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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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Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine