We all know that modern political campaigns choose their issues from the cafeteria line, after market-testing them, and then having them professionally framed. Rarely, though, are we offered such a clear and unarguable example. How could anyone truly believe that Barack Obama’s background and job history are inadequate experience for a president, and simultaneously believe that Sarah Palin’s background and job history are perfectly adequate? It’s possible to believe one or the other. But both? Simply not possible. John McCain has been—what’s the word?—lying. And so have all the pundits who rushed to defend McCain’s choice.
Stop the presses! This election isn’t about the Clintons after all. It isn’t about the Acropolis columns erected at Invesco Field. It isn’t about who is Paris Hilton and who is Hanoi Hilton. (Though it may yet be about who is Sarah Palin.) After a weeklong orgy of inane manufactured melodrama labeled “convention coverage” on television, Barack Obama descended in classic deus ex machina fashion — yes, that’s Greek too — to set the record straight. America is in too much trouble, he said, to indulge in “a big election about small things.”
As has been universally noted, Obama did what he had to do in his acceptance speech. He scrapped the messianic “Change We Can Believe In” for the more concrete policy litany of “The Change We Need.” He bared his glinting Chicago pol’s teeth to John McCain. Obama’s still a skinny guy, but the gladiatorial arena and his eagerness to stand up to bullies (foreign and Republican) made him a plausible Denver Bronco. All week long a media chorus had fretted whether he could pull off a potentially vainglorious stunt before 80,000 screaming fans. Well, yes he can, and so he did.
But was this a surprise? Hardly. No major Obama speech — each breathlessly hyped in advance as do-or-die and as the “the most important of his career” — has been a disaster; most have been triples or home runs, if not grand slams. What is most surprising is how astonished the press still is at each Groundhog Day’s replay of the identical outcome. Indeed, the disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story. The press dysfunction is itself a window into the unstable dynamics of Election 2008.
At the “make-or-break” stage of talks with the U.S. on the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has swept aside his negotiating team and replaced it with three of his closest aides, a reshuffle that some Iraqi officials warn risks sabotaging the agreement.
The decision on the team negotiating the pact, which the Americans have described as the basis of a long-term strategic alliance between the United States and Iraq, remains so sensitive that it has not been announced. In disclosing the switch to the Los Angeles Times this weekend, a senior Iraqi official close to Maliki also suggested that the two sides remained deadlocked on key issues.
More than 3,500 insurgents have been “taken off the streets of Baghdad” by the elite British force in a series of audacious “Black Ops” over the past two years.
It is understood that while the majority of the terrorists were captured, several hundred, who were mainly members of the organisation known as “al-Qa’eda in Iraq” have been killed by the SAS.
The SAS is part of a highly secretive unit called “Task Force Black” which also includes Delta Force, the US equivalent of the SAS.
President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Sunday laid out what he said would become his government’s guiding principles of foreign policy after its landmark conflict with Georgia — notably including a claim to a “privileged” sphere of influence in the world.
Speaking to Russian television in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a day before a summit meeting in Brussels where European leaders were to reassess their relations with Russia, Mr. Medvedev said his government would adhere to five principles.
Russia, he said, would observe international law. It would reject what he called United States dominance of world affairs in a “unipolar” world. It would seek friendly relations with other nations. It would defend Russian citizens and business interests abroad. And it would claim a sphere of influence in the world.
Moscow fell short of the diplomatic support it was looking for Thursday, as Central Asian states and China failed to back its recognition of independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, offering instead only qualified praise for Russia’s actions in the Georgian conflict.
That failure, coupled with a statement by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that European Union leaders were set to consider sanctions against Russia at a special session Monday, threatened to leave Russia even further isolated diplomatically.
The hope of winning significant support from the membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance Moscow has embraced as a counterbalance to NATO in Central Asia, vanished with a joint statement at a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, calling for the respect of all countries’ territorial integrity and denouncing the use of force in local conflicts.
US intelligence fears the Kremlin will supply the sophisticated S-300 system to Tehran if Washington pushes through Nato membership for its pro-Western neighbours Georgia and Ukraine.
The proposed deal is causing huge alarm in the US and Israel as the S-300 can track 100 targets at once and fire on planes up to 75 miles away.
That would make it a “game-changer”, greatly improving Iranian defences against any air strike on its nuclear sites, according to Pentagon adviser Dan Goure. “This is a system that scares every Western air force,” he said.
Should they let their daughters go back to lessons in the rubble of their school, blown up by the Taliban in the middle of the night, or should they keep them safe at home?
Hashim, the caretaker who was held at gunpoint by masked gunmen, was warned that they would be back if the school is rebuilt. He fears that next time they could blow it up with pupils inside.
Yet this is not Kandahar, the Taliban capital of southern Afghanistan, but Peshawar – a city of 1.4 million people in neighbouring Pakistan, once celebrated as a cultural haven for artists, musicians and intellectuals.
A year ago schools were considered safe in the city, the capital of North-West Frontier Province. But the Taliban insurgency that has been growing in the wild mountains that rise in the distance is spreading into urban Pakistan.