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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 (but not limited to) palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7 and BentLiberal. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

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Science Blog

Ten of the nation’s 44 presidents likely suffered a stroke during their presidencies or after leaving office, according to Dr. José Biller, a Loyola University Medical Center neurologist.

Woodrow Wilson was so incapacitated by a series of strokes that his wife, Edith, became the virtual acting president. Franklin Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945, leaving the presidency to an unprepared Harry Truman just as World War II was ending. And in 2000, former President Gerald Ford began slurring his words during a TV interview. “Strokes affect the brain. And everything we do – from simple motor functions to more complex behaviors such as planning, reasoning and judgment – is brain-related,” Biller said. “When a stroke affects a president, it can have a major impact not only on the individual, but on the world.”

Gawker
 

13 years into the 21st century, President Lincoln is still abolishing slavery.

Back in November, Dr. Ranjan Batra, an India-born resident of Mississippi, went to see Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, and it piqued his interest.

What became of the 13th Amendment after December 6th, 1864, when it received the two-thirds' vote necessary to pass?

Researching online, Batra made an startling discovery: His home state, which initially rejected the measure, never officially ratified it.

It was true enough that Mississippi became the last state to vote in favor of ratification back in 1995, but according to Batra, "because the state never officially notified the US Archivist, the ratification is not official."

After passing along this information to his University of Mississippi Medical Center colleague Ken Sullivan, Batra went on about his day.

The Guardian
 

Barack Obama will receive one of Israel's most prestigious honours during his upcoming visit to the Middle East. On Monday, the office of the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, announced that Obama will be given the presidential medal of distinction in March.

A statement said that the honour recognised Obama's "unique and significant contribution to strengthening the State of Israel and the security of its citizens".

Obama's political opponents have complained constantly that he has attempted to distance the US from its traditional support of Israel. In the lead up to the presidential election last year the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, accused Obama of "repeated efforts" to "throw Israel under the bus". Obama's pick for defence secretary has also been criticised, due to comments allegedly made by Chuck Hagel regarding the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington.

US NEWS

NPR
 

This week, the Supreme Court will take up a classic David-and-Goliath case. On one side, there's a 75-year-old farmer in Indiana named Vernon Hugh Bowman; on the other, the agribusiness giant Monsanto.

The farmer is fighting the long reach of Monsanto's patents on seeds — but he's up against more than just Monsanto. The biotech and computer software industries are taking Monsanto's side.

Bowman also is battling a historic shift that's transformed the nation's seed business over the past 20 years.

Despite all that, Bowman seems remarkably cheerful about his situation. "Confrontation does not take a toll on me!" he says. "You and me can argue about the Bible; we can argue about religion. I'll pound my fist and we can argue all day, and I won't lose a bit of sleep at night!"

Bowman is leaning back in an easy chair, where he says he also sleeps at night. He lives alone in a modest white frame house outside the small town of Sandborn, in southwestern Indiana.

NPR
 
Tens of thousands of protesters turned out on the National Mall Sunday to encourage President Obama to make good on his commitment to act on climate change.

In his Inaugural address from outside the U.S. Capitol, the president said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Just a few weeks later, next to the Washington Monument, Paul Birkeland was one of a couple dozen people holding a long white tube above their heads.

"It's a backbone. It's a spine. The idea is to ask the president to have some spine and stand up to oil companies. And reject the Keystone Pipeline," Birkeland says.

The activists are focusing on the Keystone XL pipeline because it would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. To make this oil, companies use complex extraction and processing techniques that use a lot of energy. So it has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than conventional crude.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island told the crowd that Congress is sleepwalking through the crisis on climate change. But he said protesters have an important ally.

Los Angeles Times
 

A leather bomber jacket worn by President John F. Kennedy fetched well more than 10 times the asking price at auction, an indication of the fascination the nation still has for the president who ushered in the upbeat era of Camelot after the political doldrums of the 1950s.

The jacket, complete with a patch of the presidential seal, was worn by the president and others on Air Force One. It flew out the door Sunday at a price of $570,000 plus the buyer’s premium, officials at John McInnis Auctioneers told reporters.

On Monday, the nation celebrated the three-day weekend associated with George Washington’s birthday — also known in some circles as Presidents Day to honor all of the nation’s chief executives.

John F. Kennedy, shot to death at 46 years of age in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, is usually considered the highest-ranking modern president, according to the Gallup poll. Fully 85% gave JFK positive marks in 2010, though he had a far smaller approval rating while in office.

Los Angeles Times
 

WASHINGTON — The White House scrambled Sunday to keep congressional negotiations over immigration reform on track, reassuring senators it did not leak details of a draft bill being written by the administration.

