Until recently, Barack Obama’s re-election was regarded as inevitable – in the same way that summer follows spring, or a monsoon follows a hosepipe ban. The president’s poll lead over Mitt Romney was strong, while the Republican’s character was assassinated by a primary fight that permanently spoiled the reputation of his party. To court the GOP’s conservative base, Romney was forced to adopt positions on abortion, contraception, health care and welfare that are thought to be unpopular among moderate swing voters. Obama, by contrast, is the man who killed bin Laden and toppled Gaddafi. A choice between Obama the moderate statesman and Romney the craven conservative is surely no contest at all.
But in the last two weeks, things have changed. Obama’s re-election is no longer guaranteed; some pollsters think it is unlikely. Day by day, the odds are improving that Mitt Romney will be the next President of the United States.
What changed? For a start, voters are getting gloomier about the economy. Joblessness remains high and debt is out of control. According to one poll released this week, only 33 per cent of Americans expect the economy to improve in the coming months and only 43 per cent approve of the way that the president has handled it. Voters think Obama has made the debt situation and health care worse. The man who conducted the poll – Democrat Peter Hart – concluded that “Obama’s chances for re-election… are no better than 50-50.”
It is a tragic irony. Dreams are turning into nightmares. High aspirations are crumbling into chaotic outcomes. The idealists who believed that they were rescuing Europe may have encompassed its destruction.
To understand the European dégringolade, we have to go back to the beginning. It was all about isms. The EU was only made possible by the defeat of fascism, that earlier attempt at European integration. The European project was crucial in the generation-long struggle to contain communism, and gained further momentum when the Soviet empire disintegrated. But the founding fathers had made a fatal mistake. In a covert fashion, they declared war on a third ism. They were wrong to do so. Far from being toxic, it was a healthy component of the human condition. The attempt to eradicate it weakened the human frame and made it easier for diseases to spread. The third ism was nationalism and the nation state.
One can understand why the creators of the European project made that mistake. In the early post-war years, Europe was full of the first two isms’ victims. Shattered cities; cold, hungry and frightened inhabitants; millions of displaced people and refugees; millions more, who were hoping against hope to hear good news about missing relatives. It is easy to understand why thoughtful people said “never again”. It is also easy to explain their campaign against the third ism. Why had the others become so potent? Because the continental nation states had either failed or grovelled at the feet of psychotic ambitions. So wise men concluded that civilisation could only survive if Europe moved beyond the era of the nation state.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Friday’s shelling in the city of Houla, in central Homs province, had led to what seemed to be one of the bloodiest episodes so far of the 15-month long uprising.
Amateur videos posted on YouTube showed images of children lying dead on a floor. Some of their corpses badly mangled, including at least one child whose head had been partly blown away.
The latest flare-up of violence came as Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria who brokered a repeatedly violated ceasefire last month, finalised plans to return to Damascus.
The fresh claims of regime atrocities led the opposition Syrian National Council to call on the UN Security Council to take urgent action. At the same time, the Observatory accused the Arab and international communities of being “complicit” in the killing, saying that shelling that had begun on Friday had continued into the night. The Observatory said the international community was standing “silent in the face of the massacres committed by the Syrian regime.”
In an interview in The Daily Telegraph, Theresa May says “work is ongoing” to restrict European immigration in the event of a financial collapse.
People from throughout the EU, with the exception of new member countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, are able to work anywhere in the single market.
However, there are growing concerns that if Greece was forced to leave the euro, it would effectively go bankrupt and millions could lose their jobs and consider looking for work abroad.
The crisis could spread quickly to other vulnerable countries such as Spain, Ireland and Portugal, although Britain is regarded as a safe haven because it is outside the single currency.
Details of the contingency plan emerged as the euro crisis deepened further yesterday.
It all sounds very fishy to me.
Priest Goes Fishing
An Irish priest loved to fly fish, it was an obsession of his. So far this year the weather had been so bad that he hadn’t had a chance to get his beloved waders on and his favorite flies out of their box. Strangely though, every Sunday the weather had been good, but of course Sunday is the day he has to go to work.
The weather forecast was good again for the coming Sunday so he called a fellow priest claiming to have lost his voice and be in bed with the flu. He asked him to take over his sermon. The fly fishing priest drove fifty miles to a river near the coast so that no one would recognize him.
An angel up in Heaven was keeping watch and saw what the priest was doing. He told God who agreed that he would do something…
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A young New York woman was so depressed that she decided to end her life by throwing herself into the ocean, but just before she could throw herself from the docks, a handsome young man stopped her.
“You have so much to live for,” said the man.
“I’m a sailor, and we are off to Italy tomorrow. I can stow you away on my ship. I’ll take care of you, bring you food every day, and keep you happy.”
With nothing to lose, combined with the fact that she had always wanted to go to Italy , the woman accepted.
That night the sailor brought her aboard and hid her in a small but comfortable compartment in the hold. From then on, every night he would bring her three sandwiches, a bottle of red wine, and make love to her until dawn.
Two weeks later she was discovered by the captain during a routine inspection.
“What are you doing here?” asked the captain.
“I have an arrangement with one of the sailors,” she replied. “He brings me food and I get a free trip to Italy.”
“I see,” the captain says.
Her conscience got the better of her and she added, “plus, he’s screwing me.”
“He certainly is,” replied the captain, “this is the Staten Island Ferry.”