Obama's left-wing blogger 'posse'

Press secretary Jay Carney in the White House briefing room. Jay Carney, "lord and master" of the left-wing blogosphere?

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The National Journal's James Oliphant thinks that progressive bloggers have President Barack Obama's back.

"It's been a familiar pattern since President Obama took office in 2009: when critics attack, the White House can count on a posse of progressive writers to ride to its rescue," he writes.

Thanks to the speed of internet-based journalism, he says, "no White House has ever enjoyed the luxury that this one has, in which its arguments and talking points can be advanced on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis".

Not only that, social media - with its "torrent of clicks, retweets, 'likes,' and links" encourages group-think in the left, he argues, as commentators and analysts compete to ingratiated themselves to their fellow partisans.

The Obama Administration caters to this crowd, he says, by holding off-the-record briefings with handpicked media acolytes.

"The hope, from the White House's perspective, is that progressive media elites sway the mainstream press," he writes.

With his piece, Oliphant has knocked the proverbial hornet's nest, and the liberal bloggers he targeted - and some he didn't - have taken offence.

The article is "flawed from top to bottom", tweets Politico's Dylan Byers.

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says that Oliphant could have argued that there's a difference between espousing a liberal ideology and engaging in lockstep partisanship, but instead "horribly botches the topic". The article, he says, represents a glorification of nonpartisanship and endorses the "premise that the truth lies somewhere between the positions of two major American political parties at any given moment." In reality, says Chait, often one party is right and the other is wrong, and there's nothing ideological about reporting the political score.

"The whole piece is a bizarre jumble that covers progressive bloggers and writers as if they are an Obama-era innovation, and as if they don't do reporting outside the guidelines of the White House," writes Slate's Dave Weigel, who is named in the story.

He also tweeted a message to his "lord and master", White House press secretary Jay Carney, apologising for writing a positive profile of a Republican earlier this week.

No word on whether the apology was accepted, Darth Vader-style.

North Korea

State editorial attacks Obama with racial slurs - The North Korean state news agency KCNA took its anti-US rhetoric to a higher, more disturbing level last Friday, as it published an English-language editorial calling President Barack Obama a "wicked black monkey".

Another Korean-language piece refers to him as a "cross-breed with unclear blood" who should "live with a group of monkeys in the world's largest African natural zoo".

"Propriety has never been a part of North Korean rhetoric, but rarely has Pyongyang so ferociously - and personally - attacked a US leader, in this case pulling language right out of the American 1850s," writes Chico Harlan and Zachary A Goldfarb of the Washington Post.

The slurs are "telling about the state ideology", they write, such as its emphasis on racial purity. "North Korea has proved its willingness to advertise all forms of contempt, racial or otherwise."

Thailand

A judiciary run amok - The Thailand Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the flimsiest of grounds, writes Michael J Montesano of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"The judicial removal of an elected prime minister on political grounds is emblematic of the no-holds-barred approach of her opponents, not only in the political arena but also at nominally independent institutions," he says.

This amounts to a "reckless" politicisation of the Thai courts, he writes, and with repercussions that "will be felt long after the present crisis is over".

Nigeria

Boko Haram threatens - Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, finds it hard to be optimistic about Nigeria's future following the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirl by Boko Haram.

"It's frustrating that the Nigerian government, despite an intensifying effort to find the girls, has been unable to locate them," she writes.

In addition, she says, Boko Haram's anti-women ideology must be stopped.

"When girls are educated and free to pursue their passions, they contribute more to a thriving society," she writes. "When women have a voice, they raise it to demand a life that is greater than what they've been told they have a right to expect."

Spain

Late, long lunches are detrimental - The Spanish workday starts early, is punctuated by a long, late lunch, and lasts until well into the evening. The consequences, writes Gabriela Canas, are "disastrous" for health and family relations.

The practice dates back to when the average Spaniard held two jobs, she notes - one in the morning and one for a few hours in the evening.

"Yet despite the profound changes that Spain has undergone over the last three decades, this outdated system remains in place, making life difficult for companies that deal with other countries," she says.

BBC Monitoring's quote of the day

A Qatari newspaper worries that the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria will reflect poorly on the Islamic faith.

"Boko Haram's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria is a crime against humanity and has nothing to do with Islam… Deterring Boko Haram is a religious and legal duty to prevent deviant ideology from seeping into the Muslim faith, which is against enslaving women, forcing them to marry, murdering innocent people, and destroying public and private property in the name of Islam." - Editorial in Al-Rayah.

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