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The Guardian Audio Edition: 29 January 2013
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Beyoncé lip-synchs the US national anthem at the Obama inauguration last week. Photograph: Jim Bourg/REUTERS
From Beyoncé to horse meat to Lance Armstrong, we have to care about this contempt for the public
In the science fiction film The Matrix, all-powerful machines transform the planet into a huge computer simulation where humans exist only in a dream world. Among the few sentient "free" people left fighting the machines is Cypher, who abandons the struggle following a revelation: he actually prefers the simulation to reality.


Barack Obama: the romance may have gone, but the love is still there. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Obama shifts to the high ground in call for collective action
If presidents campaign in poetry and govern in prose, then their second inaugural address is generally delivered in PowerPoint – a less utopian, more businesslike rollout of what they have not yet done. The first time they take the oath is a moment of promise, announced in Technicolor. The second is for posterity, offered in sepia. With expectations for the future tempered by experience and lowered by familiarity after re-election, they crane their necks to history.


Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. The public holiday commemorating the civil rights leader was established with considerable struggle. Photograph: AP
Obama's inauguration carries symbolic resonance on Martin Luther King Day
In April 1961, four months before Barack Obama was born, Bobby Kennedy told Voice of America: "There's no question that in the next 30 or 40 years a negro can also achieve the same position that my brother has as president of the United States." Less than a month later a group of black and white freedom riders were firebombed and beaten with baseball bats and lead piping as they tried to travel through the south. The interracial marriage of Obama's parents was not recognised in more than 20 states. Black people's right to vote, let alone stand for election, had not been secured in much of the south. The prospect of a black president never seemed further away.


Myrlie Evers-Williams will be the first women and layperson to deliver the invocation at a presidential inauguration. Photograph: Rogelio V Solis/AP
Obama's inauguration to provide landmark moment for civil rights titan
On the evening of 11 June 1963, Myrlie Evers-Williams lay in bed in Jackson, Mississippi, allowing her three small children stay up with her to watch President John F Kennedy deliver a landmark address on civil rights.


Barack Obama signs executive orders to curb gun violence as Vice-President Joe Biden and invited guests look on. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Obama's show of leadership on gun control was show – but very necessary
Finally. After years of silence, punctured by sombre responses to predictable slaughter, an American president has made a sober, principled and coherent intervention on the issue of gun control.


Barack Obama and his defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, left, listen to new CIA director John Brennan at the White House on 7 January. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP
Obama's new team shows the Iraq lessons are forgotten
In April 1968 a squad from the US 9th infantry division in Vietnam hit a tripwire, triggering a landmine. In the troop carrier were two brothers, Chuck and Tom Hagel. Chuck freed an unconscious Tom from the wreckage and both were evacuated. "The night Tom and I were medevaced out of that village I told myself: if I ever get out of this and I'm ever in a position to influence policy, I will do everything I can to avoid needless, senseless war," Chuck told Vietnam magazine. In 1996 Chuck was elected Republican senator for Nebraska. Presented with a "needless, senseless war" in Iraq in October 2002, he voted for it. Last week Obama picked him for defence secretary.
Suffer the Children
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No Place Like Home – A Black Briton’s Journey through the American South
book review
'The idea of retracing the route is a great one, urgent and necessary.'
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