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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, October 02, 2012.

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: Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac

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
California bans teenage gay conversion therapy

By (BBC)
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a ban on therapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight.

When the law comes into effect on 1 January, the Golden State will become the first to outlaw the practice for people under the age of 18.

The bill was backed by mental health groups, and gay rights activists say reparative or "conversion therapy" can increase risk of depression or suicide.

. . .

Two Christian groups, the California-based Pacific Justice Institute and the Florida-based Liberty Counsel will challenge the law.

The Liberty Counsel said it planned to argue in its lawsuit that the measure infringes on the First Amendment and equal protection rights.

Half of Great Barrier Reef coral lost in last 27 years

By (BBC)
Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years, a new study shows.

. . .

Glen De'ath from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and colleagues determined that tropical cyclones - 34 in total since 1985 - were responsible for 48% of the damage, while outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns starfish accounted for 42%.

Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 due to ocean warming also had "major detrimental impacts" on the central and northern parts of the reef, the study found, putting the impact at 10%.

"This loss of over half of initial cover is of great concern, signifying habitat loss for the tens of thousands of species associated with tropical coral reefs," the authors wrote in their study.

Tenfold increase in scientific research papers retracted for fraud

By Alok Jha
The proportion of scientific research that is retracted due to fraud has increased tenfold since 1975, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of how research papers go wrong.

The study, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that more than two-thirds of the biomedical and life sciences papers that have been retracted from the scientific record are due to misconduct by researchers, rather than error.

. . .

"If scientific journals are as interested in correcting the literature as they'd like us to think they are, and want us to believe they're transparent, the ones that fail to include that information need to take a lesson from those that do."

The authors of the study said this could be due to the increased scrutiny placed on the research in these journals and the greater uncertainty associated with the most cutting-edge research. "Alternatively, the disproportionately high payoffs to scientists for publication in prestigious venues can be an incentive to perform work with excessive haste or to engage in unethical practices," they wrote in PNAS.

Iran blasts 'enemies' as currency plunges

By (Al Jazeera)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has rejected criticism of his policies and insisted his country could ride out the sanctions, imposed because of the nuclear programme, after the rial lost about a third of its value in a week.

"Enemies have managed to reduce our oil sales but hopefully we will compensate for this," Ahmadinejad told a news conference in Tehran on Tuesday.

. . .

The rial has lost more than a quarter of its value against the dollar over the past week, a sign that Western sanctions are having a serious impact on the country's economy.

. . .

The rial's collapse also comes after Iran opened a new currency "exchange centre" in Tehran to supply dollars to importers at a special rate. The launch was supposed to ease their fears about the availability of dollars, but it may have backfired, intensifying the demand for foreign currency.

Italian bicycle sales 'surpass those of cars'

By (BBC)
Italians bought more bicycles than cars in 2011 for the first time in decades, according to local media reports.

Last year some 1.75 million bicycles were sold, about 2,000 more than the number of new cars registered, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

It attributed the change to a slump in car sales during the economic crisis and the rising price of petrol, as well as bikes coming back into fashion.

South Sudan security forces abusing civilians - Amnesty

By (BBC)
South Sudan's security forces have committed "shocking" acts of violence against civilians, including killings and rapes, Amnesty International says.

In a report, the UK-based human rights group says the abuse has been taking place during a disarmament campaign in the eastern Jonglei state.

. . .

Amnesty says its researches interviewed scores of people in the region, who described widespread torture and abuse against civilians, including children as young as 18 months old.

France opts to cover 100 percent of abortion costs for citizens

By Faine Greenwood
France has decided to reimburse women 100 percent of abortion costs under its new 2013 Social Security budget—while at the same time allowing clinics to charge more for the procedure.

AFP reports that at present, women in France can only get 70 to 80 percent of the cost for the procedure back from the government under current policy. AFP claims the average cost of an abortion in France is between $258 and $581 in US dollars.

. . .

Abortion is legal in France until 12 weeks after conception, according to

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Judge blocks Pennsylvania voter ID law before election

By (BBC)
A judge in the US state of Pennsylvania has stopped new ID requirements for voters from taking effect before November's presidential election.

The ruling, which says voters do not need valid photo ID to cast a ballot, is likely to be cheered by Democrats.

. . .

But Judge Simpson, who upheld the law in an earlier August ruling, was asked by the state's supreme court to determine whether Pennsylvania's state government had done enough to ensure voters had "liberal access" to get the required ID.

The case could be pursued in Pennsylvania's supreme court, although it is unclear if any appeal would be heard before election day.

