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Australia’s Labor PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott are due to meet in the first televised debate of the election campaign.

The candidates will face an hour of questioning from a panel of journalists in the capital, Canberra.

Correspondents say the economy and the issue of asylum seekers are likely to dominate the debate.

Current opinion polls put Tony Abbott and his Liberal-National coalition in the lead for the September 7 election.

However, Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party has significantly narrowed its lead since he ousted his predecessor, Julia Gillard, in June.

Kevin Rudd told reporters that Tony Abbott’s poll lead meant the pressure would be on the opposition leader in the debate to justify his budget plans.

Australia's Labor PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott are due to meet in the first televised debate of the election campaign

Australia’s Labor PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott are due to meet in the first televised debate of the election campaign

“Based on today’s polls if there was an election yesterday Mr. Abbott would be prime minister today and therefore he can’t be evasive tonight about where his A$70 billion ($65 billion) in cuts in health, education and jobs will fall,” said.

Tony Abbott said it would be clear to Australians well before polling day “exactly what we are spending and exactly what we are saving”, AFP reports.

Sunday’s debate, which begins at 18:30 local time, is the first of three such possible meetings before polling day.

Labor last week announced an A$200 million package to assist the car industry.

Tony Abbott, meanwhile, pledged to repeal Australia’s carbon tax at his first campaign event in Brisbane.

Both candidates have also already been campaigning on the heated topic of immigration, and how to stop illegal migrants reaching Australian shores.

Labor has been hit by the loss of two candidates in the past week. Kevin Rudd demanded that Geoff Lake, candidate for the safe seat of Hotham in Victoria, withdraw after it emerged he had abused a woman with a disability during a council meeting a decade ago.

Meanwhile the Labor candidate for the Queensland seat of Kennedy, Ken Robertson, stood down from the race after calling Tony Abbott a racist and “very bigoted” in an interview.

Ken Robertson said he was withdrawing “in the interests of ensuring that this matter does not distract from Labor’s campaign for a fairer Australia”.

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The Secret Service was forced to foil repeated assassination attempts on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during this year’s election campaign, it has been claimed.

An article in GQ made the startling assertion that “several assassination plots were nipped in the bud” by agents during the course of the campaign.

However, some are now skeptical about the claims, insisting that there were no more than a handful of attempts on the lives of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney this year.

Barack Obama, who has long been considered at risk from violent extremism partly because of his historic status as America’s first black President, is protected by a vast Secret Service detail at all times.

Mitt Romney was given official protection in January, as he was beginning to close in on the position of Republican presidential nominee.

His Secret Service detail was withdrawn early on Wednesday morning, just hours after he conceded defeat to Barack Obama.

The moment Mitt Romney’s agents left his side was detailed by GQ‘s Marc Ambinder, who reported that they were called off with the order: “Javelin, Jockey details, all posts, discontinue.”

He also dropped in the tantalizing tidbit: “Protectees were protected 100 per cent of the time. Several assassination plots were nipped in the bud.”

The Secret Service was forced to foil repeated assassination attempts on Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during election campaign

The Secret Service was forced to foil repeated assassination attempts on Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during election campaign

Over the past year, a number of people were reported to have been investigated by the Secret Service for issuing threats to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

While most of these threats turned out to be little more than ill-advised tweets born from frustration, a few warranted a more robust response.

Most notably, a group of four soldiers from Georgia hatched a convoluted plot to kill the President and overthrow the federal government.

However, Marc Ambinder’s comments led some to assume that he had information about other threats which were not already public knowledge.

He told Politicker: “There was that guy who shot at the White House from across the ellipse, and then the soldiers arrested for plotting the assassination of the president and others.”

But he added that he did not possess any inside information, defending his description of the multiple foiled threats.

Marc Ambinder later tweeted: “Press folks, please stop bothering the Secret Service. If there are/were other plots, they sure as hell didn’t tell me about them.”


President Barack Obama is to resume election campaign which was suspended in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Barack Obama visited areas of New Jersey struck by the storm on Wednesday.

His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has been holding rallies after halting his campaign earlier in the week.

Superstorm Sandy left at least 64 people dead in the US, cut power from millions of homes and paralyzed transport on much of the eastern US seaboard.

The hurricane made landfall on Monday night in New Jersey, where some 20,000 people remain trapped in their homes by sewage-contaminated floodwater.

In New York City, the storm brought a record tidal surge that swamped the subway system and caused widespread blackouts.

Earlier, it killed nearly 70 people in the Caribbean and caused extensive crop destruction in impoverished Haiti.

Barack Obama has planned campaign stops on Thursday in Nevada, Colorado and Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, he toured parts of New Jersey struck by the storm with Republican Governor Chris Christie.

“You guys are in my thoughts and prayers,” the president said during a visit to an emergency shelter in Atlantic City.

“We are going to be here for the long haul.”

Barack Obama toured parts of New Jersey struck by the storm with Republican Governor Chris Christie

Barack Obama toured parts of New Jersey struck by the storm with Republican Governor Chris Christie

Of more than six million homes and businesses across the north-east that still have no electricity, a third of them are in New Jersey.

In the New Jersey city of Hoboken, across the Hudson River from New York City, the National Guard has arrived to evacuate about 20,000 people and distribute meals.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, usually one of barack Obama’s fiercest critics, spoke of his “great working relationship” with the Democratic president.

“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for the people of our state,” said Chris Christie.

Mitt Romney held two rallies in Florida on Wednesday, where his campaign said he tried to strike a “positive tone”.

Election Day is on 6 November, and polls suggest the candidates are running neck and neck.

Eight out of ten voters in a Washington Post/ABC poll gave Barack Obama an “excellent” or “good” rating for his handling of the emergency.

New York began a slow recovery from the storm on Wednesday.

The New York Stock Exchange reopened on generator power after two days of closure, along with the Nasdaq.

But New York City’s Bellevue Hospital had to order the evacuation of some 500 patients after back-up electricity failed.

A partial subway service is due to begin on Thursday. Many bus services are already back on the roads, and most of the city’s bridges have reopened.

The Holland Tunnel, connecting New Jersey and New York City, remains flooded.

Flights have now resumed at JFK and Newark Liberty airports, though the city’s LaGuardia airport remains closed. Nearly 20,000 flights were grounded by Sandy.

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US President Barack Obama had a busy day yesterday as he appeared at not just one, but two A-list fundraising events in Manhattan – raising a total of $4.5 million.

However, Barack Obama’s re-election campaign will not have to pay the full cost of his jaunt to New York City, because he combined the trip with an official event which will be charged to the taxpayers.

Before the fundraisers, one at Sarah Jessica Parker’s house and one at the five-star Plaza Hotel, Barack Obama scheduled a visit to the World Trade Center site.

Following his visits across New York Barack Obama headed home to the White House in Washington DC aboard the presidential helicopter, Marine One.

Barack Obama has now held more fundraising events than the last six presidents combined, leading to his opponents coining the derisive nickname “Campaigner in Chief”.

He frequently combines the events with his official duties, which allows his re-election campaign to defray the President’s travel costs by charging part of them to the public purse.

For a trip like yesterday’s, involving both official duties and campaign events, a formula is applied so that the campaign pays part of the costs – but it still works out cheaper than making a trip purely for campaigning.

Barack Obama must be accompanied by Secret Service protection and fly on Air Force One at all times for security reasons, further increasing the cost of his travel.

The World Trade Center, which Barack Obama has visited several times before, is a major building project and recipient of generous federal aid, as well as an iconic national memorial.

It is unclear what prompted Barack Obama to return to the site – where he took the chance to hail “the American spirit” – on this occasion.

Before the fundraisers, one at Sarah Jessica Parker's house and one at the five-star Plaza Hotel, Barack Obama scheduled a visit to the World Trade Center site

Before the fundraisers, one at Sarah Jessica Parker's house and one at the five-star Plaza Hotel, Barack Obama scheduled a visit to the World Trade Center site

The intimate dinner at the house of Sarah Jessica Parker and her actor husband Matthew Broderick banked about $2 million, with 50 people paying $40,000 each to attend.

