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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, July 09, 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.

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This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .

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.

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Top News
As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges In Corn Belt

By Dan Charles
. . .

It appears that farmers have gotten part of the message: Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems. But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before. Companies like Syngenta or AMVAC Chemical that sell soil insecticides for use in corn fields are reporting huge increases in sales: 50 or even 100 percent over the past two years.

. . .

The first corn hybrids containing such a gene went on sale in 2003. They were hugely popular, especially in places like northeastern Nebraska, where the rootworm has been a major problem. Sales of soil insecticides fell. "Ever since then, I'm like, hey, we feel good every spring!" says Steiner.

. . .

In parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, though, farmers are running into increasing problems with corn rootworms.

. . .

Steiner, the Nebraska crop consultant, usually argues for another strategy: Starve the rootworms, he tells his clients. Just switch that field to another crop. "One rotation can do a lot of good," he says. "Go to beans, wheat, oats. It's the No. 1 right thing to do."

. . .

The problem, Meinke says, is that farmers are thinking about the money they can make today. "I think economics are driving everything," he says. "Corn prices have been so high the last three years, everybody is trying to protect every kernel. People are just really going for it right now, to be as profitable as they can."

Evolution Too Slow to Keep Up With Climate Change

By (ScienceDaily)
Many vertebrate species would have to evolve about 10,000 times faster than they have in the past to adapt to the rapid climate change expected in the next 100 years, a study led by a University of Arizona ecologist has found.

. . .

"We found that on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of only by about 1 degree Celsius per million years," Wiens explained. "But if global temperatures are going to rise by about 4 degrees over the next hundred years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species."

. . .

In an earlier study, Wiens and co-authors asked what might actually cause species to go extinct. They showed that species extinctions and declines from climate change are more often due to changes in interactions with other species rather than inability to cope with changing conditions physiologically.

"What seemed to be a big driver in many species declines was reduced food availability," Wiens said. "For example, bighorn sheep: If it gets drier and drier, the grass gets sparse and they starve to death.

As Ramadan begins, Gitmo force-feeding continues

By Rebecca Lee Sanchez
. . .

On the same day a US judge rejected a plea from one detainee to block force-feeding procedures, though she acknowledged that the practice “appears to violate international law.” Some laws passed by Congress, said District Judge Gladys Kessler, thwart her ability to interfere with aspects of detention in the prison.

Kessler’s view and her request for President Obama to intervene in the practice of force-feeding prisoners is not uncommon. Dr. Arthur Caplan, New York University professor of bioethics and director of the Division of Medical Ethics, has testified in domestic cases that “people should not be force-fed and that prisoners retain the right to refuse medical interventions.”

. . .

The argument, in many cases, is instead that force-feeding is a necessary tactic in maintaining order among a population of protesting detainees.

“The argument that hunger strikes lead to disorder in prisons is weak, because they’re so difficult to do,” Caplan explained. “My arguments in the American courts have been turned down because, I don’t know about Guantanamo, but civil judges in the states where hunger strikes are taking place in prison tend to say it’s necessary to maintain order of the prison and takes priority. Hunger strikes can undermine the ability to maintain order, they can lead to unmanageable situations with other prisoners doing this, and so on, and that takes priority over individual rights to refuse interventions. But force-feeding someone against their will by poorly trained people is cruel, and in general hunger strikers are not trying to kill themselves, they’re trying to make political statements.”

Who is affected by big currency movements?

By (BBC)
The US central bank's moves had allowed billions of dollars of inflows into emerging economies, and now that money is leaving and it is having an impact on their economies.

. . .

While India's central bank has stepped in a few times to sell dollars and stem the slide, experts say that these are only short-term measures and what the country needs are long-term solutions like kickstarting the investment cycle in India and increasing foreign cash inflows.

. . .

Ten years ago this month a group of senators wrote a letter to the US Treasury Secretary urging him to stop China cheating on its currency, and they've been at it ever since.

. . .

The answer might be something to do with the now well-documented great Chinese rebalancing act - the shifting of priorities away from an export and investment based economy.

. . .

Some smaller companies say it's they who are bearing the brunt of that currency volatility, as Korea's big multinationals which underpin the economy pass on the costs to their contractors.

International
Rival groups in Egypt reject transition plan

By (Al Jazeera)   
The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected a transition timetable set out by the military-backed interim president Adly Mansour, as the National Salvation Front, Egypt's main opposition bloc, denounced a decree which invests the new leader with extensive powers.

The rejection from rival groups in Egypt came on Tuesday, as the transitional administration named the Prime Minister as Hazem el-Beblawi and appointed liberal opposition chief and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as vice president for foreign relations.

. . .

Egypt's interim administration published a timetable for a transition to a new democratic government hours after the army shot dead scores of people outside the elite Republican Guards' headquarters in Cairo on Monday.

The plan includes holding parliamentary elections by 2014, after which a date will be announced for a presidential ballot.

Central African Republic 'abandoned' since coup, MSF says

By (BBC)
. . .

Political mismanagement is so chronic the country can't attract long-term development finance.

On the other hand, the situation is not deemed by the international community to be dramatic enough to warrant emergency aid.

. . .

Malnutrition and preventable diseases are rife, with 33% more malaria cases reported this year then in the same period last year, it said in a report.

. . .

CAR has an unstable history and is extremely poor, though it has large deposits of minerals including gold and diamonds.

IMF cuts world growth forecast 3rd time this year

By Daniel DeFraia
The International Monetary Fund trimmed its 2013 world economic growth forecast for the third time this year on Tuesday, citing the continued eurozone recession and slowdowns in developing nations like Brazil and China.

. . .

The Washington-based group explains its less optimistic outlook is to a large extent due to an "appreciably weaker domestic demand and slower growth in several key emerging market economies, as well as a more protracted recession in the euro area."

IMF chief economist Oliver Blanchard told The New York Times that the update came as the fund also lowered is expectations for India, Mexico, South Africa and Russia.

. . .

"While old risks remain, new risks have emerged, including the possibility of a longer growth slowdown in emerging market economies, especially given risks of lower potential growth, slowing credit, and possibly tighter financial conditions if the anticipated unwinding of monetary policy stimulus in the United States leads to sustained capital flow reversals."  

Northern Chinese Life Expectancy Cut by 5 Years Due to Air Pollution

By Tiffany Kaiser  
Chinese citizens living in the northern part of the country have a lower life expectancy than those in the south, according to a new study.

. . .

 This cut in life expectancy, according to the study, is mainly due to outdoor air pollution in the north. The concentration of particulates north of the Huai was 184 micrograms per cubic meter higher than in the south. This is about 55 percent greater in the north than south.

 This much air pollution is leading to cardiorespiratory diseases and other health problems related to breathing this in. The pollution is caused by the use of free coal for boilers for winter heating north of the river. Also, coal-fired factories are extremely common in the north compared to the south.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
F.A.Q. on U.S. Aid to Egypt: Where Does the Money Go—And Who Decides How It’s Spent?

By Marian Wang and Theodoric Meyer
. . .

Egypt receives more U.S. foreign aid than any country except for Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

. . .

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, led Congress in adding language to a spending bill in 2011 to make aid to Egypt conditional on the secretary of state certifying that Egypt is supporting human rights and being a good neighbor. The language requires that Egypt abide by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, support "the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections," and put in place policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law." It sounds pretty tough, but it's not.

. . .

The various economic aid efforts have had mixed results. The State Department has described the Commodity Import Program, which gave Egypt millions of dollars between 1986 and 2008 to import American goods, as "one of the largest and most popular USAID programs." But an audit of the four-year, $57 million effort to create agricultural jobs and boost rural incomes in 2007 found that the program “has not increased the number of jobs as planned.” And an audit of a $151 million program to modernize Egypt's real estate finance market in 2009 found that, while the market had improved since the program began, the growth was "not clearly measureable or attributable" to the aid efforts.

Final report on Iraq reconstruction says fraud, waste cost U.S. $1.5 billion

By Ali Watkins
The $40 million shell of an unfinished prison in Iraq’s Diyala province; $2 million in laundered cash pocketed by government officials and contractors in Hilla; an $80 invoice on a $1.41 piece of PVC piping from a defense subcontractor near Baghdad.

. . .

The report identified at least $1.5 billion in wasted or questionable spending during the period from 2004 to 2013. It urged Congress to create a new agency, the Office for Contingency Operations, which would oversee and coordinate such reconstruction in the future, prospectively avoiding some of the worst excesses.

. . .

The report listed a plethora of failings: Many projects weren’t designed correctly, money designated for a specific use often was redirected to another project, Defense and State department efforts weren’t coordinated and no one was in charge overall. Contracts that shouldn’t have been approved slipped through the cracks, and under-the-table deals were struck.

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:
. . .

In the original version that begins Let It Bleed, the Latin groove sets the pace and, as Jagger says, a "rock thing starts" with Keith Richards layering guitars throughout. Jagger coos in a high falsetto before he pronounces, "Oh, a storm is threatening." Then a soul singer comes in with that memorable refrain.

"When we got to Los Angeles and we were mixing it, we thought, 'Well, it'd be great to have a woman come and do the rape/murder verse,' or chorus, or whatever you want to call it," Jagger says. "We randomly phoned up this poor lady [Merry Clayton] in the middle of the night, and she arrived in her curlers and proceeded to do that in one or two takes, which is pretty amazing. She came in and knocked off this rather odd lyric. It's not the sort of lyric you give everyone — 'Rape, murder / It's just a shot away' — but she really got into it, as you can hear on the record. She joins the chorus. It's been a great live song ever since."

. . .

"It was a very moody piece about the world closing in on you a bit," Jagger says. "When it was recorded, early '69 or something, it was a time of war and tension, so that's reflected in this tune. It's still wheeled out when big storms happen, as they did the other week. It's been used a lot to evoke natural disaster."

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
As more urbanites shun cars, some cities shun parking-space requirements

By Claire Thompson
. . .

All of those parking lots are not only expensive but represent an opportunity lost. The average parking lot cost is $4,000 per space, with a space in an above-grade structure costing $20,000, and a space in an underground garage $30,000-$40,000. To give us some sense of the opportunity lost, [author Elan Ben-Joseph] says 1,713 square miles (the estimated size of all surface parking lots in the U.S. put together) could instead be used for spaces that generate 1 billion kilowatt-hours of solar power. With just 50 percent of that space covered with trees, this space could handle 2 billion cubic meters of stormwater runoff, generate 822,264 tons of oxygen, and remove 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Mandatory parking spaces are costly not just for city governments and developers but for citizens and businesses, too. By driving up the cost of construction, they increase rents, discourage foot traffic that neighborhood businesses depend on, and make traffic worse. And, as this photo essay from Sightline shows, they make cityscapes uglier.

. . .

But don’t worry, drivers: Parking is not disappearing even in dense urban areas. In Brooklyn, where residential parking requirements were recently reduced, new parking spots are coming — they’ll just be a lot sleeker and fancier than the old kind. The city has finally given the green light to developers to break ground on Willoughby Square, a long-awaited public park in Brooklyn that will be financed in part with the proceeds from a state-of-the-art underground parking complex.

Extreme heat reveals extreme infrastructure challenges

By Claire Thompson
. . .

Arroyo and host Ira Flatow talked about some of the solutions cities are considering or already implementing to make their systems more resilient. The simplest and most obvious one: locating backup generators above ground level so flooding won’t render them useless. (Arroyo also points out the irony that backup generators are powered by fossil fuels.) Utilities have started to build power lines with shorter, squatter telephone poles less likely to be felled in a windstorm; D.C. is even beginning a project to bury its power lines underground, although that approach doesn’t make as much sense for flood-prone areas. A caller named Jim from St. George, Utah, talks about how reflective building materials enhance the urban heat island effect. D.C. is also helping property owners install green roofs with the revenue from a plastic-bag fee.

. . .

Now austerity backers urge — preposterously — that infrastructure repairs be postponed until government budgets are in balance. But would they also tell an indebted family to postpone fixing a leaky roof until it paid off all its debts? Not only would the repair grow more costly with the delay, but the water damage would mount in the interim. Families should pay off debts, yes, but not in ways that actually increase their indebtedness in the longer term. The logic is the same for infrastructure.

. . .

I mean, how many of us have provisions if we have an extreme storm event that puts out power for a few days to be able to, you know, have the food and the water that we need, to be able to have a backup if, you know, we’re only on cell phones and those go down. How do we communicate with people? I mean, people really do need to make plans for this at every level of government in our society.
Google hosts fundraiser for climate change denying US senator

By Suzanne Goldenberg
Google, which prides itself on building a "better web that is better for the environment", is hosting a fundraiser for the most notorious climate change denier in Congress, it has emerged.

. . .

However, a company spokesperson noted that Google maintained data centres in Oklahoma. The spokesperson then sent an email saying:
"We regularly host fundraisers for candidates, on both sides of the aisle, but that doesn't mean we endorse all of their positions. And while we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma."

. . .

"They can probably rightfully claim that the facility is powered 100% by wind," said Gary Cook, technology campaigner for Greenpeace, which tracks greenhouse gas emissions from the IT sector. He added: "But even so, Jim Inhofe is the biggest obstacle to climate change action in the Senate so what are they doing raising money for him?"

Science and Health
Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids

By (ScienceDaily)
Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet it receives far less attention partly because it's never been recognized as a distinct disease.

. . .

Children with SPD struggle with how to process stimulation, which can cause a wide range of symptoms including hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch, poor fine motor skills and easy distractibility. Some SPD children cannot tolerate the sound of a vacuum, while others can't hold a pencil or struggle with social interaction. Furthermore, a sound that one day is an irritant can the next day be sought out. The disease can be baffling for parents and has been a source of much controversy for clinicians, according to the researchers.

. . .

The researchers found a strong correlation between the micro-structural abnormalities in the white matter of the posterior cerebral tracts focused on sensory processing and the auditory, multisensory and inattention scores reported by parents in the Sensory Profile. The strongest correlation was for auditory processing, with other correlations observed for multi-sensory integration, vision, tactile and inattention.

Choir members who sing together have synchronized heartbeats

By (UPI)
. . .

"The pulse goes down when you exhale and when you inhale it goes up," researcher Bjorn Vickhoff said.

"So when you are singing, you are singing on the air when you are exhaling so the heart rate would go down. And between the phrases you have to inhale and the pulse will go up.

"If this is so then heart rate would follow the structure of the song or the phrases, and this is what we measured and this is what we confirmed," he said.

How Dogs Become Awesome Bomb Sniffing Dogs

By Casey Chan
Most of the dogs that go through MSA Security's school are a year to a year and a half old (having spent their first year training in Puppies Behind Bars). The dogs are trained to sniff different items like luggage, suitcases, bicycles, cars, concrete blocks and more—the idea is to train where the dog should smell for things just as much as what they're smelling for. Smithsonian Mag says:
Strictly speaking, the dog doesn’t smell the bomb. It deconstructs an odor into its components, picking out just the culprit chemicals it has been trained to detect. Roberts likes to use the spaghetti sauce analogy. “When you walk into a kitchen where someone is cooking spaghetti sauce, your nose says aha, spaghetti sauce. A dog’s nose doesn’t say that. Instinctively, it says tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, onion, oregano.” It’s the handler who says tomato sauce, or, as it happens, bomb.
Impressive! The dogs gain their understanding of smells by sniffing identical cans in a grid. Stuff that is associated with explosives (dynamite, TNT, Semtex, powders, component in C4, etc.) are put in random cans and the dog is instructed to sit down when it smells such chemicals. It works better than anything! The government has tried to build robots to do a dog's job but it's pretty hard to invent something better than a dog. Their nose extends from the nostril to the back of the throat, they differentiate breathing and smelling and 35% of a dog's brain is assigned for smelling while humans only have 5% set aside for smell. They're smelling machines.
As Chimp Research is Phased Out, Will Other Animal Research Decline?

By Justin Goodman
. . .

At a meeting last month about federal funding for science, former National Institutes of Health director  Elias Zerhouni admitted that experimenting on animals has been a boondoggle. “We have moved away from studying human disease in humans,” he said. ”We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included.”

. . .

The Food and Drug Administration has reported that 9 out of 10 drugs that are safe and effective in animals either don’t work in humans or cause harm. This spring, human trials of an experimental HIV vaccine – that were expanded based on experiments in monkeys – were halted when it was discovered that the vaccine did not prevent HIV infection or reduce viral load in those already infected. Indeed, all of the nearly 90 preventive HIV vaccines that made it to human clinical trials have failed despite working in experiments on monkeys. Harvard’s decision to shutter its embattled New England Primate Research Center, where many HIV studies on primates were being conducted, is a sign that such a prestigious institution doesn’t see experiments on primates as the future of science.  

. . .

