Paul Vale   |   December 10, 2014    3:44 PM ET

The US and Russia are preparing for “many long years of confrontation,” according to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Writing on Wednesday in the Russian state newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, the 83-year-old delivered his grim assessment, warning that the frosty relations between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin could have “terrible consequences”.

The "new Cold War", as Gorbachev recently described increasing tensions between Washington and Moscow, was brought about by the crisis in Ukraine, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military encroachment into the state on the side of pro-Russian separatists.

The elder statesmen, whose policies of perestroika and glasnost led to the dissolution the Soviet Union in 1991, wrote: "The result of events in recent months is a catastrophic fall of the level of trust in international relations. Judging by the recent declarations, diplomats of both sides are preparing for many long years of confrontation. This is extremely dangerous."

He continued: “With such emotions running so high, as we have now, we may not survive through these years. Somebody may just lose control of himself. We must do our best to overturn this tendency.”

Gorbachev called for a thawing of frosty relations on both sides, adding that international efforts to diffuse the crisis in Ukraine must be ramped up.

gorbachev

'Both sides are preparing for many long years of confrontation'

“I suggest that the leaders of Russia and the United States think about holding a summit on a broad agenda, without preliminary conditions,” he wrote. “The same kind of summit must be prepared between Russia and the European Union.”

Gorbachev admitted that both separatists and loyalists in the Ukrainian conflict were guilty of breaking ceasefire agreements, and that both were guilty of using "especially dangerous types of weapons and breaching human rights”.

“War until the victorious end is impossible... It's time to stop,” he wrote, adding that the US and Russia have a “special responsibility” due to their nuclear arsenals.

"We shouldn't be afraid that someone will 'lose face' or someone will win a propaganda victory. That should all belong in the past. We should think about the future."

The 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner urged for greater co-operation between the Russia and the US, particularly when dealing with global threats.

“Now the West is almost curtailing interaction with Russia in these areas. But will anyone win from refusing to present a united front against terrorism, climate changes, epidemics? We should immediately ‘defrost’ relations in this direction.”

Gorbachev has previously backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea, calling it a correction to a historical mistake. In Wednesday's editorial, he suggests this should be “welcomed [by the West] instead of imposing sanctions over it".

Gorbachev has become increasingly vocal in recent months, decrying "American triumphalism" for bringing about a new Cold War. In early December he warned that "militarists” were pushing Europe to the brink of conflict.

SEE ALSO:

  |   December 10, 2014   12:27 PM ET

With the final episode of 'The Colbert Report' due to air on December 18 - Stephen Colbert is off to take over from David Letterman, of course - it seems only right that the big guns are appearing during the show's final weeks.

And they don't get much bigger than the leader of the free world - who made a memorable appearance on the show on Monday night, deadpanning his way through the regular segment 'The Word' (although he changed it to 'The Decree').

"Nation: as you know, I, Stephen Colbert, have never cared for our president," reads Obama from the autocue.

"The guy is so arrogant I bet he talks about himself in the third person."

And so it continues - chiefly about Obamacare - in very amusing fashion.

As Colbert himself would put it: a tip of the hat to you, Mr President.

Check out more of Obama on Monday's 'The Colbert Report':







SEE ALSO: Stephen Colbert Says Goodbye To 'The Daily Show'

United States of America: Liberty, Freedom and Justice for All?

Meliha Hayat   |   December 10, 2014   12:18 AM ET

Liberals and Conservatives alike were outraged by the decision made by a grand jury in America not to charge a white New York City police officer named Daniel Pantaleo, after he placed an unarmed Blackman named Eric Garner into a choke hold and killed him.

This decision has only further enraged the American public following an earlier verdict which saw another white police officer, Darren Wilson, not charged for killing a black youth named Michael Brown.

Rev Al Sharpton said the state-level grand jury system was "broken" when it comes to police brutality cases. But perhaps the issue of racial inequality extends further than law enforcement.

Granted this is not the first case we have read about racial conflict between civilians and law enforcement officials in the United States, but for a country that pledges liberty, freedom and justice for all, the rule of law and in fact many social, political and economic sectors are all plagued by racial inequality which has never been truly confronted by Congress at large.

The case of Eric Garner is evidence to the point, he was an unarmed victim who showed no sign of resistance throughout the incident, and despite his pleading he was put in to a choke hold-which is forbidden to use by NYPD- that led to his death. The course of events were documented on video which brings to question that even with video evidence, if his killer can't be indicted then is this ruling a mark of a huge flaw in the American legal system? Or is this a grave miscarriage of justice and racial inequality?

President Barack Obama has released a statement claiming that he plans to introduce new schemes that will help improve relations between the black community and law enforcement officers, including better training for police, he said:

"This is an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem, When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law that's a problem and it's my job as president to help solve it."

On some level one could agree with Obama on this issue, when it comes to policing and law enforcement, America struggles to impose the rule of law; a law which refers to the principal of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public, private and States are accountable to law. This includes the principals of supremacy of law and equality before the law. According to various national statistics, if an ordinary American citizen is being investigated for a crime by a grand jury, there is a 99.993 percent chance they will be indicted, however, for a police officer the chance is practically nil.

But Obama cannot turn a blind eye from the huge racial disparity America faces: Americans today incarcerate more African Americans as a percentage than Apartheid Africa did. According to the NAACP African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, The net worth of the average black household in America is $6,314 which is minute in comparison to the $110,500 for the average white household. The race gap of wealth in America between the average white family and black family is eighteen fold, that's greater than the gap between black-white communities during Apartheid Africa.

Black students in America are significantly less likely to attend schools offering advance courses in various core subjects including Maths and Science. They are three times more likely to be suspended and expelled which of course is only setting them up for educational failure.

In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination in employment, however, according to national statistics, 3 out of every 10 African male born in the US will serve time in prison. This places a huge hindrance on their future prospects for legitimate employment and obtaining professional licences. Racial profiling means even greater numbers will probably end up having some sort of criminal record.

Yes, the election of Barack Obama was a huge milestone for the US, and a big milestone towards racial equality, but with a majority Republican Congress, Obama too has been put into a metaphorical choke hold when it comes to bringing about any significant social change. New York City has revealed details of a $35 million project to retrain cops, but the problem stems further than law enforcement alone, all social and economic sectors should be revised, and not just by providing big budget projects, they have to eliminate racial profiling and start enforcing the rule of law, equal justice for equal society, only then can America proudly claim itself to be land of the free and home of the brave.

Paul Vale   |   December 8, 2014    4:59 PM ET

The British monarchy, historically not the most welcome institution in Washington, was well received at the White House on Monday as Prince William met with President Obama in the Oval office, part of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s three day tour of the US.

More than 250 miles north, the Duchess carried out her own solo engagement, meeting with New York’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, before visiting the Northside Centre for Child Development in Harlem. The pregnant Duchess, whose hair was half swept back and who was wearing a black coat by Goat with white edging, was greeted with cheers from spectators across the street. The centre provides educational and mental health services to about 3,300 children and families each year.

It is the couple's first visit to the US since 2011 and their first to New York or Washington. William is delivering a major speech on the illegal wildlife trade in Washington after meeting Obama and vice president Joe Biden.

READ: William's blog 'Why We Need a Truly International Approach to Tackling Illegal Wildlife Trade'

Press Association   |   December 8, 2014    8:21 AM ET

The UK-based family of a British-born hostage killed by Islamic militants has said he might still be alive had it not been for an attempted US rescue mission.

Luke Somers, 33, was shot by his al Qaida captors as they fought US special forces attempting to extract him and South African teacher Pierre Korkie.

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAB) posted a video online on Thursday, threatening to kill the American citizen within three days but his stepmother Penny Bearman and half-sister Lucy Somers indicated they still had hope because previous threats had not been carried out.

luke somers

Sommers' parents have revealed their anger

Ms Bearman, 55, of Deal, Kent, told the Times they were "quite angry because if there had not been a rescue attempt he would still be alive."

