Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

President Elect Barack Obama will resign his Senate seat effective Sunday The following email landed in my inbox about 2:30 central: “It has been one of the highest honors and privileges of my life to have served the people of Illinois in the United States Senate. In a state that represents the crossroads of a nation, I have met so many men and women who’ve taken different journeys, but hold common hopes for their children’s future. It is these Illinois families and their stories that will stay with me as I leave the United States Senate and begin the hard task of fulfilling the simple hopes and common dreams of all Americans as our nation’s next President,” said President-elect Barack Obama.

Stevens' pollster calls it for Begich Uncle Ted's survival looks highly unlikely. David Dittman, an Alaska-based GOP pollster who worked for Stevens during the primary, believes Begich has it sewn up. "I don't think Stevens can come back," Dittman said, noting that he thinks the remaining trove of uncounted ballots will help Begich "increase his lead." But he also doesn't think Stevens will concede defeat until every last vote is counted. Dittman believes early and absentee ballots, which comprise the approximately 40,000 votes left to count, will likely reflect Begichs' overall advantage so far among those who took advantage of either process. Heavy early voting occurred in the period that directly followed Stevens' conviction on seven felony counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms.

And that kinda makes this a moot point Stevens has spent the last few days angling to keep his seat while he appeals his conviction, in the face of angry and embarrassed republicans who are calling for him to be expelled from the Senate, screw the crooked sonofabitch and his appeal. Now that it looks like he's lost his seat...never mind.

Coleman abandons NRSC bid Senator Norm Coleman will not be the next chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a position he has long coveted, even if he survives the recount and hangs on to his seat. But wait! There's more! With Coleman out of the running, the position is likely to go to John Cornyn of Texas, is also the Republican chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics - and Coleman has an ethics violation breathing down his neck. Two lawsuits -- one in Texas the other in Delaware -- allege that the Senator and his wife took $75,000 in payments from a GOP benefactor that they failed to report on their personal financial disclosure form.

This is NOT how you make friends and influence people As my friend Steve put it - the GOP Governors NOT named Sarah Palin are right pissed about the way the presser unfolded this afternoon. They showed up under the pretext of party unity, and ended up standing there mute in silent support of Sarah. Another Republican governor eyeing a presidential run in 2012 told CNN the event was “odd” and “weird,” and said it “unfortunately sent a message that she was the de facto leader of the party." Good luck getting their support the next time she throws her tiara in the ring.

Not that there is a groundswell of demand for her on the national stage Only 45% of Americans would like to see her become a major national political figure for many years to come, while a slight majority - 52% - say they would not. These sentiments are sharply divided along partisan political lines, but everyone is a Democrat these days, so...

I've heard worse ideas than Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. I would prefer that she become the Senate Majority Leader, because she would run a tight ship and get stuff done, and republican obstruction would be a thing of the past. But she also has tremendous international credibility, especially on women's issues, so SoS would be a good fit, too.

Sci-Fi fans rejoice!!! Astronomers at the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics have published the first-ever direct images of planets outside of our solar system in the current issue of the journal Science. The pictures include a visible-light snapshot of a single-planet system and an infrared picture of a multiple-planet system. I dunno about you, but I've been waiting for this for years. I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl at the possibilities!

That's odd--we have a leader who is cut off from the day to day functions of our government as well: The CIA says Osama Bin Laden is isolated from the day-to-day operations of al-Qaeda, but that the organisation is still the greatest threat to the US. CIA director Michael Hayden said the Saudi militant was probably hiding in the tribal area of north-west Pakistan. The quickest way to find yourself joining the group of ex-DCIs out there before you're ready is to go around pronouncing things that everyone already knows.

Now that's poverty: A 200-year-old church building has disappeared from a village in central Russia, officials from the Russian Orthodox Church say. The building had stood near the village of Komarovo since 1809. It was intact in July but some time in early October thieves made off with it brick by brick, they said. Local prosecutors had been informed and an investigation was under way, a spokesman for the local Russian Orthodox Church said. The disappearance of the Church of the Resurrection, some 300 km (186 miles) north-east of Moscow, was not immediately noticed.

Chile tries to come to terms with its failures regarding the spread of HIV: Chile's public health service may have failed to tell 512 people they had tested positive for HIV, which can lead to Aids, the health minister has said. The government is now trying to locate the patients and inform them of their condition, said Alvaro Erazo. He disclosed the numbers to lawmakers amid an Aids scandal which forced his predecessor to resign last month. Maria Soledad Barria quit after it was found a hospital had not told dozens of patients they were HIV-positive.

Really? Songbirds learn to sing from a hymn sheet in their head, according to a new study. Swiss researchers have identified a region of the Zebra Finch brain which they believe has an internal recording of how the birds ought to be singing. A separate region seems to enable the birds to identify mistakes in their songs, they wrote in Nature journal. The research could also shed light on how humans learn to speak, according to scientists from Zurich University.

Human error to blame for crash near Fallujah: A cargo plane chartered by FedEx crashed Thursday west of Baghdad after reporting a malfunction, the U.S. military said. It ruled out hostile fire and said the crew was presumed dead. The Russian-made An-12 plane with up to seven crew members - none of them American - was flying from al-Asad air base to Baghdad International Airport when it lost radio contact and crashed around 11:35 a.m., the military said. The crash happened south of Fallujah, where insurgents once held sway. The military said mechanical failure or pilot error was the likely cause, but declined to elaborate. The military also secured the crash site.

Weird: Powerful signals from a secret U.S.-Australian navy communications base could have caused a Qantas Airbus jet to suddenly dive last month, injuring scores of passengers, Australia's air safety agency said on Friday. But the agency said it was more likely the accident was caused by a glitch in an air data inertial reference unit, which feeds flight information to the Qantas aircraft's main computer. The Airbus, with 303 passengers and 10 crew, was cruising at 37,000 feet (11,200m) from Singapore to Perth on October 7 when it suddenly gained altitude, then plummeted more than 1,000 feet in little over a minute. In a preliminary report into the incident, Australia's Transport Safety Bureau said investigators were looking at the possibility the aircraft's flight computers were affected by a strong burst of electromagnetic interference. "Possible external sources of electromagnetic interference are being explored and assessed, including from the Harold E. Holt very low frequency transmitter near Exmouth, Western Australia," bureau capability director Kerryn Macaulay said. However, Macaulay said it was more likely the mishap was caused by something else, including an electronic device or laptop computer, as the aircraft was 200kms (124 miles) away from the naval base when the nosedive occurred. She said the bureau hoped to establish whether the navy base was transmitting signals at the time of the accident. Many people living near Exmouth have blamed the top-secret naval base, which transmits signals to U.S. and Australian navy ships, including nuclear submarines, in the Pacific and Indian oceans.