Is the US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's lovefest with the press over? That's what many pundits are asking after the candidate returned from his triumphant Middle East and European tour. Gabriel Sherman fired the first shot in an article he wrote for Aug 13 issue of The New Republic in which he described how the Obama campaign attacked the coverage of New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney. "Around midnight on July 16, New York Times chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney received a terse e-mail from Barack Obama's press office. The campaign was irked by the Times' latest poll and Nagourney and Megan Thee's accompanying front-page piece titled 'Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race,' which was running in the morning's paper. Nagourney answered the query, the substance of which he says was minor, and went to bed, thinking the matter resolved. "But, the next morning, Nagourney awoke to an e-mail from Talking Points Memo writer Greg Sargent asking him to comment on an eight-point rebuttal trashing his piece that the Obama campaign had released to reporters and bloggers like The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and Politico's Ben Smith. Nagourney had not heard the complaints from the Obama camp and had no idea they were so steamed. 'I'm looking at this thing, and I'm like, 'What the hell is this?' Nagourney recently recalled. 'I really flipped out.'" Nagourney has two more excellent pieces on the Obama campaign in the International Herald Tribune. The first one asks why Obama is not more points ahead than he is of Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He says its because at only 46 years of age, Obama is still relatively unknown to many American voters, unlike McCain who has been in Washington for decades. Nevertheless, in the absence of an incumbent running in the November elections, any lead no matter how small could be significant: "The truth of the matter is, given the history in open presidential elections over the past 50-years - not to mention the recent polarisation that has marked politics in the United States - a seven-point victory by Obama, or by McCain, in November would have to be considered substantial in a contest where there is no incumbent on the ballot." The New York Times reporter also reports today that it is looking more likely that Obama will not pick Hillary Clinton to be his running mate, which isn't much of a surprise.
In what will certainly be perceived as another nasty stab into the side of the struggling consumer across the globe, British Petroleum today announced record first half of the year profits of US$13.4 billion, according to the Times Online. This is a 23 per cent increase over its profits a year ago. Consumers in the Philippines, already up in arms at rising fuel prices, certainly won't be happy at BP's news. They have been pressing the Philippines president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to scrap the 12 per cent value added tax which she introduced a few years ago. She stood her ground and refused to roll back the VAT in her annual State of the Nation address in Manila on Monday.
Asharq Alawsat reports that a Saudi Government committee is looking into amending several laws and regulations that are not compatible with international treaties on human rights that Saudi Arabia has signed. Not surprisingly, most of the laws being considered for change are those that treat women unfairly. The kingdom is a signatory to the International Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and as such is realizing that requiring a male guardian's consent for a woman to obtain an identity card or passport is discriminatory. Authorities already allow women to get their own ID cards without the permission of a male guardian, but the committee wants to include that in an amended law, among many others. The key figure behind many of these reforms is King Abdullah, who recently hosted an interfaith dialogue in Madrid a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, hardline conservatives in the kingdom were not pleased, and now al Qa'eda has slammed the king over the meeting: "The call for a rapprochement of religions issued by the (Saudi) tyrant ... is not a spontaneous call ... but is an integral part of the overt Crusader war against Islam and Muslims ... God's enemies only want us to abandon our religion," Libi said in the video posted on Islamist websites on Monday.