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Please begin with an informative title:

OND banner

Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, March 05, 2013.

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: Le Freak by Chic

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .

Intro

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

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
Killing American Citizens on American Soil, Take 2

By Kevin Drum
Does the president have authority to order drone strikes against American citizens on American soil? As Adam Serwer says, the reason Obama has dodged this question in the past is that the answer is probably yes. He just doesn't want to say so publicly. Today, however, in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the answer is indeed yes . . .

. . .

Unfortunately, this is still a bit of a non-answer. The president plainly has the authority to authorize lethal military force on American soil if the country is attacked. I don't think anybody has ever questioned that. He also has the authority to authorize lethal police force on American soil under much wider circumstances. Waco and Ruby Ridge are examples. In both of these cases, there's no reason to think that drones would be specifically barred from use even though F-15s and SWAT teams are OK.

But that still leaves open the question most of us really want answered. The problem is that it's hard to phrase it precisely. What we want to know is whether the president can specifically target a particular American citizen (or group of citizens) for assassination on American soil even when there's not some kind of hot, real-time incitement (such as an invasion or a standoff). The issue of drones is immaterial here. What we're interested in is a situation where, say, the president gets information that some sort of bad guy is holed up in a cave in Idaho. Can he order up lethal force? Or is he required to go after him in a way that at least theoretically allows the possibility of surrender?

NYT, WaPo cut back environment coverage, since we’re not worried about that anymore

By Greg Hanscom
On Friday afternoon, The New York Times discontinued the Green blog, the paper’s one-stop shop for environment-related news. Then on Monday, the Washington Post announced it was pulling its star climate reporter, Juliet Eilperin, off of the beat and putting her on an “online strike force” covering the White House.

All of this can only mean one of two things: 1) The environment is fine, or 2) imminent global catastrophe is not as interesting as photo essays of matching, over-upholstered apartments in Manhattan.

. . .

Several mainstream media outlets — including the New York Times print edition — ignored an October 2012 report on the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, but the Green blog covered it. In November, a World Bank report warning of the calamitous effects of climate change went unnoticed by the New York Times print edition, but not by the Green blog. Since the closure of the environment desk, the Green blog has accounted for 64 percent of the paper’s climate change reporting. And since January 2012, the Green blog has devoted nearly twice as much coverage to the threat of ocean acidification.

. . .

It’s hard to look at these latest moves and see a publication reorganizing itself to better mirror what’s happening in the world. With the environment team disbanded and the Green blog discontinued, we will inevitably see less reporting on these topics, even as they become ever more urgent. But then, that’s probably a sign of the (ahem) times, as the old newspaper model continues to wither and digital media and the blogosphere fill the void . . .

Scores killed in renewed DR Congo clashes

By (Al Jazeera)
At least 70 people have been killed and thousands more fled their homes after days of fighting between rebels and government forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, aid agencies said.

The clashes between the army and fighters from the APCLS armed group, which began last week in the town of Kitchanga, are just the latest violence to flare up in a region that has become a tinder box of ethnic tensions and battles over resources.

. . .

That is just part of an estimated 1.8 million people who have fled their homes in Congo's restive east because of fighting.

. . .

The clashes underline the complex nature of the conflict in eastern Congo, where personal and local grievances fuel a wider battle between armed groups and the ill-disciplined army for control of land and the region's rich mineral deposits.

Fighters from all sides, often high on marijuana and alcohol, are accused of raping and killing civilians, millions of whom have died in nearly two decades of conflict.

International
Mexican families struggle to bring attention to those who’ve disappeared

By Tim Johnson
. . .

There’s no easy answer to why Mexico has so many disappeared people. Its numbers dwarf the better-publicized cases of Argentina, Brazil and Chile during the years that military governments ruled those countries.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch found that the military or police had played a role in 149 of the 249 Mexican cases the group examined in depth, which suggests official involvement in many of the disappearances. Hundreds more may be people who ran afoul of the country’s brutal criminal syndicates. The lack of interest among police departments means that most cases are never investigated, the New York-based advocacy group found.

