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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, January 22, 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.


This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: Old Stepstone by Al Spx

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.


Top News
North Carolina tosses out deal with electric company over coal spills

By (AP via
Duke Energy says it plans to begin dredging coal ash out of a North Carolina river on Tuesday as the state’s environmental agency moved to scuttle a previously proposed settlement with the company over pollution leaking from waste dumps at its power plants.

Lawyers for the North Carolina department of environment and natural resources (DENR) asked a judge late Monday to disregard its own proposed settlement with the nation’s largest electricity provider. Under the deal, Duke would have paid fines of $99,111 for pollution that leaked from two coal dumps like the one that ruptured 2 February, spewing out enough toxic sludge into the Dan River to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools. The deal proposed over the summer covered plants near Asheville and Charlotte, while this month’s spill was near the town of Eden.

The state dumped the settlement one day after a story by The Associated Press in which environmentalists criticized the arrangement as a sweetheart deal aimed at shielding Duke from far more expensive penalties the $50bn company might face under the federal Clean Water Act.

. . .

Lawyers for the environmental groups who had tried to sue Duke in federal court were shut out of the negotiations between state regulators and the company that produced the now scuttled settlement proposal. They had hoped to convince the state judge overseeing the case to reject the deal.

Child abuse rises with income inequality

By (ScienceDaily)
As the Great Recession deepened and income inequality became more pronounced, county-by-county rates of child maltreatment -- from sexual, physical and emotional abuse to traumatic brain injuries and death -- worsened, according to a nationwide study by Cornell University.

The income inequality-child maltreatment study, to be published in the March 2014 edition of the peer-review journal Pediatrics, covers all 3,142 American counties from 2005-09, and is one of the most comprehensive of its kind and the first to target child abuse in places with the greatest gap between rich and poor.

. . .

"Certainly, poor counties with general, overall poverty have significant problems with child abuse," Eckenrode said. "We were more interested in geographic areas with wide variations in income -- think of counties encompassing affluent suburbs and impoverished inner cities, or think of rich/poor Brooklyn, New York -- that's where income inequalities are most pronounced. That's where the kids are really hurting." The hurt doesn't stop when kids graduate -- if they do -- from school, the Cornell researchers observed.

How a Rogue Developer Got Apple to Approve a Drone Strike App

By Adam Clark Estes
After nearly two years and a ton of media attention, you can now download an iPhone app that alerts you every time a drone strike kills someone abroad. It only took the app developer six tries and several different names to get Apple to approve it.

The app is called Metadata+ and, officially, it provides "real-time updates on national security." Those are Apple-safe words. Originally, the app was called Drone+ then Drones+ and even Dronestream, but Apple wanted nothing to do with it. The app is dead simple, too. It pulls data about the from the UK's Bureau of Investigative Journalism, plots the location on a map, and sends a push notification when the attack takes place.

So what's Apple's problem? Well, the App Store folks provided a few different reasons that involve both the design and the content of the app. At first, Apple told the app's developer Josh Begley, that that app was "not useful or entertaining enough," and then there was an issue with a corporate logo. Finally, last August, Apple admitted, "We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable." So the news is objectionable?

. . .

So the takeaway, it seems, is that if Apple finds the content of your app objectionable, just submit the app without the content and add it later. Now, the clock is ticking to see how long it takes Apple to remove the app from its store.

Tiny motors controlled inside human cell

By (BBC)
For the first time, scientists have placed tiny motors inside living human cells and steered them magnetically.

. . .

"As these nanomotors move around and bump into structures inside the cells, the live cells show internal mechanical responses that no one has seen before," said Prof Mallouk.

. . .

At low ultrasonic power, the nanomotors had little effect on these cells. But when the power was increased, the nanomotors surged into action, zooming around and bumping into organelles - structures within the cell that perform specific functions.

. . .

The scientists also found that the nanomotors could move autonomously - independently of one another - an ability that is important for future applications.

These are the 9 weapons the US is selling Iraq

By Allison Jackson
The United States is stepping up the delivery of military equipment to Iraq as violence in the country escalates once again.

More than 1,000 people were killed in January, in the worst violence in nearly six years. Now, Iraqi security forces and pro-government tribesmen are fighting Al Qaeda-linked militant groups in the same cities that saw some of the highest casualties among US troops during the Iraq war.

. . .

Since 2005, the US government has delivered more than $14 billion in equipment, services and training to Iraq — and now more is on the way.

. . .

Here's a look at the growing list of equipment the US has delivered — or is about to send — to Iraq.

. . .

Scandal-hit Barclays bank is cutting 12,000 jobs despite giving itself $3.9 billion in bonuses

By Steve Slater and Matt Scuffham
. . .

Barclays, which is seeking to repair a reputation badly damaged by its role in the Libor interest rate-rigging scandal of 2012, increased the money available for staff bonuses by almost 10 percent to £2.378 billion ($3.907 billion, 2.858 billion euros).

While net profits rose, the investment bank unit reported a loss in the fourth quarter, while pre-tax earnings slumped as Barclays factored in restructuring costs and litigation charges.

. . .

He defended the bigger bonus pot, saying the bank had to recruit the best staff to compete with global rivals and continued to have "constructive" talks with investors over pay.

. . .

It cut 7,650 jobs last year, including 1,400 in the investment bank, as part of a restructuring unveiled a year ago by Jenkins to cut 1.7 billion pounds of annual costs. There were 139,600 Barclays employees by the end of the year.

Housing benefit changes 'unworkable'

By (BBC)
Two-thirds - 66% - of social sector tenants affected by benefit cuts for those with extra bedrooms were behind with rent after six months, a National Housing Federation survey suggests.

. . .

Since April last year, people deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14%, while those with two or more spare bedrooms have seen reductions of 25%.

. . .

But the government argued the measure would help control the billions spent on housing benefit and free larger properties for those who needed them the most.

The National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents housing associations said, the changes were "heaping misery and hardship on already struggling families, pushing them into arrears".

Spain's tough new abortion law advances after secret vote

By Ashifa Kassam
Spanish MPs narrowly voted on Tuesday to continue moving forward with legislation to drastically limit access to abortion in the country.

. . .

Tabled in late December by the governing People's party, the legislation seeks to enact some of the toughest abortion legislation in Europe. Widely attacked by women's groups as a step backwards, the changes will make abortion illegal except in the case of rape or when there is a risk to the physical and mental health of the mother. Any woman wanting an abortion would require two doctors to verify these circumstances were being met.

The secret vote was an attempt to thwart the bill before it is put to a general vote. The idea, said Carmen Montón of the Spanish Socialist Workers party, came from concerns over the legislation that she and other opposition members heard in parliamentary corridors.

. . .

The secret vote was intended to encourage MPs to vote with their constituents rather than party allegiances in mind, she said. "The majority of Spaniards don't want this reform."

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Obamacare delay extended for some firms

By (BBC)
A key provision of President Barack Obama's healthcare law affecting medium-sized business has been delayed again, the latest trouble for the act.

Firms with 50-99 employees will not face a tax penalty until 2016 if they fail to provide health insurance to their workers, it was announced.

. . .

The law only requires business with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance coverage. Individuals not covered by an employer or government plan will face a tax penalty in 2014 if they do not purchase insurance on their own.

. . .

But the conservative US Chamber of Commerce, America's largest business lobby group, said the delay caused "new problems for companies by moving the goalposts of the mandate modestly when what we really need is a time-out".

Going To College May Cost You, But So Will Skipping It

By Jennifer Ludden
In America, total student loan debt tops $1 trillion and a four-year college degree can cost as much as a house — leaving many families wondering if college is really worth the cost.

. . .

Here are the numbers: Those with a college degree now make $17,500 more per year than those without — a wage gap that's doubled in recent decades. Those without a degree are four times more likely to be unemployed.

. . .

"The kinds of jobs that are being created are relatively low-wage, low-skill jobs, such as fast food and big-box stores," he says. "And so for most of Americans, we've seen a stagnation in wages and a decline in purchasing powers."

So there's more incentive now than ever to go to college. Still, Kalleberg cautions that college alone does not guarantee a well-paying job. What you major in does matter, he says. And, of course, you have to be able to pay for 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:
. . . we decided to take a little walk for the next song. As we walked towards the alleyway down the street from the venue, we were imagining what Al Spx would perform next. She literally took our breath away in the stairwell so we were left to wonder about the next performance.

She has one of those voices that seems to freeze time. Such was the case when Cold Specks(aka Al Spx) performed "Old Stepstone" for us in a Philadelphia alleyway. It's an a cappella piece that showcases her soulful voice. It didn't make the cut on her debut record, "I Predict A Graceful Expulsion," but it sure is a gem.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
New York looks to ban plastic microbeads found in face scrubs

By (UPI)
Exfoliating your skin apparently comes with an environmental cost, at least according to research conducted by chemistry professor Sheri Mason, who found large quantities of the beads in Lake Erie.

. . .

The Attorney General's office said other toxic chemicals can accumulate along with the microbeads and can be eaten by fish and end up in the food supply.

If the new legislation passes, manufacturers would have until 2015 to phase out their use of the plastic beads. Unilever, which owns soap brands like Dove, Pond’s and Caress, has already pledged to rid their products of the plastic beads by 2015. Many face scrubs already use natural exfoliants like salt and walnut pieces.

Sochi Winter Olympics on track to be warmest ever

By Shaun Walker
. . .

It was always going to be warm in subtropical Sochi, which during the Soviet era was a summer-time resort, where workers from colder and darker parts of Russia would come for rest and recuperation in beach hotels and sanatoriums. Indeed, this was one of Sochi's main selling points when Vladimir Putin originally made the Olympic bid seven years ago: that one could ski in the mountains and swim in the sea in the space of a day.

But the surprisingly warm temperatures have also extended to the mountain zone, softening the snow and wreaking havoc with some events. Skiers have been visibly uncomfortable in the warm sunshine and snowboarders have described the halfpipe course as "dangerous", "crappy" and "mush", with much of the complaining due to the warm weather. Other sports, including the biathlon, have been affected by the soft snow, and there have been changes to the programming to allow events to start in the evening when it is colder.

The Vancouver games also had a temperature problem, and Sochi organisers have stored tonnes of snow for use in emergency, though they have not used it yet and deny that there is a crisis. "It is freezing overnight," said Mark Adams of the IOC on Tuesday. "It is a little warm and that is causing one or two problems but so far everything is running to schedule … There is plenty of snow; it is just a little bit warm at the moment."

Enviros threaten to sit out election over Keystone. Don’t believe them.

By Ben Adler
. . .

Environmental groups are warning President Obama that his liberal base might stay home on Election Day if he approves the Keystone XL oil pipeline. …

. . .

But the problem with this threat from environmental groups is that hardcore environmentalists are not low-information voters. Green activists are more engaged and educated than the kind of people who often don’t vote. If Obama approves Keystone and that really upsets you, there is a good chance you also care about gay rights or abortion rights or any number of other issues that might give you enough reason to come out and pull the lever for Democrats, no matter how grudgingly.

. . .

It’s also worth asking whether environmentalists have put too much attention on Keystone. Obama’s defenders, such as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, argue that EPA regulation of power-plant carbon emissions is far more important, and all the energy directed toward fighting Keystone should be invested in demanding the strongest possible power-plant regulations. Chait writes: “Keystone is at best marginally relevant to the cause of stopping global warming. The whole crusade increasingly looks like a bizarre misallocation of political attention.”

It is too simplistic to say that Obama’s enthusiasm for energy exploration is totally unimportant as long as he moves forward on regulating CO2 emissions from power plants. The leading environmental organizations have rightly criticized Obama for his “all of the above” energy policy. If they do threaten to stay home, it should be over the bigger picture of Obama’s enthusiasm for oil and gas drilling, not just because of Keystone.

Taking the long view: Obama renews efforts to move forward on environmental justice

By Brentin Mock
Today marks the 20th anniversary of President Clinton signing Executive Order 12898, a landmark for the environmental justice movement. The day is recognized as the moment that the federal government finally began taking seriously the racial disparities created by some of its own actions with regards to permits for polluting factories, as well as transportation systems, energy production, and natural resources conservation.

. . .

The Obama administration has worked to restore some of the order’s powers to compel federal agencies to consider the race- and class-based impacts of permitting and rulemaking decisions. Lisa Jackson, the first African American woman chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, made environmental justice a priority. Her successor, Gina McCarthy, has pledged to do the same. Obama also reinstated the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, which was created by Clinton’s order but went stale under W. Bush. The group includes representatives of 17 federal agencies and the White House, all of whom pledged in 2010 to integrate EJ principles into their work.

. . .

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also issued a statement today, reaching further back into the history of the environmental justice movement:

. . . despite all that’s been achieved, research shows that low-income families and families of color are still more likely than other American families to find themselves living in communities with contaminated water and polluted soil. Their neighborhoods are still more likely to be close to industrial waste sites and more vulnerable to the placement of landfills nearby.
. . .

Efforts to pass more stringent environmental justice laws through Congress have faltered, but in commemoration of the EJ order’s anniversary, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota is introducing a resolution asking the House of Representatives to recognize “that the laws passed by Congress have a direct impact on the health and well-being of all United States citizens,” and “that extreme disparities in environmental health persist between socioeconomic statuses and racial communities.”

Illegal hunting on the rise in Afghanistan

By Navin Singh Khadka
. . .

The country has listed nearly 150 wild animals and birds as at-risk within its territory but there are no detailed records of how many have been killed or poached.

. . .

Authorities say the ongoing conflict has made monitoring almost impossible.

But environmentalists have accused some politicians of using illegal wildlife hunting as a means to secure the backing of influential individuals from countries in the Gulf region for their electoral campaigns in Afghanistan.

. . .

Some Afghan officials agree that illegal hunting has pushed animals like the brown and black bear, Asiatic cheetah, lynx, ibex, Siberian crane and Houbara bustard onto the list of at-risk species in Afghanistan.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the federal government allows dignitaries from the Gulf region to hunt Houbara bustard, a migratory bird from Central Asia.

Science and Health
After committing a crime, guilt and shame predict re-offense

By (ScienceDaily)
Within three years of being released from jail, two out of every three inmates in the US wind up behind bars again -- a problem that contributes to the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. New research suggests that the degree to which inmates' express guilt or shame may provide an indicator of how likely they are to re-offend.

. . .

"When people feel guilt about a specific behavior, they experience tension, remorse, and regret," the researchers write. "Research has shown that this sense of tension and regret typically motivates reparative action -- confessing, apologizing, or somehow repairing the damage done."

. . .

These findings suggest that there may be "two faces" of shame -- one that increases recidivism and one that does just the opposite.

. . .

The researchers believe this work opens up doors for evaluating other aspects of restorative justice, and they plan to investigate the links between guilt, shame, and other post-release outcomes, including substance abuse, mental health issues, and readjustment into their communities.

Survey: U.S. teens say they are more stressed than parents

By (UPI)
U.S. teens are following in the shoes of their very stressed parents; in fact, today's teens report higher stress levels than parents, researchers say.

. . .

In addition, 31 percent of the teens reported feeling overwhelmed and 30 percent reported feeling depressed or sad as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens reported fatigue or feeling tired and nearly one-quarter of teens reported skipping a meal due to stress.

Only 16 percent of the teens reported their stress level declined in the past year, but approximately twice as many -- 31 percent -- said their stress increased in the past year or said they thought their stress level would increase in the coming year.

PCs lumber towards the technological graveyard

By Mohana Ravindranath
The headquarters of iCore Networks has not seen a desktop computer in five years. Instead, each of the McLean, Virginia-based information-technology firm's 160 employees relies on a company-issued iPad. They may request a laptop if they need it, but iCore is free of the bulky personal computers common to many offices, opting for devices employees can take home with them.

. . .

The company is part of an emerging trend among businesses eschewing PCs for laptops and tablets. The pattern is reflected in the global computer market: PC shipments suffered their worst decline in history in the final quarter of 2013, according to a Gartner report, the seventh consecutive quarter of shipment declines. The 82.6m units shipped globally last year represented an almost 7% decline from the previous year.

. . .

Some analysts say the steady decline in PCs partly reflects the relatively high price of tablets, making it an either-or proposition for some buyers. Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa recently wrote that as tablet and laptop prices decline, PC sales might improve, because more people can own both.

. . .

Although they often use tablets when visiting the residential neighbourhoods where they sell cable connections, employees spend about 30% of each day answering and logging customer-service requests from their PCs, Collins said. Some customer-service requests are easier to address when employees have large, dual-screen monitors – and some have more data stored on their computers' hard drives than could fit on a tablet.

South Korea's Internet Is More Oppressive Than You Think

By Adam Clark Estes
Everybody's been freaking out in the past couple of weeks by news that South Korea is building a new broadband network that will be 50 times faster than the average connection in the United States. That's fast! Too bad South Koreans won't be able to use maps or access thousands of sites.

The Economist just published some less than flattering details of South Korea's recent internet policy. It's pretty discouraging. Did you know, for instance, that Korean censors deleted about 23,000 web pages last year and blocked an additional 63,000? Did you know you can't access any North Korean websites from South Korea? It gets worse . . .

3 Projects to Help You Fight for Your Online Privacy

By Goli Mohammadi
Today, February 11, 2014, the anniversary of internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz‘ passing, marks a day of activism against mass National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, dubbed “The Day We Fight Back.” Today is also nearly the anniversary (02/18/13) of the SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) Blackout that saw countless sites, including internet giant Google, go black in protest last year.

Today’s protest is backed by over 600 organizations, including BoingBoing, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), O’Reilly Media, Reddit, Access, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Mozilla, and ThoughtWorks, and is a call for new laws to curtail online surveillance. According to the campaign, “the NSA collected 97 billion pieces of data in March 2013 alone, including 3 billion from U.S. computers” and “the NSA has built a surveillance network that has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. internet traffic.”

. . .

Here are 3 projects from MAKE that you can build to fight for your online privacy:

How to Bake an Onion Pi
. . .

LibraryBox: Portable Private Digital Distribution

. . .

Internet Kill Switch

Suicide Bomber Instructor Blows Up Suicide Bombers-In-Training

By Dylan Scott
The commander of an Iraqi militant group accidentally killed 22 members of his unit Monday who were training to become suicide bombers after he conducted a demonstration with live explosives, the New York Times reported.

The Sunni militants belonged to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, according the Times. They have been engaged in fighting with the Iraqi government army and conducted suicide bombings throughout the country.

. . .

The BBC offered a slightly different version of events, reporting that it was a car bomb that accidentally detonated and killed at least 21 insurgents.

Jaywalking: How the car industry outlawed crossing the road

By Aidan Lewis
. . .

Enforcement of anti-jaywalking laws in the US is sporadic, often only triggered by repeated complaints from drivers about pedestrian behaviour in a particular place. But jaywalking remains illegal across the country, and has been for many decades.

. . .

"I don't know how this got to Syracuse, but in mid-western slang a jay was a person from the country who was an empty-headed chatterbox, like a bluejay," he says.

The word was first used to describe "someone from the countryside who goes to the city and is so dazzled by the lights and the show windows that they keep stopping and getting in the way of other pedestrians".

. . .

Another ruse was to provide local newspapers with a free service. Reporters would submit in a few facts about local traffic accidents to Detroit, and the auto industry's safety committee would send back a full report on the situation in their city.

. . .

Soon, he adds, car lobby groups also started taking over school safety education, stressing that "streets are for cars and children need to stay out of them". Anti-jaywalking laws were adopted in many cities in the late 1920s, and became the norm by the 1930s

Chile: Indigenous women ride to rescue Patagonia valley

By (BBC)
Indigenous women from Chile and Argentina are riding to the rescue of their pristine Patagonia valley, saying plans to build a dam and a river generator there must not be allowed to proceed, it has been reported.

About 40 Mapuche women undertook an arduous five-day journey by horseback from the Puelo Valley that spans the border, to Puerto Varas, a tourist town in southern Chile. They say the projects could flood 12,350 acres (4,997 hectares) of land, some of which is in Argentina.

The cross-border group Mujeres sin Fronteras (Women Without Borders), who organised the protest, say the rights of indigenous people and international rules on shared river basins should be observed. Leader Maria Isabel Navarrete told a crowd: "We are protecting our natural resources from large corporations. We want the authorities to know our way of life, that we live free from pollution of our waters and without pylons," the Santiago Times newspaper reports.

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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