Aubrey Allegretti   |   June 23, 2016   10:28 AM ET


Barack Obama has paid tribute to former MP Jo Cox, saying she transformed the lives of women, children and refugees across the world because of her politics.


The US president said he was touched by Cox's "radiant life" and praised her for being an "effective public servant" in her home county of Yorkshire. 


In an extended post on Facebook, Obama recounted how the MP who died after being shot and stabbed last week had touched his life. 

"I did not have the privilege of knowing her," he wrote, "but I know the spirit that defined her life.

"When I first ran for President, she came to America and volunteered on my campaign.

"She gave her time and passion to a country that was not her own because she believed in an idea that transcends borders and cultures - the power of people to bring about change, from the grassroots up."

Obama also offered condolences on behalf of the American people to Cox's widower Brendan, and the pair's two children. 

"With our help, may they grow up in a world of greater tolerance, justice and peace," he said. "A future that would make their mum proud."

Read the post in full below:

Obama joins a lengthy list of politicians who have paid tribute to Cox's life - both as an MP in Westminster, and a campaigner. 

A memorial was held on Wednesday, the day that would have been her 42nd birthday.

Her widower Brendan, who previously said he believed his wife was killed for her political beliefs, broke down as he addressed the crowd

Controversy was stoked at the time when two planes carrying a 'Vote Leave' banner were reported to have drowned out speeches at the vigil. 

The company behind the stunt, aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman, later apologised.

Steven Hopkins   |   June 13, 2016    7:10 AM ET

The so-called Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for the deadliest shooting in US history, as it emerged that the suspected gunmen has been known to law enforcement agencies since 2013. 

Omar Mateen was armed with a powerful assault-type rifle and handgun when he sprayed revellers with bullets at the popular gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, killing at least 50 people. A further 53 people are also in hospital, with most in a critical condition. 

"I think we will see the death toll rise," said Dr Mike Cheatham from the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

The killer, who also held hostages in a three-hour stand-off, later died in a gunfight with Swat officers after they stormed the building

While IS on Sunday claimed involvement in the shooting - the biggest mass killing of LGB people in the West since the Holocaust - through its Amaq news agency, the extent of their involvement is unclear, and the FBI and other commentators have said the link requires further investigation. 

IS said of the attack: "The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter."

Three US officials familiar with the investigation into the massacre said that no evidence had yet been found showing a direct link with IS or any other militant group, Reuters reported. 

There is “no evidence yet that this was directed or connected to ISIS. So far as we know at this time, his first direct contact was a pledge of bayat (loyalty) he made during the massacre,” a US counter-terrorism official, referring to a 911 call the suspect made on Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

A US intelligence official said it was not unexpected that IS would claim responsibility given that the group has been suffering serious losses of fighters and territory in Iraq and Syria, the news agency reported. 

“The fact that a website connected to Daesh applauded it doesn’t mean anything,” the US intelligence official was further quoted as saying.

“They are losing on their home turf, and it’s not surprising if they’re looking for some kind of twisted victory.”

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, who the broadcaster said closely monitors IS messaging, cautioned about taking the message at face value.

She said the message was inconsistent with previous IS announcements and that the Arabic word for gay was used rather than an epithet normally used by the terror group. Also, she said there was no claim that the attack was directed, just an after-the-fact claim the gunman was an IS fighter.

The New York Times' Rukmini Callimachi wrote on Twitter that IS uses the internet to target and recruit the mentally ill and that attacks carried out in their name play out in a familiar way. 

The MailOnline reported that in recent months IS had been trying to inspire "lone wolf" attacks, including publishing a kill list with the names of several hundred Florida residents on it. 

The website said IS published the list in April on anonymous messaging app Telegram.

Mateen's father, Seddique Mir Mateen, has since insisted the killing spree "had nothing to do with religion" and that a recent experience in which his son saw two men kissing may have prompted the shooting which he apologised for. 

The killer's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has said she suspects Mateen was "mentally ill".

Yusuify lived with Mateen for four months in 2009, before her family "rescued" her from the relationship after becoming aware she was being physically abused.

The BBC quoted her as saying: "When he would get in his tempers, he would express hate toward everything. He was mentally unstable and mentally ill: that's the only explanation that I could give."

Mateen's 911 calls were said to have featured conversations about IS and it is believed he pledged allegiance to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Records of the calls are now become federal evidence. 

