Tales from the Trail

Live blog of Obama’s Afghanistan speech

Reuters’ Toby Zakaria will be live blogging the Obama speech on Tuesday night.

Live blogging Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”

Veteran Reuters political correspondent Steve Holland is reading Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue: An American Life” and sharing his thoughts on Twitter. He’s well-qualified as a reader — he broke the news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy on the eve of the Republican National Convention.************Follow Steve on Twitter***

Obama encourages unbridled Internet in China

Internet-savvy President Barack Obama told Chinese students that he is a big fan of the Web, though he doesn’t Twitter.
    
OBAMA-ASIA/At a town hall forum in Shanghai, a student who sent in a question by email pointed out that China has a huge online community with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers.

He asked what Obama thought of the Chinese government’s “firewall” that blocks objectionable Internet sites and if he thought the Chinese should be able to “Twitter freely.”
    
“First of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” Obama replied. “I noticed that young people — they’re very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”
  
But he added, “I’ve always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States.” Obama said a free Internet allows people around the world to think freely and hold their governments accountable.
    
Obama’s election campaign was credited with using the Internet in innovative ways — Facebook and texting — to raise money and rally a huge network of volunteers.
    
Traveling in China as part of a nine-day Asia tour, Obama made a point of highlighting the Internet at the town hall. He took questions from the students in attendance at the event as well as questions submitted over the Internet.
 
The question about the Chinese firewall was one of more than 1,000 submitted by email through the U.S. embassy. At the request of the White House, which did not want to be in the awkward position of pre-selecting a question, Bloomberg reporter Ed Chen, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, chose the question randomly by picking a number and relaying it to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Reuters photo by Jason Reed (a student poses a question to Obama at the town hall-style meeting at Shanghai’s Museum of Science and Technology, Nov. 16, 2009)

Did Obama call Kanye a jackass?

President Barack Obama reportedly didn’t approve of rapper Kanye West’s antics at the MTV Video Music Awards.

We may never know the full details — Obama’s remarks were off the record — but the word “jackass” evidently came into play.

UPDATE: TMZ has the audio.

Kanye West hijacked teen country star Taylor Swift’s moment in the spotlight at the MTV award show, and was booed loudly when he leaped on stage and grabbed the microphone from Swift, 19, as she was accepting the trophy for best female pop video.

The First Draft: Reviews flood in after Obama’s Cairo speech

OBAMA-EGYPT/He’s been preparing for this moment since long before he came to the White House, so President Barack Obama might wonder how his Cairo speech to the Muslim world went over. He wouldn’t have to wait long — within minutes after he ended his address, the reviews started flooding in.

The Washington Post said Obama did well, but basically, talk’s cheap: “Perhaps today’s words, from the son of a Muslim, will be viewed as a welcome olive branch. But it’s still just a speech. And even stirring words can’t paper over the seemingly intractable differences in the Mideast.”

The New York Post got a bit snarky: “If world peace is attained by complimenting those on the other side into submission, he made some serious progress. Obama really buttered them up in Cairo.”

The First Draft: Presidential e-mail

SUNDANCE/If you just can’t get enough of the goings and doings of President Barack Obama, can’t wait for the blog posts, Twitter tweets, Washington whispers or even the newspaper and magazine stories about the U.S. chief executive, now there’s help. You can sign up for e-mails from the president. He sent his first one Wednesday. It’s hardly a window on the inner workings of the White House but it is a new way to communicate.

“My staff and I plan to use these messages as a way to directly communicate about important issues and opportunities, and today I have some encouraging updates about health care reform,” wrote in his first message, also posted here. “The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.”

He ended the note with,

“Thank you,
“Barack Obama”

and then added a postscript:

“P.S. If you’d like to get more in-depth information about health reform and how you can participate, be sure to visit http://www.HealthReform.gov”