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OND banner

Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, May 21, 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: Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly and the Family Stone

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .


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
Public in Deep South supports expanding Medicaid, poll finds, but lawmakers don’t

By Tony Pugh
Even though governors and lawmakers in five Deep South states oppose a plan to cover more people through Medicaid under the health care overhaul, 62 percent of the people in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina support expanding the program, according to a new poll.

 The level of support for expanding Medicaid – the state and federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled – ranged from a low of 59 percent in Mississippi to a high of 65 percent in South Carolina, according to the poll by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a leading research and public policy think tank that focuses on African-Americans and other people of color.

. . .

The poll results were notably divided by age and along racial, political and economic lines. Generally, blacks were more supportive of all parts of the law than whites, and younger people were more supportive than older people.

Lower-income people also expressed more support for the law than those with higher incomes, while Democrats and liberals were more supportive than Republicans and conservatives, as well as moderates and independents.

Apple chief calls on US government to slash US corporate tax

By Dan Roberts and Dominic Rushe
Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.

.. .

Cook said he had no plan to bring back the $102bn built up by Apple at current tax rates, and recently opted to return money to shareholders by borrowing money instead. "I have no current plan to do so at the current tax rates.

. . .

The hearing was seen as a watershed in the increasing tense clashes between governments and multinationals, particularly technology groups such as Apple, Amazon and Google.

Edward Kleinbard, professor of law at USC Gould School of Law, said: "Apple is not an outlier in its efforts to produce 'stateless income' – income that is taxed neither in the United States nor in the countries where its foreign customers are located – but it is an outlier in the baldness of its strategies. Apple shifted tens of billions of dollars of income without even breaking into a sweat.

More than 100,000 electric vehicles now on the roads in U.S.

By John Upton
. . .

Based on the average US household size, this means that over a quarter million people are now being exposed regularly to the benefits of electric transportation.  The vehicles themselves are reaching an even greater number of people simply by being on the road — perhaps as many as 1 million or more people per day. While much work remains to be done, 100,000 vehicles means that we are ever closer to the tipping point for electric transportation.

. . .

How good is business for the nation’s electric-auto makers and sellers? A press release from Plug-In America says that the all-electric Nissan Leaf has been outselling all other Nissan models in some markets this year, and that Tesla’s Model S sedan is outselling the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 series, and the Audi A8. For another sign of the health of the EV market, check out Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweet from Monday:

Given govt loan repayment this week (prob Wed), Supercharger update will be next week. Work continuing independent of announcement.—
Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 20, 2013
That’s about Tesla repaying a federal loan nine years before it comes due
Physician dismisses force-feeding concerns

By (Al Jazeera)
A military physician who oversees a team of nurses force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has dismissed ethical concerns raised by human rights groups and medical organisations about the procedure, saying the medical community was motivated to speak out about the practice for political reasons.

. . .

"It's very easy for folks outside of this place to make policies and decisions they think they would implement," the senior medical officer said. "This is kind of a tough mission and this is kind of an ugly place sometimes, alright? The reality is when faced with people who are hunger striking, potentially to the point of needing medical intervention to protect their life and to keep them from harming themselves, suddenly it's not a very abstract decision. Hunger strikes are tough and a big use of time. I realise there's a lot of controversy. But it's a political thing."

Thirty of the 103 Guantanamo prisoners who have been on hunger strike since February are now being fed a nutritional supplement through a tube that is threaded through their nostril and into their stomach, a brutal procedure laid bare in an exclusive report last week by Al Jazeera, citing the military's own standard operating procedure (SOP), which was written March 5, a month after the hunger strike started.

The practice has been criticised by the president of the American Medical Association (AMA), who said in a letter sent to Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel in April that force-feeding "violates core ethical values of the medical profession" and "every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions".