. . .

She recalled a meeting between family members of the disappeared and prosecutors in which a relative offered the location of a car that witnesses said was used in a disappearance.

“About half an hour into the meeting, the lady said sweetly, ‘Look, Mr. Prosecutor, I don’t know how you say you can do nothing. I’ve been three times to the taxi terminal, and there it is. How is it that you can’t get over there?’ ” Morales said.

World leaders offer condolences to Venezuela on death of Chavez

By Allison Jackson
. . .

Former US President Jimmy Carter said Chavez — whom he first met in 1998 — would be remembered for "his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments," according to a statement posted on The Carter Center website.

But Carter also acknowledged the "divisions" created under the former soldier's leadership and the need for "national healing" in Venezuela.

. . .

Regional allies also moved quickly to express their sorrow at Chavez's passing.

. . .

Further north, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to Venezuelans and said he looked forward to "working with his successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic," Reuters reported.

Kabul Bank fraud: Sherkhan Farnood and Khalilullah Ferozi jailed

By (BBC)
Two former chiefs of Afghanistan's Kabul Bank have been sentenced to five years in jail for the multi-million dollar fraud that almost led to its collapse in 2010.

. . .

Foreign donors bailed it out fearing its failure could lead to the collapse of Afghanistan's fragile economy.

. . .

Even though Tuesday's sentences are relatively light, and there's much scepticism that they will be served in full, they will allow the international community, which bailed out the bank, to begin to draw a line under the scandal.

It was seen as a test of Afghanistan's commitment to addressing corruption and stabilising the economy.

Zimbabwe 'bars' EU and US from observing polls

By (BBC)
Zimbabwe says it is not inviting Western observers to the constitutional referendum and elections due this year.

Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told the state-owned Herald newspaper that EU and US observers lacked objectivity.

Zimbabwe is due to hold a referendum on 16 March on a constitution that will limit presidential powers.

FSA to ask consumers how much horsemeat they will accept in their food

By James Meikle
Consumers are to be asked whether they will accept traces of horsemeat in their food if it proves too costly and technically difficult to check thoroughly for levels of contamination under 1%.

. . .

Twenty products in the UK have so far been found to have 1% or higher levels of horse DNA following more than 5,400 industry tests and more than 6,000 in all.

. . .

"The main reason for this was stated as a general lack of trust – 67% of people gave us the reason, much more than the 35% who said they didn't want to eat horsemeat. And those general concerns have now been reflected in sales figures."

Brown said the agency had been "irritated" by suggestions it had been caught asleep on the job by the horsemeat scandal. "If we missed something, so did our counterparts in every [EU] member state, and every food business in the UK and Europe."

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Number of Anti-Government Groups Hits Record High

By Erika Eichelberger
. . .

"We are seeing the fourth straight year of really explosive growth on the part of anti-government patriot groups and militias," Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC said on a conference call Tuesday. "That's 913 percent in growth. We've never seen that kind of growth in any kind of group we cover."

. . .

On Tuesday, the SPLC sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging it to amp up its non-Islamic domestic terrorism monitoring. The agency has done a lot less monitoring on non-Islamic terror since 2009, when a leaked DHS report revealing a resurgence of the radical right caused an uproar amongst GOP lawmakers and right-wing talk show hosts. The controversy spurred Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to withdraw the report and dismantle the domestic non-Islamic terrorism unit that had written it.

Johnson, whose team at DHS wrote the report, says that since then, "nothing at the Department of Homeland Security regarding this issue has changed. DHS has one or two analysts looking at right-wing extremism. Meanwhile it has dozens of analysts and resources looking at home-grown Islamic extremists."

TSA to allow some small knives in carry-on luggage

By (BBC)
The US transport safety authority has said it will allow some small pocket knives aboard US flights for the first time since the 9/11 attacks.

. . .

Also under the new policy, billiard cues, ski poles, and lacrosse and hockey sticks will be allowed in aeroplane cabins in carry-on luggage.