News Coverage of Debates Matters More Than the Debates Themselves

By Kevin Drum
John Sides passes along this chart from a piece of research that Kim Fridkin did after one of the 2004 debates between John Kerry and George Bush. I've reconstructed it to make it prettier (we're all about the aesthetics here), but the results are the same no matter what the chart looks like. Test subjects who just watched the debate itself thought Kerry won in a landslide. Test subjects who watched the debate plus 20 minutes of analysis on NBC thought Bush won in a landslide. And test subjects who watched the debate plus 20 minutes of CNN commentary were more likely to think that neither candidate won. Obviously public perception of a debate can depend pretty heavily on the spin given to it afterward by the news coverage.


Likewise, as Sides says, Gerald Ford's famous "Poland gaffe" didn't even register with viewers until the next day, after the media had gotten hold of it. And Al Gore handily won his first 2000 debate with George Bush in every single overnight poll. His famous sighing only became a cause célèbre after the talking heads started talking about it nonstop.

Judge Posner, Senior Federal Justice Repeats Plea for Patent Reform

By Jason Mick
. . .

 The landslide of patent lawsuits isn't just a headache for companies and readers. It's increasingly drawing the ire of some of the U.S. legal system's most prestigious experts, who are arguing that companies are exposing flaws in current U.S. Patent Law, gaming the flawed system to achieve anticompetitive ends.

 Among them is Judge Richard A. Posner.  A sitting judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Posner occasionally moonlights in Chicago's U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois for crucial cases, a privilege earned by his glowing reputation and vast expertise regarding intellectual property law.  And as a foremost expert Judge Posner has been increasingly sounding the alarm regarding the broken intellectual property system in the U.S., which is essentially be used and abused as a tool for large competitors to try to damage each other, and unilaterally to block out smaller competitors.

. . .

 The problem of excessive patent protection is at present best illustrated by the software industry. This is a progressive, dynamic industry rife with invention. But the conditions that make patent protection essential in the pharmaceutical industry are absent. Nowadays most software innovation is incremental, created by teams of software engineers at modest cost, and also ephemeral—most software inventions are quickly superseded. Software innovation tends to be piecemeal—not entire devices, but components, so that a software device (a cellphone, a tablet, a laptop, etc.) may have tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of separate components (bits of software code or bits of hardware), each one arguably patentable. The result is huge patent thickets, creating rich opportunities for trying to hamstring competitors by suing for infringement—and also for infringing, and then challenging the validity of the patent when the patentee sues you.

Judge upholds birth-control requirement

By (UPI)
Requiring a Catholic employer to provide contraception coverage for his employees does not violate his religious freedom, a U.S. judge says.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson in St. Louis ruled late Friday against O'Brien Industrial Holdings, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Frank O'Brien filed a notice of appeal Monday.

Jackson, in her decision, said nothing in the federal law requires O'Brien to use birth control himself. She said he is also free to discourage others from using birth control but cannot evade the law requiring him to provide the coverage for those who want it.

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:
"Go Your Own Way" was written by Lindsey Buckingham during the Rumours sessions. Lindsey has said he usually does not write the lyrics to his songs first, but rather initially has the music track in place prior to adding the lyrics. Lindsey's passionate guitar playing is what brings his feelings into his songs, while the addition of the lyrics creates a delicate balance between this guitar playing and putting his feelings into words.  "Go Your Own Way" is a truthful song with intense emotions of love and fury that originate from the heart.

The song reflects the feelings he had revolving around the ending of his relationship with fellow band member and romantic partner at the time, Stevie Nicks. The music and lyrics show a man plagued by anger, confusion, and disbelief.  Through Lindsey's eyes, he paints quite a different picture of what breaking-up feels like than what Stevie has portrayed about the same relationship in her songs at this time (see the mysterious "Dreams" and the haunting "Silver Springs.")

. . .

Stevie probably did not want to hurt or necessarily leave Lindsey, but she went her own way for reasons best known to her and that he may not have understood. The consequence of her leaving left Lindsey very hurt and confused and he lashed out at her in this song. In between the verses of anger and betrayal are ones of questioning and pain.  Although the lyrics in the song are mostly acrimonious, for Lindsey, they were truthful.  It is ironic that such a bitter song is really and truly a love song, shouting out final pleas for the woman he loves.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Undecided voters not undecided about climate change

By Anna Fahey
We are hearing a lot these days about a small group of Americans — the approximately 7 percent who remain undecided about which presidential candidate they’ll vote for. So where do these few — but mighty, and mightily sought-after by political operatives — stand on climate change?

. . .

Eight in 10 undecided voters know climate change is real. That’s right: 80 percent of undecided voters “believe” that global warming is happening, while only 3 percent believe it is not. This is on par with likely Obama voters: 86 percent and 4 percent, respectively. By contrast, just 45 percent of likely Romney voters say global warming is happening. In fact, one out of three likely Romney voters believes it is not happening.

Two in three of the undecided voters polled understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, and only about one in five believe that it’s caused mostly by natural changes in the environment. Undecided voters are split on the question of consensus among climate scientists — but that may not matter in light of the other findings.

Study: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Caused Irreversible Effects on Sea-Level Rise

By Tiffany Kaiser  
. . .

According to research by scientists at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Université catholique de Louvain, greenhouse gas emissions produced up to this point has ensured an irreversible sea-level rise of 1.1 meters by the year 3000. This number could increase, they warn, if no action is taken to reduce these levels -- and the effects could extend into thousands of years into the future.  

The research team came to this conclusion by modeling sea-level changes over thousands of years while including all of our planet's ice sheets and warming of the oceans into its projections. This includes glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The team said this has never been done before.

. . .

"Ultimately, the current polar ice sheets store about 65 metres of equivalent sea level and if climatic warming will be severe and long-lasting, all ice will eventually melt. Mankind should limit the concentration of greenhouse gases at the lowest possible level as soon as possible. The only realistic option is a drastic reduction of the emissions. The lower the ultimate warming will be, the less severe the ultimate consequences will be."

'Paul Revere Of Ecology' Sounded Alarms On Pollution

By All Things Considered
. . .

Barry Commoner died on Sunday at age 95 in Manhattan. In 1970, Time magazine put him on the cover calling him the Paul Revere of ecology. Commoner sounded the alarm about radioactive fallout, lead poisoning, air and water pollution, pesticides, you name it. . .

. . .

BLOCK: Barry Commoner even ran for president in 1980 on his own Citizens' Party line.

Environmental historian Michael Egan says Commoner ranks among the most important American environmentalists. He interviewed him many times for his book "Barry Commoner and the Science of Survival." And Professor Egan joins me now. Welcome to the program.

. . .

EGAN: Well, I think there is, on the one hand, the very natural fact that he covered so many different aspects of what we now consider to be environmentalism at a point where they weren't really part of the larger environmental rhetoric.

But I think the bigger contribution has a lot to do with the practice and the method with which he did that, which had to do with inventing effectively a science information movement. A movement of political active scientists anxious to make sure that their expertise and information made it to the public so that public conversations could be had about the risks inherent in nuclear fallouts or in various pesticides or lead poisoning.

Science and Health
State-Mandated Planning, Higher Resident Wealth Linked to More Sustainable City Transportation

By (ScienceDaily)
Transportation practices tend to be more environmentally friendly in wealthier metropolitan areas located within states that mandate comprehensive planning, new research suggests.

. . .

At least two influences in particular stood out in the analysis: Metropolitan areas in states that require comprehensive planning slowed the reduction in transportation ecoefficiency between 1980 and 2008, and communities with a higher per-capita income were more likely to have improved their transportation systems over that span of time. The two factors also interacted with each other, meaning that higher-income areas made the planning even more effective.

. . .

The analysis showed that state-mandated urban growth management had a positive effect on the change in transportation ecoefficiency, meaning that metropolitan areas subject to those mandates experienced a smaller decline in sustainability between 1980 and 2008. In addition, the analysis showed that higher income per capita enhanced the benefits of that planning mandate.

NASA Building a Better Solid Rocket Booster for Space Launch System Rocket

By (ScienceDaily)
The largest and most powerful solid rocket booster ever built for flight is being assembled for NASA's Space Launch System at ATK Space Systems in Brigham City, Utah, incorporating new cost-savings measures. The SLS will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads beyond low Earth orbit, and provide an entirely new capability for human exploration.

Although similar to the solid rocket boosters that helped power the space shuttle to orbit, the five-segment SLS boosters include several upgrades and improvements implemented by NASA and ATK engineers. In addition, the SLS boosters will be built more affordably and efficiently than shuttle boosters, incorporating new and innovative processes and technologies.

. . .

Implementing new handling processes, ATK estimates the total assembly time for the SLS booster can be reduced by approximately 46 percent overall. In one area, ATK optimized inspection methods and replaced x-ray inspections with an ultrasonic examination of the booster's nozzle, allowing technicians to evaluate the hardware on the production floor. In another, ATK reduced the number of moves from 47 to seven during one phase of booster assembly, reducing the chance of any damage in transit and greatly reducing the time it takes to complete that production process.

Oldest prosthetic ever found on Egyptian mummy

By Alexander Besant
The world's oldest prosthetic, a false toe, was discovered by scientists in the UK.

Researchers at the University of Manchester found that the fake toe, discovered last year, was likely used as a walking device to provide balance.

. . .

"The pressure data tells us that it would have been very difficult for an ancient Egyptian missing a big toe to walk normally wearing traditional sandals, said lead author Jacky Finch, reported BBC.

. . .

Though researchers said that the prosthetic was not the only way to walk for those who lost their toe, but it was likely the most comfortable.

Russians Eagerly Participate in Medical Experiments, Despite Risks

. . .

Like a dream patient conjured up in the boardroom of a pharmaceutical company, the Russian grandmother accepted the risks of the drug she was taking without complaint and cheerily endured even extraordinary side effects.

. . .

 That creates a pool of willing test subjects. The government of President Vladimir V. Putin, eager to diversify Russia’s economy away from oil dependence, welcomes the jobs and high-tech investment associated with clinical trials, and has eased access for drug companies to the Russian patients as an incentive to lure in these benefits.

 In fact, under a law passed in 2010, ostensibly on health grounds, foreign drug companies must test medicine on Russians for it to be marketed in Russia.

 The law has the effect of compelling investment in clinical testing on Russians, trade groups say. And it is working. The number of drugs tested on Russians has shot up over the last year. Russian regulators approved 448 clinical trials in the first six months of 2012, compared to 201 in the same period a year earlier — an increase of 96 percent.

Samsung Alleges in New Filing That Apple's iPhone 5 Infringes on Its Patents

By Jason Mick
. . .

 The phonemaker wants to inject its new iPhone 5 accusations into its partially-complete current case, replacing a placeholder in the original filing referring to future products.  Samsung claims, "judicial resources will be preserved" by this approach.  The decision would also benefit Samsung by allowing it to potentially achieve a rapid ban on the iPhone 5 if Judge Paul S. Grewal or other judges in the case decide in Samsung's favor.

 Recall that in its previous legal loss to Apple in the same court, a jury ruled that Apple's previous iPhones did not infringe on any of these Samsung patents, while finding Samsung to infringe on virtually every Apple patent asserted.  

 However, substantial questions regarding that ruling have been raised on several grounds -- notably that at least one juror had family members who were large Apple shareholders, that the jury was given a massive amount of arguments to consider in a narrow time window, and that some jury instructions appeared to have been biased towards Apple.

 In that regard, Samsung's Aug. 24 loss before the jury may not necessary mirror the outcome in this second phase.

The iPhone 5 Really Costs You $1800

By Casey Chan
Though you may think the iPhone 5 only costs $200, you're forgetting about the contract that's tied to it. Yep, that fatty two-year, soul-selling new contract you get when you buy a new iPhone. That's the real cost of the iPhone 5 and it can get quite expensive.

And to be completely fair, $1800 is actually a low-end estimate. That just so happens to include the cheapest plan on AT&T, which gives you no free text messages and a laughable amount of data. If we're being honest, you're going to need a lot more. Anywhere from $200 more if you're on AT&T to a couple thousand dollars more if you're on Verizon. Over the lifetime of the iPhone 5's contract, you'll spend anywhere from $1800 to $4800. . .

Samsung gets Galaxy tablet sales ban lifted in US

By Charles Arthur and agencies
A court has lifted a temporary sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, allowing the company to sell the product in the US.

While the Galaxy 10.1 is an older model, the lifting of the ban could still help Samsung in the runup to the pivotal festive season.

The court had previously fined the Korean tech giant $1bn for infringing Apple patents and too closely mimicking its designs.

. . .

Samsung is said to be the world's largest smartphone maker, ahead of Apple, but lags in the tablet field, where it sold an estimated 2m devices in the second quarter of this year against Apple's 17m iPads.

Bulgaria prosecutes rapper Misho Shamara over flag

By Andrey Vladov
A Bulgarian rapper is being prosecuted for allegedly offending symbols of the state. The singer could face up to two years in jail if found guilty of ridiculing the white, green and red Bulgarian flag.

Misho Shamara (Big Sha) was part of influential 1990s underground band Gumeni Glavi (Rubber Heads) and is still a popular musician.

. . .

According to SEM President Georgi Lozanov, Misho Shamara turned the flag into "a cartoon" because in his lyrics he associated "white with white powder and red with the menstrual cycle" of a woman.

. . .

The ruling centre-right Gerb party denied it had anything to do with the action and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said he had never even heard of the rapper or listened to the song.

Social media users and commentators were not convinced.

Syria's War Against Medicine

By Susanna Smith
. . .

As Syrian medical professionals struggle every day to treat the wounded, they also risk their own lives. The al-Assad regime has made medical professionals a target of state-sponsored violence and murder.

. . .

A recent Lancet editorial cites an Amnesty International report from Aleppo, which suggests that Osman’s experience is shared by many medical professionals. “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings," the editorial says. "has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations.”

. . .

Three times the United Nations Security Council has voted on taking in action in Syria, and each time Russia and China have vetoed the resolution. Earlier this week, President Obama addressed the United Nations, saying, “We again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.” But, the president outlined no clear plan for action.

. . .

Many would argue that the United Nations, and the United States specifically, cannot afford another war. From an economic standpoint, this may well be true. But can we afford to live in world that turns a blind eye to a regime that tortures doctors, attacks hospitals, and executes unarmed civilians?

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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