Conviction of Genocidal Dictator Efrain Rios Montt Overturned by Guatemala's Highest Court

By Asawin Suebsaeng
On Monday, Guatemala's Constitutional Court overturned the conviction of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, an army general who ruled as de facto president from 1982 to 1983. On May 10, Ríos Montt, 86, was found guilty by a three-panel tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 80 years in the slammer; he is the first former head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. But less than two weeks later, Guatemala's highest court threw out all proceedings in the case dating back to April 19, in part thanks to an aggressive lobbying effort by the nation's most influential business federation. Due to the court's 3-2 decision, the way forward—for Ríos Montt's opponents, for his supporters—has been thrown into question. After Monday's ruling, Ríos Montt was sent back to house arrest, where he had been since the case started in January 2012.

Here's a quick reminder of who Efraín Ríos Montt is, and what he did.

1. During his 17-month stint as military dictator, he oversaw the genocide by his armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the indigenous Maya Ixil population. Roughly 100 survivors testified during the course of his trial.
This Guatemala City newspaper reads, "Ríos Montt charged with 11 massacres." Via Granito: How to Nail a Dictator/Facebook

2. Along with the mass murder, his military regime carried out a policy of forced displacement, forced assimilation, torture, systematic rape and sexual assault, starvation, and arbitrary execution against those labeled as political opponents.

. . .

For all the accusations of obscene human rights violations, Reagan maintained that Ríos Montt was simply getting a "bum rap" from naïve activists.

Israeli court considers landmark property law cases

By Yolande Knell
. . .

Israel's Absentee Property Law was passed in 1950.

After the war that followed the creation of the state, it was the main legal mechanism used to take over homes and land that belonged to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had fled or were displaced.

. . .

Experts point out that the implications of the case could be far-reaching if Israel is given a green light to take over Palestinian-owned property around Jerusalem.

This could help cement its control over the eastern part of the holy city, which the Palestinians want as their capital under any future peace deal.

South Africa rising? A country of contradictions

By Andrew Harding
South Africa's economy - buffeted by labour unrest, political uncertainties and the seemingly endless aftershocks of racial apartheid - is not roaring ahead like some of its neighbours.

In the context of the much touted and much questioned theme of "Africa Rising", South Africa stands apart - still the continent's largest and most sophisticated economy, but one that is warped and weighed down by its own unique history and contradictions.

. . .

"The high unemployment figures (of around 25%) discount what we call the second economy. Many people who trade in the informal economy are not recorded. We are seeing a lot of new capital getting into the pockets of the people of the historically poor areas like Alex," says Mr Mogashoa, walking down the crowded supermarket aisles of Pick 'n Pay.

"What is attractive about this country is its political stability, notwithstanding the social unrest and the reports in the media. The future of this country is fairly predictable within reason and the issues of crime as well as education levels can be addressed in time. It's a country under construction, so there are opportunities to build more."

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Judges Strike Down Arizona's 20-Week Abortion Ban

By Kate Sheppard
On Tuesday, judges on the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Arizona law that would have banned abortions at 20 weeks. The judges called the law "unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority." This is the first 20-week ban to be struck down in court.

The judges wrote that Arizona "may not deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at any point prior to viability," echoing the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade 40 years ago that abortion should be legal up to the point that a fetus is can survive outside of the womb, which is usually construed as 24 weeks.

. . .

Reproductive rights groups hope that Tuesday's ruling sends a warning to other states that might consider similar restrictions. "Today's decision is a huge victory in the fight to protect women's fundamental reproductive rights, and it should send a clear message to anti-choice politicians that their attempts to deprive pregnant women of critical health care are clearly unconstitutional and will not hold up in court," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which joined with the ACLU to challenge the Arizona law.

Court rules bin Laden death photos can stay secret

By Jennifer Mattson
A US federal appeals court has ruled that the US government does not need to release photos taken of Osama bin Laden after his death.

The unanimous ruling by the US Court of Appeals rejected an appeal for the images by conservative nonprofit watchdog group, Judicial Watch, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

. . .

