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In annual address, the President says 'too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead'

Simon Cowell is my inspiration, says Palin as she faces public vote

For a woman who has declared her heroes to be the authors of the US constitution, Ronald Reagan, and members of the Tea Party, the most obvious role model is not Simon Cowell. But in the new book that some observers see as the launching pad for a putative presidential bid, Sarah Palin has cited the brusque X-Factor judge as an inspiration.

Gavin Kelly and James Plunkett: Rising prices will give the Coalition a political headache

On Wednesday, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King forecast that inflation would remain above its 2% target until at least the end of 2011. Yesterday saw British Gas announce a 7% price hike. It all bodes ill for the Coalition. For now, each day still starts to headlines screaming about cuts. But come 2015, it’s unlikely that cuts will be the defining issue of the election. Instead, the framing will be closer to that of the 1980 Presidential campaign: “ask yourself: are you better off now than you were four years ago?", as Ronald Reagan put it to the American people.

Adrift cruise liner towed to safety

The former fun-seekers of the Carnival Splendor are cruising again – but just barely.

Mary Ann Sieghart: Obama's strength is now his weakness

The charisma he once displayed so powerfully has dried up. Voters now complain of the President's coolness

Merchants of Doubt, By Naomi Oreskes & Erik M Conway

A lot of hot air from the sceptics

League of gentlemen: How to get the effortlessly cool style of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen

Aspire to the effortlessly cool style of Steve McQueen? As the authors of a new book explain, there's a lot of detail to obsess over before you can get the Ivy League look today

Leading article: Body talk

The secrets of the dance have been unlocked. Researchers at Northumbria University claim to have identified what makes a male dancer attractive to a member of the opposite sex.

Party spirit in short supply as Obama turns 49

Possibly wiser, unarguably greyer, and temporarily a bachelor, Barack Obama celebrated his 49th birthday yesterday doing what has long been a way of life for US presidents of every stripe: stumping for his party's candidates, and raising money.

Business Diary: Shore swallows pride at Ocado

Sounds like someone has a chip on their shoulder. "Shore Capital is today attending a visit organised by Ocado to its Hatfield facility, the second time that our company will have visited the heart of its organisation," the brokers' analysts tell us. "The 'premier league' of investment banks could not, seemingly, 'get the company away' at the desired original valuation and so the 'cavalry' in the form of 'the championship' brokers has been duly brought in to try and do the job." Come, come chaps – don't do yourselves down.

Leading article: Ready or not?

The news that the singer and philanthropist, Wyclef Jean, is contemplating a run for the Haitian presidency prompts thoughts about those from the world of entertainment who attempt to cross over into the realm of politics. The record is a mixed one. Ronald Reagan did well. And Arnold Schwarzenegger made it to the governor's mansion in California. Clint Eastwood had a brief spell as a Californian town mayor in the 1980s, but soon (thankfully) returned to films. Jerry Springer went the other way, becoming a talk show host after being a politician in Cincinnati. Here in Britain, we have Glenda Jackson in the House of Commons. The former AC Milan striker and world footballer of the year, George Weah, has been active in Liberian politics, but missed out in the 2005 presidential elections.

Hopes and Prospects, By Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is one of the most hysterically abused figures in the world today. Even his critics have to concede that his work in the field of linguistics – beginning to decode the structure of how language is formed in the human brain – makes him one of the most important intellectuals alive. But when he applies the same rigorous method to figuring out how power – especially the American government's – works, he is pepper-sprayed with smears. He is a self-hating Holocaust denier, a jihad-loving traitor, a Pol Pot-licking communist, and on and on.

Tracie Washington: This crime was a symptom of a wider sickness in the police

These charges have been a long time coming. I was in New Orleans throughout the floods and in the days after, and I still remember the sense that something had gone amiss when we first heard of the incident on Danziger Bridge, the way our anger grew.

Friedrich Hayek: Darling of the right is reborn in the USA

The uncompromising anti-statism of Friedrich Hayek has won a new following among Republicans. Stephen Foley reports

Revelations in the dark: Stars reveal the film that changed their life

From the Lumière brothers to Star Wars and beyond, cinema has long had the capacity to shape imaginations. Geoffrey Macnab assesses its transformative power

24-hour room service: The Colonnade Hotel, Boston, US

A grand city stay with star quality
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Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones