POLITICS

While Rome Burned...They Talked About Lipstick

On Tuesday, as McCain campaign surrogates were dispatched far and wide to ensure railroad coverage of the contrived "lipstick" controversy, Barack Obama responded not with a harder counterpunch or attack ad, but a call for the country to keep its focus on...actual issues.

"You know who ends up losing at the end of the day?" Obama said about the latest dust-ups during a stop in Virginia. "It's not the Democratic candidate, it's not the Republican candidate. It's you, the American people, because then we go another year or another four years or another eight years without addressing the issues that matter to you. Enough."

So, if you've spent the last few days following what's become of the presidential race, here's the actual news you may have missed:

U.S. global leadership is dwindling: "An intelligence forecast being prepared for the next president on future global risks envisions a steady decline in U.S. dominance in the coming decades." According to the U.S. intelligence community's top analyst, U.S. leadership is eroding "at an accelerating pace" in "political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas."

Market diving, another massive bank may collapse: Stocks fell 280 points on Tuesday, a dive that was accelerated when concerns mounted about the Lehman Brothers investment bank's ability to raise capital. "Waves of selling wiped out nearly half of Lehman's value in the stock market on Tuesday, leaving the firm, one of the nation's oldest and largest investment banks, in an all-out fight for survival," the New York Times reported.

Fear of violence, terrorism slows Iraq withdrawal: "U.S. defense officials said the president's decision to withdraw only 8,000 soldiers from Iraq reflects a persistent concern among top commanders that the improvements in security could be temporary and that renewed violence could erupt. Officials fear that Iran might reactivate the Shiite Muslim militias it's armed and trained and that the Sunni group al Qaida in Iraq is trying to reestablish itself in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city."

Iraqi parliament gridlocked: "Iraqi lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday, still gridlocked over the critical law on provincial elections and with no new vote in sight."

Economy weakening: "The U.S. economy continues to be marked by weak housing and labor-market conditions," the Wall Street Journal reported today, "suggesting economic performance will be sluggish at best through the end of the year."

On 9/11 anniversary, aviation still vulnerable: "The nation's top domestic security official," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, "said Wednesday aviation remains vulnerable to terrorist attack seven years after 9/11."

Unemployment rising: The nation's unemployment rate has "bolted above the psychologically important 6 percent level last month for the first time in five years," the AP noted over the weekend, "and it's likely to go even higher in the months ahead, possibly throwing the economy into a tailspin as Americans pick a new president." Moreover, a new study released yesterday showed that pending home sales dropped 3.2% in July, reversing gains made in June.

Federal deficit ballooning: The weak economy is not only devastating the federal government's coffers -- likely driving the federal budget deficit over the $500 billion mark by January, according to government estimates -- but is also depleting state unemployment insurance trust funds.

U.S. 'running out of time' in Afghanistan: "The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today the U.S. is 'running out of time' to get the war in Afghanistan right and announced that he was developing a "new, more comprehensive strategy" to cover the entire region."

Military suicides reaching record levels: Suicides among active-duty soldiers this year "are on pace to exceed both last year's all-time record and, for the first time since the Vietnam War, the rate among the general U.S. population," according to Army officials.

U.S.-Russia relations worsening: "Just three months ago, President Bush reached a long-sought agreement with Russia intended to open a new era of civilian nuclear cooperation and sent it to Congress for review. Now, according to administration officials, Mr. Bush is preparing to scrap his own deal."

OPEC trying to prevent oil prices from falling: The OPEC oil cartel announced its intention to reduce oil production by approximately half a million barrels per day in what the New York Times described as "a bid to stem a rapid decline in oil prices in recent weeks."

And that's not even counting the 36 million Americans living in poverty this year, the sky high prices of gas and food, the sinking consumer confidence, and the 46.9 million people without health insurance (about 16 percent of the total population), etc.

No, the stories above are just from the last few days...