FBI special agent Ronald Hopper was quoted by USA Today as saying agents had investigated Mateen in 2013 and again in 2014 regarding terror threats, but lacked sufficient evidence in both cases to pursue charges.

Mateen, 29, first came to the attention of authorities following inflammatory comments made to co-workers, then again over ties to an American suicide bomber, but he was not under FBI surveillance.

Authorities deemed his link to the bomber to be minimal and that he did not constitute a threat, and after interviews and an investigation dropped the probe into his comments.

A security company Mateen had previously worked for, G4S Secure Solutions, has also since come out to say it vetted him twice, once in 2007, and again in 2013. He had carried a gun as part of his job. 

The FBI said Mateen, who was born in New York was an American citizen, legally purchased two firearms within the last week.

Meanwhile, the names of those killed in the attack have began to be released. 

Edward Sotomayor Jr, 34, Stanley Almodovar III, 23, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, and Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, were among the first victims to be named.

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22, and Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera 36, and Luis S Vielma, 22, have since been added to the list of deceased.

US president Barack Obama called the killings at the gay-friendly establishment an "act of terror" and an "act of hate" and said they are being investigated as terrorism.

He praised the emergency service response and described the gunman as a person "filled with hatred".

President Obama said the massacre is a reminder of how easy it is for someone to access a weapon like a gun, allowing them to go on and shoot other people.

"We have to decide if that is the type of country we want to be. To actively to do nothing is a decision as well," president Obama added.

Obama has ordered flags at the White House and federal buildings to be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the victims. The Empire State Building in New York was left in darkness as a mark of sympathy on Sunday evening.

And in the aftermath of the massacre, police departments across the US increased patrols around popular gay-friendly locations and venues.

Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer, described the scene saying there was "blood everywhere".

The Prime Minister joined political leaders from around the world in condemning the attack and offered their condolences to the victims.

David Cameron said he was "horrified" by the shooting, while Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani said "targeting civilians is not justifiable under any circumstances whatsoever".

French president Francois Hollande said he "expresses the full support of France and the French with America's authorities and its people in this difficult time".

And Buckingham Palace said the Queen had sent a personal message to President Obama, saying: "Prince Philip and I have been shocked by the events in Orlando.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected."

In the wake of the slaughter, a heavily-armed Indiana man was arrested on his way to a southern California gay pride parade.

Police stopped James Wesley Howell and discovered an arsenal of weapons in his vehicle including three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition, and a five-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to make an explosive device.

The 20-year-old was arrested at around 5am on Sunday and said he wanted to do harm at the event that draws in crowds of thousands.

Ryan Barrell   |   June 10, 2016   10:23 AM ET

US president Barack Obama stopped by 'The Tonight Show' on Thursday to have a chat with Jimmy Fallon, and they ended up having a Slow Jam to reminisce about all the things the Obama administration has accomplished in the last eight years.

The commander-in-chief also used the musical style to slam Donald Trump, saying "orange is NOT the new black".

POTUS then ended the incredible segment with a double mic drop, because that's just how Obama rolls.

The president then went on to join Jimmy in his popular "Thank You Notes" segment, in which he wrote a few hypothetical messages of gratitude. And Fallon made fun of Obama's age, which was a little uncalled for.

Government Policy Needs a More Realistic Approach to Russia

Daniel Kawczynski MP   |   June 6, 2016   10:28 AM ET

In search of his country's Tsarist roots, Vladimir Putin has steered Russia on a course towards unforgiving political authoritarianism, buttressed by state capitalism and legitimised by orthodox religiosity and patriotism.

Towards the West, today's Russia appears prickly, often aggressive, always obstinate and pig-headed. But in the years following the Cold War, Britain and its allies vigorously encouraged Russia to join the Western alliance of democracies. Hopes and expectations ran high. Putin - like Yeltsin and Gorbachev - saw this as desirable too, but only if, in geopolitical terms, Russia could join on an equal basis with the United States.

This was, of course, utterly unrealistic, out of kilter with the new balance of power. But it was a conviction as deeply embedded in the Kremlin's psychology, as it was poorly understood in the West. Moscow was blinded by a vision of its past, the empire that, having defeated Hitler, enjoyed world power status. It felt snubbed. Western diplomacy was blinded by a vision of the future, the global triumph of liberalism. It did not get what Putin, the "spoiler", was playing at.

