Obama, Romney spar over foreign policy

US President Barack Obama has forcefully attacked his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, in their third and final presidential debate.

During the tense encounter in Florida, the rivals tangled over the Arab Spring, Iran, Israel and China.

Mr Obama said his rival was “all over the map” on foreign policy. But Mr Romney said the president had allowed “chaos” to engulf the Middle East.

Two instant polls said Mr Obama won the head to head.

‘Rising tide of chaos’

The Democratic president went on the attack from the start of Monday night’s forum, trying to trip up his rival.

But there were several scathing exchanges, with the president seeking to portray his challenger as a foreign policy novice who lacked the consistency to be commander-in-chief.

Mr Obama said the former Massachusetts governor had backed a continued troop presence in Iraq, opposed nuclear treaties with Russia and flip-flopped over when the US should leave Afghanistan.

“What we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map,” said Mr Obama.

But Mr Romney charged that the president had allowed a “rising tide of chaos” to sweep the Middle East, giving al-Qaeda the chance to take advantage.

“I congratulate him on taking out Osama Bin Laden and taking on the leadership of al-Qaeda,” said Mr Romney, “but we can’t kill our way out of this. We must have a comprehensive strategy.”

Mr Obama hit back sarcastically that he was glad Mr Romney had recognised the threat posed by al-Qaeda, reminding him that he had previously cast Russia as the number one geopolitical foe of the US.

“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy,” said Mr Obama, “but every time you’ve offered an opinion you’ve been wrong.”

Mr Romney, whose tone during the debate was measured, described a trip by President Obama to the Middle East as an “apology tour” that had projected American “weakness” to enemies, while bypassing close ally Israel. Mr Obama called that claim the “biggest whopper” of the campaign.

Mr Romney also said: “We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran”, although he appeared to soften the uncompromising tone that has been the hallmark of his campaign by emphasising that military action should be a last resort.

‘Fewer horses and bayonets’

The rivals found plenty to agree on – declaring unequivocal support for Israel, voicing opposition to US military intervention in Syria, and insisting that China play by the rules in trade.

Mr Romney also backed the president’s policy of withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2014 – something the Republican has previously disagreed with.

Mr Romney barely touched on last month’s deadly assault on the US consulate. The Republican’s line of attack on that subject in the last debate was widely perceived to have misfired.

In one of the most biting exchanges, Mr Obama mocked Mr Romney’s complaint that the US had fewer ships now than it did during World War I.

“You mentioned the Navy, for example,” said Mr Obama, “and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets than we did in 1916.”

Although the debate was meant to focus on foreign policy, the two candidates repeatedly pivoted back to the fragile US economy, the issue uppermost in American voters’ minds.

A CBS News snap poll declared 53% believed Mr Obama won, versus 23% for Mr Romney and 24% saying it was a draw. A CNN poll put Mr Obama as the winner by 48% to 40%.

An NBC poll the day before the debate had put the men in a dead heat, each with 47% support.

The final debate behind them, both men will now launch a final two weeks of campaigning in swing states.

Already four million ballots have been cast in early voting in more than two dozen states.

Source: BBC


Russia opposition elected online

Voters opposed to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin have chosen a new opposition leadership to fight for election reform.

Popular anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny won the most votes in the three-day online poll.

Some 81,801 voters took part in the internet poll, electoral committee head Leonid Volkov said.

A total of 45 seats on the Coordinating Committee for the anti-Putin foes were contested by more than 200 candidates.

Mr Navalny said the poll would clarify “which people, which methods and which ideology have the most support”.

Announcing the results on satellite and internet TV channel Dozhd, committee organiser Leonid Volkov said the number of votes “didn’t let us set the world record for secured verified internet votes, but still it is a very good and interesting figure”.

Novelist and columnist Dmitry Bykov came second in the vote, ahead of opposition leader and former chess champion Garry Kasparov.

Another key winner was TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak with Ilya Yashin, leader of activist group Solidarity, also doing well.

Among other known opposition leaders selected were the leader of the Left Front movement, Sergei Udaltsov, and a former vice-premier under Boris Yeltsin, Boris Nemtsov.

The electorate is only a tiny fraction of Russia’s voters.

Although the vote was internet-only, the organisers set up a few polling stations in Moscow and elsewhere to enable voters without web-access to take part in the poll.

Voters were allowed to vote for a number of candidates from the field of 209. The 45-member council was to be comprised of 30 from a general list and five each from separate nationalist, liberal and left-wing lists.

The opposition hopes the event will reinvigorate a movement that staged large-scale protests last winter, posing a serious challenge to Mr Putin.

While the Russian authorities are largely ignoring the ballot, attacks on candidates in the pro-Putin media and apparent cyber strikes on the ballot’s website – which could not be accessed at times on Saturday morning – suggested that Kremlin supporters were not indifferent.

Voting was extended into Monday because the website had been hacked.

Organising committee officials said the vote had also been disrupted in the industrial town of Chelyabinsk in the Urals, because of a search by agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB).

The organisers emphasised that a large proportion of the votes cast were outside Moscow. However, interest in the vote outside the capital has been limited by the lack of coverage in state media.

Although tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in opposition demonstrations in several Russian cities last month, the rallies have failed to attract the large numbers seen late last year.

Opposition figures have also come under increasing pressure from the authorities, with Sergei Udaltsov under investigation after a pro-Kremlin TV channel linked him to an alleged plot to incite mass riots.