In Tuesday's ruling, the court sided with the CIA, saying the images could be used to conduct facial recognition analysis of the Al Qaeda leader and therefore jeopardize intelligence gathering methods.

US immigration bill passes Senate panel

By (BBC)
A sweeping immigration bill that would offer a chance of citizenship to millions living in the US illegally has taken a stride forward in Congress.

. . .

Approval came after committee members agreed to a Republican move to ease visa restrictions on hiring skilled workers from countries such as China and India.

The Democratic chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy, also withdrew an amendment that would have allowed people to sponsor same-sex partners, who are foreigners, for permanent legal status.

. . .

At the centre of the legislation is a provision that would allow the estimated 11 million people living in the US illegally to obtain "registered provisional immigrant status", six months after the bill's enactment if certain conditions are met.

Fema uses 'Waffle House index' to take stock of Oklahoma tornado disaster

By Ewen MacAskill
. . .

The index has three levels. If the local Waffle House is up and running, serving a full menu, a disaster is classed as green. If it is running with an emergency generator and serving only a limited menu, it is a yellow. If it is closed, badly damaged or totally destroyed, as during hurricane Katrina, it is a red.

There is only one Waffle House in Moore, the suburb worst hit by the tornadoes. The restaurant, located at 316 SW 19th Street and which normally offers a southern-tinged menu that includes grits, hash browns, and sausage and egg biscuits as well as hamburgers, was closed on Tuesday.

But the Moore tornado was classed as a yellow on the Waffle House index because managers were hoping to get it up and running soon. "It is a yellow because we are hoping to get a generator," said Kelly Thrasher, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based restaurant chain. "Once we have the generator, we will be able to serve a limited menu, maybe a full one."

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:
. . .

Woodstock made the Stone Family mega-stars. Sly brought the first multi-racial, gender-blind band to the rock stage. The Family featured women who were ferocious, not fluffy. And when was the last time you saw a white drummer backing a black front musician?

Sly's Family snipped racial and sexual cut-outs to ribbons: Don't call me Nigger, Whitey— Don't call me Whitey— Nigger. Songs like that are outrageous today. It's dumbfounding to consider how courageous this group was— and more's the pity, how radical they still seem today.

It's hard to remember a time when every funk/soul/rock group didn't trade lead vocals like the Family did. The original bass player, Larry Graham, was onto SLAPPING something—  and no bass player ever touched his strings the same way again. This band's funk came out from between their legs, and knocked you upside the head. Even James Brown had to take a deep breath.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Study Reveals How Fishing Gear Can Cause Slow Death of Whales

By (ScienceDaily)
. . .

Using a "patient monitoring" device attached to a whale entangled in fishing gear, scientists showed for the first time how fishing lines changed a whale's diving and swimming behavior. The monitoring revealed how fishing gear hinders whales' ability to eat and migrate, depletes their energy as they drag gear for months or years, and can result in a slow death.

. . .

"Together, the effects of added buoyancy, added drag, and reduced swimming speed due to towing accessory gear pose many threats to entangled whales," the scientists wrote. Buoyant gear may overwhelm animals' ability to descend to depths to forage on preferred prey. Increased drag can reduce swimming speeds, delaying whales' timely arrival to feeding or breeding grounds. "Most significant, however, is the energy drain associated with added drag," they said.

. . .

"No fisherman wants to catch a whale, and I wish no fisherman a hungry day," said Moore. "There needs to be a targeted assessment of how the fishery can still be profitable while deploying less gear so we can reduce the risk of marine mammals encountering fishing gear in the first place. At WHOI, we have hosted workshops talking with fisheries managers and fishermen about what might change so that they can continue to catch fish and stop catching whales."

U.S. said well-positioned to grow pond scum as fuel source

By (UPI)
. . .

Algae contain significant amounts of oil, and several research teams and companies are pursuing ways to improve the creation of biofuels based on algae, based on its chief requirements of sunlight and water, U.S. Department of Energy researchers reported Tuesday.

. . .

Oil based on algae has the potential to replace a significant portion of the nation's oil imports, researchers said, and the United States has regions well suited to such production.

. . .

The researchers said they estimated 25 billion gallons of algal oil produced in a year would be enough to fill the nation's current oil needs for one month, about 600 million barrels.

Bill aims to tackle climate-caused health problems

By John Upton
It’s not just thinking about climate change that can make you feel sick — climate change itself is bringing maladies upon us. Allergies, fungal infections, malaria, and other health problems are taking a growing toll as the climate shifts — and they are expected to grow worse.

. . . the Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act . . . would authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research climate change’s health impacts and would help public health officials better plan for the onslaught.

. . .  This time around, you can safely bet that the legislation won’t be passed by either chamber. But, as evidence mounts that climate change can be deadly, bravo to Capps et al for trying to keep the issue in the news.

Science and Health
Drawing Closer to Alzheimer’s Magic Bullet? Drugs Found to Both Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's Disease in Mice

By (scienceDaily)
. . .

"Our data suggests the possibility of drugs that can prevent and treat Alzheimer's," said lead author, professor and lab principal Christian Pike of USC Davis. "It's just mouse data but extremely encouraging mouse data."

. . .

The most surprising finding for Pike and his team was the effect of TSPO ligands in the aged mice. Four treatments -- one per week over four weeks -- in aged 3xTg-AD mice resulted in significant lowering of Alzheimer's-related pathology and improvements in memory behavior. This finding suggested the possibility that TSPO ligands can reverse components of Alzheimer's and thus have the potential to be useful in treatment.

. . .

In light of the findings, the team will next focus on understanding how TSPO ligands reduce Alzheimer's pathology. Building on the established knowledge that TSPO ligands can act protectively by reducing inflammation, shielding nerve cells from injury and increasing the production of neuroactive hormones in the brain, the team will study which of these actions is the most significant in fighting Alzheimer's so it can develop newer TSPO ligands accordingly.

Public Citizen: The SUPPORT Study was Even Worse than We Thought

By Michael Carome and Sidney Wolfe
. . .

The study involved two simultaneous complex experiments. In one experiment, the babies were randomly divided into two groups, each receiving a different treatment to assist breathing. Babies in one group were treated with a face mask, called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. Babies in the other group were intubated and given the drug surfactant, which helps lungs stay open, and placed on mechanical ventilation.

. . .

The serious deficiencies in the SUPPORT study consent forms become readily apparent when information in the protocol, as well as statements made by the investigators, is compared with information in the consent forms.

. . . the investigators were aware when designing the study that manipulating oxygen therapy to target narrow low and high oxygen saturation ranges in premature infants could have had different effects on these acknowledged competing risks. Targeting the high-oxygen range could have increased the risk of ROP, whereas targeting the low-oxygen range could have increased the risk of brain injury and death. Furthermore, the study’s statistical analysis plan revealed that the death rate was an important variable to be measured for the oxygen experiment.

. . .

It is neither OHRP’s determination nor Public Citizen’s critique regarding the study that poses a threat to biomedical research and the advancement of medical knowledge and innovation. Rather, the real threat to such scientific endeavors is unethical research, which undermines the public’s trust in the motives and conduct of researchers. Conformance with the fundamental ethical principles for conducting human subjects research must never be sacrificed in the quest to advance medical knowledge.

The Most Absurd Religious War in Geek History is in the News Today

By Kevin Drum
The creator of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, caused a firestorm today by weighing in on the correct prounciation of his creation:
He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
. . .

As near as I can remember, controversy over the pronunciation of GIF has existed practically from the day of its birth. Nevertheless, my recollection is that 20 years ago, most people pronounced it JIF. The hard-G contingent was a distinct minority. But that seems to have changed over time. Today, my sense is just the opposite: most people pronounce it with a hard G, and the Jiffies are now a small rump fighting a rearguard action.

NASA Awards $125,000 Grant for 3D Printed Food on Long-Term Space Travels

By Tiffany Kaiser  -
. . .

