The negative spinning begins. The PR budgets supporting films on the Oscars short list is immense and as in all good political campaigns, there is a negative case pushed against the opponents along with a positive endorsement of your own team. As I predicted in Crikey on Friday, a vulnerable spot for Slumdog Millionaire is that it presents “a white man’s imagined India … a poverty tour” in the words of one Indian academic publicised by Hollywood’s home town paper the Los Angeles Times.

We can expect more of the same in the coming weeks but it looks like it will require a mighty effort to stop the Slumdog taking the prize. Both the producers’ and actors’ guilds gave the British-Indian production their top gong at the weekend and guild members are among the Academy Award voters.

The latest Crikey Best Film Election Indicator is:

One consequence of taking the market line. Malcolm Turnbull will achieve one thing with his hard line stand against government support for commercial property developers — Labor is now guaranteed to have a major advantage when it comes to electoral fund raising. Developers have always kicked the can heavily for Labor and now they will have an excellent reason to ignore Liberal fund raisers altogether.

Spinning an overseas trip and some cancellations. Kevin Rudd planned three visits on the overseas trip he originally scheduled for this week. He was going to a meeting of South Pacific leaders in Port Moresby to discuss ways of getting Fiji to hold elections but the meeting was cancelled when the Fijian leader said he would not be there; he planned to call in at New Delhi to chat with the Indian Prime Minister but the Indian Prime Minister announced he would be undergoing heart bypass surgery over the weekend and would not be available; which left the Davos talk fest of international political and business leaders. Our Prime Minister considered how travelling halfway round the world just to go hob-nobbing with the world’s rich and powerful would look and decided to stay home. A sensible enough decision, I would have thought, for a politician who is getting the reputation of being all talk and little action.

But the PM’s spinners could not help but keep spinning. They put out the line that their man cancelled the six-day overseas trip due to the worsening state of the Australian economy and the press bought it instead of reporting that the Labor Government is getting sensitive about what the electorate thinks of a leader with the travel bug. That sensitivity was clearly on show when the trip to meet with South Pacific leaders was put back on again. The junior jet setter, Treasurer Wayne Swan, was forced to fly to Papua New Guinea so the PM could pretend he was in charge of developing the next stage of Australia’s anti-recession strategy by working to and fro on his air force jet.

Reporting speeches before they are given. Rational people will soon stop going to events where politicians are to deliver speeches. The new trend in the game of political spin is to ensure that the key content of any political address is well and truly reported before it is given. The process started years ago I suppose when the political operatives worked out that the huge number of decisions announced by the Treasurer on Budget Day meant that some of them went largely unnoticed. Hence the strategy of leaking out the good news over a period of days was devised. Now it has got to the absurd level of virtually every announcement of any consequence at all being previewed in this way.

The Saturday papers showed that Government and Opposition spin doctors were hard at work on Friday. Most papers had a version of Malcolm Turnbull preparing to announce what The Australian described as “a multi-pronged carbon emissions reduction policy” when he spoke to Young Liberals at their annual convention. As for Kevin Rudd’s speech delivered in Perth on Saturday, there was very little about the plan to protect 50,000 construction jobs by creating a $4 billion partnership with the major banks to finance office buildings, shopping centres and other commercial property projects that had not been well and truly covered in all that morning’s dailies. Given the PM’s drab mode of delivery plus the absence of him having anything new to say it must have been torture for those unlucky enough to be in the Perth audience. That this release the news in advance strategy is spreading was confirmed when Stephanie Peatling in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald reported an announcement Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is planning for North Queensland on a $20 million grant for ANU and CSIRO scientists to study the effects of climate change on health — particularly heat-related diseases such as dengue fever.

For journalists, the saddest headline of the week?

Now for some good news. Perhaps there’s hope for my type yet! Pour another cup and read how coffee drinkers at midlife (long time coffee drinkers) had lower risk for dementia and AD later in life compared to those drinking no or only a little coffee. The lowest risk (65% decreased) was found among moderate coffee drinkers (drinking 3-5 cups of coffee/day).

An alternative view from Gaza — blasted back 2000 years. In most of the assessments of what was achieved by Israel through its invasion of Gaza, the assumption has been that the extensive damage to the property of non-combatant civilians would somehow strengthen the hold of Hamas on the country rather than weaken it. Thus I was intrigued to read a Der Spiegal report “Who Has Won Here” which put an alternative view. The German correspondent Ulrike Putz writing from Beit Lahia, Gaza suggested otherwise. “In the Gaza Strip,” he writes, “people are returning home — or to the rubble that was once their home. Many are blaming Hamas for the destruction because the militants hid among civilians and attracted Israeli fire. Yet no one dares to speak out openly. What is left over when a person is hit by a tank shell. Blood, tissue, bone splinters, splatters on the wall. And anger.”

He continues:

Mohammed Sadala’s rage is aimed at the man, whose remains he found in his bedroom: a Hamas fighter. He and a comrade broke into the home which had long stood empty after the Sadala family fled. The Hamas men shot at the approaching Israelis from the balcony. The soldiers fired back, killing the militants and destroying the house of the 10-strong family in the process.

When Sadala came back to survey the scene he found his property in ruins: the younger children’s bedroom was burnt out, while the living room and hallway were strewn with bullet holes and blackened by soot from the fire. In the bedroom lay the corpses: one had bled to death, the other was hit by a tank shell.

Beside the bodies lay the assault rifle which they had used to try to stop the tanks.

“I used to support Hamas because they fought for our country, for Palestine,” says Sadala. Hamas stood for a new start, for an end of corruption, which had spread like cancer under the moderate Fatah. In the 2006 elections Hamas won the majority with their message of change, said Sadala, who earned a living in the building business. Gesticulating wildly, the 52-year-old surveyed the ruins of the bedroom: “That is the change that they brought about. We were blasted back 2,000 years.”

Tabloid cheap shots. Presenting religious or ethnic minorities as un-Australian weirdos is becoming increasingly common in the Murdoch tabloids. Crikey editor Jonathan Green gave a prime example last Friday dealing with the beat-up of old stories about the “Outspoken Islamic cleric” Abu Hamza. On Saturday, it was the turn of the Townsville Bulletin with this piece of drivel:

Peter Fray

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