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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

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: Goodbye Girl by Squeeze

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
America Is Addicted To Bombing. Does It Even Work?

By William Astore
. . .

It's said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but Saddam didn't remain a friend for long. Emboldened by US support in his war with Iran, he took Kuwait, only to initiate the first round of devastating US air raids against his military during Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991. As these and subsequent bombing campaigns damaged and debilitated Iraq, contributing to Saddam's overthrow in 2003, the Shia majority in that country found common cause with Iran, strengthening one branch of militant Islam. At the same time, the general destabilization of Iraq from a generation of air war and invasion has led to a Sunni revolt, the strengthening of an al-Qaeda-style movement, and the establishment of a "caliphate" across significant parts of Iraq (and Syria).

Now, given that less-than-stellar record, does anyone want to hazard a guess about the next American response to peoples and leaders our government doesn't like in Iraq or the rest of the Middle East? My money is on more bombing, which surely requires explanation.

. . .

Let's tackle the first half of that equation: the bomber will always get funded. Skeptical? What else captures the reality (as well as the folly) of dedicating more than $400 billion to the F-35 fighter-bomber program, a wildly over-budget and underperforming weapons system that may, in the end, cost the American taxpayer $1.5 trillion. Yes, you read that right. Or the persistence of US plans to build yet another long-range "strike" bomber to augment and replace the B-1 and B-2 fleet? It's a "must-have," according to the Air Force, if the US is to maintain its "full-spectrum dominance" on Planet Earth. Already pegged at an estimated price of $550 million per plane while still on the drawing boards, it's just about guaranteed to replace the F-35 in the record books, when it comes to delays, cost overruns, and price. And if you don't think it'll get funded, you don't know recent history.

. . .

Obviously, there are staggering amounts of money to be made by feeding America's fetish for bombers. But the US cult of air power and its wildly expensive persistence requires further explanation. On one level, exotic and expensive attack planes like the F-35 or the future "long range strike bomber" (LRS-B in bloodless acronym-speak) are the military equivalent of sacred cows. They are idols to be worshipped (and funded) without question. But they are also symptoms of a larger disease—the engorgement of the Department of Defense. In the post-9/11 world, this has become so pronounced that the military-industrial-congressional complex clearly believes it is entitled to a trough filled with money with virtually no accountability to the American taxpayer.

. . .

Even if the bombs bursting over Iraq or elsewhere don't solve anything, even when they make things worse, they still make a president look, well, presidential. In America, land of warbirds, it is always better politically to pose as a hunting hawk than a helpless dove.

The Man Who Ran Contra Propaganda for Reagan Is Guatemala’s New DC Lobbyist

By Ian Gordon
In late July, with child migrants still surging across the US-Mexico border, President Obama met with Central American leaders to discuss a response to the crisis. Not satisfied with Obama's plans, Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina took his agenda to the media, writing a Guardian op-ed criticizing the United States for the lasting legacy of both the Cold War and the drug war in his country.

Around the same time, Guatemala hired a lobbyist to help push its interests in Washington, DC. Given Pérez Molina's sharp criticism of the United States' history in the region, his choice—former Reagan official and noted Cold War propagandist Otto Reich—was a shocker.

. . .

Confronting and intimidating those journalists Reich believed were sympathetic with the Sandinistas or the Salvadoran rebels. This included a memorable trip to the NPR office in DC—Reich referred to NPR as "Moscow on the Potomac"—during which he alerted reporters that OPD was listening to and transcribing their Central American reporting.
. . .

Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but hiring someone with Reich's history in the region is probably not the best way to, as the lobbying disclosure form puts it, "develop a strategy to move forward on the change of narrative from Guatemala to Washington, DC, allowing representatives in the North American political parties that are willing to abandon the reference to Guatemala of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the last century, and are eager to talk about the present and future of Guatemala of the 21st century."

How an 80s Book for Kids Predicted Today's Spy Satellites and Cyberwars

By Matt Novak
Back when I was a kid in the 1980s and 90s I assumed that one day governments would be able to spy on anyone from space. Where did I get this idea? From the odd sci-fi movie or three. As well as books like Future War and Weapons by Neil Ardley from 1981. The unnerving part? They weren't wrong.P

In 2012, a U.S. spy agency gave NASA two spy satellites that were more powerful than the Hubble telescope. NASA was a bit dumbfounded. The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (the agency charged with operating our spy satellites) just had these things sitting in storage, and the message seemed to be: Here, take this old surveillance tech that's more powerful than you can even imagine and point them at space, rather than the Earth, as we were planning to do.P

As we explored in a post about the 2013 PBS documentary "Rise of the Drones" yesterday, the ability of U.S. spy agencies and private companies to monitor entire cities in real time is now a reality. And logic would dictate that we have no idea precisely how advanced some of the secret spy tech now being implemented really is. But back in the early 1980s, kids were being told that these advanced technologies of tomorrow would only be used to fight the baddies and it might even prevent war! Or so they said.

. . .

. . .

Computers will play an important part in ferreting out enemy plans. Safe on home ground, intelligence experts will try to link their computers to enemy computers and communication networks and gain access to enemy secrets. The computers will also try to plant false information about the nation's own forces in enemy computers in order to confuse the enemy commanders.

Ferguson unrest: Egypt urges US to show restraint

By (BBC)
Egypt's government has called on US authorities to show restraint against protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

. . .

The statement echoes US President Barack Obama's comments during Egypt's crackdown on protesters in 2013.

Correspondents say the criticism is unusual since Egypt gets about $1.5bn (£1bn) in aid from the US every year.

. . .

Meanwhile Chinese state news agency Xinhua said that despite the US playing the role of an international human rights defender, the clashes showed "there is still much room for improvement at home".

IS group says beheads US journalist

By (Al Jazeera)
The Islamic State group has released a video purportedly showing one of its fighters beheading US journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

. . .

Foley's mother, Diane Foley, released a statement through a Twitter account the family had used to campaign in which she confirmed his death and said he died "trying to expose the world to the suffering" of the Syrian people.  

"We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world," the statement read.

. . .

The group claimed in the video to be holding another US journalist and said his life depended on US President Barack Obama's next move.

. . .

The IS, formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), grew out of the US-led war in Iraq, and entered the civil war in Syria last year.

Pakistan protesters march on parliament in red zone

By (BBC)
Anti-government demonstrators in Pakistan are advancing towards parliament, breaching a designated secure zone in the capital Islamabad.

. . .

They have encountered no resistance so far from security forces, who have been instructed to avoid violence.

The demonstrators want Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.

. . .

So tens of thousands of protesters are now set to occupy Constitution Avenue, which many believe will paralyse key state institutions, such as parliament, the Supreme Court and the federal ministries.

Food sanctions hit Russian shoppers' pockets

By Juri Vendik
Russia's embargo on imported Western food is hitting its own people, as food prices in Moscow shops have jumped by up to 6% in just a week.

. . .

Russia has banned imports of those basic foods, as well as meat and many other products, from Western countries, Australia and Japan. It is retaliation for the West's sanctions on Russia over the revolt by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

And it is not just Moscow. On the island of Sakhalin, in Russia's far east, officials say the price of chicken thighs has soared 60%. Before the sanctions these were among the cheapest and most popular meat products in Russia.

. . .

Polls show that the vast majority of Russians approve of the sanctions against Western food. They have been told by government officials and state-controlled TV that the embargo will not affect prices, and that it will actually allow Russia's own agriculture to flourish. And that message is being believed.

Liberia declares curfew in Ebola battle

By (Al Jazeera)
Liberia's government has imposed a nationwide night curfew in an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, state radio said.

. . .

The epidemic of the hemorrhagic disease has killed nearly 1,300 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and has also affected Nigeria. Between August 14-16, Liberia recorded the most new deaths, 53, followed by Sierra Leone with 17, and Guinea with 14.

The World Health Organisation said it was working with the UN's World Food Programme to ensure food delivery to one million people living in Ebola quarantine zones cordoned off by local security forces in a border zone of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

. . .

He also said that after meetings with religious and community leaders, a task force was being set up to go door to door through West Point, a labyrinth of muddy alleys, to explain the risks of the disease and the need to isolate infected patients.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Navy aviation tests combined unmanned, manned operations

By Brooks Hays
The U.S. Navy is testing whether or not drones can be safely and effectively incorporated into manned flight operations. To find out, Navy aviation recently paired its unmanned X-47B plane with its manned F/A-18 Hornet in a series of short combined maneuvers.

For Navy flight operators, the major question mark is whether a drone aircraft can react and perform quickly and safely in an emergency situation, when directives are issued on the fly and movements must be quickly improvised.

. . .

Over the next year, the Navy will continue to test the feasibility of combine manned and unmanned operations, performing more complex maneuvers. The USS Theodore Roosevelt currently calls the port of Norfolk, Virginia, its home, but it is expected to relocate to San Diego at some point in 2015.

New York City Will Pay $10 Million to Settle Wrongful Conviction Case

By Joaquin Sapien
New York City has agreed to pay $10 million to settle a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by Jabbar Collins, who spent 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

. . .

"I had three goals when I brought this lawsuit," Collins said in a press statement issued today. "One was to expose the illegal practices of District Attorney Hynes and to help drive him from office. The second was to obtain personal vindication and to demonstrate my innocence. The third was to receive compensation that would recognize the enormity of the harm that was done to me and my family and would provide financial security for the rest of my life. I accepted the City's offer because it meant that I had achieved all of my goals."

Collins' victory comes on the heels of several other settlements for high-profile wrongful convictions in New York. Earlier this year, David Ranta was awarded $6.4 million after spending 23 years in prison for a murder he always swore he did not commit. In June, five men wrongly convicted in the infamous Central Park jogger case were awarded $1 million each for every year they spent in prison.

. . .

Last year, Hynes lost his bid for a seventh term as Brooklyn District Attorney after coming under heavy criticism for his handling of wrongful convictions. He is now being investigated by the New York Department of Investigation over allegations that he received advice from a top Brooklyn judge on several sensitive matters, including media coverage of Collins' case.

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:
. . .

But back in the day, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were frequently looked upon as the Lennon-McCartney of their generation, packing Squeeze albums with literate pop gems as timeless as "Take Me I'm Yours," "Goodbye Girl," "Cool for Cats" and their eventual U.S. breakthrough, "Tempted."

Difford recalls the uphill battle they faced in the States.

"When we arrived in America, we turned on the radio and it was 'Baker Street' and REO Speedwagon and Styx and Zeppelin. Not that there's anything wrong with hearing Zeppelin, obviously. But that was the bulk of radio. It did change, though. College radio became huge, and we managed to sort of wing our way through college radio and do lots and lots of U.S. tours."

Reminded that he and his songwriter partner were seen as a lesser-paid version of Lennon-McCartney in those days, Difford responds with brilliant self-effacing British wit that when he heard that kind of talk, "I was thrilled, although I didn't know which one I was."

. . .

"Looking back on it, what does it matter?" Difford says. "A label is a label. For a long while on American radio, it was difficult to say, 'Well, what is Squeeze? They sound like the Beatles. They sound like New Wave. But they're not either of those.' So it was frustrating, I guess, for people who were programming radio stations. We definitely weren't punks, but people sometimes said we were, which I found quite interesting."

. . .

"When you're younger and you're in a band and you have to make a record by September or something, you knuckle down and you make records. In this day and age, it seems to me like there's no urgency because the record industry doesn't exist for a band like Squeeze anymore, so you don't stay up all night thinking, 'I've got to write another song for tomorrow,' because you don't know what you're chasing."

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Frackers are sending sludge to the Mitten State

By Heather Smith
. . .

The article was about some leftover fracking sludge that had been hanging out in Pennsylvania. Back in 2002, the state, concerned that people were dumping radioactive medical waste, equipped all the state’s landfills with radiation detectors. Since then, deliveries of sludge and drill cuttings from the Marcellus Shale had been triggering the alarms several hundred times a year.

While low levels of radiation are common in fracking waste (and in the world at large), the Marcellus Shale does have more radium than your average geological formation. Back in 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) banned wastewater treatment plants from accepting any water used to frack the Marcellus Shale, which the plants routinely did at the time. Months later, the DEQ reported it was still finding elevated radium levels downstream from the plants.

. . .

The sludge, it turned out, was the property of Range Resources, a company that prided itself on “pioneering the Marcellus Shale play” but that was having trouble getting rid of the byproducts. It had also had shipments blocked in West Virginia. The landfill in Michigan, Wayne Disposal, was one of only two landfills in America that could take waste with that level of radioactivity. (The other one is in Grand View, Idaho.)

. . .

Right now, no one in Michigan is exactly sure when the sludge will arrive. If the number of shipments really is in the thousands, pinpointing the moment of precise sludge arrival is kind of irrelevant. After an article published in the Detroit Free Press brought the story to a wider audience, Democrats in the Michigan state senate began circulating a petition asking the governor to ban the sludge.

Magical algae turns sewage into biofuel and Dasani

By Sara Bernard
Making biofuel out of algae has long been a goal of enterprising startups (and even teen prodigies). But the process has been expensive, energy-intensive, and despite all the hype and tax writeoffs, pretty tough to scale up.

. . .

Algae Systems has a pilot plant in Alabama that, it says, can turn a profit making diesel fuel from algae by simultaneously performing three other tasks: making clean water from municipal sewage (which it uses to fertilize the algae), using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and generating valuable credits for advanced biofuels.

. . .