For years this tension defined relations with Russia, right through the Obama reset in 2008. This proved a strange diplomatic dance, neither side quite understanding the other, and consequently stepping on the other's toes. Both sides persisted in the embrace, albeit with evaporating conviction - until the chord finally snapped, as Putin himself had warned would happen over Ukraine.

When it did happen, the cut was deep, severe and emotional. It froze Russia out of cooperation with the West. Putin was ousted from the G8 and other summits. Ties with NATO were suspended, economic sanctions imposed, the Cold War doctrine of deterrence dug up, dusted off, and redeployed on both sides.
This unequivocal response to the annexation of Crimea was necessary and inevitable. Russia blatantly flouted international law in Ukraine, showing utter disregard for territorial borders. It is indisputably correct that our Eastern European allies now ask and receive NATO reassurances, in the form of conventional military deterrence.

However, when the prime minster meets his NATO colleagues in my ancestral home of Warsaw, in a month's time, the real question is whether we should want deterrence and containment to become the new normalcy, suspending our relations with Russia indefinitely. The dramatic torrent of events in the Middle East and North Africa appears to be dragging us another way. Already, the United States and Russia are - quietly and uneasily - working together in Syria in ways unthinkable during the Cold War. In spite of the different objectives, there are common strategic interests that pull us together.

In certain diplomatic and defense circles in Europe this may be unspeakable, but it will have to be said: at some point Britain and its allies will need to start thinking about construing a new Russia relationship, a more realistic and durable alternative to our post Cold War dance with Russia. And in the face of the political chaos on Europe's southern borders, and also Russia's southern borders, that moment may come sooner rather than later.

Putin is not going to go away soon, and even if he did, his departure is unlikely to awaken a rush of desire to embrace Western style institutions. While such institutions have support in Russia, it would be a catastrophic misreading of Russia to assume this would, following Putin's demise, lead - in Maidan style - to Russia's own Revolution of Dignity. It seems just as likely, if not more, that, following a prolonged period of disorder, revanchist patriotism would emerge triumphant.
Freezing out Putin altogether does not serve Britain's strategic interests, nor should we limit ourselves to tit-for-tat deterrence strategies. Russia's obsession with NATO and political encirclement is strong as ever. As sure as night follows day, Putin will meet our new deterrents every step of the way, until he can no longer keep up and, feeling cornered like cat, lashes out in what threatens to become a self fulfilling prophesy.

We need to find novel ways of working together with Russia, re-establishing a modicum of trust. This cannot be another "reset", nor can it lead to the rehabilitation of Russia inside the Western liberal order. Russia has placed itself outside of that order. We need to start from the assumption that for now it is going to stay there. Reviving greater expectations would be to lapse in the mistake of post Cold War idealism.

Yet this still does not make Russia Britain's perpetual enemy. Disruptive as it may be, Putin's Russia is not our ideological nemesis, to be defeated like the Soviet Union. We need to learn to look at Russia through the cold but clear prism of our interests, just as Russia's foreign policy establishment undoubtedly looks at us. Viewed through this prism, our ties with foreign states are a matter of expediency, not sentimentality, or the projection of the liberal ideal. In the nineteenth century, this was the common view. As Lord Palmerston put it, "We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow".

Russia will be our adversary. Russia will be our partner. Mostly it will be both at the same time. This is the complexity of diplomacy, and the balance of power. It is a complexity that Putin, steeped in realist logic, will understand well. So should we.

Sarah Harris1   |   June 4, 2016    4:13 PM ET

US president Barack Obama has led tributes to Muhammad Ali after the legendary boxer died aged 74.

In a statement on behalf of himself and the First Lady, Obama said: "Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d 'handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.'

"But what made The Champ the greatest – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing. 

"Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time. 

Obama said that he kept a constant reminder of Ali in the White House.

He said: "In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him – the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was – still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

The president explained how Ali had fought against the things he believed were wrong.

He continued: "'I am America,' he once declared. 'I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.'

"That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age – not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right.

"A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t.

 

"His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail.

"But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today."

Ali's words and actions were on occasion controversial, which the president recognised, but added that he had gifts which outweighed this.

He continued: "He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes – maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world.

"We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest.

"We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes. 

"Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace."

A number of other high profile figures from the worlds of sport, politics and beyond also paid their condolences to Ali...