 Anjan Contractor, who own Systems & Materials Research Corporation, has created a universal food synthesizer that uses a 3D printer to make food -- and he just received a six-month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype.

. . .

 After the 3D printer "reads" the recipe, it uses a combination of powdered and certain liquid ingredients to make food layer-by-layer -- just like other 3D printed materials. Powdered forms of ingredients are used because they last longer.

. . .

 While this 3D printed food is mainly for long-term space travel right now, Contractor believes it could also have a place in every kitchen as the human population increases. Toward the end of the century when the population is expected to be around 12 billion, a universal food synthesizer could eliminate food waste and ensure that all 12 billion mouths are fed with balanced nutrition.

Fighting hate speech against women on Facebook

By Kira Cochrane
Last month, in a fit of anger, Laura Bates tweeted a screenshot of a Facebook page called "Drop kicking sluts in the teeth" to the beauty company Dove. Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, had become increasingly frustrated by how difficult it was to persuade Facebook to take down what she and many others perceive as gender-based hate speech – so she decided to contact those who advertise on the site instead. Dove's logo and ad appeared on that same page, and the beauty company's response was swift. They made it clear they don't choose the pages on which their ads appear, while also pledging to resolve the issue. Bates was pleased by how seriously they had taken the situation. She started contacting other advertisers, who responded similarly, with one, a web-hosting company, stating it would remove all its ads from Facebook.

Now Bates is spearheading a campaign, backed by more than 40 other international organisations, calling on Facebook to put an end to violent misogyny on the site. In an open letter, just published online, she and the activists Soraya Chemaly and Jaclyn Friedman ask for three things from Facebook. One is for them to recognise any speech that trivialises or glorifies violence against women as hate speech, and to make a commitment not to tolerate this. The second is to effectively train their moderators to recognise and remove gender-based hate speech. And the third is to train their moderators to understand how online harassment affects women and men differently, due to the prevalence of violence against women in daily life.

. . .

Bates understands, of course, that Facebook isn't pre-moderated, and so problematic imagery can always be posted, but wants the site to remove it as quickly as possible. She recognises that arguments are likely to be made about freedom of speech, but points out that Facebook has policies defining what is acceptable content already, and she just wants these to be properly enforced. If the site took a clear public stand on this issue, she says, less of this content would probably be posted in the first place. When I contacted a UK spokesperson for Facebook, they said they hadn't yet formulated a response to the open letter, which was published at 2pm.

Big jump in HIV among Navajo in New Mexico

By (UPI)
A Navajo reservation near Gallup, N.M., had a 20 percent increase in HIV diagnoses in 2012 from 2011, a doctor says.

. . .

Iralu and other health workers said in the past, Navajo contracted the disease mostly in cities and returned with the disease to the reservation, but the most recent cases are being transmitted from one tribal member to another.

Preventing HIV is difficult on the reservation because the stigma of HIV is still very high and those who do get diagnosed often do not tell their relatives, friends or even their partner, Iralu said.

The report said men who have sex with men accounted for nearly half of the new cases.

More Afghan women jailed for 'moral crimes', says HRW

By (BBC)
The number of women and girls in Afghanistan imprisoned for "moral crimes" has risen by 50% in the past 18 months, a rights group says.

. . .

Human Rights Watch says many of the protections within the Elimination of Violence Against Women law - which bans forced and underage marriage, beatings and rape - are still not being implemented on the ground.

. . .

One prisoner, Sorya, told HRW she was forced to marry at 12 and was abused by her husband. After nine years of marriage during which she had three children, he accused her of running away with another man whom she had not even met.

HRW said Sorya was serving a sentence of five-and-a-half years in prison. She was pregnant at the time of her arrest, and her baby died in prison three weeks after he was born.

HRW's Afghanistan researcher, Heather Barr, said the dramatic increase in prosecutions for "moral crimes" could be related to increased confidence among religious conservatives as international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan in 2014.

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