NASA was working on a similar project a few years ago, but this one promises to fund its work through actual wastewater treatment — it’ll transform raw sewage into potable water and charge cities for the service — and through the EPA’s biofuel credits, which force oil companies to prove they’re supporting biofuel production. The plant could also consume pollutants like phosphorus and nitrogen, the two major players in Lake Erie’s toxic algae bloom.
Science and Health
More Parents Nixing Anti-Bleeding Shots for Their Newborns

By Tara Haelle
All babies lack sufficient vitamin K at birth, putting them at risk for severe bleeding in the brain or intestines until they get the vitamin by eating solid foods, typically around six months of age. The vitamin is essential for blood clotting, and a vitamin K injection after birth eliminates this bleeding risk.

A tiny percentage of parents have always declined the shot but the numbers are growing, according to a new study. The research also found that children of these parents are 15 times more likely than others, at 15 months old, to have received none of the vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention“Our finding of a link between vitamin K refusal and vaccine refusal was very concerning,” says senior author Shannon MacDonald, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. “We had expected a correlation between the two but had not expected the association to be so high.” Vitamin K is not a vaccine or related to the manufacturing of vaccines.

. . .

“This group of parents often shares a particular worldview of health that includes a preference for natural health remedies and questions the standard recommended practices of established medical authorities,” the authors wrote. Mothers who refused the shot were more likely to have epidural-free vaginal deliveries, and babies delivered by midwives were eight times less likely to receive vitamin K than babies delivered by doctors. Despite the overall low percentage of refusals, the rate was 14.5 percent among parents who had planned home births and 10.7 percent of parents at birthing centers. “As more children are born in birthing centers and at home, that number will absolutely rise,” Jones says. The preliminary Nashville research showed a similarly high rate among five birthing centers where 28 percent of parents refused the shot.  “Parents who decide not to get the vitamin K injection are often as much the victim as the newborn themselves,” Jones adds, “because the parents are falling prey to misinformation online and [to their] trusted health care professionals, such as a small number of midwives.” Further, mothers who give birth out of the hospital are more likely to exclusively breast-feed, so their babies are already at greater risk for vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Physically fit kids have more white brain matter

By Brooks Hays
The brains of kids who are more aerobically fit feature thicker, more fibrous amounts of white matter -- brain material associated with faster and more efficient nerve activity.

. . .

Because white matter serves neural tracts connecting different parts of the brain -- left and right hemispheres, the frontal and parietal lobes, the cerebral cortex and the brain stem -- denser white matter would suggest a brain that can work faster and more efficiently.

. . .

Though the study did not test cognitive performance, previous studies suggest a link between aerobic fitness and performance at certain cognitive tasks and in academic settings.

The FDA Proposes Roadblocks to Laboratory Diagnostics

By Wendy Chung
. . .

On July 31, the FDA issued a 60-day notice that it planned to issue proposed guidance that would give the agency the authority to regulate clinical laboratory tests developed in certified and accredited clinical laboratories around the country. Laboratory developed tests (LDTs) are best-in-class diagnostics that are developed at individual labs. They are commonly used when there is no FDA-approved test or when a lab makes improvements over an existing kit. LDTs are not sold to other labs or to the public; they are only used by the lab that develops them.

Treating LDTs as medical devices will reduce access to life-saving tests. LDTs are currently regulated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under the authority of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). Since its inception in 1987, CLIA has been very effective. The FDA, on the other hand, has no native expertise in the regulation of lab tests; it will need to create a massive and redundant bureaucracy to oversee these tests now regulated by CMS and through local and state regulations.  

. . .

Under the proposed FDA regulation, tests that now take weeks to develop will take years before they are approved, which will severely compromise current and future improvements in patient care. Requiring FDA approval would result in genomic medicine grinding to a halt, stifling innovation and improvement at the exact time when many patients and families are starting to benefit and when it is now accessible due to policy changes in gene patents and with the decreasing sequencing costs.  Millions of patients who currently depend on genetic testing would be adversely affected.  The solution is not FDA oversight for LDTs but continued CLIA oversight to ensure that clinical testing that is offered has clinical utility and that laboratories performing LDTs maintain high quality of testing.

Could Google Glass Ruin Your Memory?

By Mark Fischetti
. . .

As people spend increasing amounts of time and energy documenting their lives, they are edging closer to a bizarre reality that sprung up several decades ago, when individuals such as Gordon Bell, Steven Mann and others began wearing backpacks full of batteries and crude digital cameras, taking images of whatever was in front of them every five or 10 minutes, all day long. Cyborgs, we called them, obsessed with “life-logging.” But now that a small phone has replaced that gear, it’s easy for all of us to become cyborgs.

. . .

Yes. “I document, therefore I am.” “I post, therefore I am.” We do it because it’s so seductive. I just interviewed a divorced dad who was so excited to be going on a field trip with his daughter. Basically, he spent the beginning of it taking photographs and uploading the photographs to send to people. It wasn’t until an hour into the trip that he realized he hadn’t spoken to his daughter. It was a very moving moment in my interview with him, when he muttered, “I hadn’t said anything to her.” She had started to object; he was actually stopped by her objections. I don’t think this situation is a one-off. We do that to each other quite a bit.

. . .

When people walk down the street and literally don’t look up because what’s on their phone is so much more compelling, I think: poor world. There’s less of an investment in what the city looks like and what the buildings look like and what the other people look like. You’re elsewhere. I think there’s a chance that people will say, “You know, I kind of care what the city looks like.” And we’ll start to be shocked by the studies that show us not paying attention.

Minecraft add-on LearnToMod aims to teach children coding skills

By Stuart Dredge
. . .

US company ThoughtSTEM is preparing to release an add-on called LearnToMod in October, which will teach children how to make their own Minecraft “mods”, altering the game’s features.

. . .

LearnToMod is just the latest example of Minecraft being used for educational purposes. In 2013, Google worked with MinecraftEDU and Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter to launch a mod called qCraft. Its aim was to inspire children’s interest in quantum computing.

. . .

MinecraftEdu is a body created to help schools use Minecraft, including making customised versions of the game for use in the classroom, a library of worlds and activities, and training materials for teachers.

Ferguson Police Will Finally Get the One Device They Really Need

By Alissa Walker
. . .

It seems likely that if the officer who killed Michael Brown had been recording his own actions, some key questions about why and how the unarmed teenager was shot might be answered—or it may not have happened at all. So the announcement that they're finally going to get them is very good news. And they'll be hopefully joined soon by police departments nationwide; citizens and journalists have voiced their support for putting more cameras on police. There's a petition up at signed by over 100,000 people asking the Obama administration to require all law enforcement to wear them.

. . .

Feedback from the field has been mostly positive so far. In the city of Rialto, which is near L.A., citizen complaints against cops dropped from 24 to three, and police reported that use-of-force incidents went from 61 to 25, according to the Wall Street Journal. Similar results were found in an eight-month study in Mesa, Arizona, where 50 cops wearing cameras received eight citizen complaints and the 50 without received 23 complaints. LAPD Sgt. Dan Gomez described a situation to the Daily News where just the act of seeing an officer wearing a camera seemed to immediately calm an antagonistic person. "All of a sudden, the whole thing started to de-escalate," he said. "They were able to deal with whatever the situation was, and no additional enforcement action was needed."

. . .

When virtually every American is carrying a device they can use to capture the every move of law enforcement and upload it immediately to Twitter, this small piece of technology will allow cities to tell both sides of the story on our streets. Money shouldn't be a barrier to the public good, and in this case it doesn't have to be. Let's help our police do it in a way that's as easy as possible. Ferguson is as good a place as any to start.

The Irish island that children learn to leave

By John  Murphy
. . .

Since the financial crash of 2008, when Ireland itself effectively went into receivership and had to have a international bailout, 200,000 Irish people have left their country in search of work according to estimates based on figures from Ireland's Central Statistics Office. Others have had to move to cities such as Dublin and Cork to get jobs.

Last year 250 people a day, most in their 20s and 30s, packed their bags and left Ireland - many are highly educated. It is the highest emigration rate of any country in the European Union.

The result has been a stripping out of rural communities, like those on Achill Island, about an hour's drive from Ballina, in the far west of Mayo. Achill is Ireland's largest island, linked to the mainland by a short bridge. Under it, the tide scrambles in and out every few hours.

. . .

From the vantage point of one of the local primary schools on Achill, The Valley National School, the prospect of the local population growing again looks like a distant one.

The school, which has been celebrating its centenary this year, now has just 15 pupils. "In September we'll go down to 12 and we'll become a single teacher school," the headmaster says Denis Randle.

Telangana: New India state holds controversial survey

By (BBC)
A controversial door-to-door survey is being carried out in India's newest state of Telangana to identify who qualifies for state welfare schemes.

. . .

But critics say the exercise is ethnic profiling and will be used against those who are not native to Telangana.

. . .

The move followed prolonged protests by residents of Telangana, who felt the region had long been neglected.

Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, will form the joint capital of the two states for the next 10 years after which it will become part of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will have to develop its own capital.

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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