Inauguration diary: 4 days to go

An official picture paints a thousand words
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The Independent US

* A sober Barack Obama, not an incisor in sight, stares out from his first official presidential portrait. Not an oil painting (he will doubtless sit for one of those later) but a photograph. Oh, yes, and there on his left lapel glints a somewhat oversized Stars and Stripes pin, which nicely sets off the other large US flag behind him. Heaven forfend that Obama should underplay his patriotism. You might remember the brouhaha kicked up during the election campaign when he was seen not wearing a flag pin. The picture, by the way, was taken by the new White House photographer, Pete Souza, and is the first official presidential portrait taken with a digital camera.

* It is the unofficial shots of Obama that capture the popular imagination. They are the ones not taken by official snappers or members of the press pool who are shunted around by Obama's aides, but images caught by the paparazzi when the subject doesn't know it. They include the recent snap of a shirtless, pec-proud President-to-be scampering in the Hawaii surf. It isn't clear that Obama objected when that picture appeared on magazine covers. He may be less amused, however, if the day comes when someone manages to ambush him in less flattering circumstances. The real prize, Gary Morgan, of Splash News reports, would be one of him dragging on a cigarette. "[It] would definitely fetch over $100,000," he says.

* A devout Congress-man from Georgia, Paul Broun, recently consecrated the back door of the Capitol through which Obama will pass before his swearing in. "I hope and pray that as God stirs the heart of our new President that [he] will listen and will heed God's direction," Broun proclaimed alongside two pastors, who proceeded to bless the doorway and anoint it with olive oil. This rather overzealous, if not to say creepy, event was video-taped for posterity and has leaked on to the Web for us all to enjoy (thank you, Daily Beast).

* Another magazine, another Obama on the cover. This time, though, the publication – Ms magazine – is at the receiving end of some pretty irritated reaction from women readers. With the aid of Photoshopping, its next cover will feature Obama in a macho, Superman pose, ripping open his shirt to reveal a costume bearing the message "This is What a Feminist Looks Like". The intention, says Ms magazine, is to argue that Obama "ran on the strongest platform for women's rights of any major party in American history". But the illustration does not sit well with many feminists. "The women of this country can stand up for themselves," Amy Siskind complained on CNN yesterday.

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