The three-time world heavyweight champion, who had battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years, was admitted to hospital with a respiratory condition earlier in the week.

His family’s spokesman confirmed Ali’s death in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday evening local time, saying his cause of death was septic shock "due to unspecified natural causes".

A family funeral will take place in Ali’s home town of Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday.

This will be followed by a public funeral procession and memorial service the next day, which will include eulogies from ex-US president Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal.

Paul Waugh   |   May 31, 2016    2:21 PM ET


Brexit campaigners have ridiculed Barack Obama for threatening the UK with a backlash if it quits the EU.


A new attack ad by the Grassroots Out campaign hits back at the US President's warning that Britain would go to 'the back of the queue' in trade talks outside the European Union.


With just over three weeks to go to the EU referendum, the campaign placed full-page adverts in 21 regional newspapers on Tuesday.


The ad, which plays on the original 'Hope' poster that helped get Obama first elected in 2008, is designed to seize on Britons' anger at being told how to vote by a politician from overseas.


Its final pay-off line is: "Don't Be Bullied By Barack".

Tory MP Peter Bone said: "The Grassroots Out message is very straightforward. This is a battle between the people and the establishment.

"We may be David and they may be Goliath but we can win this referendum and voters must not be bullied by the likes of Obama."

The official Vote Leave campaign believes that the US President's intervention, during a trip to London in April, has backfired among floating voters.

It cites evidence that the polls did not shift in favour of the Remain camp and some focus group research suggests that while some Brits were impressed by Obama's words, others didn't like him 'interfering' in the June 23 EU referendum.

Polls found disapproval of Obama’s intervention with majorities of more than 55% and 60% in various surveys,

During a joint press conference with David Cameron, Obama said that an EU-US trade deal was his priority and that any UK-US trade pact would go 'to the back of the queue'.

No.10 were delighted by the warning, which was cited by the Remain camp repeatedly as proof of the folly of going it alone.

Boris Johnson said that the US would never agree to join an institution like the EU, but was in turn criticised for saying the UK would take no lectures from a 'part-Kenyan' President.

Donald Trump has since said that if he is elected this November, he would look favourably on trade links with Britain, pointing out that Obama will no longer be in power from next January.

James McGrory, Chief Campaign Spokesman for Britain Stronger in Europe, told HuffPost UK:

"To disregard the views of our closest ally is both naïve and short-sighted.

"Far from ‘telling us what to do’, Barack Obama made it clear the decision on our future membership of the EU lies in the hands of the British public, but that a vote to leave would inevitably effect the Special Relationship.

"Whether it’s the Bank of England, the IMF or world leaders, Leave campaigners simply dismiss the views of experts about the impact of a vote to leave.

"Yet, whenever they’re asked what Britain would look like outside the EU, they simply say ‘we just don’t know’."

Obama: Why an Apology Is Necessary

Dr Kate Hudson   |   May 28, 2016   12:00 AM ET

President Obama's moving oration at Hiroshima is timely and welcome. His compassion and dignity will be welcome to the remaining survivors that still bear witness to those terrible and unimaginable days in August 1945 when the US unleashed atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His reflections on the dangers of scientific and technological revolution without equivalent moral revolution are unquestionably true. His call to pursue a world without nuclear weapons - echoing the sentiments of his Prague speech in 2009 - is important. His call to change the mindset on war and to strive for peaceful cooperation, for a recognition of our common humanity, is vital in today's world.

Yet what is unsaid speaks volumes. The truth is the bombs didn't just drop from the sky - they were dropped by the United States on civilian populations. And the reality is that - contrary to conventional wisdom about the bombing - they were not necessary to bring about an end to the war. It is a recognition of this truth that is most essential. It is essential even beyond an apology, but it is what makes an apology necessary. The 'necessity of the bombing to end the war' is the foundational falsehood of the nuclear age, and it needs to be exposed and finally laid to rest.

By the time the bomb was ready for use, Japan was ready to surrender. As General Dwight Eisenhower said, Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of face, and 'it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing.'

Churchill himself said: 'It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell and was brought about by overwhelming maritime power.'

So if Japan was defeated and ready to surrender, why were atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

A significant factor in the decision to bomb was the US's desire to establish its dominance in the region after the war. Those planning for the post-war situation believed that this required US occupation of Japan, enabling it to establish a permanent military presence, shape its political and economic system and dominate the Pacific region without fear of Japanese resurgence. But Japanese resurgence was no longer the US's key strategic concern; its main concern, above all, was the Soviet Union in the post-war world, both in Asia and in Europe.

Whilst many leading US politicians, diplomats and military figures thought it unnecessary to bomb Japan, the group around the US president at the time, Harry S. Truman, pressed strongly for it. Secretary of War Henry Stimson, for example, described the atom bomb as the 'master card' in US diplomacy towards the Soviet Union.

This reality, that the bombs were not required to end the war, but that the US played geo-politics with the atomic bombs on Japan, is what makes an apology necessary. Above all, it is time to set the historical record straight.

Jack Sommers   |   May 15, 2016   10:48 AM ET

Read More: uk news, Barack Obama

The artist behind Barack Obama's famous "Hope" campaign poster says the US leader has failed to live up to his expectations.

Shepard Fairey, who created the image for the 2008 presidential election campaign, said Obama had "gone quiet on a lot of things" during his two terms in the White House.

Fairey told the Press Association: "I worked really hard for (Obama) so I had high hopes - pun intended.

"I think he ended up probably being very frustrated with the things he encountered. I think history will be fairly kind of his presidency but I want things to move further in the direction that he promised as a campaigner.

"He's been more outspoken in the last 18 months. I think he's going out having done some good things and said some good things. But there were about six years there where I think he could have done more."

Fairey, who has voiced his support for Bernie Sanders in the race to become the next US president, said Obama was an "amazing communicator" but had not spoken out on some issues.

Speaking at the Museum of Contemporary Art gala in Los Angeles, he said: "Even if (Obama) was a met with gridlock in government, in Congress, if he had been as outspoken as he was as a campaigner, I would give him a pass on not being able to push through some of the progressive things I hoped he would.

 

"But he was quiet on a lot of things. That to me was unfortunate."

Fairey's stencil portrait of Obama in red, beige and blue, featuring the word "hope", came to represent the Democrat's 2008 presidential election campaign.

It has been widely copied including a version created for the Occupy movement and most recently for the political comedy television series Veep.

Britain Should Remain in the European Union

Dr Andrew Crines   |   May 11, 2016    9:52 AM ET

Since the start of the European referendum campaign, we have been exposed to a serious dilution of the quality of political debates presented to the voter by those seeking #Brexit. At this point I'm sure many who support the UK leaving the EU will have already pressed X in the top-right, however it is a point which needs making given the quality of argument determines the health of our democracy. Put simply, the more personal or fanciful an argument is, the less likely it is to frame a healthy debate. We only need to look to Donald Trump to see how it can destroy the thing it is seeking to advance. Also, so called 'Project Fear' in the Scottish independence referendum arguably helped save the Union (for now), but in so doing destroyed the sense of togetherness which it was aiming to safeguard. Even the Conservative Party victory last year may end up leading to major internal divisions that may cost the UK's position in the EU. Each of these victories has been secured through hostile rhetoric that targeted their opponents on a fearful and/or personal level. It does seem to be a tactic of those seeking #Brexit! (See any comments below this opinion piece for examples).

Those supporting #Brexit are very much ideologically committed to the idea regardless of the real world implications of Britain leaving the EU. For example, Aaron Banks has argued that "£4,300 per household is a bargain basement price for the restoration of national independence and safe, secure borders" . This remark came in for serious criticism for appearing to be aloof and detached from the realities of most of the British people. Also of serious concern is the approach of those supporting #Brexit towards Northern Ireland. Theresa Villiers has said that "The peace process was delivered by the hard work of Northern Ireland's leaders and successive UK and Irish governments, supported by the US. There is strong commitment in both the UK and Ireland to continue to work together for a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland, and leaving the EU will not change that" . However, this is not a position held by Enda Kenny, who argued that "Common membership of the EU project is part of the glue holding that transition process together" . Given the treaty which has helped bring an end of hostilities to Northern Ireland is an international treaty legally supported by the European Union, it would be highly dangerous for the continuation of stability if one of the parties were to withdraw from it. Withdrawing from the European Union does indeed represent a significant risk to this area, and it isn't a conspiracy or part of 'Project Fear' to point it out.