Speaking in a dimly-lit, art-filled room, Barack Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation’s future.

“You’re the tie-breaker,” he said.

“You’re the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes.”

Among the celebrities on hand to hear Barack Obama’s remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the President and the guests. Matthew Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent.

The night’s second glitzy fundraiser, which included a performance from Mariah Carey and a speech by singer Alicia Keys, yielded the Obama campaign at least $2.5 million.

Some New Yorkers reacted with anger at the prospect of footing the bill for Barack Obama’s fundraising visit to the city.

Much of downtown Manhattan was temporarily sealed off for the duration of Barack Obama’s visit, and the street in the West Village neighborhood where Sarah Jessica Parker’s house is situated was closed to pedestrians.

Some pedestrians bemoaned the disruption caused to the New York streets by the presidential motorcade – Mary Grach told ABC that Barack Obama’s visit was “really inconveniencing a lot of commuters”.

She added: “There has to be a better way to go about it rather than putting out how many thousands of riders out of commission, and having to find another way home.”

In 2004, Democrats criticized George W. Bush for combining fundraisers with official duties, and Republicans have responded in kind this year.

Barack Obama has been furiously fundraising ever since a Supreme Court decision removed most restrictions on spending by super PACs, outside groups which raise money to promote causes and candidates.

The President initially opposed super PACs, but earlier this year he relented and allowed top officials to speak at fundraising events organized by such groups.

The Republican party has officially complained about Barack Obama’s campaign activities.

In a letter, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, alleged: “Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as <<official events>>, thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his re-election efforts.”

During the 2008 election, Barack Obama declined public money for his campaign, allowing him to raise an unlimited amount privately.

He ended up spending around $730 million, almost double the amount raised by his rival John McCain.

Neither Barack Obama nor his Republican opponent Mitt Romney is expected to take public financing for November’s election.


It was an embarrassing start for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign yesterday as he held his first political rally of the 2012 race in a half-empty arena.

With First Lady dressed head to toe in campaign colors at his side, Barack Obama targeted swing states Ohio and Virginia that are critical for his bid to remain in the White House.

Barack Obama formally launched his Chicago-based re-election effort last year but his official political events have been confined to fundraisers since then.

That changed this weekend, however, with results which may have surprised Barack Obama.

The President, who was propelled to power in the 2008 election thanks in part to huge rallies across the nation, hoped to regain that momentum with events in large arenas in Columbus, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia.

Come game time, however, with his first event – which was free and open to the public – held at Ohio State University, his numbers appeared to fall flat, according to several reports.

One photo taken and posted to Twitter by Republican rival Mitt Romney’s campaign spokesman Ryan Williams showed the floor and seats with more space than people.

The venue holds 20,000 and according to figures from Barack Obama’s campaign, 14,000 attended the event – 70% of the stadium’s seating capacity.

According to the paper, event organizers busied themselves moving people from the stage’s surrounding seats to the arena’s floor to depict a better crowd to television cameras.

Barack Obama targeted swing states Ohio and Virginia that are critical for his bid to remain in the White House

Barack Obama targeted swing states Ohio and Virginia that are critical for his bid to remain in the White House

Aiming to encourage his supporters, Barack Obama released an email prior to his rally reminding them to watch his first rally and donate money.

“The crowd’s starting to form in Columbus, and they’re ready to go,” he said in the email.

“In a little while, I’ll go on stage for the first rally of 2012.”

Barack Obama’s campaign is eager to get the president on the road and at the center of the political battle.

“We’re ready to go,” campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters in a recent conference call.

“While Mitt Romney has been busy endearing himself to the Tea Party and making promises he can’t keep, we’ve been busy building the largest grassroots campaign in modern American history.”

The Republican National Committee released their own email earlier Saturday morning, however, in the mocking form of fake prepared remarks for the president’s rally in Columbus.

“Ohio, thanks for the tepid welcome. I know I’m not as popular here as I once was, so I’ll take what I can get,” the RNC said in the imagined speech it dubbed “as prepared for reality”.

“It turns out the hope and change I promised didn’t work out. So, we’ve launched a new strategy: hype and blame,” the RNC’s email said.

Since Mitt Romney became his party’s presumptive nominee, Barack Obama has criticized his opponent in formal and informal situations – a sign that he is more than ready to launch the attacks that are expected to characterize a potentially ugly and negative campaign.

Republicans accuse Barack Obama of infusing politics into his official White House events and scoff at the notion that his campaigning is just starting.

The president has done official trips in recent months to highlight his energy record and to tout proposals to reduce costs for students. Young people are an important constituency for his campaign.

The Obama campaign has mapped out several scenarios to win the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency, and the choice of states for his inaugural rallies was not coincidental.

Ohio, with its large cache of 18 electoral votes, is a particularly coveted prize.

No Republican has made it to the White House in the last century without winning the state. Barack Obama bested Republican rival John McCain there in 2008.

Ohio has struggled with a loss of manufacturing jobs, but its unemployment rate, at 7.5% in March, is below the national average, which was 8.2% in March and dipped to 8.1% in April.

That could help blunt Mitt Romney’s attacks on Barack Obama’s economic record. The president’s campaign also hopes to capitalize on union anger over an attempt by the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich, to limit collective bargaining rights for firefighters, police officers, and other state workers. The law was later repealed.

Polls show Barack Obama is leading Mitt Romney in Ohio and Virginia. An average of polls by RealClearPolitics showed the president ahead in Ohio by 4.2 percentage points and ahead in Virginia by 3.2 percentage points.

Virginia had an even lower unemployment rate in March, coming in at 5.6%.

The Obama campaign will also try to capitalize on an advantage with women voters in the state, where the governor – Republican Bob McDonnell – promoted legislation that would have required women to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal sonogram before getting an abortion.

Michelle Obama will also help attract the female vote. The popular first lady, who has done fundraisers across the country for her husband’s campaign, will be at his side for both rallies.

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President Nicolas Sarkozy and his rival Francois Hollande have traded insults in their only TV debate of the election campaign.

Nicolas Sarkozy called Francois Hollande a “little slanderer”, while his challenger said the president shirked responsibility.

The president defended his record and said he had kept France out of recession. But Francois Hollande said France was going through a “serious crisis” and was struggling with slow growth.

The run-off vote takes place on Sunday.

It was a long, bad-tempered debate that left the impression that neither candidate liked each other.

There were plenty of angry exchanges, with both candidates accusing each other of lying.

Francois Hollande accused Nicolas Sarkozy of “ruining the French economy”, prompting his rival to say he had been unfairly blamed.

“It’s never your fault,” Francois Hollande responded, to which Nicolas Sarkozy said: “It’s a lie, it’s a lie!”

President Nicolas Sarkozy and his rival Francois Hollande have traded insults in their only TV debate of the election campaign

President Nicolas Sarkozy and his rival Francois Hollande have traded insults in their only TV debate of the election campaign

Analysts said neither candidate landed a knockout blow – which may be to the advantage of Francois Hollande, the favorite for Sunday’s vote.

Opinion polls suggest the Socialist candidate has a lead of seven percentage points.

Francois Hollande said he would work to help those in need, saying that those “with privileges” had been protected under Nicolas Sarkozy.

“I will be a president for justice, because we are going through a serious crisis that hits in particular the most modest of us, the hardest working people, those who are the most vulnerable.”

He accused Nicolas Sarkozy of failing to take responsibility for the economic difficulties that France was suffering, blaming it instead on the global economic crisis.

Francois Hollande said unemployment levels were “a record” and referred to the downgrading of France’s credit rating.

Lashing back at Francois Hollande, President Nicolas Sarkozy said France had done better than other European countries in coping with the economic climate.

“What is the country to not have known recession since 2009 – it is France,” Nicolas Sarkozy said.

He rejected Francois Hollande’s proposed stimulus programmes, insisting that France had to cut spending and debts.

Nicolas Sarkozy also accused Francois Hollande of representing only the unions, rather than all of France.

“It’s all very nice to talk about uniting people, but it has to be put into practice,” he said.

Francois Hollande also said he would be firm on demands made by the Muslim community, saying he supported France’s ban on face-covering veils and would not allow separate hours in swimming pools for men and women.

Nicolas Sarkozy has similarly criticized demands for special treatment from France’s Muslim community.

The debate was broadcast live by several channels and ran over time to nearly three hours.

There has been a huge build-up to the event, billed variously by newspapers as The Last Duel and The Final Confrontation.

About a third of France’s 63 million people were set to watch the live debate.

Nicolas Sarkozy had attacked Francois Hollande for refusing to hold three election debates instead of one, but there has been just one debate per presidential election since 1974, apart from in 2002 when Jacques Chirac refused to debate with the far right’s Jean-Marie Le Pen.

A key moment in Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 debate with Segolene Royal – Francois Hollande’s former partner and mother of his children – came when he told the Socialist candidate to “calm down”. She repeatedly refused to do so, saying some anger was “perfectly healthy”.

In this debate, Nicolas Sarkozy came across as the more aggressive participant, leaning forward and raising his voice more often, analysts say.

It was presented by two French TV anchors, Laurence Ferrari of TF1 and David Pujadas of France 2.

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Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidential elections in US, has vowed to take the White House from President Barack Obama and end four years of “disappointments”.

Speaking while racking up a series of primary night victories, Mitt Romney said a “new campaign” was beginning, heralding the start of the road to November’s vote.

“Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight,” Mitt Romney said.

Mitt Romney easily won primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

His claim to the Republican nomination is now unrivalled, with no serious challengers remaining in the contest.

With 14 primaries remaining, Mitt Romney has amassed an unbeatable lead in the race for the delegates who will formally crown him the Republican nominee at the party’s convention in late August.

Without competition in the remaining contests he is expected to cruise past the 1,144 delegates he needs to take the nomination.

Mitt Romney has vowed to take the White House from President Barack Obama and end four years of "disappointments"

Mitt Romney has vowed to take the White House from President Barack Obama and end four years of "disappointments"

Among the states still to vote are California and Texas, both heavily populated states with large hauls of delegates.

Just Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul actively remain in the contest.

Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, spoke in North Carolina as Tuesday’s results came in but gave few clues as to his future in the contest.

He had pinned his hopes on a strong showing in Delaware, but instead polled less than half of Mitt Romney’s total.

As the results began to come in on a night with the most electoral delegates at stake since Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney took the stage in New Hampshire, the site of his first primary win of the year.

He focused on the forthcoming general election campaign, saying America needed a new direction and a renewal of its greatness.

“Tonight is the start of a new campaign to unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better,” Mitt Romney said.

“The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best America can do.

“Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years and the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together.”

Mitt Romney accused the president of failing to deliver on his promises of “hope and change” made during his 2008 election campaign.

The average American is still feeling the pain of the economic collapse, Mitt Romney said. “It’s still about the economy… and we’re not stupid.”

Shortly after Mitt Romney’s remarks, Barack Obama took to the stage in Colorado, a state his strategists see as part of a potential route to re-election.

Barack Obama is making a three-state tour of campuses in Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa – all swing states set to feature heavily in November.

The trip is an effort to highlight the growing cost of higher education and, analysts say, revitalize his support among young voters who may have become disillusioned with the president since 2008.

Barack Obama stressed his humble background and said that the election in November would be about making education, and the nation as a whole, affordable for ordinary people.

His spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement that the choice between the two men was clear.

“The title for Governor Romney’s speech tonight should have been Back to the Future, because he has proposed a return to the same policies that got us into the economic crisis in the first place,” he said.

“Mitt Romney has spent the past year out on the campaign trail tearing down the president with a negative message that even Republicans who have endorsed him have criticized.

“This marks the end of that monologue. Now he must put his record and his agenda next to the president’s.”

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