In a much anticipated declaration, Colin Powell, President Bush's former secretary of state, national security adviser for President Reagan and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff for President George HW Bush and President Clinton, gave a passionate endorsement of Barack Obama as his choice for the next president. In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr Powell in explaining the reasons behind his decision pointed to the Republican Party's swing to the right and said: "Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration. I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, 'Well, you know that Mr Obama is a Muslim.' Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America. "I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery [national cemetery for the US military], and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards - Purple Heart, Bronze Star - showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarising ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions. "So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities - and we have to take that into account - as well as his substance - he has both style and substance - he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world - onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama." In Time magazine, Mark Halperin wrote: "The decision is not only symbolic but, in terms of timing, one of great tactical importance. Powell is a brand unto himself in American politics, and clearly transcends the media's tendency to hype endorsements more than their actual importance to voters. However, the indisputable benefit that Powell brings Obama is that the former Secretary of State and general is sure to block out any chance McCain has of winning the next two or three days of news coverage, as the media swoons over the implications of the choice. It is simple political math: McCain has 15 days to close a substantial gap, and he will now lose at least one fifth of his total remaining time. "Powell's decision brings other clear benefits as well. He is so trusted for his judgment on national security (even in the wake of his role in the current Iraq War) that his confidence in Obama to become commander-in-chief will resonate with many elites and voters. The Democrats' ability to play the Powell card for the next two weeks makes it much harder, even if there is an unexpected international crisis, for Republicans to suggest Obama simply isn't qualified to protect the country. Powell reinforced Obama's qualifications on Meet the Press: 'Senator Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country.' "If some voters still see Obama as a nebulous, unknown figure with questionable associations and liberal tendencies that makes them wary of voting for an African-American, Powell's decision may ease their minds. In some ways his image is the perfect complement to Obama's. Unlike the newly arrived Obama, Powell has been an establishment figure of vast experience in the national spotlight for well over a decade on military and international affairs, first as a career Army man, then in a variety of national security roles, culminating in his service as Secretary of State." In The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza said: "In politics, timing is everything and Powell's endorsement comes at a sweet spot for Obama. "Yesterday in Missouri he drew an estimated 100,000 people to a St Louis rally, and then this morning his campaign announced that it had raised a stunning $150 million in September alone - more than double his best previous month of cash collection. And now, an endorsement from a man who is - arguably - the most popular political figure in the country. "Did we mention the election is in 16 days?"
International summit on the economic crisis
"President Bush and European leaders, who have been tussling over whether to revamp the regulatory framework for global finance, agreed Saturday night to take steps toward a series of international meetings to address the economic crisis, the White House said," The New York Times reported. "After a private dinner at Camp David, Mr Bush, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the president of the European Commission, JosÈ Manuel Barroso, issued a joint statement saying they agreed to 'reach out to other world leaders' to propose an international summit meeting to be held soon after the United States presidential election, with the possibility of more gatherings after that. "The statement was delicately worded. In it, the leaders said the goal of the first meeting would be to 'review progress being made to address the current crisis and to seek agreement on principles of reform needed to avoid a repetition and assure global prosperity in the future.' "With the American economy in its deepest crisis since the Great Depression, Mr Bush has been under intense pressure from European leaders to take steps to tighten oversight and better coordinate financial market regulation around the world." In examining the contrast between Europe and America's response to the financial crisis The New York Times said: "After initially dithering, Europe's leaders came up with a financial bailout plan that has now set the pace for Washington, not the other way around, as had been customary for decades. "That was clear when the treasury department decided to depart from its own initial bailout plan - the one approved by congress earlier this month - and invest up to $250 billion directly in the nation's banks. The nuts and bolts of that approach had been laid out days earlier by European leaders as they tried to save their own financial system. "And that outcome left Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, in something of a commanding position to claim the title of wise men. They are now speaking of creating a Bretton Woods agreement for the 21st century, while the leaders of the country that fathered the postwar financial system worked out at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, prefer to stay away from such big-picture talk. "Mr Sarkozy, who was to meet this weekend with President Bush at Camp David, told European leaders who gathered in Paris recently that he hoped 'literally to rebuild the foundations of the financial systems'." In an editorial, The Financial Times said: "The biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression deserves a comprehensive, measured response, and a lot of painstaking thought about how the global economy should be run. But what the world risks hearing is an exercise in grandstanding, with tired old ideas pulled off the shelf and unconvincingly repackaged as bold new initiatives. That, at least, is the initial impression from the chorus of calls for a 'new Bretton Woods' that has emanated from European leaders this week, particularly Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister. "Mr Brown is in danger of getting ahead of himself. Flushed with success from the international praise he has rightly garnered for acting decisively to stave off the UK's banking crisis, he has dusted off an idea that he has been touting for years - a global 'early warning system' to combat financial crises - and called for the International Monetary Fund to take a leading role in regulating global finance. "Lest we forget, Mr Brown himself was in charge of the IMF's ministerial steering committee for a large part of the past decade and yet signally failed to implement the ideas he is parading. During this time, it was repeatedly explained to him that every early warning system devised by the finest minds in international economics, including those at the fund, either predicts crises that never arrive or misses those that do. If Mr Brown has any econometric modelling tips or has spotted any new indicators for the IMF's economists, they would be delighted to hear them."
China's control of Islam
"To be a practicing Muslim in the vast autonomous region of northwestern China called Xinjiang is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule," Edward Wong reported from the autonomous region of Xinjiang in north-western China. "The edicts touch on every facet of a Muslim's way of life. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools. "Two of Islam's five pillars - the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj - are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own. "Government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing. "The Chinese government, which is officially atheist, recognises five religions - Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism - and tightly regulates their administration and practice. Its oversight in Xinjiang, though, is especially vigilant because it worries about separatist activity in the region. "Some officials contend that insurgent groups in Xinjiang pose one of the biggest security threats to China, and the government says the 'three forces' of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism threaten to destabilise the region. But outside scholars of Xinjiang and terrorism experts argue that heavy-handed tactics like the restrictions on Islam will only radicalise more Uighurs."