

. . .

There is little doubt among environmentalists and others concerned with safety that the debate over what to do with the fracking waste has been colored by the state's interest in promoting the industry's growth. Analysts and others say being able to easily dump waste within Ohio spares drilling operators one of their greatest expenses – trucking the waste elsewhere.

. . .

None of this is new. Oil and gas fields have always produced radioactive waste. But the fracking boom has increased the intensity of drilling and, as a result, radioactive materials are being unearthed faster and in larger quantities. Also, operators are accessing newer shale reserves that the U.S. Geological Survey has found to produce higher levels of radium than conventional oil and gas reserves.

. . .

Ohio is not the only state struggling to deal with the tons of radioactive waste coming out of drilling sites. In North Dakota, a state that has seen a tremendous growth in oil production in recent years, officials have been finding heaps of filter socks – nets used to strain radioactive wastewater – dumped illegally in abandoned gas stations and alongside roads.

. . .

Environmentalists in the state agreed, arguing that the governor's proposed provisions did next to nothing to improve the rigor of oversight, and that testimony from experts in public health and the science of fracking was badly needed. Ohio's obligation, they asserted, was all the greater because, at the federal level, radioactive waste from fracking has been exempted from several regulatory requirements that are intended to protect the environment. As a result, oversight of radioactive waste has been mostly left to state governments.

Solar farms to lose UK government financial support

By Fiona Harvey
The government is to make drastic changes to its financial support for solar energy farms, in a move condemned by green activists and renewable power companies as likely to reduce the UK's ability to generate low-carbon power and green jobs, and to increase dependency on imports of fossil fuels.

It is the second major blow to renewable energy within a month, following the announcement that the Conservatives want to axe subsidies to new onshore windfarms if they win the next election.

. . .

Large solar farms, above 5MW – enough to cover about 15 football pitches – will bear the brunt of the reforms. Some of these have been controversial with local people in rural areas, from Suffolk to Devon. Instead of receiving a direct payment in relation to the amount of power they generate, in future these farms will be forced to compete with other sources of renewable energy such as onshore wind turbines and energy-from-waste plants, for a limited pot of available cash that is ultimately paid by energy consumers. But this system – known as "contracts for difference" under the government's electricity market reforms – is complex and offputting, according to solar companies, as well as creating uncertainty as to their future returns, which may deter investors.

The move is being seen as another victory for the right-wing of the Conservative party, many of whom are opposed to what the prime minister has been alleged to call "green crap", such as renewable energy measures that add to consumer bills. In March, the Tory energy minister Michael Fallon declared to parliament that there would be no further changes to the "renewable obligation" - the old system of subsidy that benefited solar farms - before 2017. Solar companies alleged on Tuesday that he had made a major U-turn.

End fossil fuel burning, save $71 trillion — and preserve civilization as we know it

By John Upton
. . .

A new report from the International Energy Agency considers the cost of remaining hooked on antiquated, polluting, and climate-changing energy sources.

First, here’s what might seem to be bad news from the new report: It would cost the world $44 trillion to end our fossil fuel addiction by 2050 and switch to clean energy. Worse, this figure is $8 trillion higher than the IEA’s last estimate, published two years ago. Expected costs have risen because we’ve delayed the process of switching over to climate-friendly energy sources.

. . .

Sven Teske, one of the authors of the Greenpeace report, told Grist that plummeting prices for solar panels and wind turbines mean that the barriers for an energy revolution of this sort are not financial or technological — they are political. They are the result of fossil fuel industries and outdated utility companies desperately fighting against the forced obsolescence of their assets.

“This is not something that is completely crazy; this is something that’s possible,” Teske said. “In the expert arena, this is accepted. But we realize that we’re not very close to the public opinion right now — especially not in the U.S.”

