Tuesday, July 20, 2010

W.Va. gov will run to fill Byrd's US Senate seat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin says he will run for the U.S. Senate to fill the late Robert C. Byrd's unexpired term.

Manchin's announcement Tuesday ended speculation about whether the popular Democratic governor would forgo the last years of his second term for a chance to serve the last two-plus years of Byrd's term.

The governor's announcement came Tuesday after he and legislative leaders resolved their differences over the succession process.

The legislation calls for an Aug. 28 primary and Nov. 2 general election for the seat.

The winner of that election would take over from Carte Goodwin, Manchin's temporary appointee to the seat. The 36-year-old former chief counsel takes his oath of office Tuesday.

Update: Daily Caller exposes JournoList plot to defuse Rev. Jeremiah Wright stories during the 2008 campaign

Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Read more from The Daily Caller

Here is a sample …

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

SideBear: When the left is in trouble they always play the “Race Card.”

WaPo Reveals “Top Secret America”: How Post-9/11 System Is Not Working

by Meenal Vamburkar

Today, the Washington Post unveiled Top Secret America — the culmination of a two-year investigation into the United States’ post-9/11 intelligence. Referring to it as a fourth branch of government, the Post reveals some interesting findings about the “hidden world, growing beyond control.”

The report, led by reporters Dana Priest and William H. Arkin, gets right to the point at the very beginning:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

The investigation’s conclusion is clear: the effectiveness of this massive national security buildup cannot be determined. The whole network is simply too large and complex. How large? Here are a few of the figures:

Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

Yes, intelligence operations are inherently secretive. But Priest and Arkin explain why this particular network is dangerous, and point out its inefficiences:

Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste.
Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.

[emphasis ours]

Furthermore, many people involved in the system have concerns:

“There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that – not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense – is a challenge,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.

“I’m not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities,” he said in an interview. “The complexity of this system defies description.”

The result, he added, is that it’s impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities. “Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste,” Vines said. “We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe.”

That’s right. After all the money and resources spent on creating such a complex network, even those involved in its work cannot determine whether it is keeping Americans any safer (which is, of course, the main objective of it all).

The entire report is compiled into a package complete with an introductory video, articles, maps and other interactive graphics. It is massive, and the Post deserves kudos for devoting more than a dozen journalists and two years to such a relevant project — especially at a time when many news organizations are cutting back on investigative reporting.

Indeed, the project has gotten much applause, with some saying that this is the kind of work that will save newspapers. Some, however, like Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Weekly Standard, disagree, saying “There is nothing top secret about “Top Secret America” (at least in its first installment). In this respect it is a case of false—and very smart—advertising.”

Faced with the obvious restrictions of classified intelligence, it is not surprising that the report doesn’t drop any bombshells. But to delve through such a large volume of information, conduct so many interviews, and compile it all into an online project in which every data point “is substantiated by at least two public records” is a feat, to say the least. More importantly, it brings an important issue to the public’s attention. Awareness is the first step.

Win for Women's Health: New Gel Significantly Cuts Risk of HIV and Herpes Transmission!

In a huge win for women's health, a new study published today found that a gel applied by women before and after sex slashed the chance of acquiring the AIDS virus by 39% and the genital herpes virus by 51%.

From Akimbo, the blog of the International Women's Health Coalition:

The Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) has announced that a microbicide it has been testing has shown to be 39% effective in prevention the transmission of HIV to female receptive partners. The microbicide gel contains the drug tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug used widely in the treatment of HIV, and is designed to be used vaginally both before and after penile-vaginal penetration.

Woh. This is a huge deal because of how few woman-controlled methods of HIV prevention really exist: prior to this most recent development, female condoms were really our only option. Here on Feministing, we've posted before about some of the awesome attributes of the female condom, as well as some of its drawbacks. But no matter your views of that particular method, I think we can all agree that it's pretty amazing to have more alternatives for safer sex.

Though this gel is obviously not yet something that could be used by itself to afford total protection, (at 39% and 51% effective against HIV and herpes, respectively, it's hardly a sure thing), its current success is very promising and bodes well for future versions of the technology. The development of an even more successful microbicide gel could mean that further down the line, women could have the option to protect themselves from HIV without needing a barrier method at all, and thus without having to negotiate condom usage with a partner. This is all kinds of awesome for all kinds of different reasons, one being that a major factor in the recent feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been that too often, violence, coercion, economic dependency, and other factors make it difficult to for women to negotiate condom use on their own terms. Just another reason why I'm psyched about this new technology.

Check out the full study in Science magazine here. Read more about what UNAIDS and the WHO think about this in their joint release here.

Glenn Beck has Macular Dystrophy

Glenn Beck has macular dystrophy. Glenn Beck says macular dystrophy could leave him blind in one year. The revelation came by Beck in front of 6000 fans at the Salt Lake City stop of his AMerican Revival Tour.

The Fox News host told the crowd: “A couple of weeks ago I went to the doctor because of my eyes, I can’t focus my eyes…he did all kinds of tests and he said, ‘you have macular dystrophy …you could go blind in the next year. Or, you might not.’ “

He joked “I said, did you just charge me a thousand dollars for knowing what I knew my whole life?”

Beck used the moment to slam Obama’s health care plans.”I went to the best doctor I could find, while I could still go to the best doctor I can find.”

He joked further “I thought to myself in that time, ‘I’m too darn lazy to learn Braille.’” “What is macular dystrophy? Is that that Jerry Lewis thing telethon that he does? Because I should have given more.”

Beck got choked up when he said how much he loved to read. “I truly came to a place that is the greatest blessing. Lord, if you need my eyes, they’re yours. They were yours the whole time anyway. Thank you for letting me see as long as I have. That’s a blessing.”

Apple to report first iPad quarterly sales

SEATTLE — Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, Macintosh computers and other consumer electronics, is scheduled to report its fiscal third-quarter results Tuesday after the stock market closes.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Remember the iPad? While all the buzz in recent weeks has been about the iPhone 4, the newest smart phone from Apple was only in stores for a few days before the fiscal quarter ended.

The quarter will, however, be the first to reflect sales of Apple's tablet computer. The iPad, which launched in early April, is the company's first venture into an entirely new product category since it introduced the original iPhone in 2007.

The iPad is more than a smart phone, but it's not quite a laptop. When the device launched, analysts wondered whether it would keep selling after all the early adopters had one. The open question: what, exactly, people would do with the thing.

Several analysts boosted their expectations for iPad unit sales in the quarter, including Shaw Wu, of Kaufman Bros., raised his forecast to 3.5 million iPads from 3.3 million.

Analysts will also be looking for signs that the iPad is luring shoppers who might have bought one of Apple's other products — a MacBook laptop or an iPod Touch, which is like an iPhone but without the phone.

WHY IT MATTERS: Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world at building products consumers don't yet know they want and turning them into blockbusters. IPad sales will be an early referendum on whether Apple's still got its mojo.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Apple to say it earned $3.11 per share in the quarter on $14.7 billion in revenue.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: In the fiscal third quarter of 2009, Apple earned $1.35 per share on $8.3 billion in revenue.

Video: BREAKING NEWS Politics News Economy Jobs President Obama Wants to Extend Unemployment Benefits

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