Politically, in the European referendum the Labour Party have been preoccupied with their own problems. It has a leader who is giving half-hearted support, whilst those members supporting Brexit are content to live in the past, endlessly quoting Tony Benn or Hugh Gaitskell to support their position. However, there is nothing social democratic in isolating ourselves from the world. Benn and Gaitskell are products of their respective times, and today the Left needs to remain united with others across the EU. Granted, many rightly point out that the EU and Europe are different things. However, the EU is the mechanism which has held Europe together through peace, trade, and learning for decades. Cooperation is a fundamental value of social democratic politics, and to abandon that is a very strange position to adopt. Rather, the Labour Party needs to push hard for Britain to remain in the EU and, by doing so, be relevant to Europe.

However, the greatest threat to Britain remaining in the EU is ignorance. As I have argued in other places, the media is the mechanism that connects politicians to the voter. It is the channel through which political arguments are made, and so is vital to any democratic civil society. However, it is also dangerous if the media fail to educate the voter about the realities of #Brexit. Chris Graying has used the media (specifically, the Andrew Marr Show ) to argue once we've left things will remain the same. Yet we haven't heard the counter argument that such a position is not only economically imprudent it is also intellectually disingenuous. Furthermore, Boris Johnson has appeared on the Radio Four Today show , however his failure to articulate a coherent message is seen as part of his 'Boris' brand. Put simply, his bluster is considered part of his charm, but on an issue such as this, it is unwelcome. We have yet to hear from the Leave side how Britain will function outside of the European Union. We do know, however, that a whole host of organisations (such as the IMF and the Bank of England) have cautioned against it, alongside a Treasury report with support from the LSE and others. Facts, not bluster or guesswork.

In closing, I would like to make a few comments about the Obama intervention. Obama's comments that Britain would be at the 'back of the queue' were not a threat. They have been taken as a threat by the Leave side to argue we are being 'bullied'. Rather, Obama's comments were a warning. He was warning us that we'd go to the back of the queue because that is the reality. It is possible to warn a friend of danger without threatening to inflict it. These arguments against #Brexit are not 'Project Fear'. These are warnings of reality. And as I said at the start of this opinion piece, reality has already been sacrificed in the debate by those preferring to bang their ideological drum and bury their heads in the sand.

Britain should remain the EU because we live in reality, not in some romantic fantasy where the UK is a lone power in a world of subservient nations. That is an imperial thought process which went out of fashion decades ago.

References
https://www.politicshome.com/news/europe/eu-institutions/news/73963/arron-banks-%C2%A34300-loss-price-worth-paying-brexit
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/07/brexit-northern-ireland-progress-risk-alan-johnson-theresa-villiers
http://www.ibtimes.com/what-would-brexit-mean-northern-ireland-peace-uk-european-union-referendum-looms-2016-2244089
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b077yqj9
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b079zxgl

Owen Bennett   |   May 11, 2016    9:03 AM ET

 

Boris Johnson today confirmed he has no regrets over referring to Barack Obama as a “part-Kenyan President” in an attack on the US leader’s view on Brexit.

The former London Mayor made the jibe as Obama visited the UK last month to advise Brits to vote to Remain in the EU Referendum on June 23.

Johnson’s claim that Obama had an “ancestral dislike” of the UK because of his Kenyan heritage was severely criticised by Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper.

In an interview on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning – which quickly descended in Johnson and interview John Humphrys talking over each other – the Uxbridge MP also did not deny writing a pro-EU column for the Telegraph as he weighed up whether to back Brexit after David Cameron’s EU renegotiation earlier this year.

When asked by Humphrys if he regretted using the term ‘part-Kenyan’ in his description of Obama, Johnson said: “No of course not.

“My point was very simple and it was that it is absolutely absurd for the United States of America to continue to urge us further down the line towards a federal superstate when the US has not even signed up to the UN Convention on Human Rights.”

When pushed on whether he had attacked Obama in an “unsavoury way”, Johnson replied: “That’s completely untrue.

“I was merely quoting a point that was made in the Guardian newspaper.

“We were told by President Obama that in respect of international trade we would have to get to the back of the queue, not a position that America normally requires the United Kingdom to be in when it comes to other matters such as the Iraq War.”

In 2009, The Guardian ran a blog which posed the “intriguing question” of whether the “president's dual colonial inheritance – of Kenyan and Irish ancestry – is helping reshape America's supposedly ‘special relationship’ with Britain.”

