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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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A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments