Need to know:
There's a little thing election-watchers like to call incumbency advantage. Then there's another little thing we'll just refer to as "opponent saying stupid stuff" advantage. And when the two come together, it's a beautiful thing for the opposing side (to say nothing of media glee).
That's the wave President Barack Obama is currently surfing, as his re-election campaign gets as much juice as it can from Mitt Romney's now infamous "47 percent" remarks without looking too happy. First Team Obama rushed out a new ad showcasing voters' angry responses to Romney's words; then last night the president appeared on the Letterman show to school his Republican rival: "If you want to be president you got to work for everybody, not just for some."
Romney, meanwhile, is doubling down. He told Fox News that yeah, people who believe in big government aren't going to vote for him, and no, he doesn't think it's Washington's role to "redistribute" wealth. Unfortunately for his strategists, though, their Democrat equivalents know just as well as they do the mileage to be had from an inopportune remark – "We built it," after all – and this one looks like it's got legs.
Want to know:
France's government is feeling nervous today. Very nervous. So nervous, in fact, that they've ordered French embassies and schools in 20 countries to stay closed for the day.
The reason? The latest edition of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which hits the news stands this morning and features (uh oh) cartoons of Muhammad – who is (double uh oh) naked.
Given how well that's gone down before, the Foreign Ministry calls it a pointless "provocation." Charlie Hebdo remains defiant: the pictures will "shock those who want to be shocked," its editor says.
He should know: last year, the magazine's offices were firebombed after it named the Prophet Muhammad its guest editor-in-chief and printed a drawing of him on its cover.
Dull but important:
China's freshly reappeared vice president, Xi Jinping, is back on official duty – and pretty mad at Japan.
Xi held talks today with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who's the first foreign official he's met since cancelling several top-level meetings earlier this month. The time-out doesn't seem to have mellowed him: Xi called Japan's disputed purchase of the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, Islands a "farce" and warned its neighbor to "rein in its behavior."
That makes things a teensy bit awkward for Panetta, who has asked both sides to hold their cool. He warns that any provocation could lead to a "conflict" – so he won't be too pleased by Xi's tough talk.
Colombia's most-wanted drug lord has been captured in Venezuela. Daniel Barrera was arrested some 15 miles from the Colombian border, having been tracked down with the help of US and British intelligence agencies.
"Crazy Barrera," as he is known, had a bounty on his head of $2.7 million from Colombia and $5 million from the US – the same amount America offered for the capture of Osama Bin Laden. The kingpin has been a major player in Colombia's narcotics trade for some 20 years; his traffickers are said to have helped channel more than 900 tons of cocaine to the US and Europe.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos called it "perhaps the most important capture of recent times," appearing on national TV to announce: "The last of the great capos has fallen."
Strange but true:
Was Jesus married? He said he was, according to a newly discovered scrap of papyrus.
No, this isn't a Dan Brown sequel, it's real Bible studies, with professors and everything. Harvard scholar Karen L. King has been studying the papyrus, which appears to be an excerpt from a never-before-seen translation of scripture. The key line: "Jesus said to them, my wife."
The document has already been dubbed "the Gospel of Jesus's Wife." King says it's not conclusive proof one way or the other. But since when did we let "proof" get in the way of a good conspiracy theory?