White House aides were caught by surprise when details from a draft of an administration bill were published Saturday, and quickly contacted the eight Republican and Democratic senators who have been working behind the scenes to hammer out a compromise bill.

Obama's aides stressed in the phone calls that the president is pleased with the progress in Congress and said the administration had not leaked the details to nudge the process along, according to a White House official who asked not to be named describing private conversations.

Bloomberg
 

RDA Holding Co., publisher of the 91-year-old Reader’s Digest magazine, filed for bankruptcy to cut $465 million in debt and focus on North American operations as consumers shift from print to electronic media.

The company is the latest in a line of iconic businesses to have recently sought court protection from creditors, after Hostess Brands Inc., maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, and Eastman Kodak Co., inventor of Kodachrome and the Instamatic camera.

Reader’s Digest, founded by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, went public in 1990. An investor group led by private-equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC bought it in 2007 for $1.6 billion and the assumption of about $800 million in debt. The company also filed for bankruptcy in August 2009, citing a drop in advertising spending and the debt load incurred in its acquisition.

New York Times (subscription may be necessary)
 

WASHINGTON — Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, is haunted by many things that emerged from the investigation of the December mass shooting at a Newtown elementary school. Among them is the nagging question of what prompted the gunman, Adam Lanza, to put down his rifle after killing 20 children and pick up the pistol he used to end his own life.

“We do know that historically in these instances, amateurs have trouble switching magazines,” Mr. Murphy said, referring to the high-capacity ammunition feeding device used by Mr. Lanza to shoot scores of bullets in seconds. “I believe, and many of the parents there believe, that if Lanza had to switch cartridges nine times versus two times there would likely still be little boys and girls alive in Newtown today.

WORLD NEWS

The Guardian

A race for cosmic souvenirs has begun after scientists said there were still many pieces of the meteorite that fell to earth (video) near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk last week waiting to be found.

The extraterrestrial origin of 53 rock fragments collected on the frozen surface of Lake Chebarkul was confirmed during analysis conducted by the Urals Federal University in the early hours of Monday.

But this is just the start of the process of gathering the debris left by the large meteorite, which exploded on entering the earth's atmosphere and hit the ground in a series of fireballs on Friday.

Viktor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Science's meteorite committee, has been put in charge of the scientific search operation. "There are a lot more fragments to be discovered in many other places … it's only a matter of time," he said.

The search is being concentrated at the moment around a six-metre wide hole in Lake Chebarkul, about 50 miles from Chelyabinsk, discovered by locals shortly after the meteorite hit the ground.

Military divers spent much of the weekend scouring the bottom of the lake, but were hampered by poor visibility and found nothing.

Despite the failure of the divers, there was still likely to be a piece of meteorite in the lake of at least 50cm in diameter, said Grokhovsky.

The Guardian
 

Hugo Chávez returned to Venezuela early on Monday after more than two months of medical treatment in Cuba following cancer surgery.

Supporters of the ailing president staged street celebrations to welcome him home where he is now being treated at a military hospital in Caracas.

Chávez's return was announced in a series of three messages on his Twitter account, the first reading: "We've arrived once again in our Venezuelan homeland. Thank you, my God!! Thank you, beloved nation!! We will continue our treatment here." They were the first messages to appear on Chávez's Twitter account since 1 November. "I'm clinging to Christ and trusting in my doctors and nurses," Chávez said in another tweet. "Onward toward victory always!! We will live and we will triumph!!"

Chávez thanked Fidel and Raúl Castro, who have overseen his treatment in Cuba, and thanked his country's people "for so much love".

Reuters
 

United Nations investigators said on Monday that Syrian leaders they had identified as suspected war criminals should face the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The investigators urged the U.N. Security Council to "act urgently to ensure accountability" for violations, including murder and torture, committed by both sides in an uprising and civil war that has killed about 70,000 people since March 2011.

"Now really it's time ... We have a permanent court, the International Criminal Court, who would be ready to take this case," Carla del Ponte, a former ICC chief prosecutor who joined the U.N. team in September, told a news briefing in Geneva.

But because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council. Russia, Assad's long-standing ally and a permanent veto-wielding member of the council, has opposed such a move.

"We cannot decide. But we pressure the international community to decide because it's time to act," del Ponte said.

Reuters
 

The discovery of horsemeat in products sold as beef has shocked many British consumers into buying less meat, a survey showed on Monday.

The furor, which erupted in Ireland last month and then spread quickly across Europe, has led to ready meals being pulled from supermarket shelves and damaged people's confidence in the food on their plate.

It also raised concerns over food labeling and the complex supply chain across the European Union, putting pressure on governments to explain lapses in quality control.

