The world of journalism was rocked this week by the death of renowned journalist Marie Colvin. French photographer Rémi Ochlik was also killed in shelling by Syrian government forces as the brutal crackdown by President Assad’s forces in the city of Homs continues.
Colvin, an American who worked for The Sunday Times, has been reporting on the heart-wrenching human cost of the violence in Syria and had explained that she had to be in the city due to the ‘terrible things’ that were happening.
She has previously lost an eye covering the war in Sri Lanka, but that did not change her dedication to uncovering the truth wherever she was required to do so. As international pressure mounts on the Syrian dictator and his regime, the bloodshed continues, and reporting the truth is more important than ever before.
However, in that battle, there will be one less veteran on the frontline.
Outside of Syria, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has announced a ballot for the leadership of the governing Labor Party, amid speculation that allies of former prime minister Kevin Rudd are plotting to bring him back to power.
Gillard came to power in 2010 after launching a successful campaign to take over as prime minister, despite Rudd then leading a Labor government since 2007. Rudd later took over as foreign minister, but his resignation on Tuesday night whilst in America for meetings with Hillary Clinton has sparked the leadership ballot.
In what is being seen as a ‘put up or shut up’ challenge to Rudd, Gillard declared she expected Rudd to be competing in the ballot, after the latter claiming he would be the best candidate to defeat opposition leader Tony Abbott.
For his part Abbott has called the political battle “an embarrassment”, however in the short term the focus will be purely on who has the most support in the Labor Party.
In more questionable democratic processes, Russian prime minister and wannabe tsar Vladimir Putin delivered a speech in Moscow in which he pledged to win “the battle for Russia”.
Putin is far ahead of his competitors in the polls and expected to gain victory in the upcoming presidential election, but there are fears that allegations of widespread pro-Putin fraud that emerged after December’s general election may come into play again.
Putin has used patriotic language and warned of ‘interference’ from outside in the political process, but many critics have spoken out against his attempts to use historical warnings and emotive language to try and suggest he is the candidate ‘of Russia’.
Despite high poll numbers, Putin’s star has fallen somewhat in the last years from the fantastic support he used to have and whilst invoking history and Russian imagery to gain support may be standard practice in the nations politics, many observers are hoping this is not the first move to more questionable practices Putin and his ‘United Russia’ party will employ.
As election season also draws near in America, president Obama has apologised after American troops burned Korans at a U.S army base.
Eleven deaths have already been recorded as a result of the violence, with dozens more injured in protests. President Karzai has given the Americans some cover by saying the U.S soldier responsible burned the sacred books out of “ignorance”.
The inevitable chants of ‘death to Obama’ and burning of American flags has also followed the incident and has led to renewed calls by the Taliban for attacks on U.S forces in the country.
The previous burning of the book by an attention seeking US pastor in Florida caused 24 deaths, and whilst the death count has yet to reach that level, the foolish move could be a huge propaganda win for the Taliban as coalition forces prepare to leave the region.
Whilst Obama watches Afghanistan with dismay, he will be delighted with political events at home. With former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum surging in the GOP primary and dragging frontrunner Willard ‘Mitt’ Romney to the right on immigration and other issues, Obama is raising funds and keeping relatively quiet whilst the opposition spend millions of dollars.
After this week’s contentious Republican debate, which involved one of the most angry confrontations yet between Romney and Santorum, many in the GOP establishment are worrying bitter divisions between the two may be difficult to heal. Obama and Clinton managed it, can the two Republican frontrunners?
Recent polling shows Obama beating all four of the remaining GOP candidates in national head to head contests.
However any serious American political observer will note the electoral college system means national polls can often be a vague guide to the positions of the candidates and with Obama’s approval rating in the latest Gallup polling still upside down the President will be hoping for more of the same petty confrontations from the Republicans.
With Romney surging in Michigan, and Santorum gathering steam in Arizona it could come down to just the two of them come the delegate-fest on ‘Super Tuesday’. Whether it is merely a bump in the road for Romney or a GOP cultural civil war will be worrying not just the candidates, but everyone who wants to beat Obama.
Also this week:
• How do we build a better future with Somalia? – Rushanara Ali MP
• Just as we dismantle our NHS, India is trying to build theirs – David Taylor
• Is Kevin Rudd the comeback kid? – Ed Jacobs