As my colleague Laura Rozen just reported on The Cable, Jeh Johnson is Obama's pick for DoD general counsel. It's a fantastic choice. I worked for Jeh when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the New York City Bar Association, and found him to be nothing less than brilliant, incredibly fair, and an all-around nice guy.
Johnson brings a long resume to the job. He spent three years as federal prosecutor, was general counsel for the Air Force under Clinton, and was the first black partner at New York firm Paul, Weiss. He was also special counsel to John Kerry's campaign in 2004 and served as an advisor and fundraiser to Obama from beginning of Obama's run.
Johnson "is an exceptional legal mind," says one former Pentagon intelligence official in an e-mail. Congrats to Johnson. This is a great pick from the transition team in a week that could use a few more.
Richard Dawkins -- famed evolutionary biologist, bestselling atheist, and delightful interviewee -- has launched a new campaign in Britain to get atheists to "come out." All over central London, the tube, and on the sides of buses will be the following slogan:
There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life"
Don't you feel better already?
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
In a hush-hush deal, the British government just sold its last shares in the country's nuclear weapons plant to a U.S. company. California-based Jacobs Engineering Group paid an undisclosed amount for the government's one-third stake in the only plant in the UK that manufactures nuclear weapons, including Trident warheads. Lockheed Martin owns another third of the plant, and a British business services company the remaining third.
The sale wasn't announced to Parliament, leaving some MPs to speculate that the government sold the plant at below market rates to get some much-needed funds for the Treasury. Critically, it means that all production, design, and decommissioning of nuclear weapons in the UK is privately owned, with U.S. companies having a majority stake.
Photo: Getty Images
Petroleum Intelligence Weekly's annual ranking of the world's top oil companies - based on criteria like reserves, refining capacity, and sales - was just released, and there is just a bit of shuffling near the top. Four of the five top oil companies now are state owned - Saudi Aramco, Iran's NIOC, Venezuela's PDV, and China's CNPC. A few highlights:
- Saudi Aramco remains No. 1, and China's CNPC surpasses BP and Shell.
- Russia's Rosneft makes biggest jump, from 24th to 16th.
- Majority state-owned national oil companies now make up 27 of 50.
Incredibly, just one.
That's way down from the monthly average of 21 deaths since May, and given that 2008 has already been the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a single death is a notable figure. But it's probably unlikely that security there is any making solid, long-term gains: A U.S. military spokeman told the LA Times that insurgents scale back operations during the colder months, which might have led to fewer deaths last month.
And notably, Spc. Jonnie L. Stiles died in mid-November when a suicide bomber struck his convoy. As Obama and Petraeus hone in on a new strategy for Afghanistan, suicide attacks, which have been the terror tactic of choice there for just the past few years, are sure to remain the primary threat to U.S. troops.
Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
Gloomy forecasts from the IMF today: Developed economies will shrink by 0.3 percent next year, the first collective contraction since 1945.
More analysis from the WSJ's economics blog:
The U.S. forecast was cut to 1.4% growth this year and a 0.7% contraction in 2009, down from last month’s estimates for growth rates of 1.6% in 2008 and 0.1% in 2009.
The euro area is expected to grow 1.2% this year and contract 0.5% next, compared with the previous forecast for growth of 1.3% in 2008 and 0.2% in 2009.
Japan’s estimate was trimmed to 0.5% growth this year and a 0.2% contraction next, compared with the previous estimate for growth of 0.7% in 2008 and 0.5% in 2009.
Forecasts for emerging and developing economies were adjusted even more sharply, with the 2008 growth estimate falling to 6.6% from 6.9% and the 2009 forecast dropping to 5.1% from 6.1%.
Newsweek is reporting today that both the Obama and McCain campaign Web sites were hacked over the summer by what the FBI called a "foreign entity" looking for information on policy positions:
At the Obama headquarters in midsummer, technology experts detected what they initially thought was a computer virus—a case of "phishing," a form of hacking often employed to steal passwords or credit-card numbers. But by the next day, both the FBI and the Secret Service came to the campaign with an ominous warning: "You have a problem way bigger than what you understand," an agent told Obama's team. "You have been compromised, and a serious amount of files have been loaded off your system." The following day, Obama campaign chief David Plouffe heard from White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, to the same effect: "You have a real problem ... and you have to deal with it."
The Feds told Obama's aides in late August that the McCain campaign's computer system had been similarly compromised. A top McCain official confirmed to NEWSWEEK that the campaign's computer system had been hacked and that the FBI had become involved.
Officials at the FBI and the White House told the Obama campaign that they believed a foreign entity or organization sought to gather information on the evolution of both camps' policy positions—information that might be useful in negotiations with a future administration. The Feds assured the Obama team that it had not been hacked by its political opponents. (Obama technical experts later speculated that the hackers were Russian or Chinese.)
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