The TSA said the new rules would bring the US into line with international guidelines and offer a better experience for passengers.

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:
. . .

"Alfa's voice is instantly recognisable to me by the way she sings 'I'm sure you'll be amazed'," Rodgers says. "The word 'amazed' is kinda flat and very Alfa Anderson; a cool thing that we used to love. Still, 'Le Freak' is mainly about the music. There's probably more playing than singing. The bridge, for instance, is a couple of minutes long, but amid all the playing it only has a few words: 'Now freak! I said freak! Now freak!' The music is driving the whole thing along. In fact, the vocals were recorded after the backing track. With Chic we never did guide vocals, and no vocalists ever heard the song before they recorded any of our records, even if they were stars — Sister Sledge never heard 'We Are Family' until they got to the studio, and Diana Ross never heard 'I'm Coming Out' until she got there. Hearing these records for the first time, the artists were excited by them and wanted to prove they could do a good job. That made them concentrate and give a fresh, exciting performance. At the same time, the way Bernard and I worked with vocalists, we'd really coach and push them: 'Come on, you can do this!' We had a very definite idea as to what kind of vocal we needed.

"The rhythm track was always played completely live, without a click track, and we'd select one particular take. No song that we ever, ever, ever recorded was compiled from different takes. We knew which take was it because that's the one we kept, and then we'd overdub onto that. There are no alternative takes on anything. If we weren't satisfied with a take, it didn't live. We'd make up our minds right on the spot — we'd play it, listen to it and go 'Uh, that was good. Let's try another one.' And then if we tried another one and it was better, that's the one we would keep and we'd erase the other one. So, there is only one 'Le Freak'.

"I almost wish the world was like that now, because I'm working on a new Chic record and I must have 50 albums' worth of music here. I'll probably have a hundred albums' worth of music to complete the one album, whereas when we did Chic and Sister Sledge at the same time, however many songs were on each album, that's how many takes we did! That was how the world was then. Also, we were young and we believed in our ideas. We didn't need two [takes]. One was enough."

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
New Report Confirms Almost Half of Africa's Lions Facing Extinction

By (ScienceDaily)
A new report concludes that nearly half of Africa's wild lion populations may decline to near extinction over the next 20-40 years without urgent conservation measures. The plight of many lion populations is so bleak, the report concludes that fencing them in -- and fencing humans out -- may be their only hope for survival.

. . .

"It is clear that fences work and unfenced populations are extremely expensive to maintain," said Craig Packer, who also sits on Panthera's Cat Advisory Council. Using field data from 11 African countries, the Ecology Letters study examines the cost of managing fenced and unfenced habitats, and compares lion population densities and trends in both. The report shows that conservation costs are lower, and lion population sizes and densities are greater, in reserves secured by wildlife-proof fences, compared to unfenced ecosystems. Lions in unfenced reserves were subject to a higher degree of threats from human communities, including retaliatory killing by herders, habitat loss and fragmentation, and overhunting of lion prey.

. . .

Panthera's Dr. Guy Balme stated, "We have shown that it is possible to keep both humans and lions in African landscapes by reducing lion-human conflict, but it requires extensive resources. As the numbers of people and their livestock continue to grow in Africa, it is essential to scale up these programs to avert losing many lion populations."

Electronic waste recycling on the increase

By (UPI)
A new business collaboration in Chile will advance electronic waste recycling, an industry witnessing phenomenal growth in Latin America.

. . .

Major electronic companies, including Apple and Sony, earlier announced ambitious plans to turn a burgeoning problem -- Earth's mountains of electronic waste -- into a lucrative business opportunity.

. . .

The work often involves handling of hazardous materials as well electronic waste, ranging from household and consumer items to aerospace instrumentation, the companies said.

. . .

Industry experts say Chile has the advantage of easy access to cheap waste including discarded phones and electronics from within the country as well as neighboring countries including Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

Science and Health
Are humans really the planet’s top dogs? Geologists will make the final call

By Miles Traer and Michael C. Osborne
By now you’ve probably heard of the Anthropocene. Pin it on climate change, ocean acidification, mass extinction, resource depletion, global population, landscape transformation, or any other holy fuck hockey-stick graph: The point is that the stable environmental conditions of the Holocene — the geologic epoch we’ve known and loved — no longer apply.

The Anthropocene is more than just a fanciful notion held by those who believe homo sapiens has gone totally berserk. Bigwig geologists are taking the idea super seriously. In fact, members of the International Commission on Stratigraphy — the masters of the official geologic timetable — have organized a group of scientists and experts to consider formal adoption of the Anthropocene. The basic task of the Anthropocene Working Group is to try to imagine what the rock record will look like a million years in the future, and to figure out whether we humans will have a lasting enough impact to truly merit an epoch all our own.

. . .

Every geologic boundary marks a redefinition of the terms of life on Earth, which is why the Anthropocene debate has that rare quality of being simultaneously academic and socially relevant. It is an exercise of deep-time imagination, but with real-world, right-now implications. So strap on your geology goggles and dive into the Anthropocene with the masters of the geologic timetable — for the 50th episode of Generation Anthropocene.

Poor sleep linked to heart failure, Norwegian study says

By Smitha Mundasad
. . .

Scientists found those who suffered several nights of poor sleep were more likely to develop the condition, in which the heart fails to pump properly.

Experts say further research is needed to see if a lack of sleep causes heart failure or the link is more complex.

. . .

And as heart failure worsens, it can be difficult to get a full night's rest - but the Norwegian study is one of few to investigate whether poor sleepers without the condition are at risk of getting it in later life.

. . .

Dr Laugsand, lead author of the study, said: "We don't know whether insomnia truly causes heart failure. But if it does, the good thing is it is a potentially treatable condition.

Technology
Putting HiFi Into Cochlear Implants

By (ScienceDaily)
Imagine suddenly being able to hear the words and tone of the person across the table from you in a crowded restaurant when once you only heard overwhelming noise. Or speaking on the telephone with confidence because what you hear is now crisp and clear. Longtime cochlear implant users are reporting such dramatic improvements in their hearing, thanks to new image-guided programming methods developed by Vanderbilt University researchers.

. . .

The new automatic technique uses patients' pre- and postoperative CT scans to determine the location of the implanted electrodes and where overlap is occurring, possibly causing interference in the transmission of signals. The image-guided strategy and software, which Noble developed as a Ph.D. student, then pinpoint which electrodes can be turned off without loss of hearing fidelity -- and in fact, improving it. An audiologist uses this programming plan to create a revised custom map for that person's needs. The process is completely noninvasive -- no surgery is required -- and can be accomplished in one office appointment.

. . .

Ally Sisler-Dinwiddie, herself an audiologist, has had cochlear implants in both ears since 2006. The study focused on adjusting her right implant, which provided poor results before the study. "The overall sound quality of my right ear used to be somewhat monotone -- anytime someone talked, it sounded like they had a mouth full of marshmallows," Sisler-Dinwiddie said. "While the overall volume of my right ear was always balanced with my left ear, it lacked the crispness and clarity that my left ear was always right on target with." She said it's like the difference between night and day since she participated in the study. "I can tell speech is clearer and a lot more crisp. I can now pick out the intonation in one's voice with my right ear alone," she said. "My confidence has soared since the moment I realized I'm actually able to understand speech in a noisy restaurant without relying on my left ear anymore."

Space mission glitch may stay secret

By (UPI)
The reasons why a technical glitch delayed a SpaceX capsule's docking with the International Space Station may remain secret because of U.S. laws, experts say.

. . .

SpaceX said it would investigate the malfunction, but it will be restricted in what it can publicly reveal by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations that list commercial capsules like Dragon as munitions, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

The U.S. regulations put in place in 1999 are intended to keep technology that could be used in advanced ballistic weapons out of the hands of countries such as China, Iran and North Korea.

Researchers Use Superconductors to Trap, Release Light on a Chip

By Jason Mick
University of California Santa Barbara Physics professor John Martinis is looking to trap sunshine in a bottle; or photons in a cavity, more precisely.  His former postdoctoral fellow Yi Yin -- now a professor at Zhejiang University in the city of Hangzhou, China -- has just published a work in the journal Phys. Rev. Letters detailing how her team used tiny superconducting structures to selectively trap and release photons.

. . .

 There were some rather significant technical hurdles that are required to achieve the team's impressive results.  The approximately 1 sq. inch chip had to be chilled to -273.12 ºC -- or about two-hundredths of a degree Kelvin above absolute zero.

 The next step is to tune the device to transfer controlled-state photons between two cavities.  That will be a critical step towards quantum memory or a cavity-based quantum computing device.

China Not Happy with Google's Android Dominance

By Tiffany Kaiser
China believes Google and its Android operating system have too much of a pull in the country's smartphone market, and while it hasn't directly mentioned regulatory actions, things could eventually go in that direction.

. . .

"Our country's mobile operating system research and development is too dependent on Android," said the white paper. "While the Android system is open source, the core technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google."

. . .

 The paper didn't mention any regulatory actions or other measures, but did praise Chinese companies like Alibaba Group and Huawei Technologies. This could mean that, at some point, the country could try to take action against Android in order to promote Chinese companies and their technologies.

Cultural
Spain tops healthiest country in the world ranking, US 17th

By Alexander Besant
. . .

The new report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) found that Spain topped most developed countries for health and healthcare despite a dire financial crisis.

. . .

The rankings focused on years of healthy life before disease, rather than strict life expectency.

. . .

Researchers speculated that the Mediterranean diet was a leading reason for better health in Spain and Italy, reported the Telegraph.

Weather, stronger families and more walking may also have something to do with it.

Chris Sprouse Steps Away from Orson Scott Card’s Superman Story

By Steve Morris
Artist Chris Sprouse, who would have been drawing controversial writer Orson Scott Card’s contribution to the upcoming Superman anthology Adventures of Superman, has stepped down from the project today. He cites the media furore over the comic as his reason for dropping the project. As a result, the first issue of this digital-first series will feature stories from Jeff Parker/Chris Samnee, Justin Jordan/Riley Rossmo, and Jeff Lemire.

. . .

Sprouse’s statement regarding leaving the comic, which became controversial due to Card’s well-known association with anti-gay activism, is as follows:

The media surrounding this story reached the point where it took away from the actual work, and that’s something I wasn’t comfortable with. My relationship with DC Comics remains as strong as ever and I look forward to my next project with them.
. . .

The issue was scheduled for April, and had sparked a massive debate over whether Card was the wisest of choices for DC to hire on a Superman story. Some people thought he should have the right to free speech, some people thought maybe DC shouldn’t have hired a real world villain to write a Superman story. . .

Doppelganger: Desperately seeking my lookalike

By (BBC)
. . .

I started looking for my doppelganger on 17 November 2011. What started as an idea for a feature - a social experiment to see if I can find my double using the internet, word of mouth and basically any way possible - has since turned me into a woman on a mission.

. . .

The first thing I did was start a blog, outlining my objective, why I was doing it and some ground rules. I wanted "real-life" suggestions as opposed to famous people. Of course I'm working on an assumption that I even have a doppelganger. So how likely is it that I do have a lookalike and that I'll find her if so?

. . .

Since there's umpteen faces that follow celebrities on Twitter, I targeted these high-profile tweeters, asking for a retweet with #doyoulooklikeme as a hashtag, to help speed up my search.

. . .

The search for a doppelganger must be truly global, according to Dr Kivisild. "Wherever there is a geographical continuum that humans can occupy, they normally do."

. . .

"One could imagine a system that scours the social media sphere of the web - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitpic, Yfrog, Photobucket, Flickr, Picasa - detecting every face present on public profiles and comparing it with your own photographs.

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