Beltway Briefing: Top stories from the US today

Herman Cain's gospel album | Torture during the Bush years | Bachmann flakey fans | Why US voters ha

A question: what do US voters hate more than Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and tax increase put together? Congress. Just 18 per cent of US voters approve of Congress, according to the latest Gallup poll.


As Congress is currently responsible for letting the US teetering on the edge of default, the lack of love for the legislative body is understandable.

Anyone else given up hope that Obama will follow through on his electoral promises to address war crimes committed during the Bush years? Human Rights Watch certainly have. The leading US human rights organisation has today released a report, "Getting Away with Torture", calling upon foreign governments to have a bash at prosecuting Bush and his cronies, including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. HRW's executive director Kenneth Roth makes it clear that double standards are not acceptable, pointing out that while it's right that the US speaks out against serious international crimes in places such as Libya, more attention should be paid to the crimes committed on America's own land/doorstep.

Michele Bachmann says that she is not flakey - but her support sure is. A poll for the Iowa Republican found that, under an alternative vote, half of Bachmann's support disappears.

In the poll's alternative ballot, Romney leads the field in Iowa with 18 percent, followed by Bachmann at 15 percent, and Chris Christie with 13 percent. Herman Cain and Sarah Palin tie for fourth at 7 percent, ahead of Perry and Pawlenty at 6 percent, Paul at 5 percent, Gingrich 3 percent, Giuliani 2 percent, and Santorum and Huntsman with one percent.

The second ballot shows that Bachmann's support, while still impressive, is rather soft. When other candidates enter the race, Romney hangs on to 76 percent of his vote, Ron Paul holds on to 80 percent of his support, but Bachmann only hangs on to 44 percent of her support. Even Herman Cain, who holds on to 65 percent of his voters, appears to have more solid support than Bachmann.

Voters like her, but they don't love her.

When running for President, voters need a few identifiable facts about you, so that they can distinguish you from the crowd. Mitt Romney? "Businessman!" Michele Bachmann? "23 foster kids!" Jon Huntsman? "The other Mormon guy!" Herman Cain? "The, err...". Now, however, Hermann Cain can be the candidate who has just released an album of gospel songs. If that doesn't make you stand out from the crowd, nothing will.

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Will anyone sing for the Brexiters?

The five acts booked to perform at pro-Brexit music festival Bpop Live are down to one.

Do Brexiters like music too? If the lineup of Bpoplive (or more accurately: “Brexit Live presents: Bpop Live”) is anything to go by, the answer is no. Ok, former lineup.

The anti-Europe rally-cum-music festival has already been postponed once, after the drum and bass duo Sigma cancelled saying they “weren’t told Bpoplive was a political event”.

But then earlier this week the party was back on, set for Sunday 19 June, 4 days before the referendum, and a week before Glastonbury, saving music lovers a difficult dilemma. The new lineup had just 5 acts: the 90s boybands East17 and 5ive, Alesha Dixon of Britain’s Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing fame, family act Sister Sledge and Gwen Dickey of Rose Royce.

Unfortunately for those who have already shelled out £23 for a ticket, that 5 is now down to 1. First to pull out were 5ive, who told the Mirror that “as a band [they] have no political allegiances or opinions for either side.” Instead, they said, their “allegiance is first and foremost to their fans”. All 4our of them.

Next to drop was Alesha Dixon, whose spokesperson said that that she decided to withdraw when it became clear that the event was to be “more of a political rally with entertainment included” than “a multi-artist pop concert in a fantastic venue in the heart of the UK”. Some reports suggested she was wary of sharing a platform with Nigel Farage, though she has no qualms about sitting behind a big desk with Simon Cowell

A spokesperson for Sister Sledge then told Political Scrapbook that they had left the Brexit family too, swiftly followed by East 17 who decided not to stay another day.

So, it’s down to Gwen Dickey.

Dickey seems as yet disinclined to exit the Brexit stage, telling the Mirror: "I am not allowed to get into political matters in this lovely country and vote. It is not allowed as a American citizen living here. I have enough going on in my head and heart regarding matters in my own country at this time. Who will be the next President of the USA is of greater concern to me and for you?"

With the event in flux, it doesn’t look like the tickets are selling quickly.

In February, as David Cameron’s EU renegotiation floundered, the Daily Mail ran a front-page editorial asking “Who will speak for England?” Watch out for tomorrow’s update: “Who will sing for the Brexiters?”

I'm a mole, innit.