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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, April 01, 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.

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This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: Big Country by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .

Please feel free to browse and add your own links, content or thoughts in the Comments section.

Any timestamps shown are relative to each publication.

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Top News
Deforestation of sandy soils a greater climate threat

By (ScienceDaily)
Deforestation may have far greater consequences for climate change in some soils than in others, according to new research led by Yale University scientists -- a finding that could provide critical insights into which ecosystems must be managed with extra care because they are vulnerable to biodiversity loss and which ecosystems are more resilient to widespread tree removal.

. . .

According to the researchers, particles in fine, clay-like soil seem to have a larger surface area to bind nutrients and water. This capacity might buffer soil microbes against the disturbance of forest removal, they said. In contrast, sandy soils have larger particles with less surface area, retaining fewer nutrients and less organic matter.

"If you disrupt the community in a sandy soil, all of the nutrients the microbes rely on for food are leached away: they're lost into the atmosphere, lost into rivers, lost through rain," Crowther said. "But in clay-like soil, you can cut down the forest and the nutrients remain trapped tightly in the muddy clay."

. . .

"The effects are consistent, no matter how long ago deforestation happened," Crowther said. "In a clay soil, you cut down the forest and the nutrients are retained for long periods of time and the community doesn't change. Whereas in a sandy soil, you cut down a forest and the community changes dramatically within only a couple of years."

Things are about to get much worse for thousands of refugees in Myanmar

By (Thomson Reuters via globalpost.com)
With food stocks dwindling and prices rising by the hour in his camp for displaced Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state, Hla Maung decided to ask a friend in the neighboring village for food.

A bag of rice that cost 15,000 kyats (about $15) in the camp on Saturday morning went for 25,000 kyats later that day, he said on his way to the home of his friend, a Rohingya fortunate enough not to have lost his house or fishing boats during outbursts of sectarian violence that periodically rock this western state on the Bay of Bengal.

The situation is about to get dramatically worse for Hla Maung and tens of thousands of others dependent on food and water rations, said humanitarian workers evacuated after recent riots in the state capital, Sittwe. At least 20,000 people in displacement camps around Sittwe will run out of drinking water within 10 days, while food stocks will run out within two weeks, imperiling thousands more.

. . .

"In the medium to long term, we really need safety and secure premises for NGOs," he said. "The government needs to ensure the safety and security of both international and national staff."

Telegraph and Mail concede on climate change

By Adam Vaughan
. . .

Editors at the Telegraph told the science and technology committee that "we believe that the climate is changing, that the reason for that change includes human activity, but that human ingenuity and adaptability should not be ignored in favour of economically damaging prescriptions." But they railed at being too frequently confronted with "impenetrable gobbledygook."

The paper was until last month home to blogger James Delingpole, who has also written for the Daily Mail, under headlines such as "The crazy climate change obsession that's made the Met Office a menace", "95 per cent of intelligent people know the new IPCC report is utter drivel", and "Climate Change: there just aren't enough bullets." Both papers regularly quote representatives of the Global Warming Policy Foundation – the climate sceptic thinktank setup by Lord Lawson in 2009 – on their opinion on climate science.

. . .

Andrew Miller MP, the committee's chair said: “All of the serious news outlets we spoke to were unanimous in accepting the scientific evidence that human activity is causing climate change. This came as a surprise to us because some papers regularly give a platform to lobby groups or indeed conspiracy theorists – many not even qualified scientists – who pooh-pooh the evidence and attack UK climate scientists."

Politicians also gave evidence to the committee, with climate minister, Greg Barker, attacking the BBC for giving too much prominence to climate sceptics. "I think we need the BBC to look very hard, particularly at whether or not they are getting the balance right. I don't think they are," he told the MPs.

First Fukushima evacuees return to exclusion-zone homes

By (BBC)
The first group of Fukushima evacuees have returned to their homes, three years after the disaster at the nuclear power plant.

. . .

The authorities say radiation levels in the area are low enough for habitation - but many residents remain hesitant.

Some 80,000 people were evacuated after the nuclear crisis at the plant.

. . .

"Many of our friends and neighbours won't come back," Kimiko Koyama, 69, told Reuters news agency. "There are no jobs. It's inconvenient and young people are scared of radiation."

. . .

It is not clear when the remaining evacuees will be allowed to return home, if ever. Large-scale decontamination work is going on, but some areas are likely to be too dangerous for habitation for years.

International
Palestinian president threatens to go to UN

By (Al Jazeera)
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has signed a request to join several UN agencies in a move that could derail a US push to revive faltering peace talks with Israel.

"The Palestinian leadership has unanimously approved a decision to seek membership of 15 UN agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention," Abbas said on television on Tuesday after signing the demand during a meeting at his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank.

. . .

The Palestinians agreed to refrain from seeking membership of international bodies and from pursuing legal action against Israel during the nine months of talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry launched in July.

In return, Israel agreed to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners.

But Israel has refused to release the final batch of 26 prisoners, using it as a bargaining chip to try and extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

Nigeria Islamic court acquits men of gay sex charge

By (BBC)
An Islamic court in northern Nigeria has acquitted two men accused of having gay sex and belonging to a homosexual club.

There was a lack of evidence to convict the young men, the judge ruled.

. . .

Most states in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria have adopted Islamic law, known as Sharia, since the end of military rule in 1999.

Nigeria is a deeply conservative country, where the majority of people - Christian and Muslim - are opposed to homosexuality.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Leaders of Teaching Hospitals Have Close Ties to Drug Companies, Study Shows

By Charles Ornstein
. . .

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center examined the boards of the 50 largest drug companies by global sales (excluding three companies that were not publicly traded). The researchers found that 40 percent — 19 companies — had at least one board member who also held a leadership role at an academic medical center. Sixteen of the 17 companies based in the United States had at least one. Several had more than one.

. . .

Beginning this fall, under a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, all pharmaceutical and medical device companies will have to publicly report payments to physicians. The first report is expected to be released in September and will cover payments made from August to December 2013.

. . .

 “Given the magnitude of competing priorities between academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies, dual leadership roles cannot simply be managed by internal disclosure,” the authors conclude. “These relationships present potentially far-reaching consequences beyond those created when individual physicians consult with industry or receive gifts.”

No, Our Oil and Gas Production Did Not Give Us an Advantage During the Crimea Crisis

By Michael Klare
Of all the preposterous, irresponsible headlines that have appeared on the front page of the New York Timesin recent years, few have exceeded the inanity of this one from early March: "US Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin." The article by normally reliable reporters Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger suggested that, by sending our surplus natural gas to Europe and Ukraine in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the United States could help reduce the region's heavy reliance on Russian gas and thereby stiffen its resistance to Vladimir Putin's aggressive behavior.

Forget that the United States currently lacks a capacity to export LNG to Europe, and will not be able to do so on a significant scale until the 2020s. Forget that Ukraine lacks any LNG receiving facilities and is unlikely to acquire any, as its only coastline is on the Black Sea, in areas dominated by Russian speakers with loyalties to Moscow. Forget as well that any future US exports will be funneled into the international marketplace, and so will favorsales to Asia where gas prices are 50% higher than in Europe. Just focus on the article's central reportorial flaw: it fails to identify a single reason why future American LNG exports (which could wind up anywhere) would have any influence whatsoever on the Russian president's behavior.

The only way to understand the strangeness of this is to assume that the
editors of the Times, like senior politicians in both parties, have become so intoxicated by the idea of an American surge in oil and gas production that they have lost their senses.

. . .

For what might be thought of as the Big Energy equivalent of the 1%, the addiction to fossils fuels is derived from the thrill of riches and power—something that is far more difficult to resist or deconstruct. Oil is the world's most lucrative commodity on the planet, and a source of great wealth and influence for ruling groups in the countries that produce it, notably Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. The leaders of these "petro-states" may not always benefit personally from the accumulation of oil revenues, but they certainly recognize that their capacity to govern, or even remain in power, rests on their responsiveness to entrenched energy interests and their skill in deploying the nation's energy resources for political and strategic advantage. This is just as true for Barack Obama, who has championed the energy industry's drive to increase domestic oil and gas output, as it is for Vladimir Putin, who has sought to boost Russia's international clout through increased fossil fuel exports.

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:
Béla Fleck is a master of the banjo, taking it far beyond the limits of bluegrass and into the genres of jazz, fusion, pop, classical, and traditional African music, to name a few. He’s an eleven-time Grammy winner who has been nominated 27 times in more categories than any other artist in history. His popular jazz-fusion quartet, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, has just released its 11th album, Rocket Science, which reunites the original lineup of musicians, each a virtuoso in his own right. Bassist Victor Wooten has been named Bass Player Magazine’s “Bassist of the Year” three times and hailed as the most influential bassist since Jaco Pastorius. His brother, percussionist Roy “Futureman” Wooten, plays an original instrument he calls the Synthaxe Drumitar, replicating an entire drum kit with his fingers in real-time. Howard Levy, who rejoins the group after an absence of nearly 20 years, is known as the world’s most advanced diatonic harmonica player. Together, they cross genres and boundaries to create an unimistakable sound that is at once both alien and familiar. . .

stated: . . . The Flecktones’ sound emanates pure joy that can’t be contained or categorized. Did you consciously set out to change expectations of the banjo or was that a side effect or your eclectic tastes?

BÉLA FLECK: I think it was both! I wanted to impress myself with taking the banjo seriously and getting into some unknown areas, but also I was fascinated by all these different types of music, and excited by the idea of playing them. I am very happy that our ‘crazy dream’ music can lead to joy for so many people besides ourselves.

stated: “Crazy dream music” is a great way to describe it. Does that description have any significance?

BÉLA FLECK: There is a song by Paul Brady called “Crazy Dreams” that I have always loved. Following those dreams is the underlying structure of our band—every one of us is living an unlikely but very satisfying musical life.

Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Hawaii might legalize hemp — for environmental reasons, of course

By
With 20-some states already on the legal-cannabis train, no wonder Hawaii wants to join in. Except that instead of its more popular cousin, marijuana, whom EVERYBODY wants to sit next to at lunch, Hawaii is in the process of legalizing hemp. (Unfortunately, if you put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, you’ll be sorely disappointed.)

. . .
. . .

[H]emp is a superior phytoremediator because it grows quickly and can extract toxins without the need to remove any of the contaminated topsoil. Other factors that make hemp a superior phytoremediator are its ability to grow unaffected by the toxins it accumulates, its fast rate of absorption, and its ability to bind compound contaminants from the air and the soil.The bill also authorizes researchers at the University of Hawaii to start a hemp biofuel pilot program. As the state currently has to import gobs of coal and oil, hemp could help reduce Hawaii’s reliance on dirty fuel (which currently supplies almost 90 percent of its electricity).

ExxonMobil: Carbon caps? Fat chance. We’ll just keep on drilling.

By Ben Adler
. . . Exxon released a report to shareholders on Monday and — much to the activists’ dismay — denied that it has a problem. Rather than discussing what would happen to it if governments force the necessary 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a 1990 baseline, Exxon argues that it won’t happen. So the company will be just fine, thanks.

“Our analysis and those of independent agencies confirms our long-standing view that all viable energy sources will be essential to meet increasing demand growth that accompanies expanding economies and rising living standards,” said William Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president of corporate strategic planning, upon releasing the report. “All of ExxonMobil’s current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial future industry investments, to address global energy needs.”

. . .

Exxon’s confidence that no one will force it to stop polluting is also a challenge to politicians. “Exxon put all their cards on the table,” says Jamie Henn, spokesperson for 350.org. “They said, ‘We think governments won’t meet the 80 percent reduction goal, and we’re just gonna burn all the oil and gas we want.’ One of the most interesting things to watch is how the Obama admin will react. Exxon just called them a bunch of liars. They said, ‘You’re never you’re going to meet your 80 percent targets. You’re never going to stand up and regulate us.’”

Unfortunately, as Henn points out, Exxon may be right. The Obama administration continues to encourage extraction of fossil fuels, even as it tries to limit carbon emissions from burning them. And if the U.S. isn’t taking serious action to fight climate change, most other countries won’t either. That’s why the most important fight over climate change won’t be in Exxon’s boardroom, it will be on Capitol Hill.

Science and Health
Similarities between HIV/AIDS, opioid addiction epidemics

By (ScienceDaily)
There are important parallels between the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the current epidemic of opioid addiction -- ones that could trigger a significant shift in opioid addiction prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

. . .

Affecting 40 million Americans, or 15.9 percent of the population, addiction to drugs, alcohol and tobacco has a greater public impact than heart conditions, diabetes or cancer. Opioid use disorders are the fastest-growing type of drug problem. According to researchers, much of the current exposure to opioids is linked to the explosion of widely available, potent prescription painkillers that have an identical effect in the brain as heroin. Although many benefit from substantial pain relief and improved quality of life, prescription opioids now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. Researchers note that while prevalent, addiction has been marginalized as a social problem setting it apart from other diseases, with barriers to treatment ranging from stringent criteria for entry to limited availability of treatment.

. . .

Researchers described the need for a comprehensive prevention, diagnosis and treatment campaign to fight overdose, along with standard-of-care treatment models based on existing evidence. They propose more education for the medical community and that educational resources for addiction in medical training be on par with that of other chronic diseases. Also, as with HIV/AIDS, patients suffering from addiction should be involved in the design and implementation of programs and products designed to serve them.

Simple test accurately rules out heart attack in ER

By (UPI)
Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden has found a simple test that accurately rules out a heart attack or the risk of heart attack for patients in the ER with chest pain.

The blood test paired with a normal electrocardiogram of the heartbeat was 99 percent accurate in determining which patients could be safely sent home without the hassle and expense of being admitted to the hospital.

High levels of a stress hormone linked to risk taking in those who stay up late

By Alex Cukan
“Night owls, both males and females, are more likely to be single or in short-term romantic relationships versus long-term relationships, when compared to early birds,” Maestripieri said in a statement. “In addition, male night owls reported twice as many sexual partners than male early birds.”

. . .

The findings suggests high cortisol levels may be one of the biological mechanisms explaining higher risk-taking in night owls.

The link between the night-owl tendency and risky behavior could have roots in evolutionary strategies for finding mates, Maestripieri said.

“From an evolutionary perspective, it has been suggested that the night-owl trait may have evolved to facilitate short-term mating, that is, sexual interactions that occur outside of committed, monogamous relationships,” Maestripieri said. “It is possible that, earlier in our evolutionary history, being active in the evening hours increased the opportunities to engage in social and mating activities, when adults were less burdened by work or child-rearing."
Stem cell scientist 'guilty of misconduct'

By (BBC)
An investigation into a supposedly groundbreaking stem cell study in Japan has found the lead researcher guilty of misconduct.

The Riken Centre panel said Dr Haruko Obokata fabricated her work in an intentionally misleading fashion.

. . .

She stands by her claim to be able to produce stem cells using an acid bath or mechanical stress.

. . .

But experts have been questioning Dr Obokata's findings and other research groups have failed to reproduce her results.

Thrigby Hall nesting storks may end 600-year wait

By (BBC)
A pair of white storks nesting in Norfolk could be the first in the UK to breed from a traditional nest for nearly 600 years.

. . .

The last record of storks breeding in Britain was at St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, in 1416.

. . .

"We've kept them for a number of years but they have been pinion birds [flight feathers on one wing have been removed} and have occasionally bred on the ground.

"But to have them free-flying and nesting as they would do in the wild is very rare."

Technology
Watch Every Cyber Attack in the World in Real Time

By Adam Clark Estes
Kasperkspy Labs recently launched a beautifully terrifying interactive map that shows online threats arounds the world in real time. In practice, it's a global visualization of cyber attacks that, Kaspersky hopes, will motivate you to buy their security software. But it's still a hell of a spectacle.

The interactive is also informative. The data displayed on this War Games-style map all comes from Kaspersky's malware monitoring software, which could skew things a bit. The United States, for instance, is an especially high risk area—it's the fourth most popular target for malware—but Russia is the most infected country. Russia also happens to be Kaspersky's home country. The different colored lines that connect attackers and victims represent different kinds of attacks, a feature that should help you decide how to protect yourself.

3D-food printer offers the prospect of hamburgers printed to go

By Alex Hern
. . .

The Foodini is described by its manufacturers as "the first 3D-food printer to print all types of real, fresh, nutritious foods, from savory to sweet". They've already made a prototype, and are trying to raise $100,000 to begin a full production run.
The initial design of the Foodini (left) and a pre-production model. Photograph: Kickstarter

The printer works by taking fresh ingredients, prepared for printing by cooking and blending, and extruding them through a nozzle on to a a glass plate. It might not sound particularly appetising, but with the right ingredients, the printer could save time and effort, or make intricate designs that would be impossible to replicate by hand. Examples include pumpkin gnocchi, christmas-tree-shaped cookies, and elaborate, edible vessels for holding dips or nibbles.

And despite 3D-printer firm Maker warning last year that "you will not be able to, for example, scan a hamburger and then eat the digital design," Foodini does indeed promise to allow users to print hamburgers — although they still require cooking the old-fashioned way.

Cultural
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta apologizes for building $2M mansion

By (UPI)
. . .

Gregory said in an article Monday in a Catholic newspaper, the Georgia Bulletin, that the "world and church have changed." He said that if church bodies decide it is appropriate he will sell the mansion in Atlanta's upmarket Buckhead neighborhood.

“I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” Gregory wrote.

. . .

A few days ago, Francis accepted the resignation of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst as bishop of Limburg. He had been nicknamed the "bishop of bling" in Germany because of his lavish spending.

Rob Ford and Canada's neoliberal agenda

By Cory Doctorow
If you've shaken your head in wonder that Canadians -- gentle, sensible Canadians -- had elected a drug-addicted, violent, lying buffoon to run its largest city, this excellent account of the rise of the Canadian neoliberal right by historian Paul Cohen is required reading. Cohen draws on disparate threads from Preston Manning to Mike Harris and connects them to Stephen Harper, Rob Ford, and the rise of a nasty, ugly Made-in-Canada version of Thatcherism, Reaganism, and modern neoliberalism.
Once the Conservatives took the full measure of Ford’s electoral appeal in a city that has long been a Liberal party fortress, they happily plugged him into their long-term Ontario strategy. Here was a genuine, Canadian-grown Tea Party insurgency whose flames the Conservative party could fan and whose power its leaders thought they could harness. Though Ford bankrolled his campaign with loans from his family, the big Conservative donors who had supported his principal opponent switched horses, paying off Ford’s $600,000 in campaign debt.

. . .

 In retrospect, it’s nothing short of astonishing just how much dysfunction the Canadian right was willing to put up with in order to stand by its man in Toronto. Months after news emerged that a video of the mayor smoking crack might exist, Harper was still happy to engineer photo ops with Ford and publicly support the mayor’s reelection campaign. As recently as last October, a leading corporate lawyer and Conservative fundraiser reaffirmed his support for the embattled Ford, declaring that his “economic record is spectacular.” It was only when police confirmed the existence of the crack video that the same right-wing political formations, leaders, and media outlets who had jumped on Ford’s bandwagon and made him their political creature scrambled for the exits.

Dmitry Kiselev: Russia's chief spin doctor

By Stephen Ennis
Russian state TV presenter Dmitry Kiselev has a reputation for extravagant tirades demonising the West, stigmatising homosexuals and portraying Ukraine as a country overrun by violent fascists.

. . .

At the beginning of March, he had lambasted Ukraine as a country overrun by "bandits", where democracy was "on its knees". He sneered at the weakness of the Ukrainian army and airily dismissed the idea of Western sanctions. He also said the fate of Crimea was a "personal matter" for each and every Russian citizen.

. . .

Mr Kiselev is a key part of Mr Putin's media operation. Apart from his role as TV anchor, he was recently appointed to head the new Russia Today news agency, whose mission is to further beef up the Kremlin's media presence around the world.

. . .

The Ukrainian authorities have now ordered all cable operators to suspend broadcasts of Rossiya 1 and three of Russia's other state-controlled channels. Russian TV has been widely watched in Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine, and now dominates the airwaves in Crimea.

. . .

But at home he appears to be riding high. A recent poll by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) named him as Russia's second most respected and authoritative journalist. Another FOM poll found that more than 50% of respondents thought it acceptable to "distort information" in the interests of the state.

Frankie Knuckles: House pioneer dies aged 59

By (BBC)
. . .

Born in the Bronx, Frankie Warren Knuckles Jr learned his craft in New York City, where he was mentored by club DJ Larry Levan.

"We would spend entire afternoons working up ideas on how to present a record so that people would hear it in a new way and fall in love with it," Knuckles later recalled. "To us it was an art form."

. . .

He moved to Chicago in the 1970s, just as disco was dying out, and pioneered a style of extending soul and R&B records by adding drum machine loops.

. . .

He made his name at The Warehouse, a club in northern Chicago, predominantly patronised by gay men from the black and Latin-American communities.

. . .

"So, when dance parties and regional DJs began popping up on the South Side of the city, to attract the same kind of audience that I had at The Warehouse.... they would advertise that they played 'House Music'."

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