The article concluded with the sentence: “Obama's extraordinary political skills suggest he is more than capable of rising above any personal historical grudges he may have inherited.”

After Johnson made the “part-Kenyan” remark in The Sun last month, even Ukip leader Nigel Farage sought to distance himself from the attack

The UKIP leader said that while he didn’t disagree with Johnson, it had been a mistake to “be seen to be attacking the man and not the ball” on the issue of Brexit.

This morning, Johnson was also asked whether he had two columns prepared for the Telegraph in March – one supporting Remain and the other calling for Leave - as he mulled over whether to back Brexit.

Johnson replied: “I’ve written all sorts of things over long period of time and it is perfectly true to say that I thought long and hard about this decision and it was very, very difficult to come to because I don’t want to at variance with the Prime Minister, like Michael Gove, I didn’t want to be going against the Government.”

 

Challenging Obama Was My Greatest Challenge

Maria Munir   |   May 6, 2016    2:27 PM ET

Dare to be different. Capitalise on every opportunity on this God-given Earth. Be true to yourself and your principles, but never so narrow-minded that you forget that the essence of life is the fruit of debate.

That's what my parents have told me throughout my childhood. I had to challenge what people wanted me to be. Born with facial palsy - meaning the left side of my face was paralysed - I was repeatedly dismissed as someone to be pitied. A female in a Pakistani community, my parents were told that celebrating my birth was unnecessary. They celebrated anyway. My parents told me to harness education as use it as a tool to empower myself to the same platform as those world leaders, even when people were saying it's a bad idea to "let" me go to university.
Why were they so afraid of my achievements? Because I routinely proved that you could challenge the limiting expectations of those around you and succeed.

On Saturday 23 April 2016, I did just that. I stood up in front of President Obama, and I told him about the inequalities faced by non-binary people, and held him to account over why transgender people in the US are being discriminated against. With bated breath, I waited as the world media watched me challenge Obama on why countries like the UK don't recognise the existence of non-binary people. I can't tell you how good it felt to breathe again after this weight lifted off my shoulders, when the President told me he was proud of me and people from around the world started an international conversation on gender norms. But the bravery is in the change yet to come.

It's estimated that about a quarter of a million people in the UK are non-binary; that is, they do not identify with the socially-accepted ideas of man and woman. They employ a pluralistic approach to gender, regarding it as a spectrum, and understand that some people do not feel they have a gender at all. In addition, your gender is entirely separate from your biological sex, be that male, female, or intersex. So really, anyone could be non-binary, and they don't have to be androgynous in dress sense to be so.

People quizzed me on why I wore earrings, looked like "a girl", and spoke with a "feminine" voice. Well, there is much more to a person than their chosen appearance. In fact, that's the first step in making the world more tolerant. Don't judge someone based on how they look. Take time to talk to the person, educate yourself, and show them the same respect you would afford yourself.

When you're being criticised because you don't fit people's expectations, keep going. If you don't stand up and break out of the confines people set for you, you won't be able to do yourself justice.

Recognise that you are powerful, that you are valuable, and that you have every right to live your truth, much like those who hold you back. Sign petitions to get non-binary gender legally recognised in the UK, speak to your family, and go Google things you don't understand so we can strive towards acceptance.

So much change is needed in the fight for equality, be that recognising gender; increasing citizenship education on how to overcome socioeconomic barriers; or fighting for human rights of those who have no voice in society. It starts with you, the reader, asking yourself to challenge your assumptions and support others in fighting inequality.
In the words of Obama, "We are the change that we seek".

Maria Munir is a politics with international relations student at the University of York. They use the pronouns they/their/them, and tweet @Maria_Munir about human rights issues, such as gender recognition. Find their blog at mariamunir.com

Ryan Barrell   |   May 5, 2016    3:05 PM ET

The US is at the height of election season, which means Barack Obama probably feels like a kid waiting for the summer holidays. Luckily he wasn't too busy when presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump called for a chat.

The skit was yet another example of the perfect impressions trotted out by Jimmy Fallon and his team on 'The Tonight Show'.

Is Xenophobia Team Brexit's Final Hope?

Nash Riggins   |   May 4, 2016   12:00 AM ET

Immigration isn't something you typically bring up at the dinner table. It's a horribly divisive issue that causes even the most loving of families to draw fierce battle lines in the sand. It's essentially a perpetual duel between hatred and reason, and on that score alone it makes a pretty lame duck argument with which to spearhead an entire political movement.