Source: BBC


Poll: Obama, Romney tied with two weeks to go

Heading into the final two weeks of the 2012 presidential race, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are now tied among likely voters, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday.

The poll–conducted between Oct. 17 and Oct. 20 among 1,000 registered voters and 816 likely voters–found Obama and Romney are each favored by 47 percent of likely voters.


However, President Obama leads Romney by five points (49 percent to 44 percent) among registered voters, according to the NBC/WSJ poll.


In the same survey conducted prior to first presidential debate, Obama held a 3-point lead (49 percent to 46 percent) among likely voters.


Among men, the former Massachussetts governor holds a 10-point lead (53 percent to 43 percent) while the president leads by 8 points (51 percent to 43 percent) among women.


“I like what I see because the trend is in our direction,” Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman said on “Meet The Press” on Sunday. “That’s where you want to be at this point in the campaign.”


“If you look at the early voting that’s going on around the country, it’s very robust and its very favorable to us,” Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod countered. “And we think that’s a better indicator than these public polls, which are frankly all over the, all over the map.”


Source: Yahoo News


Obama and Romney swap jokes at Al Smith dinner

President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have made a series of lighthearted jabs at themselves and each other at a charity fundraiser.

At the event organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Mr Obama said his first debate performance – which he was judged to have lost – had been a “long nap” to prepare for the second.

Mr Romney mocked his own wealth.

Referring to his Mormon faith. he said he had prepared for the debates by “not drinking alcohol for 65 years”.

Earlier, Mr Obama made an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

He said the US would “fix” security overseas after a deadly Libya attack.Stewart asked Mr Obama about the administration’s “confused” response to the attack on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September.

The US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died in the attack, which remains at the centre of the campaign debate ahead of a foreign policy debate in Florida on Monday.

Mr Obama told Stewart his administration was still piecing together the evidence.

“The government is a big operation. At any given time, something screws up and you make sure you find out what’s broken and you fix it,” he said.

Relax in a tie

Mr Obama also repeated his wish to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, a first term promise he has been criticised for not yet carrying out.

The Alfred F Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner – a traditional fixture on the presidential campaign calendar – was Mr Romney’s only public event on Thursday after several campaign stops in Virginia the day before.

Resplendent in formal white tie on stage, Mr Romney – known for his business fortune – said that after a long campaign it was “nice finally to relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house”.

He also reminded the audience of the vice-president’s mirth-filled approach to his debate with Paul Ryan a week ago: “I was hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along because he’ll laugh at anything.”

Referring to the first presidential debate, Mr Obama said: “I had more energy in second debate. I was well-rested after the nice long nap I had in first debate.”

Mr Obama also noted he had been criticised for being too popular abroad at the beginning of his term. “I’m impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem,” he said, in a nod to a summer overseas trip that drew criticism.

The dinner was overseen by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has clashed with the administration over contraception provisions in Mr Obama’s health care law.

Cardinal Dolan has said he received “stacks of mail” protesting against Mr Obama’s invitation to the dinner, but he sought to avoid playing political favourites. The cardinal delivered benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2012.

Battle of polls

Ahead of his reunion with Mr Obama, a daily Gallup tracking poll of likely voters suggested Mr Romney had increased his lead nationally. However, a series of other polls show a much tighter race.

Mr Romney announced on Thursday that his campaign was leaving North Carolina, believing his victory was assured there. He is currently polling an average of six points ahead of Mr Obama in the state.

Mr Obama also benefited from new polling on Thursday, with a Pew Hispanic Center poll suggesting three-quarters of Catholic Latinos back the president.

The president picked up the backing of rock star Bruce Springsteen, as he did in 2008. Springsteen campaigned for Mr Obama on Thursday in Ohio with former President Bill Clinton.

“For 30 years I’ve been writing about the distance between the American dream and American reality,” Springsteen said, reading from a statement.

“Our vote is the one principal way we get to determine that distance.”

Source: BBC


Sicily election deals Berlusconi new blow

Sicily election deals Berlusconi new blowThe party of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has suffered a major blow, apparently losing a regional election in its former stronghold of Sicily.

With half of the votes counted, centre-left candidate Renato Crocetta was on course to become the next governor.

The result follows Mr Berlusconi’s conviction last week for tax fraud, and his threat to withdraw support and topple PM Mario Monti’s government.

The vote has been seen as a test ahead of a general election due next year.

Mr Berlusconi has ruled out leading his centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party into that election, but says he will remain in politics.

He has touted PDL party secretary Angelino Alfano as his successor, but the result in Sicily – Mr Alfano’s native region – may undermine those hopes.

Sicily has long been a bastion of support for Mr Berlusconi. In 2001 his party won all 61 seats there in the general election.

Making ‘history’

With more than half of the votes counted after Sunday’s Sicilian poll, the PDL’s candidate Nello Musumeci, with 25%, trailed Mr Crocetta who was on 30%.

“It’s the first time that a candidate for the left is elected as regional governor, it’s the first time that an anti-mafia candidate wins,” declared Mr Crocetta, who has campaigned against organised crime and lives under police protection after threats to his life.

“Today is more than an election result, it is a date with history.”

Giancarlo Cancelleri, the candidate of the 5-Star protest movement, which campaigns against the government’s austerity programme, put in a strong showing with 19%.

The election was held early after the previous governor, Raffaele Lombardo, was forced to resign after allegations of mafia collaboration and a financial crisis which left the island close to bankruptcy.

Source: BBC