Although some of the details are still emerging, North Korea’s state-owned Korean Central News Agency first reported on November 29 that leading archaeologists had discovered the remains of a “unicorn lair” in Pyongyang, North Korea. The story indicated that the Academy of Social Sciences had “reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom.”
Their evidence: a rock carved with the words “Unicorn Lair.” That’s irrefutable!
How about we shake things up a bit this week? Let’s start with some sports news for a change.
College football’s regular season came to an end yesterday, with the Alabama Crimson Tide edging out the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, 32-28, to win a national title shot against the undefeated Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish boast the second-stingiest defense in college football, with approximately 10.33 points allowed per game. Only Alabama itself allows fewer points per game: 10.31.
In hockey, federal mediators have failed to resolve the stalemate in the NHL’s labor talks, leaving the entire season’s cancellation feeling more likely by the day, while my St. Louis Blues’ inability to even win a virtual hockey game grows just as paramount. (Thanks, EA Sports.)
I know it’s tempting to kick off the week with the obvious local Black Friday headlines, but let’s start with a wider gaze, shall we? You probably recall the Arab Spring that began unfolding around two years ago. It’s not clear, however, if the revolution did the region much good.
Egypt, which featured a great deal of positive press coverage during the revolution, is perhaps the most obvious example, as it is now under the thumb of new president Mohammad Morsi. On Wednesday, Morsi won widespread praise for his role in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas forces — many commentators in western nations called out Morsi for apparent partisanship toward the Hamas faction, but much of his own country hailed his work as a shining success. On Thursday, however, he stunned the people in his fledgling democracy by granting himself incredibly broad new powers, making his own unilateral decisions trump those of any Egyptian court.
Let’s get straight into the big news item of the week. As you’re surely already aware, Israel has been fighting with Palestinian forces for many years, with consistent hostility between the two groups. Last week, for instance, southern Israel was being pummeled by rockets from Hamas, the terrorist organization which controls the Gaza Strip, in addition to a few stray shells from Syria. In a major turn of events, however, Israel’s most recent air strike, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, was a successful assassination of Hamas’ military commander, Ahmed Jabari.
The Wednesday attack further destroyed over 20 underground rocket launchers belonging to Hamas and the affiliated Islamic Jihad, which Israeli leaders hope will neutralize much of the long-range threat against their nation. Hamas, on the other hand, said that Israel “has opened the gates of hell,” and promised a vicious response. Hamas official Ismail al-Ashqar says that the organization plans to “burn Israeli cities” with attacks that may include suicide bombings similar to those employed by al Qaeda operatives.
The fateful day is almost upon us. On Tuesday, citizens across the nation will cast their ballots for the next president of the United States. Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been hard at work over the final weekend of campaigning, both sides hoping to swipe as many votes as they can in order to pull out what may be a narrow win in two days.
Even as both sides have pushed to maintain an upbeat appearance as we near the finish line, the candidates have become mired in arguments over a poorly timed comment by Obama, who suggested during a Friday speech in Ohio that the American public should re-elect him over Romney out of “revenge.” Republicans have blasted Obama for the comment, with Romney saying that people should “vote for love of country, not revenge,” while Democrats argued that too much is being made of his word choice, showing that Romney is desperate enough to resort to “scare tactics” amid stalling momentum in the polls. Either way, it’s left Romney’s latest messages feeling oddly reminiscent of Obama’s 2008 campaign, with Romney echoing Obama verbatim in imploring Americans to vote for “change.”
Going into the third and final presidential debate on Monday, most major polls had Barack Obama and Mitt Romney effectively tied, with the difference between them within the margin of error. With the momentum swinging toward Romney, though, some analysts argued that Obama needed to completely dominate the last debate in order to stem the tide. But despite Obama’s best efforts, such dominance was nowhere to be found as the two candidates fought to a draw over foreign policy.
Well, actually, that’s not quite correct. The two candidates didn’t really fight to a draw. Obama indeed fought throughout the debate as he went on the offensive, trying to slam Romney throughout the affair. But Romney would have none of it, choosing to focus on the similarities between the two candidates’ policies instead of highlighting differences. He passed up countless opportunities to hammer Obama on how he handled foreign policy nightmares like the tragedy in Benghazi, to take a stand against Cuba in order to impress Florida voters, or to simply pressure Obama on the increasingly bloody global climate.
Oct. 21, 2012: Presidential Debates Round Two: Obama didn’t repeat the first debate. But did he win?
After the second presidential debate, only one thing was clear: it was not a repeat of round one. President Barack Obama took the affair seriously, fighting back against Governor Mitt Romney in a stark contrast with the passiveness he displayed in the first debate. Many analysts and polls suggested that Obama a stole the advantage in round two thanks to a few Romney missteps, of which the most egregious was a mistaken claim about Obama's response to the Benghazi embassy attack. However, the reported win was, at the very least, less clear than Romney’s round one triumph, with Romney making several compelling points and imploring voters not “to settle” for the current economy.
With the narrower win in mind, the Obama camp has to be nervous about Romney’s momentum across the nation. While early vote totals have been quite high, suggesting an advantage for Obama in the November election — in recent years, more Democrats than Republicans have filed absentee ballots — the margin by which he leads those early votes is much smaller than the lead he held in 2008. With even major media outlets that supported Obama four years ago openly shifting toward Romney, the presidency may be within reach for the challenger.