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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 editors are Doctor RJ and annetteboardman.

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The Guardian
 

More severe storms are expected in the southern and central US on Monday after a night of devastating tornadoes left at least 15 people dead.

People in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas took shelter on Sunday night as a swarm of tornadoes drove through the area, hitting communities still recovering from a strong storm system that left 316 people dead in May 2011.

The largest tornado made landfall on Sunday around 7pm local time about 10 miles (16km) west of Little Rock, Arkansas. The twister continued for 80 miles, growing to be a half-mile wide.

At least 14 people in Arkansas were killed, according to the state’s department of emergency management. Ten of those were killed in Faulkner County, where the suburbs of Mayflower and Vilonia are considered to be the hardest-hit regions of the storm. The number was revised downward on Monday from an initial 16 reported dead, after state officials said some victims had been counted twice.

NPR
 

Emergency officials were searching Monday for survivors after tornadoes tore through parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma overnight, killing at least 14 people and leveling entire neighborhoods.

"We don't have a count on injuries or missing. We're trying to get a handle on the missing part," Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said at a news conference Monday. "Just looking at the damage, this may be one of the strongest we have seen."

Brandon Morris, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said crews were looking for survivors and were assessing the damage.

"Right now, the main focus is life safety," he said. "We're trying to make sure everyone is accounted for."

BBC
 

Emergency crews have been digging through the rubble for survivors of deadly tornadoes that ripped through several central and southern states of the US.

At least 17 people died in Arkansas and Oklahoma - 16 of them in the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Tornadoes also struck in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

Forecasters have warned millions of people to prepare for more severe storms in the region on Monday.

There are warnings of further tornadoes, high winds and large hailstones to strike parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana.

"We've got a powerful storm system affecting the eastern two-thirds of the United States over the next few days,'' said Russell Schneider, director of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

New York Times
 

VILONIA, Ark. — Ryan Henry stood outside his brick home and saw the tornado nearing his neighborhood, razing much of this small city in Central Arkansas as it went. He dashed inside, grabbed a bedspread and headed for the bathroom, where his three daughters were already in the tub. He placed his body over the girls — twin 9-year-olds and an 8-year-old — and waited.

“I used my legs and my forearms to kind of push in on the tub,” Mr. Henry, 31, recounted on Monday afternoon. “The house started rumbling. It sounded like an F-16. It rumbled for maybe 10 seconds or so, and then you could start hearing things rip apart. Once things started ripping apart, everything was shaking.”

Rarely have twisters struck the same town with such ferocity along much the same path, but for Vilonia, the tornado here on Sunday was a nightmare revisited. Nearly three years ago to the day, a tornado swept through this city of about 3,800, snapping power lines, ripping apart homes and leaving them exposed to the torrential rains that followed.

Reuters
 

On a second day of ferocious storms that have claimed at least 21 lives in the southern United States, a tornado tore through the Mississippi town of Tupelo on Monday causing widespread destruction to homes and businesses, according to witnesses and local emergency officials.

At least one person was killed in Tupelo, a city of about 35,000 in the northeast of the state and the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

Most of the deaths from the severe storm system occurred on Sunday when tornadoes tossed cars like toys in Arkansas and other states.

Monday's twister in Tupelo, one of several to tear across Mississippi, damaged hundreds of homes and businesses, downed power lines and tore up trees, the National Weather Service said.

"It was real bad. We're trying to pull people out," Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre, told Reuters, referring to emergency crews going house to house, searching damaged buildings.

US NEWS

Reuters
 

Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes rose in March for the first time in nine months, a sign the housing market could be stabilizing after suffering a setback from a rise in interest rates and a severe winter.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, increased 3.4 percent to 97.4. The increase beat economists' expectations for a 1.0 percent advance.

These contracts usually become sales after a month or two, and March's rise suggested home resales could rebound in the months ahead.

Sales stumbled last summer after that the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled it would soon reduce its economic stimulus efforts, pushing interest rates higher. A harsh winter also helped keep potential buyers out of the market.

"The stronger pending home sales report hints at resurgence in housing market momentum during the typically busier spring buying season," said Gennadiy Goldberg, a strategist at TD Securities.

Reuters
 

President Barack Obama said a new military pact signed with the Philippines on Monday granting a larger presence for U.S. forces would bolster the Southeast Asian country's maritime security, but was not aimed at countering China's growing military might.

The agreement, which will have an initial 10-year term, was touted as the highlight of Obama's first visit to the Philippines, the United States' oldest ally in the region.

It sets the framework for a beefed-up rotation of U.S. troops, ships and warplanes through the Philippines, part of a rebalancing of U.S. resources towards fast-growing Asia and the Pacific.

But China interprets the move as an attempt to contain its increasing military capability and embolden Manila in a decades-long territorial dispute with Beijing.

McClatchy
 

Federal appellate judges from Raleigh to Miami to Fairbanks, Alaska have ruled on cases in which they had a financial stake, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found.

Raleigh’s Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Allyson Duncan owned as much as $100,000 in Verizon stock when she sat on a 2011 panel that affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of Verizon South. A Verizon employee sued the company for “unlawful termination” after she was fired. It was one of two cases before her in which she ruled in Verizon’s favor.

On a third case in 2010, Duncan sat on a panel that affirmed a district court order dismissing a plaintiff’s federal civil rights lawsuit in which General Electric was named as a party. The judge’s 2010 financial disclosures found that she owned General Electric stock, as part of a trust valued at up to $5 million, the Center found.

Federal judges may not sit on cases in which they have a financial interest, according to federal law. Yet the Center found more than two dozen instances where judges have ruled on cases in which they have stock or other financial holdings.

Al Jazeera America
 

Amid declining school budgets, fights over charter schools and continued racial disparities in education, a report released Monday showing that U.S. public high schools reached an 80 percent graduation rate for the first time may come as welcome news to parents and educators.

But the report, while painting a positive overall picture of education reform efforts, also highlighted continued problems in the country’s educational system. It called attention to racial disparities in graduation rates and the wide gap that remains in graduation rates between some states and between urban, suburban and rural counties.

The report, which is based on Department of Education statistics from 2012, was presented by a coalition of education reform groups at the Building a GradNation Summit on Monday. It showcased how schools and school districts have closed gaps in educational achievement through a variety of interventions, including placing a greater emphasis on individualized attention, hiring school dropout specialists and closing or splitting up “dropout factories” — schools where fewer than 60 percent of teens graduate.

Al Jazeera America
 

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., aligned with the Tea Party during his 2010 election campaign, surrendered himself to authorities Monday in New York to face a 20-count federal indictment that includes charges of mail, wire and tax fraud.

Prosecutors charged Grimm with engaging in schemes to under-report wages for restaurant workers, including some who were in the country illegally. They also accused him of concealing more than $1 million in sales and wages.

Grimm once was an investor in a Manhattan health food restaurant called Healthalicious that has been accused in a lawsuit of cheating its workers and fined by the state for failing to carry workers' compensation. He has said he sold his interest in 2009.

Authorities said that when Grimm was deposed by an attorney representing former employees in the lawsuit, he lied under oath about his allegedly fraudulent business practices. The charges are the result of a two-year-long investigation.

The Guardian

Political donations to groups supporting gun control have overtaken money raised by the National Rifle Association and its allies in the 16 months since the Newtown school shooting, according to latest filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Though campaign finance experts say officially-declared money is the tip of the iceberg for both sides, the limited public figures available suggest recent efforts to build grassroots organisations to rival the political clout of gun rights advocates may be further advanced than previously thought.

The hopes of gun control advocates to overturn the long-held financial dominance of the gun lobby received a boost earlier this month when former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to spend at least $50m over the coming year supporting campaigns for enhanced background checks and other gun control measures.

NPR
 

If you're a basketball nut, last week was heaven. Nearly all of the series in the first round of the NBA playoffs have been intense affairs with dramatic finishes. Several teams that barely squeaked into the postseason might upset some of the league's powerhouses. It was an uncommonly exciting week of hoops.

Then Donald Sterling happened.

On Saturday, TMZ released a nine-minute recording that allegedly captures Sterling, the billionaire who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, expressing disapproval to his former girlfriend V. Stiviano for posting a picture of herself on Instagram with former Lakers great Magic Johnson — because Johnson is black. Indeed, Sterling wanted her to remove all of her Instagram photos in which she appears with black people. (Worth noting: Stiviano is reportedly black and Mexican, and she reminds Sterling repeatedly during the conversation that she is "mixed.")

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people," Sterling allegedly says to Stiviano in the recording. "Do you have to?"

NPR
 

Mississippi's only abortion clinic is fighting to remain open in the face of ever-tightening state regulations. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans hears arguments Monday in a dispute over a state law that requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

The bright pink Jackson Women's Health Organization, located in an art deco section of Jackson minutes from the Mississippi state Capitol, has long been a flashpoint in the abortion debate. On a recent day, Pastor David Lane of Pro-Life Mississippi peers through a wrought-iron fence at patients.

Lane says when he started protesting 30 years ago, there were several abortion clinics. Now it's down to this last one.

"We're hoping and we're praying this thing closes," Lane says. "Mississippi will be first in something that's good anyway, and that is no free-standing abortion mills. That's what we're after."

Anti-abortion groups have been fighting a war of attrition at the state level with tighter restrictions on how abortion clinics operate.

WORLD NEWS

DW
 

On Monday, the US imposed sanctions on seven Russian officials - including travel bans and a freeze on assets - and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin. Shortly after, EU leaders meeting in Brussels added the names of 15 Russians to the European Union's sanctions list.

"The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally," US President Barack Obama had told reporters earlier Monday in the Philippines, where he was wrapping up a tour of Asia. "The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions ... could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul and to encourage him to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk."

Fresh EU and US threats to isolate Russia economically and diplomatically come just two days after the Group of Seven major economies agreed to "intensify targeted sanctions," citing Ukraine's need for orderly polls in the upcoming presidential elections.

Al Jazeera America
 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia— From a plane landing in Vancouver, the city shimmers below. Skyscrapers sheathed in glass reflect water that lies on three sides of downtown. Forested mountains serve as a backdrop that has made it easy for politicians to brand Vancouver the world’s “greenest city.”

There is more to that reputation than just PR. Vancouver’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are among the lowest of any urban center in North America. The city council has made bicycling infrastructure a priority. And in 2008, the government of British Columbia enacted a relatively steep carbon tax that has earned international praise for lowering the province’s per capita consumption of fossil fuels to well below Canada’s average.

Making B.C. look even cleaner by comparison is its dirty neighbor. Right next door in Alberta are the Athabasca oil sands, a development vilified around the world as one of the most environmentally destructive industrial projects in human history.

Spiegel Online
 

Ayad Allawi has only just seen off a delegation of Shiite clerics from Basra, and already emissaries from the autonomous region of Kurdistan are waiting for him in the parlor. A long list of supporters and activists come to visit the 69-year-old here, in the campaign office of his Iraqi National Accord Party, despite the dangers involved in a trip to Baghdad. Bomb attacks still rock the country, and the capital, every day.

Allawi's elaborately secured residence, a former educational center of the Baath Party, is located in the upscale neighborhood of Mansour, outside the sealed Green Zone in which the government, international organizations and US Embassy have fortified themselves. Allawi drags his right leg: "A greeting from Saddam Hussein," he says. He claims that in 1978, Saddam's henchmen had wanted to dispose of him because he had demanded freedom and democracy. He points to his family's democratic tradition: His ancestors, he says, revolted against the British occupiers and were involved in the founding of Iraq, becoming ministers and lawmakers.

Bloomberg
 

Outside a Moscow stadium one night in 2006, deputy central bank chief Andrei Kozlov was walking to his car after playing soccer when two men opened fire, pumping bullets into his head and neck and killing his driver.

Days before the murders, the man leading Russia’s fight against money laundering had shut down a scheme used to funnel $1.6 billion of dirty funds abroad, including at least $112 million via Vienna-based Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich AG, according to Russian and Austrian investigators.

NPR
 

North Korea isn't exactly known for its light touch: It has referred to its foes as a "rat-like group of bastards," a "shameless political dwarf" and even a "swish of skirt."

That aforementioned "swish of skirt" is the target of North Korea's latest diatribe.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which is the body tasked with uniting the two countries, called South Korean President Park Guen-hye a "capricious whore who asks her fancy man to do harm to other person while providing sex to him." The "fancy man" in question: President Obama, who visited ally South Korea last week for two days.

The comments were reported by KCNA, North Korea's official news agency.

The story went on to call Park a "dirty comfort woman for the U.S. and despicable prostitute selling off the nation." That epithet is likely to anger many South Koreans because of the Korean women who were kept as sex slaves by the Japanese during World War II.

BBC
 

A BBC team has witnessed the devastating effects of air bombardment on Syrian civilians after gaining rare access to rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

Emergency rescue teams told the BBC the city was living in "danger and fear".

Thousands of people are reported to have been killed or maimed in a campaign of aerial bombardment in northern Syria this year.

Um Yahya wept. With two small children at her side, the young mother was standing in what until that morning had been her home. It was now a wreck: a tangle of rubble and cables and dust, with half the ceiling missing and parts of the building completely razed.

"My husband was sitting at breakfast. We heard the first blast: it sounded far away. But I asked him to go and get the kids off the street. And suddenly it hit us."

Reuters
 

Fifty people were killed on Monday as suicide bombers attacked a political rally and Iraqi police and soldiers cast their votes early for a national election in two days' time, authorities and witnesses said.

A suicide attacker killed at least 30 people and wounded 50 others at a Kurdish political gathering in the town of Khanaqin, 140 km (100 miles) northeast of Baghdad, security sources said.

The Kurds were celebrating the television appearance of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd incapacitated since late 2012, who cast his vote in Germany where he was undergoing medical treatment.

"The attacker snuck among the crowds near the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's headquarters and blew himself up, causing a tragic massacre," one police officer said, sobbing after he discovered his brother was among those killed.

THE ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, HEALTH AND TECHNOLOGY

The Guardian
 

Half a dozen rare European bison bred in captivity in the UK and Ireland have been sent to Romania to be reintroduced into the wild.

European bison were driven to extinction in the wild by the early 20th century as a result of hunting and destruction of their habitat, conservationists said.

Captive breeding programmes in European zoos and reintroductions have led to a gradual increase in numbers, and the project in Romania aims to establish a self-sustaining population there and boost the variety of wildlife in the region. Reintroductions have already established free-ranging and semi-free herds in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia.

The six female captive-bred bison from Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Park, Kent, Highland Wildlife Park, Inverness-shire, and Fota Wildlife Park, Cork, Ireland, were transported to Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in Romania's Carpathian Mountains.

NPR
 

Not long ago, we heard about a catchy idea for a cookbook: "Fart-free food for everybody."

In theory, these recipes would be helpful for some people — and those in their vicinity.

But being a bit gassy may actually be a small price to pay for a lot of benefits to our health.

We know that air often comes after eating nutrient-packed vegetables, such as cabbage, kale and broccoli. And researchers have found that fiber-rich foods, like beans and lentils, boost the levels of beneficial gut bacteria after only a few days, as we reported in December.

So all this got us wondering: Could passing gas, in some instances, be a sign that our gut microbes are busy keeping us healthy?

NPR
 

Men seek it out to combat low energy and decreased sex drive. Prescription testosterone has become so popular that so-called "low T" clinics are becoming common sights in cities and suburbs.

The number of testosterone prescriptions written in the U.S. more than tripled in the past decade. But researchers suspect that much of the testosterone dispensed at low-T clinics isn't tracked, since it's often bought with cash. This unfettered flow of testosterone — officially a controlled substance — has raised concerns among doctors who specialize in hormonal problems.

CNET
 

In a rare move that highlights the severity of the security hole in one of the Web's most popular browsers, the Homeland Security Department's Computer Emergency Readiness Team says to stop using Internet Explorer until Microsoft can fix it.

It's not often that the US government weighs in on the browser wars, but a new Internet Explorer vulnerability that affects all major versions of the browser from the past decade has forced it to raise an alarm: Stop using IE.

This zero-day exploit is an unpatched flaw in the Microsoft browser that allows attackers to run malicious code remotely. Security firm FireEye said that it is currently being used to attack financial and defense organizations in the US via Internet Explorer 9, 10, and 11. Those versions of the browser run on Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, although the exploit is present in Internet Explorer 6 and above.

While the Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Readiness Team regularly issues browser advisories, this is one of the few times that the CERT team has recommended that people avoid using a specific browser.

CNET
 

Angela Ahrendts might not, at first glance, fit in with Apple's jeans-and-button-down dress code. But the former CEO of British luxury retailer Burberry Group could be just what the consumer electronics maker needs to spruce up its retail operations.

In October, Apple named the 53-year-old as senior vice president of retail and online stores, saying at the time that she would join the company in "the spring." Apple CEO Tim Cook, while reporting the company's fiscal second-quarter earnings on April 23, said she would arrive at Apple this week.

"She shares our values and our focus on innovation," Cook said in an October email to employees announcing Ahrendts' appointment. "She believes in enriching the lives of others, and she is wicked smart."

Reuters
 

Comcast Corp  on Monday agreed to a three-way deal with Charter Communications Inc as part of Comcast's efforts to win regulatory approvals for its proposed $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc.

The transaction would make Charter, which lost out to Comcast in a bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable provider in the United States.

The agreement would leave Comcast with less than 30 percent of the U.S. residential cable or satellite TV market, a factor seen as a key step to pleasing regulators. Charter would have about 6 percent of the pay-TV market, with an eventual shot to climb to 9 percent.

Under the deal, Charter would pay Comcast $7.3 billion for 1.4 million subscribers. Comcast would divest another 2.5 million subscribers into a new publicly traded company that would be two-thirds owned by Comcast shareholders and one-third owned by Charter.

CNET
 

It was April 28, 1994. A memorandum floated around NPR, addressed to "All Staff." It started with an excited statement: "Internet is coming to NPR!" The two-page memo is a reminder of how the world looked at the Net back when it was so much newer.

The missive contains a solidly succinct explanation of what exactly the Internet is: "Internet is a collection of computer networks that is connected around the world." That still holds true, but the Internet has since blossomed into something much greater. At the time, NPR was more concerned about communicating what it was and how people would use this new thing called "email."

One particularly pertinent descriptive passage on the history of the Internet follows:

It began as a communications link between defense and scientific research institutions, but today is the fastest growing "organization," such that any statistic on the numbers of connected computers and users is obsolete before the numbers are uttered. The term "organization" is used loosely to refer to the Internet, because only the links among computers are users are managed, which is simply for self-replication/preservation.

The Guardian
 

The film-maker Alfonso Cuarón, riding high after winning this year's best director Oscar, has launched into political activism in his Mexican homeland by throwing down the gauntlet to the president.

The London-based director of Gravity published a full-page advertisement in Mexican newspapers on Monday addressed to President Enrique Peña Nieto and demanding answers to 10 questions about the country's controversial energy reform.

Cuarón explains his advertisement as a response to an interview the president gave two months ago dismissing the director's earlier low-key public expressions of opposition to the reforms as the result of ignorance about its benefits for the nation.

"I am not informed because the government you head has not shared with me – with us Mexicans in general – the indispensable things we need to understand it," Cuarón writes, before listing his questions. "I await your response, alongside many Mexicans," he finishes.

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