Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack Obama realises great American dream


Americans have emphatically chosen Barack Obama as their first black president in an election that promises to reshape US politics and the superpower's role on the world stage.

As he wrote himself into the history books, the Democrat leader told 240,000 euphoric supporters in his home town of Chicago that his victory proved anything was possible.

Flanked by his family, Senator Obama told the sea of supporters it was time to reclaim the American dream.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy -- tonight is your answer," he said.

"Change has come to America."

Senator Obama, 47, will become the 44th US president when he moves into the White House on January 20.

The son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, he told the crowd "this victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make change".

President-elect Obama inherits an economy mired in the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a nuclear showdown with Iran.

"The road ahead will be long; our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said.

"I promise you -- we as a people will get there."

He also vowed to be a president for all Americans.

Hundreds of thousands of teary-eyed and jubilant supporters witnessed the new dawn of American politics.

Senator Obama's smile was broad, but his face also reflected the powerful emotion of the occasion.

He thanked his wife, Michelle, and told his daughters Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7, they had earned "the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House".

His triumph was greeted with euphoria across America and reverberated around the world.

New York's Times Square exploded in joy at a moment of healing for America's racial scars, and a crowd gathered outside the White House.

Senator Obama smashed a colour barrier in a way that was unthinkable a generation ago, when the Deep South was segregated and blacks were banned from voting.

Pessimistic about the crisis-ridden US economy, a record number of voters embraced a sweeping national mood for change, painting the American electoral landscape blue for the Democrats.

Riding a wave of energised first-time voters, Senator Obama swept through America's heartland, winning the working-class battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and Ohio right through to the western state of Colorado.

On a night when his gutsy Republican rival John McCain held on to a swag of southern conservative states but ran out of comebacks, Virginia fell to the Democrats for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 landslide.

Senator Obama trounced his adversary in major battlegrounds and poached states long considered to be Republican bastions.

He sealed his overwhelming victory by taking back Florida, the state that broke Democrat hearts in the court-contested election of 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

Several US news networks reported the popular vote as relatively close -- CBS called it 52 to 47 per cent -- after more than 104 million votes had been counted. A handful of states were still to report their results.

But in terms of the all-important Electoral College vote count, it was a blowout.

When counting stopped for the night, Senator Obama had secured an estimated 349 electoral votes compared with 162 for Senator McCain.

The candidate who reaches the threshold 270 out of 538 electoral votes nationwide is declared the winner.

It was the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976 that a Democrat won the White House with more than 50 per cent of the popular vote.

Unlike the cliffhangers of the past two elections, the results unfolded quickly.

As soon as US networks called Pennsylvania for Senator Obama, tens of thousands of his supporters crammed into Chicago's sprawling Grant Park to watch big-screen TVs.

The euphoria exploded when Virginia fell, as supporters with tear-stained cheeks screamed, cheered, danced and chanted "Yes, we can".

After calling Senator Obama to congratulate him on becoming president-elect "of a country we both love", Senator McCain spoke to his supporters in Phoenix, Arizona.

"This is an historic election, and I recognise the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight," he said.

Senator McCain also thanked his controversial running mate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, describing her as "an impressive new voice in our party".

President George W. Bush congratulated Senator Obama on his "awesome night".

And Democratic rival Senator Hillary Clinton promised her full support.

"American voters gave voice to their hopes and their values, voted for change, and refused to be invisible any longer," she said.

Senator Obama becomes one of America's youngest presidents behind big names including Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.
He paid homage to his grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who died earlier this week from cancer.

"While she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure," he said.

Scenes of joy also erupted in the US capital and across the country as crowds poured on to the streets, honking horns, dancing and singing.

A delirious crowd of about 2000 gathered around the White House chanting Senator Obama's name.

"La-la-la, la-la-la, hey-hey-hey – goodbye," they sang as President Bush watched events unfold on TV inside.

Among the throng was Ted Howard, a 64-year-old African-American who finally saw slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King's 45-year-old dream of racial equality come to pass.

"I never thought I'd see a day like this," said Mr Howard, who cast his first vote for president for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and witnessed the funeral procession of that leader after he was slain in 1963.

"It's more spiritual than political," he said.

"I am extremely emotional. Everybody's hugging each other. There's love in the air."

- - Stefanie Balogh in Chicago

Friday, October 31, 2008

Kitty View : Cat in Motion

Cat in Motion, originally uploaded by jciv.

Recession? Not in this gilded cage

Baby grand pianos, crystal chandeliers, golden statues of Johann Strauss — this is the absolutely fabulous approach to belt-tightening in tough times at Flemington's Birdcage.

Despite some token cost-cutting, the Austrian-themed big top of Emirates will come alive with the sound of clinking and clicking when the first influx of imported and home-grown celebrities gather for Derby Day on Saturday.

Take a guided tour around Flemington's famous Birdcage as builders put the finishing touches to this year's exclusive marquees.