"We are sure Luke would have given support to the ongoing discussions (to secure his release) in Yemen rather than the conflict approach. There had been threats before that had not been carried out," she said.

She added the the release of the video had "led to things escalating horribly" and the family had been "kept in the dark" about the effort, as well as a previous attempt last month.

US president Barack Obama sanctioned the mission and secretary of state John Kerry cited "a compelling indication that Luke's life was in immediate danger" and said "we recommended that the president authorise an attempt to rescue Luke".

luke somers

Luke Sommers was killed in a failed US rescue mission

Speaking in Afghanistan, defence secretary Chuck Hagel said the rescue operation was "extremely well executed" but complicated and risky.

Ms Somers said she had learned of her brother's death from FBI agents.

He was kidnapped in September 2013 in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa while working as a photojournalist.

His death follows similar killings by another extremist group Islamic State (IS), who released online videos of the seperate murders of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, US aid worker Peter Kassig and two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning.

  |   December 7, 2014    2:38 PM ET

An American photojournalist and a South African teacher were killed Saturday during a high-risk, US-led raid to free them from al-Qaida militants in Yemen, a turbulent Arab country that is a centerpiece of US counterterrorism efforts in the region.

The raid before dawn was the second rescue attempt in as many weeks to free Luke Somers, a 33-year-old freelance photographer and editor kidnapped just over a year ago in Yemen's capital.

South African Pierre Korkie, abducted 18 months ago with his wife in the city of Tazi, also was killed by militants as U.S. forces descended upon the militants' compound in southern Yemen. A South African aid group trying to negotiate Korkie's release said he was a day from freedom after a deal late last month that included a "facilitation fee" to the kidnappers. The relief organisation had told Korkie's wife that "the wait is almost over."

President Barack Obama said he ordered the raid because Somers was believed to be in "imminent danger." The president, in a statement, condemned Somers' killing as a "barbaric murder," but did not mention the 56-year-old Korkie by name, offering condolences to the family of "a non-US citizen hostage." The South African government said it was informed that Korkie died during the mission by American special forces.

"It is my highest responsibility to do everything possible to protect American citizens," Obama said. "As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located."

About 40 American special operations forces were involved in the rescue attempt, which followed U.S. drone strikes in the area, US officials said. The rescuers, backed by Yemeni ground forces, advanced within 100 meters (110 yards) of the compound in Shabwa province when they were spotted by the militants. A firefight ensued.

Amid the fighting, US forces saw a militant briefly enter a building on the compound. US officials believe it was then that Somers and Korkie were shot. When Americans entered the building, they found both men alive, but gravely wounded.

Officials said that based on the location where Somers and Korkie were being held, there was no possibility that they were struck by American gunfire.

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Pierre Korkie, the South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen, who was killed on Saturday

US forces pulled Somers and Korkie onto V-22 Ospreys, and medical teams began performing surgery in midair. One hostage died during the short flight; the second died after the Ospreys landed on the USS Makin Island, a Navy ship in the region.

The raid was over in about 30 minutes.

US officials disclosed details of the mission on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the raid.

Saturday's operation was the second rescue attempt by US and Yemeni forces to bring Somers home alive. On Nov. 25, American special operations forces and Yemeni soldiers raided a remote al-Qaida safe haven in a desert region near the Saudi border.

Eight captives, including Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, were freed. Somers was not at that location. He and five other hostages had been moved days earlier, officials later said.

Roughly a dozen people are believed held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen.

On Thursday, al-Qaida militants released a video showing Somers and threatening to kill him in three days if the United States did not meet the group's unspecified demands or if another rescue was attempted.

US officials said that threat prompted Obama to move quickly. Using information obtained during the first raid, US officials believed Somers was being held Shabwa province, a stronghold of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group's Yemeni branch. Officials believed a second hostage was there, too, but did not know it was Korkie.

By Thursday evening, the Pentagon had sent the White House a proposed plan, which Obama approved the following day. Officials alerted Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who gave his support.

Hadi has been a critical US partner in seeking to undermine Yemen's dangerous al-Qaida affiliate. With the permission of Yemen's government, the US has for years launched drone strikes against militant targets in the country and provided Yemen with hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance. Civilian casualties from the drone strikes have stoked anger in the country, however.

When Obama announced US airstrikes this year against militant targets in Syria and Iraq, he held up the Yemen effort as a comparable model.

Yemen's highest security body, the Supreme Security Committee, issued a rare statement Saturday acknowledging that the country's forces had carried out the raid with "American friends." The committee said all the militants holding the hostages were killed in the operation.

No American forces were killed or sustained serious injuries in the raid. Yemen's government said four of its forces were wounded.

Korkie was abducted in May 2013 along with his wife, Yolande, who was doing relief work. She was released in January without ransom as a result of negotiations by the South African relief group, Gift of the Givers.

But al-Qaida militants demanded a $3 million ransom for Korkie's release, according to those close to the negotiations. Although that demand was dropped, the kidnappers did insist on the "facilitation fee," according to the aid group. The undisclosed amount was raised by Korkie's family and friends, according to the South African Press Agency.

"A team of Abyan (Yemeni) leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom," said Imtiaz Sooliman, the aid group's founder. "It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5:59 this morning was: 'The wait is almost over.'"

The US government has a policy against paying ransoms to win the release of hostages.

Korkie was a dedicated teacher, a family friend said. "Teaching was his life. His heart took him to Yemen. He loved teaching the poor," said Daan Nortier, who is acting as a family spokesman.

Lucy Somers, the photojournalist's sister, told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her brother's death from FBI agents just after midnight Saturday.

"We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace," she said, speaking from Kent, England.

luke somers

Luke Somers, 33, the American photojournalist killed alongside South African Hostage Pierre Korkie on Saturday in a failed US raid

Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 as he left a supermarket in Sanaa, according to Fakhri al-Arashi, chief editor of the National Yemen, where Somers worked as a copy editor and a freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising in Yemen.

Before her brother's death, Lucy Somers released an online video describing him as a romantic who "always believes the best in people." She ended with the plea: "Please let him live."

In a statement, Somers' father, Michael, also called his son "a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people" and asked for his safe release.

Fuad Al Kadas, who called Somers one of his best friends, said Somers spent time in Egypt before finding work in Yemen. Somers started teaching English at a Yemen school but quickly established himself as a one of the few foreign photographers in the country, he said.

"He is a great man with a kind heart who really loves the Yemeni people and the country," Al Kadas wrote in an email from Yemen. He said he last saw Somers the day before he was kidnapped.

Al-Arashi, Somers' editor at the National Yemen, recalled a moment when Somers edited a story on other hostages held in the country.

"He looked at me and said, 'I don't want to be a hostage,'" al-Arashi said. "'I don't want to be kidnapped.'"

  |   December 5, 2014    7:34 PM ET

The Duke of Cambridge will call on President Barack Obama during his visit to America with the Duchess. The two men will meet at the White House in Washington on Monday ahead of a major speech William will deliver, expected to be about the illegal wildlife trade, at the World Bank Group's International Corruption Hunters Alliance Conference.

William and Kate will travel to the US on Sunday for a three-day visit, spending the majority of their time in New York, where they will promote their charitable interests and other good causes. The Duke will be following in the footsteps of his father, the Prince of Wales, who chatted to Mr Obama in the White House's Oval Office in May 2011.

The US leader famously told Charles that America had been mesmerised by William and Kate's wedding a few days earlier. President Obama and his family have developed a close affinity with the British monarchy during his term in office.

white house

President Obama is the speak to William at the White House

When the Queen hosted the US leader and his wife, Michelle, at Buckingham Palace during a state visit in 2011, the First Lady was seen putting her arm around the monarch's waist, showing how the women had become firm friends.

William and Kate also met the Obamas during their official visit and chatted to them in the sumptuous surroundings of the Palace's 1844 Room. While William is attending events in Washington, Kate will join the first lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, on a visit to a local child development centre.

During their brief trip to the US, the Duke and Duchess will attend events in support of their Royal Foundation and other organisations. The engagements include promoting sustainable conservation issues, young people's mental health and supporting disadvantaged young people.

Three Myth Busters About the Land of the Free

Joana Alfaiate   |   December 4, 2014    5:42 PM ET

The image of the US as the Land of the Free is being put into question. Ferguson, plus the cases of Tamir Rice, Darrien Hunt and Eric Garner, exposed America as an intolerant country where many are not free. The Prosperity Index shows this is true not only for African Americans, but for all citizens across the board. It paints a very accurate picture of current events in the country, where Americans are not buying into the myth of US's freedom and tolerance any more.

1. The US is the freest country in the world

NO: The US is not the freest country in the world in 2014 - actually New Zealand is. The US does not even make it to the top 20 this year, placing 21st below countries such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, Malta and Portugal. This represents a drop of 11 places since 2009. Freedom of choice in the US is at the lowest it has ever been since 2006, and this perception crosses almost all layers of society: all age brackets; all income levels; people in full-time employment and not; women; people who have completed tertiary education; and people from the rural parts of the country.

2. Freedom has been higher in the US under Obama

NO: The most satisfied Americans have ever been with freedom of choice has been between 2006 and 2008. From 2009 on, after President Obama's election, satisfaction has been declining. It is very interesting to note that this trend affects both people who approve and disapprove of government. 90% to 91% of people who approve of government declare to be satisfied with freedom choice since 2009, which although very high, pales in comparison with the 97% satisfaction in 2007. On the other hand, people who disapprove of government have never been as dissatisfied with freedom of choice as in more recent years, with a low 73% of satisfaction in 2013. In 2006 for example, 85% of the people who disapproved of the Bush administration were satisfied with freedom of choice.

3. There are not that many countries more tolerant than the US

NO: 81% of Americans say that the US is a good place to live for ethnic minorities, which, although high, places the US after such countries as Uruguay, Brazil, Senegal, and Mali in people's perceptions. The same happens with tolerance for immigrants, with the US falling behind countries such as Spain, Argentina and Taiwan.

The data warns that there are worrying trends in both tolerance and freedom that need to be addressed, confirming the concerning news that come in from the country. Due to recent cases, there is a clear picture forming of an US that needs to re-evaluate the way its citizens are being treated and the freedoms that are available to them. Americans take pride on US's freedom, tolerance and democracy. It would be a great lost to see these values abandon the Land of the Free.

Thomas Tamblyn   |   December 3, 2014    9:42 AM ET

UFO fans have found what they believe is definitive proof that President Obama is probably a martian spy after finding a rock that looks exactly like his head.

The picture was taken by NASA's Spirit rover in 2005 - suspiciously (...) three years before he took office -- and shows what appears to be a single rock that does indeed bare a striking resemblance to America's own President.

Despite the best efforts of UFO enthusiasts, experts have sadly already debunked the statue instead claiming it to be nothing more than a case of pareidolia.

obama head


Much in the same way that we see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast the rock is nothing more than visual trickery in which out brains associate the shape with our own memories.

Other enthusiasts had initially suggested the image looked like Morgan Freeman, but President Obama became the resounding choice.

Paul Vale   |   December 1, 2014    5:45 PM ET

David Cameron has met with a group of immovable, grey, ageing relics… and it’s not members of the Tory far right.

The prime minister was in Wiltshire on Monday to unveil a £2 billion project to turn the A303 from a nasty little back road to a modern expressway, replete with a £1.2 billion tunnel around Stonehenge to provide uninterrupted views of the Wiltshire Downs.

The PM said visiting the ancient site reminded him of trips as a child, particularly being stuck in traffic around the historic monument (a structure so old it might actually pre-date Tory immigration policy).

cameron obama

Cameron and Obama have now both visited the Wiltshire site in 2014

Speaking to the Western Daily Press, he said: “This is the green light, it really is going to happen. The money is there. We’ve managed the nation’s budgets carefully so we can afford to do this.

“I think it’s not just what’s happening at Stonehenge but the whole of the expressway down to the south west I think is going to be really important for that region, its jobs, economy and prosperity to make sure that every region of the country benefits from the long-term economic plan.”

Cameron is the second world statesman to visit the English Heritage site in 2014 after Barack Obama toured the prehistoric monument on the way back from the Nato summit in Wales in September.

That visit resulted in what is was was the greatest piece of live-tweeting in West Country history when a mum of three (who runs 10K races dressed as a bumble bee), hiked up to the site hoping to get a glance of the President... only for Obama to wave, walk over, shake hands and have a picture taken.

Louise Ridley   |   December 1, 2014   11:02 AM ET

A senior Republican official in the US will resign after saying that president Obama's daughters should have "shown a little class" and dressed more conservatively at a White House Thanksgiving event.

Elizabeth Lauten accused Sasha and Malia Obama, who are 13 and 16 years old, of showing disrespect and dressing like they were "at a bar".

The girls joined their father for the traditional turkey pardoning event, both wearing casual clothes with short skirts that sat above the knee.

sasha malia

Sasha and Malia joined their father at the televised event

At the symbolic event the president "spared" two turkeys from being cooked for Thanksgiving while his daughters looked on, with typically teenage expressions that many commentators described as uninterested.

In a post on Facebook, Lauten - the communications director for US congressman Stephen Fincher - addressed Sasha and Malia, saying they looked bored, needed to "dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar" and also said that their parents Barack and Michelle must be poor role models.

She told NBC News that her resignation is "in the works" today.

Lauten's Facebook post, which has now been deleted, was reported by Forbes to say:

"Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play.

"Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events."

elizabeth lauten

Lauten is the communications director for a US congressman

Lauten was bombarded with criticism after her remarks on 26 November, with many pointing out that Jenna Bush, the daughter of former Republican president George W Bush, had also worn typical teenage clothes and occasionally appeared bored - and yet the Republican Lauten had never critcised them.

Lauten deleted the post and published an apology saying that after "many hours of prayer, talking to my parents and re-reading my words online" she was sorry for the comments.

She added that she would not have wanted to be judged in the way she had judged Sasha and Malia when she was a teenager.

elizabeth

Lauten's apology Facebook post

A Tale of Two Immigration Speeches: What Is Britain So Afraid Of?

Hilary Stauffer   |   November 28, 2014   12:00 AM ET

As the details from David Cameron's long-awaited immigration speech leaked out Friday morning, the overall impression was one of insecurity, of an apprehensive leader who did not have confidence in his own stated policies.

"We have real concerns", Mr. Cameron insisted, declaring that British concerns about migration "are not unreasonable or outlandish". Here's a pro tip: self-assured premiers take for granted that their policies are rational and sound. They don't need to cajole the public into acquiescence. "We deserve to be heard", he maintained, declaring that "frankly", he just "will not understand" if a "sensible way forward cannot be found". A brave and uncompromising stance, Mr. Prime Minister. All the hallmarks of a fearless politician, innately comfortable in his own skin.

Britain's problems stem - allegedly - from an influx of legal migrants coming from other European Union (EU) countries. The threat is so grave that all three mainstream parties (Labour, LibDems, and the Tories) have become caught up the rhetoric, all desperately trying to out-Ukip Ukip, while Nigel Farage stands idly by, rubbing his hands with barely concealed glee. Having masterfully played the role of spoiler, he can just sit and watch while everybody else gets in touch with their inner alarmist. Regrettably, everybody is obliging with distressing enthusiasm: there has been talking of cutting benefits, forced repatriation and contravening EU laws on freedom of movement. Fortress Britain, indeed.

Never mind the fact that the proposed changes have little chance of being fully and effectively implemented before the next general election, so amount to nothing more than political posturing. Ignore, too, that some of the Prime Minister's proposed 'red lines' (such as the ones requiring European migrants to have a job offer before they arrive and threatening to chuck them out after six months if they can't find work) almost certainly flout long-agreed upon EU principles, are destined to result in drawn-out legal challenges and will wreak havoc at the border as agents try to determine whether EU or national laws are applicable.

Lost in much of the British debate about immigration is an acknowledgement that it works both ways: there are as many British citizens living abroad in Europe--2.2 million--as there are Europeans living in the United Kingdom. There are another couple million Brits living outside the EU, primarily in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It is estimated that one million British subjects live in Spain alone, many of them retirees who do nothing to contribute to their adopted country's bottom line. One wonders if the Spanish authorities are anxious to hurry these freeloaders back from whence they came.

Migration is an emphatically inflammatory topic, touching as it does on national security, welfare, and jobs. It also invokes humanity's primal need to establish boundaries between 'us' and 'them'. Debates about immigration can provide an unfortunate staging ground for some of mankind's baser instincts, but it is understandable why this issue provokes such strong reactions, especially in the United Kingdom -a smallish island still recovering from an economic crisis. Great Britain, like any sovereign nation, has the right to control its borders, prioritize the needs of citizens, and manage its finances by limiting access to the welfare state.

If only any of the hype were true.

Migration to the UK is definitely up - dramatically so. Figures released yesterday indicate that there was a 43% increase in migrants coming to the UK between June 2013 and June 2014, with approximately 583,000 people arriving, adding to the 7.8million foreign born residents and citizens already here. Of course, approximately 323,000 people left Britain over the same period, leaving net migration figure of only 260,000, but that number is not nearly as provocative and almost certain to be ignored.

Approximately 42% of these new arrivals came for work, and about 30% came to study. So far, so uncontroversial. These are people that contribute to the country's coffers by paying taxes, renting flats, buying groceries and subsidizing British students though exorbitant tuition fees. A significant chunk of them are not eligible to access the NHS, meaning they also pad the pockets of private physicians. That leaves roughly 160,000 other migrants who have stormed the shores for apparently more nefarious purposes, such as the dreaded scourge of 'benefits tourism'. Conceivably, these theoretical layabouts could be a drain on the system and a drag on the economy - except for the fact they are far outnumbered by native-born occupants of Benefits Street.

Alas, it seems Britain's collective xenophobia is wildly misplaced: according to several reputable sources, there is 'little evidence' of people migrating for the express purpose of claiming benefits. Immigrants, it seems, are demonstrably less likely to be in social housing than native born citizens. The Telegraph reports that according to the UK government's own figures, in 2014, 4.9million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals. The number of recipients from outside the EU was 264,000 (five per cent). This is not a typo: British nationals make up more than 90% of benefits claims, which is a thoroughly inconvenient statistic for politicians of all stripes, because who will they blame if they can't blame the immigrants?

However, seasoned British pols are not ones to let facts get in the way of hyperbole, and scaring your citizens is a great way to get them to vote, so we are unlikely to see a dialling down of rhetoric any time soon. This is an enduring shame, because the United Kingdom never seems more like an anxious, fading empire than when it is enacting fear-based, reactionary policies designed to placate the most extreme elements of its populace.

A confident country, comfortable with its place in the 21st Century, doesn't need to create straw men or scapegoats. A confident country takes one look at the tired, poor, huddled masses on its doorstep and says:

'My fellow Americans, tonight, I'd like to talk with you about immigration. For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It's kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities - people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose'.

That's right: Britain's preening, swaggering 'special friend' has upstaged it yet again, to great effect. President Obama's speech from last week was the polar opposite from Prime Minister Cameron's remarks today. It hit all the right notes in announcing unilateral executive action to tackle America's enduring immigration dysfunction. He admitted that the system is broken, challenged opponents for being obstreperous, and acknowledged the 'hypocrisy' of the middle classes for supporting a status quo where we're perfectly happy for the dreaded 'other' to 'make our beds and pick our fruit', so long as they stay in the shadows.

Were his remarks motivated by a complicated combination of political point-scoring, concerns about his legacy and frustration at the opposition's perpetual refusal to support any of his policies? Probably. But it doesn't matter. Because beyond the inspiring rhetoric was a clear-eyed assessment that even as his administration had carried out more deportations than any President in US history, 'tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn't realistic'. And it isn't. Not just logistically, but philosophically: the President identified migrants of dubious legality as 'our classmates, our neighbours, our friends', and recognised that by and large, people do not leave their homelands 'in search of a free ride or an easy life'. They come 'to work, to study, to serve in the military and... contribute to America's success'. These people have become part of the everyday fabric of American life.

The United Kingdom's immigration concerns are different from those of the United States - the issue is not so much about being overwhelmed by irregular migrants as it is addressing the realities of a growing population and a shrinking economy. But the answer is not wild-eyed hysteria and barely concealed racism. The United Kingdom should be exulting in the fact that it has created a vibrant, thriving nation that proves irresistible to so many, not cowering behind the widespread dissemination of false information in a desperate attempt to cleave onto an obsolete notion of what being 'British' really means.

The modern world is multicultural - in Britain, in America, in Europe and beyond. Clinging to outdated nostalgia of a time when middle-aged Anglo-Saxon men ruled the roost is a recipe for disaster. Britain needs to stop romanticising 'us' and stop demonising 'them'. Britain needs embrace it immigrant hordes for the incredible resources that they are, and reclaim its rightful place as a power broker in the 21st Century. But first, Britain needs to stop being afraid.

Ned Simons & Mehdi Hasan   |   November 27, 2014    3:15 PM ET

It is one of the most famous selfies ever taken. Last year, during the memorial service to Nelson Mandela, president Obama and David Cameron posed for a picture with the prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

However it turns out Thorning-Schmidt was actually hoping to snap a picture of just her and Obama. In an interview with The Huffington Post UK, Stephen Kinnock, the Danish prime minister's husband, reveals that Cameron was only in it because he managed to "muscle himself in".

The claim is rather at odds with what Cameron told parliament last December. The prime minister claimed he had been asked to lean in for the photo. "When a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes," he told MPs.

stephen kinnock
Stephen Kinnock with his wife, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt

As well as being Thorning-Schmidt's husband, Stephen Kinnock is the son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. He is standing as the Labour parliamentary candidate in Aberavon at the general election.

He told HuffPost: "Yeah well, for me, the most striking thing about the selfie was our prime minister muscling in on the left.

"She was sitting and chatting with Obama, then the selfie idea somehow emerged, and then suddenly Cameron appeared in shot and managed to muscle himself in on the picture."

Knnock is one of the select few to have actually seen the famous, or infamous, selfie. Thorning-Schmidt, he said will one day "later down the track" release it for public consumption.

In the full interview with Mehdi Hasan, Stephen Kinnock speaks about growing up as the son of a political leader, on why Labour must not be seen to be "hectoring business", and imagines what went through Ed Miliband's head when he ate that bacon sandwich.


Thomas Tamblyn   |   November 26, 2014    9:34 PM ET

The CIA has submitted plans to wipe all the emails of every employee three years after they leave the company.

Worryingly this decision is actually as a response to a government sanctioned initiative to clean up the way that governmental agencies deal with their email archives.

Gizmodo has scoured the report and found that while most of the agencies have a policy of seven years, both the CIA and Homeland Security have opted for just three years.

The only records that would be kept would be those of top 22 officials within the agency.

Unsurprisingly this revelation has concerned quite a few people, including Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

"I'm concerned that destroying this data might destroy data that's material to policy questions about government action,"

Tien goes on to point out that while this -- from a transparency point of view -- sound worrying, the National Archives' decision is grounded in good sense.

"There is a certain irony in questioning the government's reasons here, because privacy advocates normally cheer this kind of move, it's kind of sad. I want to applaud the government for choosing to discard unnecessary data about people. But we have good reason to question the government's reasons because of what we've learned about what we've NOT been told."

According to Gizmodo the plans are still very much in the early stage so if US citizens feel that this is not the right way to go about saving money then they'll have the option of speaking their mind and potentially reversing the decision.