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Overnight News Digest
Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, current leader Neon Vincent, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999. Alumni editors include palantir, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7 and BentLiberal. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

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Guardian person of the year: Voters choose Bradley Manning

The Guardian

Bradley Manning, The Guardian's Person of the Year
Forget the Olympics, mummy porn, particle physics, elections galore and the bravery of a young Pakistani girl. The Guardian's 2012 person of the year vote has concluded and the winner, after some rather fishy voting patterns that belied earlier reader comments on the poll, is Bradley Manning, the US whistleblower on trial for leaking state secrets.
US NEWS

Lindsey Graham’s ‘bankruptcy’ trifecta

The Fact Checker
Washington Post

“I think we’re going over the cliff. It’s pretty clear to me they made a political calculation. This offer doesn’t remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy. It raises $1.6 trillion on job creators that will destroy the economy and there are no spending controls.”
— Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Dec. 2, 2012
In dismissing the administration’s offer to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Sen. Graham referred to the “imminent bankruptcy” of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
We have warned before that politicians in both parties are guilty of misusing such phrases as “bankruptcy” or “broke” when talking about Medicare. But Graham hits the trifecta here — Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. We take no position on whether the White House’s proposals are adequate, but what’s he talking about?
Rising number of soldiers being dismissed for failing fitness tests

Washington Post

Under intense pressure to trim its budget, the Army is dismissing a rising number of soldiers who do not meet its fitness standards, drawing from a growing pool of troops grappling with obesity.

Obesity is now the leading cause of ineligibility for people who want to join the Army, according to military officials, who see expanding waistlines in the warrior corps as a national security concern.

Between 1998 and 2010, the number of active duty military personnel deemed obese more than tripled. In 2010, 86,183 troops, or 5.3 percent of the force, received at least one clinical diagnosis of obesity, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

The trend has prompted the military to reexamine its training programs and is driving commanders to weed out soldiers who are deemed unfit to fight.

With video: Democrats release clip of Republican leader discussing right-to-work plans with tea party

Detroit Free Press

LANSING — Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer today released an August video of former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser telling a tea party group about his 2007 efforts to bring right-to-work legislation to Michigan. Brewer said the video demonstrates recent legislation is not about worker freedom but about a long-term corporate plan to damage unions and cut wages.

In the video, Weiser says he’d been working on the issue with former Republican Gov. John Engler, former Amway president Dick DeVos, and the tea party group Americans for Prosperity in 2007 and 2008.

“This has been in the works for several years,” Brewer said. “This is not the fault of the labor movement for having Proposal 2. This is a long-term plan.”

Senator Stephen Colbert? South Carolina's favourite son leads poll

The Guardian

Stephen Colbert, the Puck of American politics, is the top choice of South Carolina voters to replace outgoing senator Jim DeMint, according to new numbers from Public Policy Polling.

Colbert, the popular Comedy Central satirical news host, leads the field of Senate contenders with a 20% share of respondents naming him as their top pick, PPP said. His closest competition, Republican Tim Scott, nabbed 15%.

Governor Nikki Haley, a Tea Party darling, will appoint DeMint's replacement before Congress reconvenes in the new year. DeMint is leaving the Senate to run a conservative thinktank, the Heritage Foundation .

The chances of Haley naming Colbert to the Senate are indistinguishably close to zero. She is expected to pick Scott, a congressman entering his third term; another congressman; or former state attorney general Henry McMaster.

Singer, reality TV star Jenni Rivera dies in plane crash

CNN

Millions of fans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are mourning the death of Jenni Rivera, whose performances of soulful ballads sold out concert halls and made the singer a household name for many.

Crews searched for the remains of Rivera and six others Monday amid the wreckage of a plane that crashed in a remote, mountainous area in northern Mexico on Sunday.
"The plane was totally destroyed. ... It is a great tragedy," her brother, Gustavo Rivera, told CNN en Español.

There were no survivors, and the singer's publicist, lawyer and makeup artists were among those killed, he said. Family members were planning to travel to Mexico on Monday as investigators work to determine what caused the crash.

Strauss-Kahn reaches legal settlement with hotel maid

BBC

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has signed a settlement with a hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault, a New York judge says.

Details of the 63-year-old's agreement with Nafissatou Diallo will remain confidential, the judge added.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was held in New York in May 2011 after Ms Diallo, 33, said he assaulted her in his hotel suite.

Prosecutors later dropped charges amid concerns about her credibility.

The incident was widely seen as having ruined Mr Strauss-Kahn's chance of becoming the Socialist presidential candidate in his native France.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon announced on Monday that after lengthy negotiations, the parties "came together and put terms of a settlement on the record".