Science and Health
The Latest Challenge to Health Privacy: Health Care Consolidation

By Mark A. Rothstein
The American health care industry is undergoing a transformation in several respects, including the substantial integration and consolidation of health care providers. Three of the leading ways in which this is taking place are through mergers of hospitals and health systems, development of accountable care organizations (networks of providers that share responsibility for coordinating patient care), and hospitals purchasing physician practices. There has been considerable discussion about the effects of consolidation on health care cost and quality, but there has been virtually no discussion about the significant effects of consolidation on health privacy.  

. . .

Unfortunately, there are few legal protections. Health record consolidation resulting from mergers or other business combinations does not require any prior notice to or consent from patients. The HIPAA Privacy Rule does not require consent or authorization for uses and disclosures of health information for treatment, payment, or health care operations. Similarly, the Privacy Rule’s “minimum necessary” standard does not apply to treatment. In practice, the most common limit on providers’ access to health information is that some hospitals and other entities protect against entirely unauthorized access (i.e., providers accessing the records of individuals who are not their patients) through password entry, timed log-out, audit trails, and other measures.

Two main policy initiatives are needed to address the loss of privacy through consolidation. First, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency responsible for enforcement of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, and the health care industry should expedite development, adoption, and regulation of role-based access, contextual access criteria, data segmentation, and other technical methods that give patients greater control of disclosures or grant access to certain sensitive health information only on a need-to-know basis. Second, HHS should, through rulemaking or administrative interpretation, amend or clarify the definition of a “covered entity” under the Privacy Rule to account for the increasingly integrated and consolidated nature of covered entities. It is unreasonable to assume that individuals who receive, at best, a covered entity’s indecipherable notice of disclosure policies, are agreeing to grant broad access to their protected health information at numerous affiliated entities locally or  nationwide.  

Sense of purpose 'adds years to life'

By Helen Briggs
. . .

Having a sense of purpose may add years to your life, regardless of what the purpose is, research suggests.

Not only does it contribute to healthy aging, but it may also stave off early death, according to a study of 7,000 Americans.

. . .

Dr Patrick Hill, of the department of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, said the notion of living a life of purpose - setting large goals that direct your day-to-day activities - seemed to be protective on a number of fronts.

. . .

"To show that purpose predicts longer lives for younger and older adults alike is pretty interesting, and underscores the power of the construct," said co-researcher Nicholas Turiano, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester in New York.

Google Glass goes on sale to US public

By (
Google has put its Glass headset on sale to anyone in the US who can pay the $1,500 price.

. . .

The company said on a blogpost on Tuesday that it had "decided to move to a more open beta" in the device's development.

. . .

A stamp-sized electronic screen mounted on the side of a pair of eyeglass frames, Google Glass can record video, access email, provide turn-by-turn driving directions and retrieve information from the web by connecting wirelessly to a user's phone.

Google Glass has also raised privacy and safety concerns, prompting legislators in some jurisdictions to propose bans or limits on its use including when driving.

Novel technique enables air-stable water droplet networks

By (ScienceDaily)
A simple new technique to form interlocking beads of water in ambient conditions could prove valuable for applications in biological sensing, membrane research and harvesting water from fog.

. . .

With or without the addition of lipids, the team's technique offers new insight for a host of applications. Controlling the behavior of pure water droplets on oil-infused surfaces is key to developing dew- or fog-harvesting technology as well as more efficient condensers, for instance.

. . .

"These bilayers can be used in anything from synthetic biology to creating circuits to bio-sensing applications," he said. "For example, we could make a bio-battery or a signaling network by stringing some of these droplets together. Or, we could use it to sense the presence of airborne molecules."

DarkWallet returns bitcoin to its anarchic origins

By Alex Hern
Bitcoin has been slowly fighting its way to mainstream respectability in the past year. A summit on digital money in Downing Street last September and official recognition from the Federal Election Commission that US politicians can accept donations in the cryptocurrency are the fruits of tireless lobbying.

. . .

While payments made with bitcoin are far harder to trace back to an individual than those made with credit or debit cards, they aren't fully anonymous. Conventional bitcoin wallets open up the prospect of identification by looking at other payments made from the same wallet: for instance, a user who sends money to a known drug dealer with the same wallet they use to buy computer hardware from is easy to track down.

DarkWallet builds in functions that overcome that possibility. For instance, users can share "stealth" addresses, which let transactions occur between wallets known only to the sender and receiver. The secret address is shared cryptographically, ensuring that no third party can eavesdrop on the transaction.

. . .

Naturally, such features can be used for nefarious ends too, but Taaki says that's the price to be paid for freedom. "There's a new future that's possible, but everyone's just worrying this thing will be used for paedophiles, or drugs, or crime. That's what liberty's about. My message is: step out in any direction you choose. There's so much more to this tool. The values are in it being uncensored – its privacy aspects. There are things deep down in bitcoin that we haven't yet explored."

The UN is holding its first-ever talks focused entirely on killer robots

By (AFP via GlobalPost)
Starting Tuesday, governments are holding the first-ever talks focused exclusively on so-called "lethal autonomous robots."

. . .

The best-known are drones, unmanned aircraft whose human controllers push the trigger from a far-distant base. Controversy rages, especially over the civilian collateral damage caused when the United States strikes alleged Islamist militants.

. . .

Then there is the Phalanx gun system, deployed on US Navy ships, which can search for enemy fire and destroy incoming projectiles all by itself, or the X47B, a plane-sized drone able to take off and land on aircraft carriers without a pilot and even refuel in the air.

. . .

Supporters of robot weapons say they offer life-saving potential in warfare, being able to get closer than troops to assess a threat properly, without tiring, becoming frightened or letting emotion cloud their decision-making.

Why Nigeria cannot defeat Boko Haram

By Andrew Walker
Attacks by the Boko Haram group that provoked the move included an assault on a military barracks, detonating a bomb at a bus station in the northern city of Kano and the kidnap of a French family, including four children, which grabbed the world's attention.

. . .

Now, after 12 months of state of emergency powers being in force, in the past few weeks Boko Haram has attacked several military bases, bombed a busy bus terminal in the capital, Abuja - twice - and launched an audacious kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok which has set the world on edge.

. . .

"Prosecuting large-scale counter-insurgency operations as well as numerous other operations in aid of civil authority in virtually every state of the federation has put pressure on the personnel and resources of the army," he said.

. . .

International teams have arrived to hunt for the schoolgirls but not to train the military in counter-terrorism

"People around the president, his closest allies, all tell him this Boko Haram is manufactured by the northerners to play politics," Mr Mitee says.

"This leads him to distance himself from the whole affair."

Thanks To H.R. Giger, For All The Sleepless Nights

By Chris Klimek
The iconic Swiss painter and sculptor, who died Monday at the age of 74, reportedly suffered from night terrors for much of his life, so perhaps his inimitable art was his revenge upon the world. He is usually called a "surrealist," but millions of people who couldn't name another one of those knew him as the guy who created the titular beast for Ridley Scott's classic 1979 horror film Alien — a dripping, phallic insect with a long, serrated tail and a spring-loaded second jaw that shoots out of its glistening mouth. A thing with teeth inside of a thing with teeth.

. . .

Giger was in his late 30s when Scott hired him to not just create a monster (based on the one seen in Giger's painting Necronomicon IV) but to design much of the film surrounding it. Giger created the first half of his creature's two-stage life cycle — the crablike "facehugger" that affixes itself to its victim's face and then implants a fast-maturing embryo inside the host's abdomen that will later explode from the chest.

. . . The reason his interview segments on the Alien Anthology DVD/Blu-ray box sets remain a touchstone in geek circles is that Giger comes off as an even more frightening weirdo savant than his work would indicate. Pasty and pale and prematurely gray, dressed all in black, his Swiss-accented English dropping inflections in all the wrong places, and seated, naturally, in a high-backed chair that looks like it was assembled from the spinal columns of gorillas, he delivers the goods.

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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