US presidential debate liveblog

Our US blogger Nicky Woolf will be live-blogging the Presidential debate, which starts at 2am UK time. Come back then to join in.

Live feed of the event can be found here: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2012/10/watch-us-presidential-debate-live

 


10:35PM

Romney's closing statement: "This is an important election, and I'm concerned about America - about the direction America's been taking in the last four years."

"I will keep America strong," he finishes.

I'm going to give the win for Romney on points. The crowd here at Obama HQ don't seem that fired up. But he's lowered his expectations now; the stories tomorrow will feature a Romney win - but that means Obama is set up for an out-of-the-park hit on foreign policy.

Next up is the Vice-Presidential debate. Ryan vs Biden, on October 11. Could be a good one...

Thank you and goodnight.

 


10:29PM

Obama is closing with a list of his greates hits. "repealed don't ask don't tell, went after al quaeda and bin laden, ended the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."

His closing statement: "Four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. And yet, my faith and confidence in the american future is undiminished; the reason is because of it's people..." he lists examples. "The Auto workers that you meet in Toledo" - cheers from the crowd here in Toledo." He seems rattled.

 


10:23PM

The first new policy proposal of the debate: Romney "I propose we grade our schools... let's let people choose their schools. I've been there: Massachusetts schools are ranked first in the nation."

Meanwhile, Adam Gabbatt drags us kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And a galaxy far away, and a long, long time ago. http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mbcj5juP8f1rg2rf7o1_500.gif

 


10:18PM

It's taken him a while to get there, but Romney's finally said the G-word. Ladbrokes calls it:

 


10:13PM

As the candidates get technical about pre-existing conditions, Twitter is getting bored.

Next up: the role of government.


10:03PM

A great line from Obama: "the irony is, we've seen [the Obamacare] model before: in Massachusetts!" Romney is havering, defending the difference simply on the matter of bipartisanship.

"We didn't cut medicare," he says. "Of course, we didn't have medicare..." he's playing for time now, mixing up his words. "We have to have a President who can reach across the aisle."

Obama takes the opening. "The fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers. And it's the same plan."

Meanwhile, Jonathan Freedland says what Obama perhaps ought to:

 


10:00PM

Next segment is healthcare - Obamacare, essentially. Here, Jim Lehrer says, he knows there is a clear difference between the two candidates.

Romney making his first attack: on the expense of insurance; and saying that it kills jobs. Obama has little difficulty swatting him away, making the case very ably for the Affordable Care act. "Though I've come to quite like the term [Obamacare]"

 


9:54PM

Mitt Romney admitting that the banking system needs regulation elicits the first grin of the evening from the President that isn't a rictus. He's on safer ground here, and he's capitalising it well. "Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. Roll it back. So the question is: does anybody out there think that the big problem we had was too much regulation and oversight of Wall Street? If you do, Governor Romney is your candidate..."

Point: Obama.

 


9:46PM

Obama appears to be missing the opportunity to pummel Romney on Medicaid and Social Security - especially for picking Ryan, who wanted to eliminate Social Security.

From the Managing Editor of Foreign Policy magazine:

 

"You want to turn Medicare into a voucher program," says Obama. "That's for future people," Romney interrupts. "So if you're 54, 55 - you may want to listen to this," snaps back the President. His first good counterattack.

 


9:40PM

"I've been in business for 25 years, and... I don't know what you're talking about!" exclaims the Governor.

"I maybe need to get a new accountant" is not a line that will serve him well, though.

Segment 3 is Entitlements, coming up.

 


9:35PM

Romney interrupts Obama again. Whatever he's been doing in his debate preps with Rob Portman have been working. I hate to say it, but he's on fire. Obama's sober, serious, academic approach to this is flailing in the face of Romney's passion. Obama needs to get his down-home hat on, double-quick; you can see on his face - Romney's ambushed him.

 


9:30PM

Obama, as the incumbent in a section about the debt and the deficit, is on the back foot - while Romney appears to be on a roll. The challenger is funnier, and looks more human. Obama over-serious, almost staid.  He's talking about Bush - that's how much on the defensive the President is right now.

 


9:22PM

The Twittersphere is critical of Obala's style tonight. The Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan outlines the problem:

 

Romney looks like he's having fun, while Obama looks like he's finding out that it's tough to be the overdog...

 


9:19PM

"Everything he's just said about my tax plan is inaccurate," says a suddenly outraged Romney. He's trying to paint Obama into a corner of not understanding economic issues - a narrative that suits him. It's working. Romney's on a good run here. "For me this is about jobs," he says.

"For 18 months he's been running on this tax plan," says Obama, "now, he's saying that his big, bold idea is: never mind". He whacks in "it's arithmetic", the line that served Bill Clinton so well in his speech to the DNC.

 


9:11PM

Romney, who people are starting to see as an elitist, is trying to get back some headway on the middle class. "Higher income Americans will be fine whether you're President or I am. It's middle income Americans who are suffering," he says. Interestingly, he doesn't appear to be able to bring himself to say the word "class". He's got his favourite line about gas prices doubling in there, though.

 


9:05PM

The candidates are hitting their topic targets early on. Obama is straight in there with "the auto industry is roaring ahead," while Romney gets quickly on to his promise to be tough on China. 

 


9:02PM

Here are the topics of the six segments: There will be three on the economy, one on healthcare, the role of government, and governance.

The healthcare one is likely to be the interesting one.

"Jobs" is the first topic.


8:58PM

Two minutes to go.

Obama will be looking for any opportunity tonight to drop the "General Motors is alive" line. That's his big vote-winner here in Ohio, where one in every eight jobs depends on the auto industry.

Romney's pitch is more difficult: he has to convince everyone that he has the best ideas to cut the deficit- Obama will press him hard on where the money's coming from, especially alongside Romney's promised tax cuts.

 


8:51PM

One of the field organisers is making a brief pre-debate speech. "Who's voted already?" a few hands are up. "We really want everyone to get out and vote early," she says. Early voting in Ohio opened yesterday, and both parties are pushing people hard to get out and vote early. A vote in the bank is worth two in the bush, or something like that.

 


8:48PM

The New York Times' Nate Silver on just how important Ohio is in this election:

 


8:43PM

A full house here in Toledo campaign HQ, a converted warehouse in downtown - about 60 or 70 people are sat around eating pizza and waiting for the debate to start on a big projector screen. There's an excited buzz.

The debate will work as follows. There will be six topic areas, with 15 minutes spend on each. The moderator - NewsHour's Jim Lehrer - will ask a question, and each candidate will have two minutes to respond, followed by debate over which Lehrer will preside. It's quite free-form; plenty of room for someone to get tripped up if they haven't done their homework.

 


8:37PM

The Guardian, by the way, are life-giffing tonight's debate along with Tumblr. Alex Hern explains the process here, and you can find the Guardian's coverage here.

 


8:30PM

The Guardian's Ewan McAskill agrees with me about Romney:

 

 


8:25PM

As I said when I introduced the New Statesman's Debate Drinking Game earlier today, the President has to be amazing tonight to meet expectations while Romney only has to not screw up to exceed them. Then again, Dandre next to me might be satisfied - Presidential debates can often turn out surprises - such as when Gerald Ford made the incredulous and in the end election-losing comment that there was "no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe"... in 1976. Will there be a surprise like that tonight?

 
 

8:11PM

Hello! I'm here in the Obama for America North-West Ohio headquarters in the auto-industry town of Toledo. There's a good crowd here for the debate. Sat next to me is Dandre, who's ten years old. What excites him about tonight? "To see the President; just to know he's the President," he says. What's he expecting to see tonight? "I don't know. I hope it's a surprise."

You can follow the New Statesman's live blog here, and watch the live feed here: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2012/10/watch-us-presidential-debate-live, and I'll be tweeting the debate @NickyWoolf.
 
 
 

 

University of Denver students Zach Gonzales (L) and Dia Mohamed stand in for U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney during a dress rehearsal. Photograph: Getty Images

Nicky Woolf is reporting for the New Statesman from the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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Inside Big Ben: why the world’s most famous clock will soon lose its bong

Every now and then, even the most famous of clocks need a bit of care.

London is soon going to lose one of its most familiar sounds when the world-famous Big Ben falls silent for repairs. The “bonging” chimes that have marked the passing of time for Londoners since 1859 will fall silent for months beginning in 2017 as part of a three-year £29m conservation project.

Of course, “Big Ben” is the nickname of the Great Bell and the bell itself is not in bad shape – even though it does have a huge crack in it.

The bell weighs nearly 14 tonnes and it cracked in 1859 when it was first bonged with a hammer that was way too heavy.

The crack was never repaired. Instead the bell was rotated one eighth of a turn and a lighter (200kg) hammer was installed. The cracked bell has a characteristic sound which we have all grown to love.

Big Ben strikes. UK Parliament.

Instead, it is the Elizabeth Tower (1859) and the clock mechanism (1854), designed by Denison and Airy, that need attention.

Any building or machine needs regular maintenance – we paint our doors and windows when they need it and we repair or replace our cars quite routinely. It is convenient to choose a day when we’re out of the house to paint the doors, or when we don’t need the car to repair the brakes. But a clock just doesn’t stop – especially not a clock as iconic as the Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster.

Repairs to the tower are long overdue. There is corrosion damage to the cast iron roof and to the belfry structure which keeps the bells in place. There is water damage to the masonry and condensation problems will be addressed, too. There are plumbing and electrical works to be done for a lift to be installed in one of the ventilation shafts, toilet facilities and the fitting of low-energy lighting.

Marvel of engineering

The clock mechanism itself is remarkable. In its 162-year history it has only had one major breakdown. In 1976 the speed regulator for the chimes broke and the mechanism sped up to destruction. The resulting damage took months to repair.

The weights that drive the clock are, like the bells and hammers, unimaginably huge. The “drive train” that keeps the pendulum swinging and that turns the hands is driven by a weight of about 100kg. Two other weights that ring the bells are each over a tonne. If any of these weights falls out of control (as in the 1976 incident), they could do a lot of damage.

The pendulum suspension spring is especially critical because it holds up the huge pendulum bob which weighs 321kg. The swinging pendulum releases the “escapement” every two seconds which then turns the hands on the clock’s four faces. If you look very closely, you will see that the minute hand doesn’t move smoothly but it sits still most of the time, only moving on each tick by 1.5cm.

The pendulum swings back and forth 21,600 times a day. That’s nearly 8m times a year, bending the pendulum spring. Like any metal, it has the potential to suffer from fatigue. The pendulum needs to be lifted out of the clock so that the spring can be closely inspected.

The clock derives its remarkable accuracy in part from the temperature compensation which is built into the construction of the pendulum. This was yet another of John Harrison’s genius ideas (you probably know him from longitude fame). He came up with the solution of using metals of differing temperature expansion coefficient so that the pendulum doesn’t change in length as the temperature changes with the seasons.

In the Westminster clock, the pendulum shaft is made of concentric tubes of steel and zinc. A similar construction is described for the clock in Trinity College Cambridge and near perfect temperature compensation can be achieved. But zinc is a ductile metal and the tube deforms with time under the heavy load of the 321kg pendulum bob. This “creeping” will cause the temperature compensation to jam up and become less effective.

So stopping the clock will also be a good opportunity to dismantle the pendulum completely and to check that the zinc tube is sliding freely. This in itself is a few days' work.

What makes it tick

But the truly clever bit of this clock is the escapement. All clocks have one - it’s what makes the clock tick, quite literally. Denison developed his new gravity escapement especially for the Westminster clock. It decouples the driving force of the falling weight from the periodic force that maintains the motion of the pendulum. To this day, the best tower clocks in England use the gravity escapement leading to remarkable accuracy – better even than that of your quartz crystal wrist watch.

In Denison’s gravity escapement, the “tick” is the impact of the “legs” of the escapement colliding with hardened steel seats. Each collision causes microscopic damage which, accumulated over millions of collisions per year, causes wear and tear affecting the accuracy of the clock. It is impossible to inspect the escapement without stopping the clock. Part of the maintenance proposed during this stoppage is a thorough overhaul of the escapement and the other workings of the clock.

The Westminster clock is a remarkable icon for London and for England. For more than 150 years it has reminded us of each hour, tirelessly. That’s what I love about clocks – they seem to carry on without a fuss. But every now and then even the most famous of clocks need a bit of care. After this period of pampering, “Big Ben” ought to be set for another 100 or so years of trouble-free running.

The Conversation

Hugh Hunt is a Reader in Engineering Dynamics and Vibration at the University of Cambridge.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.