Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

You may have heard this already, but last night the Washington Post reported that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is being considered for the post of Defense Secretary.

President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.

Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made.

That’s a surprise about Kerry. The bad news would be losing a Democratic Senate seat and giving Scott Brown another chance to run as a replacement. Let’s hope Massachusetts Democrats have someone who can beat him.

You also probably heard that there was a huge explosion in Indianapolis over the weekend. It leveled four houses completely and seriously damaged eighty more. The explosion was so powerful that homes 2-3 blocks away in all directions were affected–garage doors were blown open, windows broken and so on. So far there no cause for the explosion has been announced. The latest speculation has been that a gas furnace or some other appliance blew up. From NBC News:

With no hint of a problem in advance, in particular no tell-tale smell of a gas leak, authorities and residents in a southern Indianapolis neighborhood are trying to make sense of an enormous blast that obliterated two homes and made dozens more uninhabitable.

Fire officials expressed amazement that only two people died in the late Saturday explosion so powerful that the devastation spread for blocks from its epicenter. Hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate their Richmond Hill homes, some never to return. Windows and doors were blown in. The blast rocked several houses entirely from their foundations and was so loud it awoke people three miles away. A fire burned for hours, engulfing dozens of homes.

“We have done initial testing throughout the neighborhood and have not found any gas leaks,” Dan Considine, Citizens Energy spokesman, told IndyStar.com Monday.

“We are still doing additional testing of the gas main and the lines to the homes on Fieldfare Way,” he said. “We have not at this point found any problems with any external gas lines.”

This is so strange. I did hear that authorities have determined that the explosion wasn’t caused by a meth lab or by explosives.

There are some new developments in the Petraeus episode. Yesterday morning ABC News’ Martha Raddatz explained why the FBI investigation of Petraeus wasn’t revealed to the White House earlier.

The FBI withheld its findings about Gen. David Petreaus’ affair from the White House and congressional leaders because the agency considered them the result of a criminal investigation that never reached the threshold of an intelligence probe, law enforcement sources said today.

The sources said agents followed department guidelines that generally bar sharing information about developing criminal investigations. The FBI is also aware of its history under former director J. Edgar Hoover of playing politics and digging into the lives of public figures. As one official said, the rules are designed to protect people (both private and elected officials) when negative information about them arises in the course of a criminal investigation that is not a crime.

The FBI’s focus was on whether laws were broken, in this case whether federal cyber-harassment statutes were violated. The sources emphasized that Petraeus himself was never the focus of the investigation, nor did it turn up evidence he broke any law.

The focus was on his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he had the affair that ended with his resignation as CIA director last week.

Then last night the Wall Street Journal reported that:

A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he had become personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe.

New details about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the case suggest that even as the bureau delved into Mr. Petraeus’s personal life, the agency had to address questionable conduct by one of its own…

As Dakinikat said the other day, this is sounding more and more like a Lifetime movie as time goes on.

The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.

However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.

The FBI officials found that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley, according to the people familiar with the probe.

These are the same people who are setting up stings to entrap young men into planning “terrorist acts.” Do you feel safer now?

Last night on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell reported that this FBI agent may have had political motivations and wanted the information made public before the election. According to the WSJ story, this was the FBI source who contacted Rep. Dave Reichert, who in turn passed the information to Eric Cantor.

The story also gives more detail on the so-called harassing e-mails that Broadwell sent to Kelley:

The accusatory emails, according to officials, were sent anonymously to an account shared by Ms. Kelley and her husband. Ms. Broadwell allegedly used a variety of email addresses to send the harassing messages to Ms. Kelley, officials said.

One asked if Ms. Kelley’s husband was aware of her actions, according to officials. In another, the anonymous writer claimed to have watched Ms. Kelley touching “him” provocatively underneath a table, the officials said.

The message was referring to Mr. Petraeus, but that wasn’t clear at the time, officials said.

I’m getting the feeling that Broadwell is not going to get her Ph.D. from the Harvard School of Government, especially not after this from the Charlotte Observer: FBI team searches Broadwell home.

Three days after Paula Broadwell entered the center of national controversy, FBI agents Monday evening entered her family’s Dilworth home and appeared to be searching both floors.

The four or five agents brought cardboard boxes used for carrying papers and were on both floors of the home for the search, which began shortly before 9 p.m. About two dozen members of the local and national media gathered. It wasn’t immediately clear what the agents were focused on.

The agents appeared to start their search in the rear of the house in the kitchen and began turning on lights as they moved into different rooms. As the agents reached the two-hour mark, lights in most rooms appeared to be turned on.

Broadwell’s apparent affair with retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who is married, led him to resign Friday as CIA director. Broadwell’s Charlotte neighbor Sarah Curme said Monday that Broadwell, her husband and two young sons were doing pretty well considering the circumstances. Broadwell marked her 40th birthday over the weekend with family in Washington, D.C.

Still, Amy Bishop managed to get her Ph.D. from Harvard.

UPDATE: Overnight it came out that another four-star general, John Allen, is under investigation for exchanging massive numbers of inappropriate e-mails with Jill Kelley. From CNN:

The spiraling scandal that took down former CIA Director David Petraeus has apparently ensnared another powerful general, as authorities announced that Gen. John Allen is under investigation for allegedly sending inappropriate messages to Jill Kelley, a woman who has been linked to the Petraeus scandal.

Allen, who is the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, has denied any wrongdoing, a senior defense official said.

What the hell is going on with these generals?

Some details about Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, came from an overnight statement by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, while he was on his way to Australia.

“On Sunday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation referred to the Department of Defense a matter involving General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (or ISAF) in Afghanistan,” part of the statement said. “Today, the secretary directed that the matter be referred to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense for investigation.”

A defense official told CNN there is a “distinct possibility” that the investigation into Allen is connected to the investigation that led to the resignation of Petraeus.

Allen had been nominated to be the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, but that appointment is now on hold.

I’ll put any further updates in the comments to this post.

You’re gonna love this. Callista Gingrich talked to Barbara Walters about the Petraeus story, saying that “affairs are ‘painful’ for the family.”

The woman who married former House Speaker Newt Gingrich after cheating with him while he was married to his second wife says that former CIA Director David Petraeus’ extramarital affair is “sad” and “painful” for his family.

“I think it’s personally very sad for he and his family,” Callista Gingrich told ABC’s Barbara Walters on Monday. “I think he did the right thing by resigning. But this is painful and they’ll have to work together through this as a family. And that will take some time.”

Maybe Barbara should have talked to Newt’s previous wives to find out what being cheated on really feels like. But I suppose Callista will find out eventually. Maybe she’s preparing herself for the inevitable.

I’ll end with something non-political. According to research by Stanford Professor Gerald Crabtree, humans are becoming less intelligent with time because of mutations in the brain.

A Stanford University professor presented evidence Monday that mutations in the human brain — brought on by advances in society that have made survival less stressful — are eroding our intellectual and emotional capabilities.

Gerald Crabtree, lead author of the study published in the journal Trends in Genetics, claims the brain drain has been going on for centuries.

Crabtree, a professor of pathology and developmental biology, suggested our intellectual peak came when humans were mostly nonverbal and were stressed out trying to think of ways to not get eaten by wild animals.

He said survival was once a driving force for intelligence. But the development of agriculture and the rise in urban living has probably weakened the natural selection towards intelligence and made us less smart.

A little more from Raw Story:

Humans are slowly losing their cognitive capabilities as adverse genetic mutations fail to be weeded out by evolutionary pressures, according to a bold hypothesis put forward by Dr. Gerald Crabtree of Stanford University.

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues,” the leading geneticist began his article in the scientific journal Trends in Genetics, adding the same could be said of the “inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India, or the Americas.”

Crabtree explained that human intelligence and emotions relied on thousands of genes, which acted together as links in a chain rather than individual components. A mutation to any of one of these genes can produce intellectual or emotional disability — and research has found that most of these genes are particularly susceptible to mutations.

Under the harsh circumstances that ancient humans endured, even a slight reduction in cognitive abilities could doom an individual. Those with lower cognitive abilities were more likely to die before reproducing, leaving only those with more refined cognitive abilities to pass on their genes.

Could this explain the development of the Tea Party?

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?