A fifth of adults said they had started buying less meat after traces of horse DNA were found in some products, according to the poll conducted by Consumer Intelligence research company.

"Our findings show that this scandal has really hit consumers hard, be it through having to change their shopping habits or altering the fundamentals of their diet," David Black, a spokesman for Consumer Intelligence, said.

Al Jazeera English
 

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has been re-elected to a third term in office allowing him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation.

"We will be present wherever we can be useful, wherever we can best serve our fellow citizens and our Latin American brothers," Correa told supporters who gathered in front of the presidential palace in Quito on Monday.

The 49-year-old economist defeated his nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points, according to results ratified by the National Electoral Council.

Correa's resounding victory could set him up to become Latin America's most outspoken critic of Washington, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is locked in a battle with cancer and may be unable to stay in power.

Correa's closest challenger, former banker Guillermo Lasso has conceded defeat, congratulating Correa for "a victory deserving respect".

The Leftist leaders's social and economic programmes have made him a popular leader, with an approval rating of nearly 85 percent.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

NPR
 

It sounds like something out of a spy movie: A new app called Silent Circle allows users to "burn" sensitive messages sent on their phones.

Jon Callas, one of the people who developed the app, says the idea is pretty simple.

"It's a timer. So you can say, one hour; seven minutes. Whatever," Callas tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

It's called a "burn notice." When the time's up, the text is erased from both the sender and receiver's phones.

Callas and his business partners got the idea after hearing an all-too-familiar story: A friend of theirs inadvertently read a text meant for someone else.

"The person who told us this said it made them think that this colleague of theirs was careless with the things that they were talking about in private, and said couldn't you just make it so that when I send someone something, it only lasts for 10 or 15 minutes?" Callas says.

Well, they did it, and for $20 a month, anyone with an iPhone or Android device can subscribe.

Software giant's chairman says the company's history in the cell phone sector was "clearly a mistake" during an interview on CBS This Morning.

C/NET
 

Although Bill Gates stepped away from his day-to-day role at Microsoft nearly five years ago, he still keeps a close eye on the company he co-founded -- and he isn't always happy with what he sees.

During a recent interview broadcast this morning on CBS This Morning, the Microsoft chairman was asked by Charlie Rose whether he was happy with Steve Ballmer's performance as chief executive. Nothing that there have been "many amazing things" accomplished under Ballmer's leadership in the past couple of years, Gates said he was not satisfied with the company's innovations.

"Well, he and I are two of the most self-critical people -- you can imagine," Gates said during the interview (see video below). "And here were a lot of amazing things that Steve's leadership got done with the company in the last year. Windows 8 is key to the future, the Surface computer. Bing, people are seeing as a better search product, Xbox."

C/NET
 

A good hearty conspiracy theory can shine a sharp light on two of humanity's most enduring traits.

One, of course, is humanity's boundless imagination. The other is humanity's essential suspicion of humanity.

So while you might be deeply immersed in Bill Nye's explanation of the Russian meteorite, those with darker sensibilities have filled the Web with their fears and hauntings about the phenomenon.

There are few nations with greater awareness of dark sensibilities than Russia. The fact that there seems to be little evidence of meteorite fragments on the ground has encouraged some Russians to offer their own suspicions.

NewScientist
 

The Deepwater Horizon spill has just provided a $400-million windfall for Louisiana's environment. Transocean, which worked with BP on the stricken Macondo well, pleaded guilty last week to a violation of the US Clean Water Act, and admitted that it was negligent in the 2010 spill. The resulting multimillion-dollar fine will be used to pay for a host of environmental projects around the Gulf of Mexico.

It is the second largest fine for environmental damage in history, after the $4.5-billion fine BP had to pay out for the same spill. Transocean has two years to pay up in full.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will get $150 million, and another $150 million will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a non-profit based in Washington DC. The NAS will use its portion to research oil-spill prevention and better ways to respond to spills. The NFWF's Timothy DiCintio says it will distribute its award between the affected Gulf Coast states, for ongoing remediation efforts such as marsh and wetland clean-up.

NewScientist
 

The surging biofuel industry will use 27% of this year's American corn crop, challenging farmers' ability to meet food demands, the US government says.

Even with the projected, record 12.46 billion-bushel crop this year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says national corn stockpiles will run low going into the next crop year, when voracious ethanol demand will rise again.

Some 3.4 billion bushels of corn - enough to make 9.3 billion gallons of ethanol - will be used by distillers in the marketing year that begins on 1 September 2007, says the department, compared with 2.15 billion bushels this marketing year. About 20% of the 2006 US corn crop was used to make ethanol

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