George Bowden   |   January 30, 2016   10:41 PM ET

If Obama didn't know how awkward Brits could be before, he does now.

This photograph, used to publicise the UK's new ambassador to the United States, shows our man in Washington standing bolt upright, as if incredibly uncomfortable with President Obama's physical contact.

The ceremonial picture of Kim Darroch besides the 44th President of the United States was published on Friday.

He was quickly mocked.

Yet not every ambassador being sworn in this week shared his predicament.

Darroch presented his credentials during a formal ceremony at the White House during which President Obama conferred his status.

SEE ALSO:

Chris York   |   January 27, 2016    8:21 AM ET

Rest easy folks, Baracksdubs are back and this time they have surpassed themselves.

The President's latest involuntary musical incarnation sees him take on Justin Bieber's 'Sorry' - and it's everything you hoped it would be.

Glorious.

If you need some more of that kind of thing - and let's face it you do - then check out these...

Answering the Call to Improve America's Voting Experience

Lord Malloch-Brown   |   January 22, 2016    4:36 PM ET

Last month, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address.

His speech focused on the nation's most pressing issues, including strengthening democracy. Before Congress, guests and the American people President Obama called for making voting easier, not harder, for all Americans.

In a little noticed part of his speech, the President made clear that one of his priorities in his final year would be to push to upgrade America's voting system and "modernize it for the way we live now." In doing so, he acknowledged that the current system is outdated, and he demonstrated a bold commitment to ensuring that the same level of daily modernity, security and convenience enjoyed by US citizens would be reflected in the manner in which they exercise one of their most treasured rights.

President Obama believes that the US can, and should, adopt a more contemporary approach to its election technology. And I couldn't agree with this proposed reform more. As chairman of Smartmatic I have seen how incorporating modern tools into a nation's election process benefits citizens and governments, and it is a practice all nations (not just the US) should adopt. Doing so makes elections more efficient, transparent, accountable and accessible from registration to voting and ultimately helps to strengthen democracy.

Among the many benefits, newer, updated systems reduce polling lines, granting more freedom to people who must leave work to vote. They allow handicapped voters to hear ballot options, voters to select language preferences, election commissions to audit polling stations, and offices to speed up ballot counting. Most important, perhaps, these systems are more secure and more reliable than the outdated machines they should replace.

Regardless of the specific technology, its benefits, and where it's adopted, the type of modern and accessible voting system called for by the President must be founded on several core principles.

Its technology must be simple and easy-to-use both by voters and polling officials alike; it must make life easier for election officials through logistical and management efficiencies; it must provide transparency to third-party validators; and it must be impenetrably secure and affordable to local election bodies and, ultimately, the taxpayer. It may sound novel, but it's not.

Today, systems like these exist and are being used successfully in select nations around the world.

Belgium, for example, adopted a system using stand-alone voting machines that use screens to provide a user-friendly voter experience. With this technology, Belgium conducted the first ever EU Parliamentary elections with paper trail in 2014, helping to ensure greater transparency.

In Brazil, during their last election two years ago, over 141 million voters elected 1,709 officials from 26,131 candidates by way of electronic voting. Doing so, resulted in its national elections registering the lowest cost per vote the country has seen in 16 years.

Belgium and Brazil represent just two of the many countries taking steps to advance efficiencies within their democracy. Adopting electronic and internet voting systems has helped numerous other countries such as the Philippines and Estonia increase voter participation, audit their elections, conduct elections efficiently and affordably and build confidence in their government.

President Obama's call shows a desire to maintain America as the indisputable innovator in democracy. The US--the country that produced Silicon Valley, Google and Facebook--cannot afford a repeat of the infamous "hanging chad" affair of 2000 as such incidents serve to undermine its democratic standing in the world.

How Obama's Changed the Game on the Tampon Tax

Laura Coryton   |   January 22, 2016   12:00 AM ET

President Obama spoke more sense about tampon tax last Friday, than any other leader has in history. During a poignant interview with YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen, the president made some important comments that convinced an extra 24,000 people to sign my 'Stop Taxing Periods. Period' petition in two days, flat. With a total of over 300,000 signatures, we are now more likely to succeed than ever before. But Obama changed the game when he introduced a new frankness to the debate that has sparked a craze to axe the tax that even he deems to be underlying sexist.

Having openly acknowledged that he knew little of tampon tax prior to Nilsen's grilling, he agreed it "fair to say" that dealing with menstruation in the only socially acceptable way possible (with the aid of sanitary products) shouldn't be considered a luxury. He even said that "Michelle would agree with [him] on that". We hope that most Americans would, too.

In admitting that he was not aware of the tax before Nilsen "brought it to [his] attention", Obama highlighted an important problem: there is a menstruation taboo that, in many countries across the world, has prevented us from talking frankly about (and even discovering) issues associated with periods. Crucially, this means we have been unable to solve those issues. Sadly, that includes tampon tax. But there's something we can do about it. In talking about the tax, and acting out against it, we're challenging the period taboo and the oppression that has subsequently silenced women and shamed them for an inevitable function of their body. We're tackling female focused shame by protesting against a female focused tax that many, like Obama, simply haven't been made aware of, leaving him previously unable to join our protest.

In his second comment, Obama dropped one of the biggest tampon tax truth bombs of all time. He said: "I have to tell you I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it's because men were making laws when these taxes were passed."

We have been waiting for almost half a century for a political leader to publicly connect male agenda setting to the existence of policies such as tampon tax and finally the wait is over. Yes. There is a logic behind the taxation of tampons and the simultaneous tax exemption of maintaining private helicopters or eating exotic meats. It stems from a perception of essentiality that has come from men at the top. Sadly, these men didn't seem to view tampons with the same love as they did their taste for crocodile meat. Hence, in 1973, a male dominated parliament passed a law in the UK that enabled them to tax tampons, mooncups and sanitary products as luxury items, and exempt other, more essential goods. Women and trans men aside, all was well.

In making this short but powerful statement, Obama highlighted another very important issue that tampon tax has become a symptom of. Female political underrepresentation. When women become underrepresented in parliament, like they are in the vast majority of countries across the world, their visibility and voices suffer. Obama pointed out that this sexist tax may well have been created due to an issue that is still alive today. Women were politically underrepresented in 1973, and that undoubtedly helped the passing of tampon tax trough parliament, but the important point is that women continue to be outnumbered in Westminster, alongside other parliaments, today.

The Westminster MPs who have made a personal effort to connect with this campaign and help us to end tampon tax have been exclusively female. Even after meeting with Andy Burnham's team during the Labour leadership race, we were told that other issues had taken his focus away from tampons. Including women in politics shouldn't be a political tool to win votes. It should be a necessity of a functional parliament. Obama explained why and his words can be summed up in one simple sentence: a world-wide tax on menstruation.

#EndTamponTax

Paul Waugh   |   January 20, 2016    6:22 PM ET

The Tory party spent nearly £3m on polling and strategy provided by American and Australian campaign chiefs in the last general election, new figures reveal.

In its final analysis of the 2015 election’s financing, the Electoral Commission said that the Conservatives paid £2.4m to CTF, the political strategy company run by the ‘Wizard of Oz’, Sir Lynton Crosby.

It also spent £369,000 on market research by Barack Obama’s polling guru Jim Messina, who had vowed before the campaign that he had never lost an election.

axelrod messina

David Axelrod and Jim Messina, in 2009, when they both worked for Barack Obama

The Tories’ election victory meant that Messina won his own fierce battle with former fellow Obama staffer, David Axelrod, who worked for the rival Labour party.

Axelrod, who was criticised for rarely visiting Britain during the election campaign, saw his firm AKPD paid £223,572 for its services.

Sir Lynton, who was credited with pushing the relentless focus on Labour's economic weakness and the threat of the SNP in a hung Parliament, was awarded a knighthood by David Cameron in the New Year’s Honours List in recognition of his role in winning the election.

Overall, the Commission found that the Conservatives spent £3 million more than Labour on its campaign, clocking up expenses of £15 million to their rivals’ £12 million.

Buried in the accounts is a £577 payment Labour made to hire ‘chicken suits’ used to accuse Mr Cameron of avoiding TV debates.

But the party blamed an ‘administrative error’ for failing to include receipts for its infamous ‘Ed Stone’, the list of policy pledges unveiled by Ed Miliband to widespread ridicule.

Mr Miliband unveiled the eight foot stone carving on the final weekend of the campaign, saying that it would be installed in the garden of Downing Street to remind the party to honour its six main election promises.

A party spokesman said: “Due to an administrative error these invoices were not included with other items of campaign spend. We have informed the Electoral Commission and will seek to rectify this error as soon as possible."

In the year upto polling day, the Tories massively outspent Labour on adverts with a cool £1.2m on advertising on Facebook – and £250,000 during the election campaign itself - compared to Labour’s £16,000.

However, the Conservatives’ spending on social media adverts was dwarfed by its spending on direct mail, with one firm paid more than £4 million to deliver election leaflets.

UKIP got most value for money, spending an average of 73p per vote compared to the Lib Dems’ £1.46 per vote.

Ukip also spent £10,000 on copies of Nigel Farage's book, the Purple Revolution.


Paul Vale   |   January 13, 2016    3:31 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Barack Obama used his final State of the Union address on Tuesday to mock Americans that still deny climate change, while railing against the xenophobia peddled by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“If anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change… you’ll be pretty lonely,” Obama told the joint session of Congress in Washington.

Looking towards the Republicans in the chamber, the president said climate change deniers are “debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it."

state of the union

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud President Obama during the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016

Talking about innovation, the president invoked the Cold War space race to highlight the opportunities for building a clean energy future. "Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there," he said. "We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon."

During his hour-long speech, Obama also repudiated those accusing his administration of being soft on terrorism. Using another term for the members of the Islamic State group, he warned: “ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America's commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden."

"Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell," he added. "When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit."

The address was made against the backdrop of the 2016 election race, and the spectre of Donald Trump’s populist campaign. In a rebuke to the nativism preached by the New York property mogul, who in December called for Muslims to be banned from the US, Obama said voters must "reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion."

"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalised, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer,” he added. “That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."

“As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do or share the same background," Obama continued. "We can’t afford to go down that path.”

Trump responded to the speech with his standard dismissal:

More surprising was the Republican Party's immediate response to the address, which this year was delivered by South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley, widely tipped as a potential vice-presidential candidate.

Amid the standard rebukes of the president's message, Haley also gave an unsubtle admonishment to Trump. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” said the governor, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country."

For context, that's the Republican Party using their response to the president's address to lambast their own party's presidential frontrunner. Trump supporters responded swiftly and with bluster:

Obama's Parenting Advice

Natasha Mahtani   |   January 12, 2016    8:15 PM ET

If you're a regular on Facebook, you would have most likely come across this video where President Obama gives family/parenting advice to his interns. It's great advice. My favourite line was "If you're going to be home, be home!"

And this is something I've struggled with over the holidays. I work from home and with S being home, he'd see me on my phone often. Now I've got to be honest. On many occasions it was work but on many it was just Facebook/Instagram browsing. As a blogger I think we're even more guilty of this because Twitter and Instagram move so fast, take your eye off the ball and you'll miss something.

Over the holidays I also noticed S getting more whiney. It was most likely a combination of his age, the fact that he had no routine and not always having my full attention when we were at home.

Yesterday was his last day off and I decided we were going to have a phone free afternoon. We went down to our local high street, ran some errands and then went to Wagamama for lunch. Once we ordered our food, I engaged S in conversation by asking him what we did over the Christmas holidays and then asking him to tell me about people in his class, their names, etc. He sat down chatting to me, asked the waitress for children's chopsticks, asked her for some more water and finished all his food. I can tell you there was a huge difference in him when he had my undivided attention vs. when he didn't.

If you have to be honest with yourself, how much time do you really spend on the phone? How much of that time is really necessary? This is something I'm going to repeatedly ask myself in 2016.

This evening a friend posted an article on Facebook about being married to your phone. And as I read it, I couldn't help but nod my head in agreement. But it also made me feel sad. Since when did our phones become more important than our families? Why do spouses find it easier to message each other rather than have a simple conversation? And the worst thing is that so much is misunderstood on whatsapp/messenger/any other mode of text communication.

Last year sometime I had dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in years and half way through the meal, she takes out her phone and starts messaging someone. First she said it was her mum and she was letting her know what time she'd be home, so I gave her that. Then 5 minutes later I realised she was messaging a friend. A couple of minutes later, she takes a picture of some ratty looking bracelet on her arm to send to her friend to say "Ha! I took your bracelet when I was at yours and you didn't realise." (She told me this). A few minutes later and other guests started whispering and looking in our direction. I wasn't offended, I know I'm not a boring dinner date, but I was shocked! Why go to dinner?! It goes without saying that I haven't seen her since.

While I'm grateful for technology and the ability to stay in touch with friends who live on the other side of the world, I also believe phones are killing conversation. More importantly, I believe our children mirror us and if they constantly see us head down in our phones, it won't be long before they're doing exactly the same thing.

The next time I'm on my phone and S calls out to me, I will ask myself what's more important? "This chat/picture/status...or my son?"

This post first appeared on www.mamaduckquacks.com

  |   January 12, 2016    7:38 PM ET

Politicians! Want to know how the public see you? Why, simply type your name into Google followed by the word "is"!

Yes, we've been doing just that - and while there's a lot of "...is an idiot" (and worse), there are a few surprising results, too. Did you know, for example, that some people wonder if Donald Trump is Batman? Or that many Brits have strange (although not unreasonable) ideas about Danny Alexander?

From British MPs - and former MPs - to foreign leaders, take a look at our screenshots below to see how these politicians are perceived by the Googling public...

The Happy Face of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Liza Bel   |   January 11, 2016    9:16 PM ET

"Goma is seen as a place with no life, where everyone is in desperate need of foreign aid; a place in need of pity", tells me Arsène Tungali. This 25-year old is fresh out of his Young African Leaders Initiative training in Washington - Obama's flagship program where a selected few from across the African continent are chosen yearly to learn what it takes to lead their countries towards positive change in a sustainable, responsible way.

Back in his native Goma, a city on the Eastern boarder of the Democratic Republic of Congo, ravaged by civil wars and refugee crisis following the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, escape is not on his mind but a master plan of how to reverse the negative trajectory of the young population of his hometown.

With the YALI program opening doors, Arsène is travelling the world, building the network of like-minded game changers, yet Goma is always on his mind. "I miss the people, the hardworking mother on the corner of my street, the vibrancy of the city especially on the main road: you hear different types of music everywhere, from small shops to cars with open windows. Despite everything, Goma people will always show you a smile on their face."

When I arrived in Goma for the first time in GPS-tracked 4x4 jeeps, reassuring my mother that security measures were monitored on the highest level, I was anticipating a UN-patrolled ghost town. Little did I expect to be gripped by the energy of this place, sandwiched between a majestic Nyiragongo volcano and the breathtaking silky blue of the Lake Kivu.

This city charges you with its truly unique landscape, its youthful, vibrant atmosphere and passionate people who are keen to step out of the difficult past like a lizard out of its old skin. Arsène is one of many inspirational people who I met during my stays in Goma that prove that one individual can bring about change - a phenomenon slowly dying out on our side of the world.

"Growing in an unstable region has given me the kind of courage no one can imagine. I have witnessed poverty, killings, murder, destruction and all those consequences of war, which has led some of my pairs to lose hope. Most of them have decided to do nothing but I have had the opportunity to think differently. I am driven by a big desire because I don't want to see my kids and future generations live in the same situation like the one we grew up in. I always work hard so that I don't have to be asked by my kids Dad, what have you done to change things around you? and have no answer"

Community outreach programs and forums where future leaders exchange ideas are some of the most common projects that young people set up to drive change. In 2011, Arsène started an organization called Rudi International after vising a school where he asked children How do you see your future? and seeing confusion on their faces. They give to primary and secondary kids the opportunity to go to school by paying their school fees and supporting them with various developing after school activities and camps.

Building the future for its youthful population is at the heart of Goma's current development and not only through empowerment projects but also culture initiatives. Festivals, dance competitions, art galleries and youth centres created by locals and international organisations are spreading across the city as mushrooms, building on the creative talent of the city. Even musicians from the capital, Kinshasa, cannot ignore the youthful fan base of Goma. The lively spirit, perfect antidote too all the stereotypes, is captured in this Goma-produced version of Pharrell Williams "Happy"

Despite the absence of roads and western-type infrastructures, Goma isn't a place that requires pity, if anything it is an inspiration and a reminder of the force of the human spirit. I almost don't believe I'm writing this but Goma is a happy place, and I'm yet to unlock the puzzle of this mystery. Perhaps it's the vitality of people there, particularly the younger generations, like Arsène who make us, the sulking Europeans preoccupied with "first world problems", feel like there is a greater purpose in life.

"Young people in African countries are driving change and I can say there is hope for the future. So many of those I have worked with are tired of and are against the way things are being managed by current leaders, and are eager to work differently when they will be taking power. I am optimistic that in the next 20 years or so, Africa will look differently because so many positive plans of actions are being developed by the younger generation today."

The optimistic speak is right off the Young African Leaders Initiative handbook - the skill of talking about the future of the African continent with this fluid confidence. It seems like Arsène has mastered both worlds - a youth leader in his community and an ambassador of his people to the rest of the world. The more I meet people like him through my work across the continent, the more I realise that this dormant volcano of young initiative and passion will erupt soon and change our perceptions of the African continent.

How did it feel sitting 5 feet away from President Obama and listening to his speech, I ask Arsene. "It helped me understand that everything is possible and that nothing should prevent me from reaching my dream. There is hope."

Paul Vale   |   January 8, 2016    3:23 AM ET

Barack Obama attacked the “imaginary fiction” that he wants to confiscate firearms during a town hall meeting on gun control on Thursday, bemoaning the National Rifle Association's consistent mischaracterisation of his position on the issue. "The way it is described, is that we are trying to take away everybody's guns," he said.

Speaking at George Mason University in Virginia, an event broadcast live by CNN, the president attempted to assure detractors that his executive order unveiled earlier this week was not an attack on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

The NRA was invited to the event but declined to take part.

“And by the way, there's a reason why the NRA is not here,” Obama said. “They're just down the street. This is the reason they exist. You'd think they'd be willing to have a debate with the president."

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandamb told CNN that the organisation saw "no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House.” The broadcaster, not the White House, organised the event.

obama town hall

Obama speaks at a town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper at George Mason University in Virginia, Thursday, January 7, 2016

During the hour-long meeting, the president chastised the lobby group’s “over the top, and so overheated” rhetoric, adding that he would be “happy to meet with them... but he conversation has to be based on facts and truth, not some imaginary fiction in which Obama's trying to take away your guns.”

Offering a long defence of the tightening of existing gun laws, Obama dismissed the conspiracy theorists that believe proposals to improve gun control is a prelude tyranny. “This notion of a conspiracy out there… it gets wrapped up in concerns about the federal government, there’s a long history of that,” Obama said. “That’s in our DNA. The United States was born suspicious of some distant authority.”

“Is it fair to call it a conspiracy,” questioned host Anderson Cooper.

“Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,” the president shot back. “What are you saying? Are you suggesting... we are creating a plot to take everyone’s guns away so we can impose martial law? Yes, that is a conspiracy.”

Obama said peddling that message is “really is profitable for the gun manufacturers” and “a great advertising mechanism, but it's not necessary.”

Taking questions from a partisan audience that included Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu and Taya Kyle, the widow of sniper Chris Kyle, Obama said much of the polorisation on gun ownership came down to differences between rural and inner city communities. "Part of the reason, I think, that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities," the president said, admitting that he had never owned a gun.

Following the meeting, the New York Times published an opinion column written by Obama outlining how he will not support any presidential candidate who refuses to back gun reform. Read the article here.

READ: Why 'Gun Control' Isn't Going To Save A Single American Life

SEE ALSO:

America is Saved

Mark Robins   |   January 6, 2016    8:40 PM ET

2016-01-06-1452112756-2455817-AmericanFlag.jpg

I admit - I love America. I love the country, the people, the diversity, the food, the craziness. I know it has its faults but in general I love it.

Except for one major thing. Guns. The country is a mess over this. If it wasn't so tragic it would be laughable. The whole thing has become a farce and I want to add my bit of nonsense to the subject.

Barak Obama is finally going to act and try to do something about gun control across the US. About time too, but I fear it will be a false dawn again due to the difficulties he will face.

It is a ludicrous situation. He says that he "can't just sit around and do nothing" any more due to the "letters he has received from parents, teachers etc", yet he is almost powerless. This is due to the power of Congress and the influence that minor states yield who want to uphold the second amendment and maintain the right to bear arms. There is also the farce that is the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) who seem able to control the government with regards to gun policy.

Now let's look at some facts.

The second amendment was ratified in 1791. It states "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed". It hardly even makes literary sense but, also, note some things within it. A Militia - i.e. a military organisation, not Joe Public who lives in suburbia, or a disgruntled student. "Bear arms" - technically by definition (on Dictionary.com) that means they can carry arms but not actually have permission to use them!

It was also written to safeguard against the Federal Government at the time, who were an opposing militia, not for people to shoot each other over an argument or if they are feeling marginalised by a part of society.

In short, the second amendment has no relevance to modern life but it still remains in place and is being interpreted so that people can keep their weapons. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to argue against as it is written in law and it does give people a constitutional right.

So legally it may be correct, but is it morally correct? No. Absolutely not. The statistics alone speak for themselves. Add to that the emotional turmoil that is caused by gun deaths in the US and there is no sane argument in favour. Although, I am not a lawyer and there are people with far bigger brains than me and with legal knowledge that would be able to rubbish my arguments.

However, it is still unlikely that President Obama will succeed in his latest quest.

Fear not, I have a solution. Instead of trying to ban guns or put stricter controls on them, follow my simple plan.

Ban bullets.

As far as I can see, it is flawless.

I have conducted some research into this. The dictionary definition of "arms" is essentially "weapons". A bullet is not a weapon, it is a projectile that is fired from a weapon. Therefore, in banning bullets there are no constitutional rights being infringed but it is still rendering the weapon a non-killing device. There is a National Bullet Association but it has no power compared to the NRA therefore will hold no power in Congress, and from what I can see, the NRA has no policy on ammunition.

People can keep as many weapons as they want - pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, anything they can lay their hands on, but they will not be allowed to fire anything out of them. It will save thousands of lives and the make the country a far safer place.

If people still want to have guns and run around the countryside with them, they still can. They can live out their frustrated dreams of being in the military or being a super-hunter, they can even carry a weapon on them on show at all times if it makes them feel better, but they will cause no damage.

A brilliant aside to this is the vision of some nutter dressed in camouflage running around and having to make gun noises so that he feels he is using his weapon. Bang! Rat-a-tat-tat! Uh-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu! They could even have those material signs that unravel under the barrel saying "BANG!" - I would give that as a concession too. It would be hilarious to see these people reduced to behaving and sounding like the idiots they so clearly are.

So there you are, America. A gift from a fan across the pond. Ban bullets and all will be well. You are saved, and you are welcome!

America Needs to Start Talking About Mental Health

Danny Bowman   |   January 6, 2016    6:53 PM ET

This US election it is time for mental health and mental health care in America to come out of the darkness, with approximately 42.5million or 18.1% of American adults suffering from mental illness.

There are many issues that are linked to mental health in America, from gun crime to healthcare from the prison system to the police force in the United States.

Starting with healthcare, mental health care is extremely expensive in America so unless you can pay, you are not going to get sufficient mental health support. This time bomb in the American healthcare system that seems to be ready to explode isn't being addressed. We have heard from major presidential candidates from both sides, the Republicans to the Democrats have expressed concern about the need to improve mental health care but simply not a sufficient amount; more debates need to happen on this issue. For example according to the Washington Post, states have cut their mental health budget during recession by $1.8 billion. It seems in healthcare that mental health is still falling behind further and further even more than the United Kingdom, even after the brilliant campaigning by ex Member of the U.S House of Representatives and non-other than Patrick J Kennedy, it still seems like mental health care in America is an afterthought.

The next issue is gun crime and how in the past couple of weeks many have called for more in depth checks when purchasing a gun including someone's mental health background, Donald Trump even called the gun crime epidemic a "mental health issue," those comments were followed this week by President Obama mentioning more checks on someone's mental health background before the purchase of a gun. Is this fair?

President Obama message was powerful and he really gave a heartfelt and admirable speech but it's very important to not be carried away with implicating people with mental health conditions and drawing correlations to such horrific events as named in the speech. It shows that we need a bigger discussion on the correlation between gun crime and mental illness. With that said it has been reported that the Obama Administration is proposing an investment of $500 million into increased access to mental health care.

The next issue is to address the police, there has been much speculation on whether the police have enough training on how to deal with someone suffering from a mental health crisis, and this is not just an issue in the U.S but an issue in the United Kingdom. With better training we could potentially prevent the mentally ill ending up in prison.

The next worrying factor to include is the amount of people suffering from mental illness ending up in the American prison system. In June 2015, now presidential candidate John Kasich said "now I don't know how many of you know people who struggle with these illnesses, but if you've got a problem with schizophrenia you find yourself in a prison? It's a disgrace in this country." Very strong words, but is there actually anything happening to counteract this problem.

The fundamentals of the situation is mental health costs lives, it needs to be looked at very closely in the upcoming presidential election on both sides, it needs to be a bipartisan issue and it's time America started talking about mental health.

Kathryn Snowdon   |   January 5, 2016    8:01 PM ET

A journalist from Armed American Radio said that the deaths of 13,338 people in the US last year from gun violence was "just a part of life" during a heated interview on Channel 4 News on Tuesday.

Neil McCabe was questioned by Jon Snow Tuesday evening - hours after President Barack Obama announced tighter gun control measures following a series of mass shootings in the US.

A Channel 4 News report on gun control in the US revealed that 125 people have already died this year as a result of gun violence. There were 13,338 deaths in total last year.

jon snow

Neil McCabe was questioned by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News on Tuesday

Following the report, Snow asked McCabe whether he was "proud or ashamed" of the number of people who had died from gun violence in the US.

McCabe said: "I don't know if I am ashamed and I don't know if I am proud. It happens and in a free country these things happen.

"There is always going to be risk. There is always going to be situations."

READ: Why 'Gun Control' Isn't Going To Save A Single American Life

During the segment, Snow increased the figure to 137 people and then to 141.

When confronted with the escalating statistics, McCabe said: "It's just part of life."

McCabe added: "More people die by fists and kicks than by rifles... people die, people are murdered. It's human nature. But in those situations there is no obligation to be a victim. I don't want to hide under a desk.

"I would rather have a gun to protect myself."

Many were shocked at the number of people who had been killed this year already - just five days into the year.

Others were in disbelief at McCabe's reaction to the shocking statistics:

And some could not decide whether McCabe was being serious or not:

While the majority praised Snow for his interview:

McCabe defended himself on Twitter, saying that Snow was "confused".

The interview comes hours after Obama announced his long-awaited gun control measures during an emotional speech on Tuesday.

The proposals, made by executive action against the will of Congress, will improve the background check system for gun sales by expanding the number of buyers who are subject to criminal checks.

The action also sought to improve research into gun violence, increase domestic violence prosecutions and better keep track of lost firearms.

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Paul Vale   |   January 5, 2016    4:57 PM ET

Barack Obama shed tears as he announced long-awaited gun control measures on Tuesday in the wake of countless mass shootings that have made the US an international outlier for gun violence. The proposals, made by executive action against the will of Congress, were revealed at the White House, the president flanked by families of the victims of many of the mass shooting that have blighted his presidency.

The action will improve the background check system for gun sales by expanding the number of buyers who are subject to criminal checks; give millions of additional dollars to mental health services; and kick-start smart gun technology.

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Obama wept while talking about the massacre in at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012

The action also sought to improve research into gun violence, increase domestic violence prosecutions and better keep track of lost firearms.

"Fort Hood, Binghamton, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, San Bernardino. Too many," the president reflected. Weeping as he referred to the children slain at the Newtown massacre in 2012, he said: “First graders... every time I think about those kids it makes me mad."

Chastising congress for its inaction despite the incessant deaths, Obama said the US is "not the only country in earth with violent or dangerous people" but it “is the only advanced country on earth that sees this type of mass violence with this type of frequency."

“It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries," he added. "It’s not even close."

"Somehow, we become numb to it and we start thinking, 'This is normal,'" he continued. “Instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarised debates. The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage. Congress still needs to act. The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does.”

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US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on January 5, 2016 at the White House

The background check proposals, which enjoy widespread support across the US, were immediately attacked by Republicans as unconstitutional, with legal challenges likely to follow.

"This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it," said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In a statement released after Obama's speech, the speaker challenged the president's "dismissiveness toward Americans who value the Second Amendment," saying: "At a time when the country wants the president to lead the fight against radical Islamic terror, this is yet another attempt to divide and distract from his failed policies."

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted: "Obama overstepping his constitutional authority to force his policies on the American people."

Jeb Bush, currently running for the Republican presidential nomination, released a statement condemning the move. "Rather than taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens as Obama and [Hillary] Clinton would like to do, we should focus on keeping guns out of the hands of the terrorists who want to kill innocent Americans,” he said.

Those sentiments were echoed by many of Bush's GOP rivals, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who promised to repeal the executive action once he's president. "When you live by the pen, you die by the pen," he said, adding: that his own pen "has an eraser on it."

READ: Why 'Gun Control' Isn't Going To Save A Single American Life


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