Now that there has been a settlement, we will probably never know exactly what transpired between the head of the IMF and the immigrant hotel maid from Guinea at the hotel Sofitel in Manhattan. There was forensic evidence of a sexual encounter of some kind. Mr Strauss-Kahn insisted it was consensual, Ms Diallo said he attempted to rape her.

WORLD NEWS

Analysis: Mexican navy to hold the fort during shift in drug war

Reuters

Mexico's new president has vowed repeatedly to demilitarize the campaign against drug cartels, but thousands of combat troops likely will remain in the field for years to come, spearheaded by U.S.-favored naval infantry.

Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office on December 1, assured the country this month that the army and the navy will be pulled out as soon as civilian police - including a new federal quasi-military force - are capable of taking on the gangs.

His predecessor as president, the conservative Felipe Calderon, said much the same thing through his six years in power, when drug violence claimed over 60,000 lives.

Now, the effort many critics labeled "Calderon's War" belongs squarely to Pena Nieto and he has few immediate alternatives to the military campaign.

Chavez faces cancer surgery in Cuba, vows "I'll be back"

Reuters

Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba on Monday for cancer surgery, vowing to return quickly despite his unprecedented admission the disease could end his 14-year rule of the South American OPEC nation.

"I leave full of hope. We are warriors, full of light and faith," the ever-upbeat Chavez said before boarding the flight to Havana. "I hope to be back soon."

Chavez pumped a fist in the air as he set off for the latest chapter of a tumultuous rule that has seen a brief coup against him, waves of industry nationalizations, a crippling oil strike and heightened acrimony with the United States.

The 58-year-old socialist leader is facing his fourth operation since mid-2011 for a third bout of an undisclosed form of cancer in the pelvic area. The news sparked a rally in Venezuela bonds on Monday, given many investors' preference for more a business-friendly government in Caracas.

Israel suspected over Iran nuclear programme inquiry leaks

The Guardian

Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of leaks implicating Iran in nuclear weapons experiments in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran and halt its programme.

Western diplomats believe the leaks may have backfired, compromising a UN-sanctioned investigation into Iran's past nuclear activities and current aspirations.

The latest leak, published by the Associated Press (AP), purported to be an Iranian diagram showing the physics of a nuclear blast, but scientists quickly pointed out an elementary mistake that cast doubt on its significance and authenticity. An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists declared: "This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax."

The leaked diagram raised questions about an investigation being carried out by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors after it emerged that it formed part of a file of intelligence on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work held by the agency.

The IAEA's publication of a summary of the file in November 2011 helped trigger a new round of punitive EU and US sanctions.

Europe backs Monti reforms as Italy crisis hits markets

Reuters

European partners urged the next Italian government on Monday to stick to Prime Minister Mario Monti's reform agenda, after his decision to resign early and Silvio Berlusconi's return to frontline politics rattled financial markets.

Monti's surprise weekend announcement that he would quit because Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party had withdrawn its support for his technocrat government pushed up Italy's borrowing costs and prompted a stock market sell-off.

The campaign for an election expected in February is likely to be fought over Monti's reform agenda which Berlusconi, his predecessor as prime minister, said had condemned Italy to recession and forced him reluctantly to run for a fifth term.

By contrast European politicians and officials warned that Monti's policies must continue to prevent a return of the crisis which brought him to power a year ago, when he was charged with rescuing the euro zone's third biggest economy from the threat of a Greek-style collapse.

Winter Weather Brings Europe to a Standstill

Spiegel Online

Christmas shopping in Germany, voting in Romania, travelling in the Balkans: There were many in Europe who had plans this weekend -- and many who had to cancel them because of the suddenly wintery weather that descended across the Continent over the weekend.

Much of northeastern Germany found itself blanketed in several centimeters of snow on Sunday with even more snowfall, frost and below-freezing temperatures foreseen for the rest of the week. And heavy snowfall across the Balkans -- including a storm in Zagreb, which left the Croatian capital buried by more snow than it has seen in 57 years -- brought life there to a standstill. At least six people died in the frigid weather in the Balkans over the weekend, according to news reports.

Syria rebels overrun Aleppo military base

BBC

Rebel fighters are reported to have captured large parts of a big military base in northern Syria, the latest in a string of losses by government forces.

The attack on Base 111 at Sheikh Suleiman, about 25km (15 miles) west of the city of Aleppo, on Sunday, was said to have been led by Islamist militants.

Video posted online showed them seizing military vehicles, including a tank.

The assault came as UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had held "constructive" talks with US and Russian officials.

They had "explored avenues to move forward a peaceful process and mobilise greater international action in favour of a political solution", the Algerian diplomat added.

"All three parties re-affirmed their common assessment that the situation in Syria was bad and getting worse. They stressed that a political process to end the crisis in Syria was necessary and still possible."

They reportedly agreed that a solution would be based on the core elements of the final communique issued on 30 June after international talks in Geneva which called for a transitional government.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Onion Soaks Up Heavy Metal

ScienceBlog

Onion and garlic waste from the food industry could be used to mop up hazardous heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, mercury and tin in contaminated materials, according to a research paper published in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution.

Biotechnologists Rahul Negi, Gouri Satpathy, Yogesh Tyagi and Rajinder Gupta of the GGS Indraprastha University in Delhi, India, explain how waste from the processing and canning of onion (Allium cepa L.) and garlic (Allium sativum L.) could be used as an alternative remediation material for removing toxic elements from contaminated materials including industrial effluent. The team has studies the influence of acidity or alkalinity, contact time, temperature and concentration of the different materials present to optimize conditions for making a biological heavy metal filter for industrial-scale decontamination.

Oxytocin produces more engaged fathers and more responsive infants

ScienceBlog

A large body of research has focused on the ability of oxytocin to facilitate social bonding in both marital and parenting relationships in human females. A new laboratory study, led by Dr. Ruth Feldman from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, has found that oxytocin administration to fathers increases their parental engagement, with parallel effects observed in their infants.

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that plays an important role in the formation of attachment bonds. Studies have shown that intranasal administration of oxytocin increases trust, empathy, and social reciprocity.

In this study, researchers examined whether oxytocin administration to the parent enhances physiological and behavioral processes that support their social engagement with their infant and improves their parenting. They also examined whether oxytocin effects on the parent’s behavior would affect related physiological and behavioral processes in the infant.

CROWD-SOURCING SITE COMPILES NEW SIGN LANGUAGE FOR MATH AND SCIENCE

ScienceBlog

A multimedia feature published this week in the New York Times, “Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon,” outlines efforts in the United States and Europe to develop sign language versions of specialized terms used in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The article shares newly defined signs for terms like “light-year,” “organism” and “photosynthesis.” It also describes a successful crowdsourcing effort started at the University of Washington in 2008 that lets members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community build their own guide to the evolving lexicon of science. “It’s not a dictionary,” explained Richard Ladner, a UW professor of computer science and engineering. “The goal of the forum is to be constantly changing, a reflection of the current use.”

Do we live in a computer simulation? Researchers say idea can be tested

ScienceBlog

A decade ago, a British philosopher put forth the notion that the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. While that seems far-fetched, perhaps even incomprehensible, a team of physicists at the University of Washington has come up with a potential test to see if the idea holds water.

The concept that current humanity could possibly be living in a computer simulation comes from a 2003 paper published in Philosophical Quarterly by Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford. In the paper, he argued that at least one of three possibilities is true:

Opportunity, a Mars Rover Past Its Best-By Date, Keeps Going

New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — While many obsessed over speculation that NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, had dug up signs of life — it had not — it is the agency’s older, smaller jalopy, Opportunity, that has been exploring a more intriguing plot of Martian real estate.

“This is our first glimpse ever at conditions on ancient Mars that clearly show us a chemistry that would have been suitable for life,” Steven W. Squyres, the principal investigator for Opportunity, said at a news conference last week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union here.

Opportunity could be sitting on rocks chock-full of organic molecules — but the rover and the scientists back on Earth would never know. Unlike Curiosity, Opportunity is not carrying instruments that can detect those kinds of molecules.

But the scientists are not complaining. Everything from Opportunity over the past eight years has been a bonus for a mission that was to have ended long ago.

Apple Maps flaw could be deadly, warn Australian police

CNN Tech

Inaccurate, inconvenient, ill-conceived ... now add "potentially life-threatening" to the list of words being used to describe flaws in Apple's much maligned maps app.
Police in Mildura, Australia are warning drivers to be careful about using Apple Maps to find the city, which the app has placed more than 40 miles (70 kilometers) away in the Outback.

Calling it a "potentially life-threatening issue," police say the mapping system lists Mildura, a city of 30,000 people, as being in the middle of Murray-Sunset National Park.

Several motorists have had to be rescued by police from the park, which police say has no water supply and where temperatures can reach a blistering 46 degrees Celsius (114 Fahrenheit).

"Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception," Mildura police said in a statement.

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