L'Oreal and Moet & Chandon baled out of the Birdcage this year, leaving their celebrity refugees scurrying for an invite at one of the neighbouring tents on "Millionaire's Row".

But yesterday at Flemington there was no evidence of the reduced line-up caused by 10 corporate drop-outs, with marquees expanding to fill the gaps.

James Packer's Ellerston Capital may have flown the coop, but Macquarie Bank's enclosure was getting all dolled up yesterday with a curious wall sprouting thick grass. The grass is always greener on the other side, perhaps?

Emirates trimmed its budget from $1.25 million to $900,000, but it was hard to spot any signs of subdued extravagance with the baby grand piano, imported $20,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier and replica golden statue of Johann Strauss taking their places yesterday.

Perhaps as a concession to stressful times, masseurs in an Emirates "spa room" will rub the feet, hands and shoulders of those tired of, well, rubbing shoulders.

The Lexus two-level emporium has flicked its floral chandelier of years gone by and gone for subtle glamour this time, with a metallic facade, copper pendant chandelier and mint-green seating.

Myer is banking on what comes around going around — and has increased its presence with a 20-metre trackside frontage decked out as an opulent carousel, complete with horses under a canopy of lights.

Saab has moved to a trackside position and yesterday trotted out imported Swedish songstress September to pose in front of its three-level marquee, which features an (unheated) sauna-themed karaoke bar where guests will be encouraged to lose their singing inhibitions but not their clothes.

Andrew McManus, a vocal opponent of the doom-and-gloomers, promises excess aplenty in his nightclub-style marquee, which this year features a roll call of imported music stars from all genres and generations.

With truckloads of Moet and a small army of celebrity chefs serving up miniature morsels in what remains Australia's most lavish corporate knees-up, despite the economic uncertainty, it may be a case of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet.


- - Lorna Edwards

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Alexandra Hotel calls last drinks for Peggy the horse

You can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes.  But, given the option, this one preferred a pint of bitter - until recently.

For Peggy the beer-swilling horse has been barred from her local.  Landlady Jackie Gray called time on the 12-year-old Dales pony after the Alexandra Hotel in Jarrow, South Tyneside, was refurbished.

"Although she is probably cleaner than some of my customers, I had to put my foot down and show her the door," said the landlady, 46.

Peggy's owner, Peter Dolan, 62, said he used to leave her tethered to a post outside when he went in for a drink.  But, because her rope was so long, one day she walked in and stood at the bar. Peggy became a local celebrity overnight.

"No one even took any notice of her in the pub," said Mr Dolan, a retired rigger from Jarrow Slake. "Everyone just saw her as one of the locals."

But after two years drinking and munching her favourite beef-flavoured crisps, she's been shown the door for fear she'll leave hoof prints on the new carpet. She now stands outside looking in at her erstwhile drinking buddies.

Mr Dolan said: "She's such a beautiful horse, so well behaved. Everyone here thinks the world of her.

"She's a proper lady. Sometimes she's better than some of the ladies we get in here.

"She still gets her favourite John Smith's bitter now and again and loves her beef crisps, but she'll not be back in the pub."

- - daily mail

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mum Demands Compo After Bunny Attack Injures Girl

Darebin Council has rejected a compensation claim for a toddler bitten by a rabbit at a petting zoo.

Charlii, nearly 2, had to have plastic surgery after the rabbit nearly bit off the first joint of her left index finger during a visit to the council-owned Cooper's Settlement farm at Bundoora Park in April.

Charlii only pointed at the rabbit and did not touch it, her mother, Laura Perry, from Lalor, said.

"She pointed at it and it bit her finger. It nearly took the end of the finger off," she said.

"There was just blood everywhere."

The little girl spent a night in the Northern Hospital having emergency plastic surgery.

Her hand was in a bandage for two weeks and her finger is scarred.

"It was so disturbing for her. She's been having nightmares ever since it happened," Mrs Perry said.

"In my opinion, if you have a petting zoo which kids that age are allowed to go in, you've got a responsibility to make sure that they're OK."

The council rejected Mrs Perry's written request for compensation for pain and suffering.

Council risk services manager Liam McCarthy said the rabbit was immediately moved to a separate enclosure after the incident.

"All rabbits are subjected to a suitability and personality check before being made available for handling," he said.

He said signs at the enclosure clearly stated that rabbits may scratch or bite if handled roughly.

Mr McCarthy said animals that misbehaved were sold and six people had been pecked or bitten at the farm in the past year, out of more than 22,000 visitors.

Supervisory staff were present at all times, but signs stated that parents should supervise children.

Reservoir lawyer Barrie Woollacott, who specialises in public liability claims at Slater and Gordon, said the injury was probably too small to qualify for pain and suffering compensation.

- - Melinda Marshall

SJ Note: Maybe it was the dangerous rabbit from Monty Python's - The Holy Grail