The public has been willing to support experiments on animals only because it has not understood the cruelty involved and has accepted the argument that harming animals was crucial to advancing science.  But many now think otherwise. Public opinion polls show that more Americans than ever find “medical testing on animals” to be “morally wrong” and the number is growing. These people are demanding accountability and effecting change in science policy and practice. The scientific reviews that ultimately led to the severe curtailment of experiments on chimpanzees were only undertaken because of moral outrage that the U.S. is the last country in the industrialized world that still engages in the practice.

'Muscle power truths' revealed

By Michelle Roberts
. . .

Bulging biceps get their power from a mesh arrangement of cells rather than long ropes, detailed studies reveal.

. . .

This generates force in multiple directions, not just up and down the muscle, Proceedings B journal reports.

. . .

Co-author Michael Regnier said: "In the heart especially, because the muscle surrounds the chambers that fill with blood, being able to account for forces that are generated in several directions during muscle contraction allows for much more accurate and realistic study of how pressure is generated to eject blood from the heart.

Technology
Iran launches 'national email service'

By Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Iran has launched its own "national email service", requiring all citizens to sign up to it to "safely" communicate with government officials.

. . .

Users will have to go to mail.post.ir to sign up to the service, which is not free, and receive an @post.ir email address. Mehr reported that the website can provide services to 100 million users and its emailing service is compatible with Farsi as well as English, French and Arabic. Each account is also said to have 50MB capacity, which can be upgraded to 2GB.

. . .

In an echo of some of the questions about the NSA surveillance by the US government revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, he added: "Iranian users are worried how much the government can access their data and also how secure the new service is in the face of cyber attacks and intrusions from other parties."

Plane Powered by Solar Energy Completes Trek Across U.S.

By Tiffany Kaiser  
. . .

 The Solar Impulse is equipped with about 11,000 solar cells on a pair of jumbo wings. It would fly from early morning to late at night, collecting sunlight for a completely fuel-free flight. The aircraft would reach 30,000 feet off the ground at a top speed of 45 mph.

 The Solar Impulse is about the size of a small car, running only on the power equivalent to a "small motorized scooter" according to The Washington Post.

 While the plane successfully made it to New York, the flight wasn't perfect. An eight-foot tear on the lower left side of the wing occurred during the last leg of the trip, which was discovered in New Jersey. The Solar Impulse was supposed to pass the Statue of Liberty before landing, but issues with the tear caused the plane to have to land three hours early at JFK instead.

Cultural
Growing demand for US ginseng the root cause of latest hunting ban

By Michael S Rosenwald
. . .

Ginseng, a medicinal herb, has become a hot energy-drink ingredient and a trendy remedy for all sorts of maladies. Miller, carrying his $2 ginseng-hunting permit, typically finds the leafy plant in Maryland's Savage River State Forest on steep, shady slopes and digs up the gnarly roots with a long screwdriver.

. . .

The story of ginseng's decline in Maryland – and it is hurting throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast – is primarily one of economics and changing living patterns. China's hunger for American ginseng has led to overpicking in a state where urban sprawl has overrun land once rich with foliage. And a decline in game hunting has been good news for white-tailed deer, which enjoy snacking on the plant.

. . .

Wild ginseng fetches the highest prices because its gnarly roots are the most potent while the least gnarly, least potent cultivated brings the lowest prices. Wild-simulated ginseng can fetch prices as high as the truly wild variety, especially as wild ginseng becomes scarce.

. . .

But officials hope that over time, with a ban in place on state land, the plant will recover, much as rockfish did in the Cheseapake Bay after a five-year moratorium on taking rockfish ended in the early 1990s.

. . .

By the time that happens, there might not be anyone left in the ginseng economy, which is populated primarily by a greying, older, non-smartphone-using population – people who like to get their hands dirty and experience nature while actually in nature. There aren't a lot of young people interested in ginseng, except to slurp up in an energy drink.

US Facebook death threats troll: Reece Elliott jailed

By (BBC)
A British man who threatened to kill 200 people in the US, in posts he made under a false name on Facebook, has been jailed for more than two years.

Reece Elliott, 24, of Foss Way, South Shields, made the threat in February on online memorial pages for two Tennessee girls killed in car accidents.

. . .

Two months before Elliott posted the threats, 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

After the posts were found to have originated in the UK, the FBI contacted the Metropolitan Police, who in turn worked with Northumbria officers.

. . .

"New guidelines on dealing with people who post offensive messages using social media have been released by the Director of Public Prosecutions and we will continue to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to take action against those who cross the line from their right to free speech to committing criminal offences."

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