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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, current leader Neon Vincent, regular editors side pocket, maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, rfall, and JML9999. Alumni editors include (but not limited to) palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, ek hornbeck, ScottyUrb, Interceptor7, BentLiberal, Oke and jlms qkw. The guest editor is annetteboardman.

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New York Times
 

WASHINGTON — A measure that would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity overcame a significant obstacle in the Senate on Monday as seven Republicans crossed party lines and voted to begin debate on the bill.

The 61-30 vote marks the first time since 1996 that the full Senate will consider a measure to extend federal nondiscrimination law to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people — a stark reminder, supporters said, that as the public has come around to accepting gay rights, Congress has been slow to keep pace.

It is also the first time that either house of Congress has voted on a nondiscrimination bill that includes transgender people.

Reuters
 

A bill to ban workplace discrimination against gays narrowly cleared a Republican procedural roadblock in the Senate on Monday, just hours after the top Republican in Congress declared his opposition.

On a vote of 61-30, one more than the needed 60, the Democratic-led Senate agreed to begin consideration of the bipartisan bill, with passage likely by the end of this week.

The Employee Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 has become the latest example of the ideological struggle within a divided Republican Party.

While an increasing number of Republicans back gay rights, reflecting the sentiment of the country, conservative groups threaten to challenge them in next year's elections when a third of the 100-member Senate and the full 435-member House will be up for grabs.

Once the Senate gives its anticipated approval of the bill, it will face an uphill climb in the Republican-led House of Representatives where Speaker John Boehner staked out his position in a one-sentence statement.

"The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," said Boehner's press secretary, Michael Steel.

 

USA Today
 

The Senate moved forward on a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians Monday in an dramatic 61-30 vote. But opposition from the House speaker means the bill may not get to President Obama's desk.

The Senate vote was not without suspense. With Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., at a funeral, Democrats needed last-minute support from two Republicans to get the 60 votes necessary to prevent a filibuster. Democratic leaders went into the Republican cloakroom to plead with Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. After half an hour of voting, they both voted yes.

The vote clears the way for the Senate to consider the issue for the first time since 1996, when it failed in the Senate by a single vote.

US NEWS

Reuters
 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised Saudi Arabia as a "very, very important" ally on Monday as he visited the Gulf kingdom on a mission to soothe strains in the relationship over U.S. policy on Iran, Syria and the Palestinian issue.

Kerry, touring the region after a flurry of signals from the kingdom that it dislikes Washington's recent approach, met foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Monday morning and later began talks with King Abdullah.

"We have very important things to talk about to make sure the Saudi-U.S. relationship is on track, rolling forward and doing things that we need to accomplish," Kerry said in remarks to U.S. Embassy staff.

Washington's relationship with the Saudis was crucial as the region faced changes and challenges from the transition in Egypt to civil war in Syria.

"The Saudis are very, very important to all of us. The Saudis are really the senior player in the Arab world together with Egypt," he said.

Reuters
 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a case concerning a state law in Oklahoma that cracked down on the use of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486, meaning a state court ruling invalidating the statute remains intact.

The high court had been waiting for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify its December 2012 ruling that voided the law before deciding on whether to rule on the case. Last week, the state court issued a new opinion explaining its reasoning in more detail.

The U.S. high court's latest action means the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling is final. That ruling invalidated a state law it said had the effect of banning abortion-inducing drugs altogether.

The Oklahoma court said in its first ruling on the law in December 2012 that the measure violated a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set the standard for how courts should weigh abortion restrictions.

New York Times
 

CORALVILLE, Iowa — Election seasons in this small eastern Iowa town are usually cordial affairs. But this year, a group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers has changed that.

The group, Americans for Prosperity, has jumped into the race to elect Coralville’s next mayor and City Council with an aggressive campaign, mailing fliers, advertising in newspapers, calling voters and knocking on their doors. Its latest leaflet hit mailboxes last week, denouncing the town’s growing debt and comparing it to the financial woes of Detroit. “Coralville is fast becoming Iowa’s version of Detroit,” it read.

Tuesday’s race here is not the only one that has drawn the interest of Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by Charles and David Koch. Local chapters have been involved in property tax fights in Kansas, Ohio and Texas, the group says.

NPR
 

Reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors, the hedge fund firm SAC Capital Advisors has agreed to plead guilty to insider trading, pay a $1.8 billion fine and end its investment advisory business.

Reuters reports:

"U.S. prosecutors on Monday filed a letter describing the deal to the judges in a pair of cases - one criminal, the other a civil forfeiture action - against SAC Capital stemming from a massive insider trading investigation. The judges would have to approve the deal."
As Scott reported back in July, federal officials alleged that during a decade starting around 1999, the company, which controlled $15 billion in assets at one point, "solicited nonpublic information and used it to trade stock in publicly traded companies."

Al Jazeera America
 

The U.S. government has, since the onset of its "War on Terror", directed medical professionals working with detainees "to violate standard ethical principles and medical standards to avoid infliction of harm", according to a new report.

Practices common among medical personnel treating prisoners at Guantanamo and other facilities have led to years of detainee abuse and torture that blurred the distinction between care-givers and captors, according to the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers, a team of experts from legal, medical, military and ethical backgrounds with funding from the Open Society Foundations and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession.

“We now know that medical personnel were coopted in ways that undermined their professionalism,” said Open Society Foundations president emeritus and task force member Aryeh Neier in a press release for the report. “By shining a light on misconduct, we hope to remind physicians of their ethical responsibilities.”

In the aftermath of the Bush administration’s decision to treat prisoners apprehended in its "Global War on Terror" as enemy combatants, U.S. detainee policy ignored traditional wartime rules governing prisoners of war as outlined in the Geneva Conventions. The administration argued that non-state actors attacking the United States were not subject to the treaty’s stipulations.

Task force member Dr. Gerald Thomson, a professor emeritus of medicine at Columbia University, said, “We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”

Al Jazeera America

A six-term congressman and former paper-mill worker hoping to unseat Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, next year announced that he is gay — a response to what he called a "whisper campaign" by political opponents hoping to weaken his gubernatorial bid.

Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, 58, wrote in an op-ed provided to The Associated Press, the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News that "whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls" attempted to get voters to question whether he's gay.

"Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: 'Yes I am. But why should it matter?"' he wrote in the op-ed published Monday by the two newspapers.

The Democrat's announcement adds a complicating factor to a tight three-way race with LePage and wealthy independent Eliot Cutler.

Recent polls suggested that Michaud has a slight edge over LePage. Cutler, who finished second to LePage in the 2010 election, has trailed by about 10 points in recent polls.

Michaud didn't identify who he thinks is behind the alleged whisper campaign against him. His campaign did not previously raise the issue. Cutler, whose campaign denied any involvement in a whisper campaign, said Michaud's disclosure should have no bearing on the race. LePage's campaign declined to comment.

BBC
 

Drugs giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than $2.2bn (£1.4bn) to settle allegations over its marketing techniques, the US justice department has said.

The firm is alleged to have paid incentives to doctors and pharmacies to promote three of its medicines.

These included anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega and heart drug Natrecor.

The firm also allegedly promoted the drugs for uses not officially allowed.

Johnson & Johnson "lined their pockets at the expense of the American taxpayers, patients and the private insurance industry," US Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday.

"They drove up costs for everyone in the healthcare system and negatively impacted the long term solvency of the central healthcare programmes like Medicare", a government programme for pensioners.

While US doctors can prescribe medicines as they see fit, pharmaceutical companies cannot advocate any use of their drugs that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

It is the third-biggest settlement involving a drugs firm in US history.

WORLD NEWS

Reuters
 

Ousted Egyptian leader Mohamed Mursi, given his first public forum since his overthrow in a trial where he could face execution, declared on Monday he was still Egypt's legitimate president and shouted: "Down with military rule!"

Mursi, an Islamist who was toppled by the army in July after mass protests against him, spoke with anger and passion, interrupting the first day of his trial repeatedly from his cage during an unruly hearing that the judge adjourned to January 8.

State television aired brief footage of Mursi, the first public sighting of the president since his overthrow in July. Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president, had been kept in an undisclosed location since then.

"I am Dr. Mohamed Mursi. I am president of the republic," said Mursi.

Inside the courtroom, anti-Mursi Egyptian journalists chanted "execution", "execution" as the deposed leader did his best to challenge the authority of the court, shouting repeatedly at the judge whose legitimacy he refused to accept.

Spiegel Online
 

Chancellor Merkel might be furious about the NSA's unscrupulous surveillance activities, but reluctance to anger her partners in Washington prevents her from imposing sanctions. Trade issues aside, Germany itself depends heavily on intelligence gathered by the US agency.

The surroundings alone clearly indicated that this was no normal discussion. US National Security Adviser Susan Rice led her German guests to the "Situation Room," the intelligence nerve center in the basement of the White House. This is where the commander-in-chief orders drone attacks and issues commands to deploy troops. It was in the Situation Room, for instance, that US President Barack Obama watched US special forces hunt down Osama bin Laden two and a half years ago.

Something has shifted in the relations between Berlin and Washington -- otherwise Christoph Heusgen, Merkel's foreign policy adviser, would not have met with top US officials in a secure conference room last Wednesday. Nothing has strained ties with the US over the past few years more than the revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.

Spiegel Online
 

There are growing calls in Germany not only to question Edward Snowden in connection with the ongoing NSA scandal, but also to offer him safe passage and asylum. Yet the heads of the two major political camps fear the wrath of the United States.

Hans-Christian Ströbele, a lawyer and parliamentarian for Germany's Green Party, turned 74 this year. He has devoted more than 50 of those years to the political struggle for justice and for what is good in the world - or at least that's how he sees it. "Have you ever been on the wrong side of things?" Ströbele was asked in a recent television interview.

"Politically speaking?" he asked the interviewer, glancing at the ceiling. For two seconds, it seemed as if he had to consider the question, but he quickly regained his composure and emphatically replied: "No."

Bloomberg
 

A Berlin art historian is helping prosecutors investigate a trove of 1,500 artworks found in a Munich apartment and that may have been seized by the Nazis.
Berlin Free University said in an e-mailed statement today that Meike Hoffmann of its degenerate art research unit is helping identify the works. The German government said in a statement today that it was aware of the case.

The haul -- which would be worth an estimated 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) if found to be by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann and Marc Chagall -- was discovered in a squalid apartment, according to the German magazine Focus.
“The number of works is overwhelming,” Monika Tatzkow, a provenance researcher and author of several books on Nazi-looted art, said in an interview from Berlin today. If they are genuine, “it shows that a lot of time has to pass for some of this art to emerge from shady sources.”

The artworks, long thought to have been lost or destroyed, were uncovered by authorities probing money laundering after a random check on an elderly man traveling from Switzerland to Munich. The secret raid took place two years ago, according to Focus, which didn’t say how it obtained the information.

The Guardian
 

Protesters are to picket a concert by Valery Gergiev on Thursday over the anti-gay laws introduced in Russia during the summer and the conductor's close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The demonstration is scheduled to take place outside the Barbican, where Gergiev will lead the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz – about a scholar who gets too close to the devil.

The picket follows small disruptions of concerts in New York and an intervention by the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell last Thursday evening when, dressed in black tie, he strode on to a concert stage to condemn Gergiev as "a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders".

Gergiev is one of the world's leading conductors and a supporter of Putin. He has been artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg for more than 25 years and principal conductor of the LSO since 2007.

He was one of more than 500 names from the Russian "cultural elite" who lent their support to Putin's presidential campaign, and he also appeared in a television advert. When he was asked his views on Pussy Riot Gergiev suggested they were out to make money.

SCIENCE, HEALTH AND TECHNOLOGY

The Times of India
 
NEW DELHI: Google, on Monday, celebrated mathematics wizard Shakuntala Devi's 84th birthday with a doodle.

She is dubbed as the world's fastest 'human computer' who made complex mental calculations.

Born on November 4, 1929, in Bangalore, to an orthodox priestly Brahmin family Devi had no access to proper schooling and food in her early years.

When she was only three, Devi began showing great affinity with numbers. By the time she was five, she became an expert in solving complex mental arithmetic.

Bloomberg
 

BlackBerry shares fell as much as 18 percent after Fairfax abandoned the takeover plan, opting instead for a bond deal and management shakeup. Fairfax, BlackBerry’s largest investor, will invest $250 million in the convertible debentures, according to a statement today. CEO Thorsten Heins will step down, while former Sybase Inc. chief John Chen becomes executive chairman, putting him in charge of the company’s strategy.

The transaction, slated to be completed later this month, follows a six-week attempt by Fairfax to attract financing for its buyout bid, which would have taken the smartphone maker private. The $1 billion infusion will help stabilize the unprofitable company as it burns cash, though BlackBerry will still pursue other deals and is now more open to the idea of a breakup, people familiar with the matter said.

 

NPR
 

Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says reports that the NSA circumvented the Internet giant's efforts to protect its users' data are "outrageous."

Schmidt made the comments in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

"It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true. The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people's privacy, it's not OK," Schmidt told the paper. "The Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it's perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come."

C/NET
 

Talk about good timing.

This week, just as Twitter is about to carry out its long-awaited and highly anticipated IPO, here comes Nick Bilton's "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal," a dramatic and detail-rich recounting of the founding and maturing of Twitter, and the never-ending power struggles that plagued the hot young company, even as it rose to worldwide prominence and importance.

In the book, Bilton, a New York Times reporter, gives the richest telling yet of how four men -- Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Noah Glass, and Biz Stone -- took a simple idea and turned it into something credited with enabling political revolutions.

Al Jazeera America
 

A single dose — rather than the recommended three — of a vaccine against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) may be enough to ward off cervical cancer, researchers said Monday. The findings could lead to simpler delivery and lower costs, possibly increasing the number of young people who get vaccinated, said their report in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys before they become sexually active, but U.S. research from 2012 showed that only 33 percent of U.S. female teens and fewer than 7 percent of U.S. male teens got the recommended three doses.

"Our findings suggest promise for simplified vaccine administration schedules that might be cheaper, simpler and more likely to be implemented around the world," said Mahboobeh Safaeian, an investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

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