Unfortunately, that lame duck argument is all that Brexiteers have left.

Britain's impending EU referendum was never supposed to be that simple. At first, the violently-Eurosceptic Vote Leave campaign vowed to rise above closet racism in order to present voters with a credible economic case for ditching Brussels. Campaign chief Dominic Cummings used to smugly declare that Vote Leave would come out on top in June's contest without even having to mention immigration.

Why? Because until quite recently, all of Britain's top Eurosceptics seemed to agree the country was actually better off thanks to the EU's freedom of movement charter.

London mayor and Brexit posterchild Boris Johnson warned last year that capping the number of foreigners landing on British shores would almost definitely lead to an economic meltdown. He used to openly mock people like Nigel Farage for trying to pin heavy traffic and NHS waiting times on immigration - and even backed amnesty for every single one of the capital's 400,000 illegal aliens.

And BoJo wasn't the only Tory Lothario flirting with Britain's foreigners.

Just last April, Michael Gove pissed off every Ukipper and their mum by arguing that Westminster's hard line approach on immigration was nothing but a self-inflicted shot in the foot. He told voters they needed to be more open and generous when it came to immigration, and attempted to soothe the fears of xenophobes by pompously declaring that "Britain is not full".

Fast-forward twelve months, and the Justice Secretary would now have us believe that millions of Albanian rapists and benefits-scrounging Turks will soon be living in our walls like mutant rats - ready to strangle us for the faintest whiff of a full English. What a turnaround.

For his part, Boris Johnson has been raving like a madman for all to hear that immigrants are destroying the NHS, stealing our children's school places and hogging all of the good prison cells. He's also got this strange conspiracy theory that Barack Obama cruelly wants to see Britain remain in the EU and flounder just because the US President is "part-Kenyan". But let's not even bother picking that one apart.

What on earth could have forced these guys to forsake their love of migration in favour of xenophobic fairy tales? In a word: desperation.

For years, British Eurosceptics had pinned their entire economic hopes and dreams upon the assumption that we could simply ditch those Belgian loofahs and dive headfirst into bed with rich countries like the United States. Yet in the course of a single week, unlikely power couple George Osborne and Barack Obama crumpled that argument into a tiny ball, set it ablaze and tossed the ashes into a bottomless pit of despair.

Rather than come back swinging, it looks like BoJo and the Brexiteers have meekly conceded economic defeat. After all, who can take the nationalistic chants of 'Economists for Brexit' seriously when you've got the heads of the IMF and OECD using genuine facts and numbers to tell us otherwise? Vote Leave never really had a fighting chance.

That's why we've come right back to square one.

Against everyone's better judgement, Brexiteers have now been forced to abandon all reason and double down on their hopes that Britain's festering xenophobia will ultimately be enough to defeat economic literacy come June. Politicians like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have consequently placed every last shred of credibility on the line by attempting to disprove their own fundamental beliefs on the supposed economic benefits of immigration.

That's a pretty risky bet - and right now, it's looking like a bet they're going to lose.

Louise Ridley   |   May 2, 2016    2:55 PM ET

The CIA has been criticised for 'live tweeting' its 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden as if the killing were happening today.

On the fifth anniversary of bin Laden's death, the CIA began to shared minute-by-minute details of how the operation unfolded, in tweets which commenters called "obscene", "extremely weird" and "morbid".

The intelligence service invited Twitter users to "join us" as it relived the assassination step by step.

Bin Laden, whose name is also spelt Usama bin Ladin, was the head and founder of Al-Qaeda. He was killed by US Navy SEALs in a raid on a compound in Pakistan on 2 May, 2011.

The CIA tweeted out each stage of the mission as it was happening in 2016, using the hashtag #UBLRaid, from commanders approving it to helicopters descending on the compound.

But some commenters didn't appreciate the effort, calling it "extremely weird" and "grotesque":

The tweets reported the events and their times as they happened, including President Obama watching live in a situation room, and the moment the operation continued despite a helicopter crashing.

At 3:39pm Eastern Daily Time, the CIA tweeted: "Usama Bin Ladin found on third floor and killed."

At 7.01pm EDT, it tweeted that Obama had received "confirmation of high probability of positive identification" of bin Laden.

Here are the CIA tweets about the raid in full: