Upbeat Obama ready for sixth State of the Union

President Obama delivers his sixth State of The Union address on Tuesday evening, enjoying his highest personal positives for some time, and buoyed by an improving economy.

But even a 50 per cent approval rating – his best in a year and a half (although a WSJ poll released at midnight had the number slightly lower, alongside optimism on the economy) – doesn’t make him immune to opposition, specifically to his expected proposals on income inequality.

The speech has again been written by Obama’s chief speechwriter, 34-year-old Cody Keenan, whom the President calls “Hemingway” and who once famously dressed up as a pirate for a presidential photo-op.

A lot of the expected content has already been trailed – to the extent that even the Chicago Tribune thinks canceling should be an option – but here are some steers on what to look for in the President’s speech, from The Hill, CNN, USA Today and ABC News.

You can watch live via a stream on PBS here and there will be a real-time “River of Content” from the White House.

The President will continue his pitch to the public after the speech, with events in Idaho on Wednesday and Kansas on Thursday. He’ll also be doing interviews that day with three YouTube personalities.

The GOP has tapped newly-elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst to deliver its official response while there will also be remarks on behalf of the Tea Party by Florida Congressman Curt Clawson.

* POLITICS * Republicans, meanwhile, still seem conflicted at the notion of another Mitt Romney presidential run. Or even a first run by Jeb Bush for that matter. Among other potential candidates, Rick Santorum, took a jab at Romney, Rick Perry leaves office as Governor of Texas on Tuesday and heads to Iowa – saying he will make a decision on a run in the next few months – while Donald Trump, perhaps unsurprisingly, told South Carolina teapartiers he was the best man for the job.

On the other side of the coin, Hillary Clinton is said to be “developing a smarter, more relevant campaign” for 2016.

* WORLD * In an online video posted by sites associated with Islamic State, militants  threaten to kill two Japanese hostages unless they are paid a $200m ransom in the next three days. It is the first time the group has directly threatened Japanese nationals.

The situation in Yemen deteriorated, with reports that nine people had been killed and 67 injured in clashes between government forces and Houthi militants, before a tentative ceasefire was reached. President Hadi appears to still be in power despite fighting near the presidential palace.

European governments are pressing for better information-sharing in the wake of recent terror attacks. Meanwhile, Belgian authorities say the ringleader of a plot disrupted by police last week is still at large, with his last-known location thought to be Greece.

The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis will visit New York and celebrate mass at Madison Square Garden, as part of his three-city tour of the US in September. Other stops are Philadelphia and Washington DC, but it’s possible Boston might yet be added to the schedule.

* BUSINESS * China’s GDP growth slowed to 7.4% in 2014, its lowest level since 1990. Meanwhile, the IMF lowered its growth forecasts by the most in three years, for almost every global economy except the US. The IMF says growth in India is on course to outpace China next year.

The gathering of the World Economic Forum formally kicks off on Wednesday. As USA Today puts it, with perhaps only slight hyperbole: “Davos arrives as world on verge of nervous breakdown.” 

Christie’s and Sotheby’s both reported record art sales in 2014. Christie’s global sales were up 12 per cent from the previous year to $7.7bn, while Sotheby’s auction sales were 18 per cent higher at $6bn.

* MEDIA * Britain’s data monitoring center, GCHQ, “scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organizations” The Guardian reports. The story, based on disclosures by Edward Snowden, comes as every British national newspaper editor signed a letter to prime minister David Cameron protesting about the provisions of the draft code of practice on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, covering limits on government surveillance. A period of consultation on how the legislation should be used ends on Tuesday.

A report from Deloitte indicates that North American millennials – the “generation that won’t spend” – are expected to spend some $62billion on media content this year.

nightlymashable  (image: Mashable)

Described as “undoubtedly a black show”, Larry Wilmore debuted his “Nightly Show,” replacing Stephen Colbert in the 11.30 ET slot on Comedy Central, following Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” where Wilmore often appeared as “Senior Black Correspondent.” Colbert will take over David Letterman’s Late Show on CBS on Sept 8.

After 44 years, The Sun is ending its topless Page Three pictures.

* SPORTS * In what has been dubbed “DeflateGate”, the NFL is apparently investigating whether or not the New England Patriots had the assistance of under-inflated footballs in beating Indianapolis on Sunday night’s conference championship game.

The New York Knicks won their sixth game of the season, snapping a franchise-record 16-game losing streak.

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