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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, August 05, 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: After the Lovin'/b> by Englebert Humperdink

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
Nearly Half the Names On the Terrorist Watch List Have No Terrorist Ties

By Adam Clark Estes
The watch list in question is the government's Terrorist Screening Database, and it's currently 680,000 potential terrorists strong, according to classified documents acquired to The Intercept. The 280,000 people with no recognized terrorist group affiliation dwarfs the 130,000 or so people with various al Qaeda affiliations, and makes the 63,000 or so members of the Taliban seem almost insignificant. While the list of people who have been relegated to no fly lists is smaller, all of those on the list are subject to government surveillance. (Who isn't these days?) It's a startling truth to visualize.

. . .

It gets worse, actually. After the government got word that The Intercept had classified documents about its terrorist watch list, they leaked the information to the Associated Press who rushed up a story that was marked by a much more forgiving tone. The media manipulation continued after both organizations published their stories, and the government declared that there was a new leaker among its ranks. Outlets like CNN were quick to compare this new mystery person to Edward Snowden—which is silly, because people were quietly leaking government documents for years before anybody knew Snowden's name. It looks like the government is just trying to start a new witch hunt.

Methane Leak Rate Proves Key to Climate Change Goals

By (Climate Central)
. . .

No one has any idea how much methane is leaking from our sprawling and growing natural gas system. This is a major problem, because without a precise understanding of the leak rate natural gas could actually make climate change worse, but we would never know.

 Our analysis shows that very modest leak rates can severely undermine the climate benefits of natural gas. Three factors drive any assessment of the impacts of leaks in the natural gas system, and by extension, our ability to achieve the goals set out in the proposed EPA rule: the estimated methane leak rate from drilling through end use; methane’s initial potent warming potential that then decreases over time; and the rate at which we switch from coal to gas.

. . .

Even if we assume there are no leaks anywhere in the entire natural gas system, it would take 30 years, until 2045, to achieve a 30 percent reduction in electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.

. . .

. . . one thing is clear: there is no short, 10- or 15-year natural gas bridge to a renewable energy future. Billion dollar investments made in natural gas today will be with us for the next 40 to 50 years. This fact only reinforces the urgent need to truly understand the extent and magnitude of methane leaks throughout the entire system. Without objective, real-time, statistically valid measurements of methane leaks, we can’t even begin to make an intelligent assessment of the climate impacts of any future energy mix that contains natural gas.

Russia gang hacks 1.2 billion usernames and passwords

By (BBC)
A Russian group has hacked 1.2 billion usernames and passwords belonging to more than 500 million email addresses, according to Hold Security - a US firm specialising in discovering breaches.

. . .

"They didn't just target large companies; instead, they targeted every site that their victims visited," Hold Security said in its report.

. . .

The paper added: "Hold Security would not name the victims, citing nondisclosure agreements and a reluctance to name companies whose sites remained vulnerable."

Hold Security, which has previously reported about hacks on Adobe and Target, said it took more than seven months of research to discover the extent of the latest hack.

. . .

"These databases were used to attack e-mail providers, social media, and other websites to distribute spam to victims and install malicious redirections on legitimate systems," Hold Security said.

Experts: Give new US Ebola drug to Africans

By (Al Jazeera)
. . .

Noting that American aid workers who contracted the disease in Liberia were given an unapproved medicine before being evacuated back to the United States, the specialists - including Peter Piot, who co-discovered Ebola in 1976 - said Africans affected by the same outbreak should get the same chance.

. . .

The World Health Organization (WHO), "the only body with the necessary international authority" to allow such experimental treatments, "must take on this greater leadership role", they said.

. . .

If the deadly virus was raging though wealthy countries, they said, medical agencies "would begin discussions with companies and labs developing these products and then make rapid decisions about which of them might be appropriate for compassionate use".

. . .

Biotech firm Mapp and its commercial partner Leaf Biopharmaceutical said the ZMapp drug was only identified as a potential treatment candidate in January and that, as a result, very little of it was currently available. The company said that the treatment was hard to produce and that it was working to scale up production as soon as possible.

As Israel and Hamas claim victory, Gaza residents ask what was gained

By Laura King
. . .

Hamas depicted Israel as irretrievably tarred in the eyes of the world and as having proved vulnerable to the elaborate warren of tunnels under Gaza and its boundaries. Israel portrayed Hamas as a willing executioner of its own people, a fighting force left crippled by the Israeli onslaught, and a pariah to its Arab neighbors.

. . .

Nearly 1,900 Palestinians were killed, about 400 children among them, by the estimate of Palestinian officials and human rights groups. Already feeble infrastructure was smashed and about 400,000 people — nearly a quarter of the territory's population — were displaced by fighting.

. . .

On the Israeli side, civilian deaths over the last month could be counted on one hand — three, including a foreign farm worker. But in a country where army service remains an instrument of national solidarity, the deaths of 64 troops amounted to military loss on a scale not seen in nearly a decade.

. . .

Israel's hope that Gazans would blame Hamas for the carnage appeared largely unrealized. Even at the height of the fighting, at still-smoking bombardment sites and in hospital emergency rooms with blood-slicked floors, Palestinians tended to offer only the most muted criticism of the militant group. If they did criticize Hamas, they did so gingerly, and coupled their words with far harsher condemnation of Israel.

. . .

Pro-Hamas sentiment could shift, however, if the movement and its allies are unable, after so many deaths, to make headway in the upcoming negotiations on their principal demand: that Israel and Egypt ease their tight curtailment of goods and people in and out of the tiny coastal strip.

Boko Haram crisis: Nigeria's female bombers strike

By Farouk Chothia
Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram is accused of unleashing a new weapon of war - the female suicide bomber, fuelling concern that its insurgency has entered a more ruthless phase.

Four of them - all teenage girls - carried out attacks in the biggest northern city, Kano, last week, leading to social media sites going viral with speculation - dismissed as unfounded by the government - that Boko Haram had turned some of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April into human bombs.

. . .

Nigeria-based security analyst Bawa Abdullahi Wase says Boko Haram has now carried out 11 suicide bombings - by men and women - since launching its insurgency in 2009, suggesting that it is copying the tactics of jihadi groups in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

. . .

Mr Bawa argues that Boko Haram is not made up only of "illiterates", but also boasts many young Nigerians with degrees in chemistry, physics and engineering who have turned into bomb-makers.

. . .

"They have failed to get jobs, their parents have failed to get their gratuities and pensions after 35 years in the civil service and they struggle to put food on the table. They see no hope under this government and out of desperation they have joined Boko Haram."

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Pro-Troop Charity Misleads Donors While Lining Political Consultants’ Pockets

By Kim Barker
. . .

Move America Forward calls itself the nation's "largest grassroots pro-troop organization," and has recruited a bevy of Republican luminaries, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, to support its efforts.

Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.

. . .

In soliciting funds for care packages, Move America Forward frequently uses testimonials from troops or their relatives. Some are legitimate, but in several cases, ProPublica found, the charity took photos and stories without permission and used them as its own.

. . .

In May, one button on the charity's website sent donors to the website of a company that processes credit-card donations called DonationSafe, founded by Callahan. Move Forward America doesn't reveal how much it pays DonationSafe to process donations, but the company has received substantial fees for similar work for Russo-affiliated PACs. The Conservative Campaign Committee, then known as the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, paid DonationSafe almost $267,000 for credit card processing in the 2012 election cycle, when the PAC brought in $3.9 million.

. . .

"If the charity says, 'Go visit our PAC and give it money'—that's a problem," said Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor and associate dean at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in nonprofits and campaign finance. "Any type of support from the charity to the PAC is problematic. … If you want to be a charity, if you want to be tax-exempt, you cannot be involved in political campaigns, you cannot support or oppose candidates for office. And Congress says so."

Border Bloodshed: Murder Rate Rises Along Texas Oil Routes

By (All Things Considered)
There's been a steady rise in deaths in the badlands of the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 5,500 bodies have been recovered over the past 15 years, many of them along oil pipelines. And U.S. Border Patrol fears it's going to get worse. Wherever the pipelines go, violent crime seems to follow - from beatings to sexual assaults to murder, carried out by Mexican drug cartels laying claim to the pipeline roots.

. . .

The problem that the ranchers have is that you've basically just carved a highway right through their land. And at nighttime, these become the killing fields. You know, someone doesn't have to be drug smuggler, you know, in his enemy's territory to get killed. They could just be a migrant who wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time or, you know, the victim of a gang conflict. This is where the mayhem happens.

. . .

CARROLL: You know, it's often hard to tell who they are. Most folks coming over the border aren't carrying ID. Folks come from all over the world, really. We think of most of the folks coming across the border as Mexican or Guatemalan and Honduran. And that's a certainly a big part of the population, but one of the - one of the shocking things was how many folks from other parts of the world are making that trip, whether they're Chinese or West African, you know, East Asian, South American.

. . .

CARROLL: You know, a lot of these folks who grew up down there - and then there's folks who bought land and moved in there - they did because they wanted the ideal sort of rural lifestyle where they raise some cattle or have some hunting ground. And instead what they find is they walk out the door in the morning, and there's human remains, you know, 100 feet from the doorstep. And this happens every single day for some of these folks.

Science and Health
Just one simple question can identify narcissistic people

By (ScienceDaily)
. . .

In a series of 11 experiments involving more than 2,200 people of all ages, the researchers found they could reliably identify narcissistic people by asking them this exact question (including the note):

To what extent do you agree with this statement: "I am a narcissist." (Note: The word "narcissist" means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)

. . .

Understanding narcissism has many implications for society that extend beyond the impact on the individual narcissist's life, Konrath said.

. . .

One experiment found that SINS was positively related to each of the seven subscales of the NPI which measure various components of narcissism (vanity, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, authority, superiority, self-sufficiency, and entitlement).

. . .

People who scored higher on narcissism on the SINS had both positive and negative outcomes, Bushman said. They reported more positive feelings, more extraversion, and marginally less depression.

Let's Search for Aliens by Looking for Their Pollution

By Sara Imari Walker
Humans are affecting the Earth's systems on a global scale. Industrial pollutants are accumulating in our atmosphere with the potential for long-term impact on global climate and biodiversity. This is a story we are all coming to know well. However, there is now a new twist to the unanticipated consequences of anthropogenic climate change. In the distant future, industrial pollution—a sure sign of our technological activity—could potentially be detected from hundreds of light years away. Might extraterrestrial civilizations one day discover us by our pollution? Conversely, if aliens are anything like us, might we detect the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations by their pollution?

. . .

Lin and his collaborators think that this kind of search could be conducted in the near future. By their calculations, the James Webb Space Telescope, currently set to launch in 2018, could detect CFCs at levels 10 times that of Earth. The caveat is that this could only be done for a planet orbiting a white dwarf star. (White dwarfs result from the death of a star like our sun.) Next-generation instruments could detect such signals for planets in systems more like our own solar system.

The idea of looking for the waste products of alien civilizations is not entirely new. Closer to home, SETI researchers have previously proposed that if advanced civilizations have in fact ever visited our own solar system, we might find evidence of alien "garbage"—i.e., leftovers from mining or observation missions. A good place to look for these artifacts is the moon. Since the moon lacks the rampant geological, and biological, activity of Earth, alien artifacts would be preserved for much longer on the moon than on Earth. Any alien space trash, mining equipment, or other tech left on the moon in the distant past could therefore still be evident on its surface.

Horses' mobile ears are 'communication tool'

By Victoria Gill
. . .

The ears have it: Horses in the test followed the gaze of another horse, and the direction its ears pointed

If the ears and eyes of the horse in the picture were visible, the horses being tested would choose the bucket towards which its gaze - and its ears - were directed.

If the horse in the picture had either its eyes or its ears covered, the horse being tested would just choose a feed bucket at random.

Like many mammals that are hunted by predators, horses can rotate their ears through almost 180 degrees - but Ms Wathan said that in our "human-centric" view of the world, we had overlooked the importance of these very mobile ears in animal communication.

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. How many concerts do you perform a year?

A. I do about 110. I am spending more time at home now, enjoying my time off. I play golf and ride my motorcycle -- my Harley -- around the hills of California. Of course I am always in preparation for work -- thinking of things I can do. Preparation is harder than work.

. . .

Q. You were great friends with Elvis Presley. I read something about you saying that Elvis "stole" something from you?

A. Well, I had my sideburns in 1965 before I became a success in 1967. My manager told me to take them off, but I said, "I am trying to create an image." Elvis put his sideburns on in 1971. I told him, "You stole my sideburns." And he said, "If it looks good on you, it will look good on me." I was thrilled that a man of his stature would follow my lead.

I learned a lot from Elvis. He never took his image seriously. So many performers today put their image before themselves. It can ruin them. Like Elvis, I never took my image seriously. I played with my image. I made fun of my name and the panties that were thrown at me onstage ("None of them fit me," I would say). And I think I kept a good head on my shoulders.

Q. Will you still be onstage, performing when you are 100?

A. I don't ever want to think my time is up as a performer. I have been afforded the opportunity to sell 150 million albums, to travel to places I never thought I would go. I'm going to keep on performing. I hope it never ends.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Just how far will American urban sprawl spread?

By Dave Levitan
We have been hearing for a while now about the continued explosive growth of cities around the world. According to the World Health Organization, 40% of the global population lived in an urban area in 1990, we crossed the 50% threshold by 2010, and we’ll be at 60% by 2030 and 70% by 2050. That means more cities, bigger cities, and, importantly but often forgotten, more sprawl.

. . .

And there are secondary effects to simply eliminating forests and grasslands where animals live. The urban heat island effect (and all its attendant causes, effects, and cause-effect mishmashes) will expand its reach, for example raising temperatures in the Piedmont region by between 2-6C. And while sprawl destroys some wildlife corridors, it will open up other, weirder ones: the simulation suggests that some currently disconnected urban environments will expand enough to join forces. Creation of “urban corridors” could create novel habitats that allow totally different groups of species to flourish; one giant megalopolis will exist, unbroken, all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Atlanta, Georgia, 400 miles distant.

Given the knowledge we have that urban sprawl is likely to expand rapidly, in the Southeast and in many other areas, one could argue that we are well prepared to adjust and ease back on the throttle. The researchers, in concluding, take a cynical view of that possibility: “History suggests humans, in contrast to ants and slime molds, rarely optimise growth, particularly when multiple objectives such as profit, equity, and ecological integrity come into conflict.” And since we aren’t quite as good at this as slime molds are, there is the distinct possibility that we should plan for the worst rather than assume we’ll fix the problem ahead of time.

Ben & Jerry’s makes ice cream-powered ice cream; world peace next

By Sara Bernard
More green points for the hippie-tacular dessert outfit Ben & Jerry’s: A factory in Hellendoorn, Holland, is now successfully using the waste products of its ice cream-making process to make more ice cream. A huge biodigester, affectionately known as “the Chunkinator,” combines excess milk, syrup, wastewater, and bits of fruit with billions of microbes. The microbes eat the sweet and creamy leftovers and convert them to biogas, cutting down on the facility’s heat and energy costs.
Drink up, then eat the glass – the trend for edible food packaging and tableware

By Rich McEachran
. . .

The US start-up founded by Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker, who trained as product designers, has launched a "biodegredible" – biodegradable and edible – cup. Frustrated by the amount of disposable packaging discarded at events, the pair spent some time experimenting in a lab with several materials. They were looking for one that would allow them to create a cup that looks like a glass and also tastes good (the current flavour on offer is pink grapefruit and yuzu). They settled on agar, a seaweed-based gel.

. . .

For Briganti, the edible glasses are an environmental no-brainer. "You can throw them in the grass or disintegrate them in a matter of minutes with hot water," she explains. The problem with disposable cups – including those made from corn plastic – is that they take months and sometimes years to degrade, often leaking chemicals in the process. "For every cup eaten [or composted], we are saving a plastic cup from entering the landfill," says Briganti. "Billions of plastic cups are entering the landfill every year. If Loliware replaces even a small percentage, that would have far-reaching impact."

. . .

Edible packaging isn't without its critics. Some people feel that it being edible defeats the whole point of packaging – to protect the food from dirt and microbes. And there's a psychological barrier that people need to overcome when ingesting dissolving film or plastic. Food safety regulators will be concerned about the number of hands and surfaces food wrapped in edible packaging is likely to touch on its way to a shop shelf. And if it is decided that any edible packaging must be protected by more packaging, then it becomes self-defeating, to put it mildly.

Briganti believes the way to allay people's fears is to design a product that is as fun as it is environmentally friendly. Flavouring the edible glass "is designed to complement the drink so it becomes the twist to a cocktail, or an accent", to encourage people to make "the switch from plastic". Would it work for you?

300bn messages sent in UK forecast this year largely due to mobile flirting

By Juliette Garside
WhatsApp has spawned a new generation of instant messaging superusers, with some teenagers and young adults using their smartphones to despatch up to 100,000 electronic messages a year, according to a study by Deloitte.

. . .

The revolution in communications is being driven by only a quarter of phone owners. In a survey conducted in May, Deloitte found 30% of smartphone owners and 25% of all mobile phone users reported using an instant messaging application in the previous week. By contrast, nNearly 90% of smartphone owners had sent a text and nearly 80% had made a voice call. Emails and social networks are more popular among smartphone owners, with nearly half of those questioned having used those services from their mobile.

For the minority of those who use them, instant messages are not only replacing voice calls but competing with most types of remote communication. Messaging applications are now big business, and their arrival is threatening to take traffic from social networks. In February Facebook moved to shore up its hold over mobile interactions by paying £11.4bn for WhatsApp, which is growing at a rate of 1 million registered users a day and charges members $1 a year.

Yelp's Original Business Model Was to Just Berate People Over Email

By Ashley Feinberg
In honor of Yelp's 10th anniversary, Eater has published a fairly comprehensive history of its journey from startup to revenge vessel. The best part, though, comes at the very beginning of the journey, when Yelp's entire business model consisted of sending out what were essentially chain letters. And then badgering those who refused to respond.

The inner-workings of the original disaster of a recommendation engine were laid out in an article on the day of Yelp's launch. Essentially, any time you were in the market for a recommendation, you'd let Yelp know A) what it was you were looking for and B) the email addresses of whomever you might have hit up about it otherwise. Then, Yelp would email those lucky few—along with any previous relevant entries in its ever-growing database—to ask for help. And if they didn't respond? Hit 'em up again.

Samsung re-uses 'child labour' firm but cuts business by 30%

By (BBC)
Samsung will do 30% less business with a Chinese supplier after evidence of child labour was found at its factory.

The supplier, Dongguan Shinyang Electronics, employed child workers through a subcontractor, an investigation found.

. . .

Samsung said at the time that it would permanently halt business with the phone cover and parts supplier should evidence of child workers be found.

However, an investigation found that a third-party firm had brought in underage labourers with forged identification shortly after a Samsung audit, a Shinyang engineering official said.

Apple and Samsung agree to drop cases outside the US

By (BBC)
Apple and Samsung have agreed to withdraw all legal cases against each other outside the United States.

. . .

Samsung said the agreement "does not involve any licensing arrangements", and the firms will continue "to pursue the existing cases in US courts".

Hollywood films 'do not reflect diversity' in US

By (BBC)
Hollywood movies are under-representing non-white ethnic groups in the US, a new study says.

. . .

Although 2014 saw Steve McQueen become the first black director to win an Oscar for his film 12 years A Slave, the study found that there were only 1.1% more black characters on the big screen than in 2007.

. . .

Although they were cast in only a small percentage of parts, Hispanics bought a quarter of all movie tickets in the US, and command about $1 trillion (£593m) in spending power.

Despite the changing demographics of the US population, "films still portray a homogenised picture of the world", the report said.

"In fact, nearly half of children under age five in the US are not white," it continued, "which means that both the current and future audience for films is far more diverse than what is shown on screen."

. . .

The report suggested that this "illustrates how existing cultural stereotypes may still govern how characters from different backgrounds are shown on screen".

China media: Anger at Obama

By (BBC)
Media respond angrily to US President Barack Obama's recent remarks on China and analyse US-Africa ties.

In an interview with the Economist magazine, Mr Obama argued that the West needs to be "pretty firm" with China, as Beijing will "push as hard as they can until they meet resistance".

The state-run China News website reacts to his words by saying that the American president is "venting his displeasure with US-China ties" by stating views that are "emotional" and lack a new perspective.

. . .

Meanwhile, media are also focusing on US-Africa relations as a three-day summit to strengthen ties with the continent is held in Washington.

The meeting, which started on Monday, is attended by some 50 African leaders. The US is expected to announce nearly $1bn in business deals and will also increase funding for peacekeeping operations and aid programmes.

. . .

The Sina website, however, thinks that Mr Obama has "started to change his parenting and lecturing style" when dealing with Africa and is now focusing on trade and investment issues instead.

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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