Eve Hartley   |   December 31, 2015    2:48 PM ET

President Barack Obama revealed on Wednesday that a “pretty sizeable percentage” of world leaders are “out of their minds”.

The politician made the admission to Jerry Seinfeld during an episode of 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'.

Chatting in the White House cafe, Seinfeld asked Obama: “How many world leaders do you think are just completely out of their mind?”

“A pretty sizeable percentage,” the commander-in-chief responded.

barack obama

Barack Obama has admitted that a "sizable percentage' of world leaders are 'out of their minds'.

At the start of the 18-minute clip, Seinfeld arrives at the White House, greeting the President through his window.

Obama got into the spirit of the film, saying: “I always wanted to be in a show about nothing and here I am."

On insane world leaders, Seinfeld quipped: “Some of these people, you must meet them, you must be chatting and you see it in their eyes… you go ‘oh, this guys gone’.”

Without naming names, the 54-year-old president revealed: “Part of what happens with these guys, is the longer they stay in office, the more likely that is to happen.”

“Of course, they lose it,” interjected the comedian.

Obama continued: “At a certain point your feet hurt and you’re having trouble peeing, [but] you have absolute power.”

“Privilege is toxic”, Seinfeld said.

“It really is,” said Obama.


Eve Hartley   |   December 22, 2015    3:05 PM ET

Social media users lambasted Donald Trump on Tuesday for making a penis jibe towards Hillary Clinton, claiming the Republican frontrunner’s comments are "astonishingly sexist."

The presidential hopeful used the vulgarity to refer to the Democratic candidate, saying she was “schlonged” in her 2008 Democratic primary loss to Barack Obama.

The definition of "schlonged" itself has caused much confusion in the Trump camp, with the media-moguls spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, seemingly unclear on its meaning.

Pierson was trying to clarify his comment and said: “I think he was meaning, like, ‘schlonged to the ground,’ ‘schlonged around."

Speaking on CNN, Pierson said: “What does schlonged mean then? Why don’t you tell me what schlonged means?”

Schlong is a Yiddish term for penis.

A backlash followed, with columnists and political followers jumping on the candidate’s wording:

Meanwhile Clinton's camp have refused to respond to the “degrading language.”

Trump used the insult during a campaign rally on Monday in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It’s not the first time that the candidate has used the vulgar term on the campaign trail. In a 2011 interview with the Washington Post, Trump blamed Republican Paul Ryan for the party losing a special election.

The media mogul said: “I watched a popular Republican woman [Jane Corwin] not only lose but get schlonged by a Democrat [Kathy Hochul] nobody ever heard of for the congressional seat and that was because, simply, because of the Paul Ryan plan.”

Chris York   |   December 19, 2015   12:34 PM ET

The White House welcomed a very special guest on Friday as everyone's favourite dustbin-shaped droid R2-D2 dropped in.

He was also joined by these two rather suspicious looking characters.

As well as these two far more friendly-looking ones...

The Stormtroopers and R2-D2 also made a special appearance with White House spokesman John Earnest in the briefing room following President Obama's year-end news conference.

Obama was among the millions feeling the force as he sat down in the White House Family Theatre to watch 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' with families of military personnel killed in the line of duty.

Ryan Barrell   |   December 15, 2015    5:05 PM ET

It's safe to say Drake's 'Hotline Bling' was one of the most viral music videos of the year - mostly because of the strange dancing.

Now the video editor behind BaracksDubs has put together something even better - President Obama singing the song and even doing some of the weird dances.

Merry Christmas to us.

[h/t Tastefully Offensive]


Climate Change: Merci M. Fabius

Alistair Burnett   |   December 14, 2015    6:07 PM ET

French may no longer be the language of international diplomacy, but French diplomats have not lost their touch.

The Paris climate deal reached at the weekend is a testament to their skill and endurance.

Many environmental activists and experts, among them the British climate economist Lord Stern, have been effusive in their praise for the French delegation led by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

According to Lord Stern "they have taken great care to make everyone listened to, that they were consulted. There was a great sense of openness, of professional diplomacy, and skill."

What Fabius, his colleague, Environment Minister Ségolène Royale, and their team have pulled off is the first ever agreement that all countries - rich or poor, developed or developing - will take action to tackle climate change by reducing their carbon emissions and reversing the deforestation and environmental degradation that is depriving the planet of its ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere naturally.

Of course, France did not do it alone.

At a time when the international system - and the United Nations in particular - has been written off by many as incapable of achieving the consensus needed for decisive action over conflicts like Syria and Ukraine, the success in Paris is a welcome reminder that the international community is capable of coming together for the common good.

The deal has allowed a rare moment of optimism over the climate change, which has been reinforced by research just published suggesting carbon emissions could have stalled this year despite the global economy growing.

The climate accord also builds on the momentum of September's agreement by all UN members to sign up the Sustainable Development Goals which aim to eradicate poverty by 2030 by meeting people's economic, health, education and social needs while protecting the environment.

It's a far cry from six years ago in Copenhagen when the last attempt to get all countries on board in the fight against climate change fell apart amongst rancour and recrimination between the world's major powers - particularly China and the United States.

So it's no coincidence that another of the contributors to success in Paris was the growing climate cooperation between Washington and Beijing which became public last year during President Obama's visit to China and was reaffirmed a few weeks ago during President Xi's visit to the US where the two leaders announced a shared vision for the Paris talks as well as how their countries would cut carbon emissions.

In the US, President Obama has broken with his predecessor's skepticism - some might say cynicism - over climate change action and made it a signature issue of his second term. But given the Republican Party's control of Congress, Obama has had to use executive powers, not legislation, to take action.

One of the key features of the Paris deal is how the French and UN negotiators were willing to work around the American President's political obstacles and produce an agreement that would not have to be ratified by the US Senate.

That's why the Paris accord avoids a legal commitment by countries to actually cut emissions. Instead countries have submitted voluntary plans of how they will reduce emissions and fight climate change called - in UN-speak - Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs.

The voluntary nature of these central commitments has been criticized as a major weakness of the deal, so in order to try to ensure countries keep their promises, the agreement legally requires all states to monitor their emissions performance and to come together every five years to review their progress.

The idea being that global peer pressure will encourage countries to do their bit.

Another obvious weakness of the deal is that, as things stand, when you total up all the INDCs it does not add up to preventing a temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius, which most climate scientists agree is the tipping point where global warming will produce catastrophic climate change.

There is an aspiration in the preamble to the agreement to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees and the hope is the five-year review process and peer pressure will lead to countries committing to ever-deeper emissions cuts as they go along.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon - another leader who has made climate change a signature issue - described Paris as "a truly historic moment".

It could be - if countries follow through.

What we can say for sure is that Paris has given humanity a fighting chance in the battle against climate change and for that a lot of the credit should go to France.

President Obama - You Fought for Obamacare...Will You Help Us Fight for Our NHS?

Chris James   |   December 9, 2015    5:35 PM ET

Dear President Obama,

As the leader of the free world I am sure you have many things on your mind. Unrest in the Middle East, President Putin, Donald Trump, China, Syria, Islamic State - I can only begin to imagine what your diary must look like.....no wonder you have become the silver fox of world politics (I am hoping flattery will get me everywhere).

My existence is somewhat simpler as a Junior Doctor in the British National Health Service. My diary does have its own complexities, however, in the sense of the rota I work - no week is ever the same. I cover late-shifts, nights, weekends and even the odd 9-5 - Mr Cameron would perhaps have you believe we don't already have a 24/7, 365 a year health service but I assure you we do.

Each patient I see also lends their own complexity to my world. Everyone's physiology has its qwerks and no sick patient seems to play by the rules. My world is dominated by self-doubt as well as by life and death decisions made at all hours under huge pressure, with limited information. My world is riddled with mistakes and regrets - all doctors have their ghosts which follow them.

But then I don't need to tell you any of this - again I can only begin to imagine...

What I do know, however, is that in your 2 terms as president you have been partly defined for your attempts at healthcare reform. The "Affordable Care Act" - otherwise fondly known as "Obamacare" has laid a foundation stone for the revolution of American healthcare. It has already dropped the number of uninsured Americans from 15.2% to 9.2% - and I am sure if you had your way that would be 0% uninsured. You are rightly revered throughout the world for this ideal.

There is thankfully a simplicity in my world which resides in the foundations of our NHS - a health care system which has blossomed quite stunningly from the ashes of WWII. We treat all citizens, regardless of wealth or status, from cradle to grave. The cost of this? 9.7% of our GDP - about half of US expenditure - and we do not have the "uninsured" to worry about. Coverage by the state ensures there are no tales of people bankrupted. No tales of patients turned away in their hour of need. As a doctor I get to treat ALL of my patients based on their medical needs with only their best interests at heart. I am in a position to treat anyone and everyone based on need and an evidence base - not greed and a balance sheet.

It is a beautiful place to work Mr President. Nye Bevan is our hero in this tale - fighting successfully for its implementation in 1948. Could you imagine it Mr President? Not fighting for a 5% drop in the population uninsured but for a health service that provides comprehensive healthcare for ALL - no strings attached. Yes it has its problems but with a core of empathy, care and compassion can we really go too far wrong?

Our NHS is under attack, Mr President, from a conservative government hell bent on tearing it apart in the name of profit and greed. They are dismantling it and idolising the American system because it would prove so fruitful for the rich. They are aiming for a system that you have fought so hard to reform - we have everything you have fought for, everything that you would love to provide for your citizens.

With the greatest of respect, Mr President, we don't want what you have.

In 2006 in a speech aimed at the African Nations you said "In the end, if the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost". Amen to that sir. Amen.

The NHS protects the British people and unashamedly promotes their common welfare. I have treated the homeless and I have treated lords of the realm. I have done this without bias or prejudice against either group - again a beautiful place to work. This government seems to have lost their way.

We need some heavy-weight help sir.

You have achieved much as the leader of the free world Mr President but I ask for one small favour. Come out in defence of the NHS. We are fighting for everything you would love to have for your own people, everything you have fought so hard for.

I am forever told that I am naive and idealistic - that I do not understand the complexities of politics. I live in hope this is true - I am not interested in Mr Cameron's feelings nor that of any other politician. I firmly believe there are some absolutes which transcend politics and are non-negotiable. Access to healthcare for all is one of these absolutes.

If our generation is to watch over the loss of our NHS then it will be a national disgrace which will define our children's lives and indeed their deaths.

Please Mr President stand with us. We have reached tipping point - it is balanced precariously. We are not politicians and our lack of a media platform confirms this. Every lie and deception put forward by this government is backed by a media machine that is as relentless as it is powerful in the minds of the public.

We need a handsome, silky-smooth, silver fox in our corner. A real statesman who transcends politics and simply makes a stand for what is right. Our government is selling out its people - they are out of touch and threaten the future of millions in the name of ignorance and greed.

In 1948 Nye Bevan, the then Minister of Health said "The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it". That faith burns bright in the masses of the British People Mr President, but the darkness is creeping in and a spark from across the pond could make all the difference.

With hope,

Dr Chris James

Cilmate Change and Terrorism: Which Is the True Existential Threat?

Alistair Burnett   |   December 3, 2015    7:29 PM ET

Climate change is "the most severe problem that we are facing today--more serious even than the threat of terrorism".

So said the then UK Chief Scientific Adviser, David King back in 2004.

It's a view that's been echoed by, among others, President Obama in this year's State of the Union address.

Eleven years on, King's comment came to mind as the UK parliament debated and approved air strikes on Islamic State in Syria at the same time as delegates from more than 190 countries were meeting at the UN climate summit in Paris to try to agree a deal to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The Syria vote took up many more column inches than the goings on in Paris despite the presence of world leaders, including Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the opening of the summit.

Polls in Britain about the most important issues facing the World, indicate terrorism is seen as a much greater threat than global warming. It also seems public concern about climate change has declined since the last disappointing key UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

Why should this be when the scientific consensus is that unless the world takes measures now global temperatures will rise by more than 2 degrees and cause catastrophic changes in the climate that will pose a grave threat to all of humanity?

Some climate scientists think it's partly their fault. They believe they gave people the impression climate change would be more dramatic and also that it may be too late to do much about it. But climate change is likely to be gradual and psychology suggests if people think they can't do much about something, they will most likely carry on as usual.

But political leaders and the media also bear some responsibility.

When there is a terrorist attack, there is frequent talk about terrorism as an existential threat.

Prime Minister, David Cameron, himself has said he believes IS is an "existential threat" to the UK.

According to the dictionary "existential" means "relating to existence". So an "existential threat" to the UK is something that threatens the very survival of the country.

Does the Prime Minister really believe IS poses a threat to Britain's national survival in the same way Nazi Germany did in 1940?

Surely not?

But he is not alone in using this language - other politicians and media commentators have also liberally used the cliché - and it is bound to have an impact on public perceptions.

Anecdotally, I know well-informed people who agree with this assessment of the scale of the IS threat and dismiss climate change as exaggerated - when it is precisely the other way round.

The frog in boiling water is the analogy that's used to explain the lack of urgency about taking action to combat global warming. Then there's the fact that because climate science is developing all the time, there is always an element of uncertainty about it, even if the broad trends are clear.

However, there is already evidence that climate change will disrupt our way of life and threaten the existence of states.

The Pentagon and other defence ministries now recognise climate change as a threat to national security and see it as a driver of conflict.

One of the causes of the unrest that led to Syria's devastating civil war that may well end in the permanent disintegration of the country was prolonged drought and it's very likely climate change was a cause of that drought. It's this research Prince Charles was referring to in a recent interview with Sky News when he grabbed headlines by suggesting a link between terrorism and climate change.

The conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, which the UN estimates has killed around 300,000 and displaced almost 3 million, has also been linked to drought caused by long-term changes in climate.

Another problem when it comes to public perceptions of the two is that while terrorist attacks are sudden and shocking - that is the whole point of them in the eyes of the people carrying them out - climate change is incremental.

We humans also seem to find it far easier to empathise with the relatively small numbers of victims of sudden random violence than we do the large numbers whose lives are threatened by an creeping menace like climate change.

I don't intend to diminish the impact terrorism has on its victims and their loved ones.

If you are unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of a terrorist attack then it is an existential threat to you.

But, unless you live in a handful of countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia or Afghanistan, terrorism is not a threat to the future of your country. It's also not a threat to human existence. Climate change, on the other hand, probably is.

Paul Vale   |   December 3, 2015    1:40 AM ET

NEW YORK -- US President Barack Obama welcomed Wednesday night’s House of Commons vote that authorised British military forces to target members of the Islamic State group inside Syria. The commander in chief added that RAF jets would be integrated into coalition strike missions straight away.

Domestically, the vote is a boost for the president, firming up the American-led international coalition in the face of heavy criticism from the administration’s detractors. It could also go some way to realigning the two countries following the Commons defeat two year ago when the same vote was rejected by parliament to the chagrin of Washington.

obama syria

Obama: 'the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners'

Speaking after the vote, using the acronym Isil, Obama said: “Since the beginning of the counter-Isil campaign the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners in fighting Isil. We look forward to having British forces flying with the coalition over Syria, and will work to integrate them into our coalition air tasking orders as quickly as possible.”

The US Ambassador to the UK also welcomed the result. Writing after the vote, which was won by the government by 397 to 223, Matthew Barzun called the decision “testament to the shared determination between our two countries to degrade and destroy Isil in Iraq and Syria.”

However, Senator John McCain earlier offered a more reserved evaluation of Britain’s entrance into the conflict.

Speaking before the vote, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and current chairman of the Senate armed services committee, told the BBC that while he welcomed Britain as an ally into the Syria fight, the RAF campaign would amount to no more than “token aircraft,” suggesting the real value to the US would be in allowing Obama to parade a broader international coalition.

“We will have some token aircraft over there from the British and they'll drop a few bombs, and we'll say thank you very much,” he said. “The president will be able to say 'now we have the British who will be helping us', and that's good."

“Airstrikes alone won’t win a conflict but it’s good to have increased airstrikes, it’s good to have increased air activities, it’s good to have shows of support from our British friends. So I’m glad of it, thank you, we appreciate it,” McCain added.

john mccain

McCain: 'I'm glad of it, thank you, we appreciate it'

White House press secretary Josh Earnest quickly rebuffed those comments. He said: “I’m disappointed that Senator McCain would speak so cavalierly to diminish the important contribution of one of the United States’ closest allies.”

“The fact is we’ve asked every member of our 65-nation coalition to ramp up their contributions to this effort, and if the British parliament were to vote in favour of this decision and the British government were to follow through on this commitment of additional resources to the effort, that’s obviously something we would warmly welcome,” Earnest added.

Earlier this week, the German government pledged to send 1,200 troops to fight Isis, as well as potentially deploying reconnaissance aircraft and tanker aircraft pending ratification by the German parliament.


COP21: Why I Cycled From Bristol to Paris

Charley Pattison   |   December 2, 2015    3:19 PM ET

Is that? Is that really? It is. It's an ostrich.

A flat light fighting through the drizzle at the top of a one kilometre climb and only the sound of my thoughts for company I considered whether our 258 mile cycle from Bristol to COP21 in Paris would change anything, I pondered how else I could communicate the scale of the problem of climate change. Just at the brow of the hill though, my breathing heavy and my legs burning, out of the corner of my eye I saw an ostrich, with its head buried in the sand. My musings after that point focused on whether I would in my mind call that ostrich Dave, or George.

Cycling from Bristol to Paris in November isn't something that immediately springs to mind as a great idea, but that was kind of the point, we needed people to ask us why we were doing it. This initial thought process was compounded when I told friends and colleagues that it was to get to COP21, and they responded by asking what COP21 was. I explained that COP21 is arguably the most important climate conference yet and the platform for negotiations about the greatest challenge the planet and its people face; a bigger challenge than terrorism, than migration and than the pursuit of limitless economic growth. The questions that tended to follow were more pointed and can be summarised in the following sentiment: 'alright then, you go and sort that out, and leave us real people to deal with the real problems.'

This to me highlighted one of the Government's biggest environmental failures. The 'greenest government ever' has failed to communicate the scale of climate change, the urgency of climate action and the impact and relevance of climate injustice. Removal of solar subsidies and willful ignorance of the economic benefits of investment in renewable energy alone is enough to raise the blood pressure of anyone who cares, for example, about food shortages leading to increased prices hitting the poor the hardest, extreme weather events that will leave many less developed areas of the world isolated, diminishing biodiversity and fish stocks and increasing global inequality.

So why doesn't the government care? Why did it abandon its 'zero carbon homes' policy? I suspect the pressure from industry outweighed the passion of the people (a balance I strongly believe needs readdressing). When short-term political gain defeats meaningful long-term strategy, we must stand together and say that everyone's voice counts, especially those who are going to be the most affected when the proverbial hits the fan.

So that's why I cycled to Paris. Passion. It was of course fitting to use a low carbon method of transport, and it was certainly a bonus for the wallet, but really I just felt I had to do something else, something more. If everyone did just a few things differently, the horizon may look a little brighter. I've always thought cycling is a great metaphor for challenge. And so to mix my metaphors, I want the people of the UK to put pressure on the government to get their heads out of the sand and get back on their bikes and pedal up the hill, not stand around mid way talking about the quickest route to the bottom.

Jack Sommers   |   November 28, 2015    9:37 PM ET

This video brilliantly explains Syria's four-year civil war became so complicated, as we teeter on the edge of becoming militarily involved in it for the first time.

Taking us from the first protests against Assad's regime in early 2011, the Vox video explains how different factions emerged over time and the war evolved into a confrontation between regional powers as well as the US and Russia.

Next time someone argues for or against whether we should bomb Islamic State in Syria as if it's straight forward, suggest they watch this.


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This Video Brilliantly Explains How Syria's Civil War Became So Complicated

UK Government Must Not Give Up on Climate Change

George Ferguson   |   November 23, 2015    2:28 PM ET

Next week I will be joining world leaders in Paris to negotiate a climate agreement for the next generation. This will be an opportunity to combine national policies and international development strategies to avert the worst impacts from CO2 emissions. Throughout the fight against climate change, the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of responding to this global threat, from Margaret Thatcher's surprising call for action in 1989 to passing the 2008 Climate Change Act. We have led the charge with allies in Europe and around the world until now. Recent policy reversals endanger the climate, the economy and the UK's standing in the world.

Following the 2015 elections, the Government is making new history in the fight against climate change--this time by reneging on existing policies and promises, endangering our transition to a low carbon economy for which Bristol has high ambitions. We have brought the community together around the ambition to make Bristol one of the healthiest and most liveable and resilient cities in Europe. As European Green Capital 2015, we take on a responsibility to set an example for cities across the world in sustainability and low carbon living.

I am proud that in Bristol we are leading this debate and are a clear step ahead of a nation that is now choosing to follow rather than lead the charge against climate change. While the Conservative rolls back the green agenda, Bristol is committed to a massive energy saving and renewables programme aimed at 40% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, from a 2005 base, 50% by 2025, 80% by 2050 and an ambition to reach zero CO2 by 2065. While the national government is damaging the UK's successful renewables energy industry over off-the-cuff subsidy roll backs, Bristol's Green Capital Partnership has a civil society membership of over 800 businesses, community partners and third sector organisations committed to promoting sustainability in the Bristol city region. In looking toward the future, our partisan political platforms are generally silent on long-range sustainability plans beyond 2020.

A green agenda is not only a responsible path to follow for the environment, it brings social and economic benefits to the city, helping to reduce poverty, improve communities and spur investment around the city. Research by the University of Bristol shows that efforts inspired by our European Green Capital project will save the city up to £300 million in energy bills and could create upwards of 10,000 jobs--many of which are in the construction and operations sectors. Installing solar panels can save families in social housing around £250 a year on electricity bills. Investments in renewable heat generation and district heating systems are poised to benefit social housing communities around the city. As mayor of Bristol, my ambition to make Bristol the most environmentally friendly city in Europe knows no limits. It will be good for us all.

It is a moral and economic necessity that we take action now to build more sustainable cities. Rather than backtrack on existing commitments, I ask the UK Government follow Bristol's lead as we approach the UN Climate Summit in Paris. I shall be taking this strong message to Paris where we are, as this year's European Green Capital, co-hosting the Cities and Local Government Pavilion at the summit.. Bristol's commitment to living in a responsible, sustainable way should inspire cities across the globe to join us in building a society we shall be happy to pass on to the next generation. I will continue to push for this locally, nationally and internationally.

Nine Reasons to Fall in Love With Wales

Trivago.co.uk   |   November 23, 2015   11:14 AM ET

On a visit to Wales last year, Barack Obama was blown away - praising the country for its "extraordinary beauty, wonderful people and great hospitality". It's easy to see why he was so impressed: with medieval castles, rugged cliffs and grassy plains, Wales offers myriad opportunities for escaping into history and nature.

If it's good enough for the President, it's certainly good enough for us. From awe-inspiring coastal hiking routes to heritage railways, here are nine reasons to fall in love with Wales.

1. Snowdonia


(Source: Kosala Bandara, Flickr)

One of the country's best known landmarks, Snowdonia is one of the most prominent natural features in Great Britain. Named for Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, the area is a national park renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and slate-mining history. Though sparsely-populated, the region encompasses several traditional Welsh villages, and these are popular with tourists.

2. Conwy Castle


(Source: Giles Williams, Flickr)

Known as the 'Castle capital of the World', Wales has been home to over 400 castles in its history, of which around 100 remain. Conwy Castle, on the northern coast of the country, is one the most iconic. Originally built between 1283 and 1289 by Edward I during his conquest of Wales, the castle withstood several attacks over the centuries before falling into ruin in the 17th century. Today its partially-restored state is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site.

3. Tenby


(Source: Richardjo53, Flickr)

Tenby is a walled seaside town in Pembrokeshire in the South-West of the country, which is known for its pretty coloured houses. The town also has 2.5 miles of sandy beach, which was named the best in Europe in 2014 by Europe Best Destinations. In summer, ferries run to Caldey Island, a Holy Island, where Celtic traditions are still observed by Cistercian monks - the island's chief inhabitants.

4. The Wales Coast Path


(Source: Reading Tom, Flickr)

The opening of the Wales Coast Path in 2012 made waves. A long-distance footpath, the route is the first of its kind in the world to cover an entire country's coastline. Spanning 870 miles, the walkway runs from Chepstow in the south to Queensferry in the north. Offering sweeping views of the sea and the Welsh landscape, the path passes through eleven national nature reserves and several cities, including Aberystwyth, Cardiff, and Swansea.

5. Festivals


(Source: TomGough, Flickr)

From the beautiful to the bizarre, Wales has some of the most interesting festivals in the world. Llanwrytyd Wells, for example, has played host to the World Bog Snorkelling Championship every year since 1976, while the boutique Festival No. 6 (pictured) celebrates music, art and culture in the picturesque setting of Portmeirion, a faux-Italian village found on the coast of Gwynedd.

6. Cardiff


(Source: Tony Hisgett, Flickr)

Wales' capital, Cardiff is not just an important centre of Welsh culture and history, but also a thriving modern city. Combining the old and new, the city's attractions include both the medieval Cardiff Castle and the 21st century architecture of Cardiff Bay, as well as rugby ground the Millennium Stadium and the shopping area centred on the Hayes. In recent years, the city has gained a reputation for its dynamic nightlife.

7. Llandudno


(Source: Ted and Jen, Flickr)

The largest seaside resort in the country, Llandudno is a well-loved classic. The town is well known for its beautiful sandy beach and grade-II listed pier, its Victorian sea-fronting houses and the Great Orme limestone hill, which dominates Llandudno's backdrop. For sweeping views over the bay and the wider Creuddyn Peninsula, visitors can easily reach the summit of the hill via cable car or tramway.

8. Beddgelert


(Source: Ed Webster, Flickr)

Combining the best of Snowdonia and Wales as a whole, Beddgelert is a picturesque village found on the river Glaslyn. Filled with sleepy grey stone houses, the town is surrounded by the natural beauty of Snowdonia, with the Welsh Highland Railway running through the town. Popular with tourists, the town is linked to the legend of Gelert, the local hound. Beddgelert means "Gelert's Grave' in English.

9. The Welsh Highland Railway


(Source: Herbert Ortner, Flickr)

The longest heritage railway in the UK, the Welsh Highland Railway is a beautiful way to see the Welsh countryside. A narrow gauge railway, the track was lovingly rebuilt to Porthmadog by a team of dedicated volunteers, reopening in 2011. Running through Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn pass to Caernarfon, the route traverse the heart of Snowdonia, offering some of the best views in Wales.

'Is It That Hard For Cameron To Ask China To Help North Korean Refugees?' Asks Yeonmi Park

Lucy Sherriff   |   November 21, 2015    2:17 AM ET

A North Korean defector who fled her country and was sold as a sex slave in China has criticised David Cameron for not tackling the issue with the Chinese president.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, 22-year-old Yeonmi Park called for action against China, which she says turns back "helpless" refugees who manage to escape North Korea's dictatorship.

China, which borders North Korea and is the main passage used by defectors, has been widely criticised for its treatment of those fleeing Kim Jong-un's regime, and Park is the latest to bring the issue to light.

"I think the first thing we can do is directly embarrass China," Park, who left North Korea when she was 13, says. "Like, what is that? What is this big country doing? These people, these helpless and worthy people are being sent back.

one young world

'My mother was sold for $65. She was less valuable than an iPhone'

"I’m so embarrassed by the rest of the countries too - like Britain. When I was in London last time Xi Jinping came, and I was like, is it really hard for David [Cameron] to tell him ‘don’t send the refugees back to their country’?

"Is it so hard for Obama to say something to him? I’m not even saying stop trading with China, do it! Make money, whatever, economy, I get it.

"But why so hard for them to just mention, make a comment, [about] these lives. If they really believe in justice they have to tell them, you know? 'We are still going to trade with you but can you just let these refugees go to freedom?'

"We are not even asking China to accept us, just to let us through."

Park, who says she was forced to watch her mother be raped when she arrived in China, compares the North Korean president to Hitler, saying he is killing "mass people".

"Just to keep the country and have his power. I do think sometimes, I wonder is it true that every life is equal in this world? Do we care about North Korean lives? They [the rest of the world] would if other people died like the North Koreans are.

"What's happening in that country is unimaginable. The people are not having human rights."

See Also: Yeomni Park Slams Western Media For Treating 'Murderer' Kim Jong-Un As A Joke
Yeonmi Park, The Girl Who Escaped North Korea, Warns World Of Country's Holocaust

During an address at the One Young World summit on Friday, Park criticised Western media for its lighthearted portrayal of Kim Jong-un, saying the press should focus on the atrocities the president is committing instead.

"The first time I saw the media joking about him, I couldn’t actually process it," she reflects. "I thought, how come people can laugh about this tragedy? For us it’s real lives being killed and tortured, mercilessly.

"I have been in that situation. To me [Kim Jong-un] is not just a name, just a face. What he is doing is injustice.

"But now I see people never see this horrifying things, so I don’t blame them [for making] fun of him, that’s what we do.

"We made fun of Hitler too, but that’s not all we did. We were told ‘never again’, we promised to try to never let that tragedy happen again.

"And that’s what I’m saying. Making fun of [Kim Jong-un] is not enough. Making fun of him actually can reduce is dictatorship power, but that is not enough and that is what I’m talking about."

This year, the One Young World summit is based in Bangkok, Thailand, and Park is keen to express her gratification at the country's attitude towards North Korean refugees.

"It's a very historical place for us," she explains. "Because when we come here, Thailand is one of the only governments who is friendly to North Korean defectors and they assist us to find freedom and go to South Korea or America.

"There are countries who are right to accept us and Thailand is the best example of that, so why not China?"

"But I’m not even asking China to accept us as refugees," she continues, getting increasingly agitated and raising her voice. It's the first time I've seen her angry.

"Let us go freely! Let us go to Thailand or somewhere just to be free.

"And that’s what I’m talking about in the news. Why are we portraying Korea as something like an impossible situation? There are solutions! There’s things can be done, it’s not like there is nothing that we can do."

Here Park stops and recomposes herself, and reverts back to her normal softly spoken tone.

"Sorry, I’m just getting emotional about it," she apologises, managing a laugh. "Stupid! I know."

one young world

Yeonmi Park addressing the One Young World conference in Bangkok

After her first public speech at One Young World last year, which has since been watched more than 2m times, Park shot to fame and has now released a book about her escape from the hermetic state.

"I didn't think I'd get the support of so many people," she recalls. "I didn't know people can be good. I didn't know people are designed to be good and help one another.

"To me they were always trying to take advantage of me and abuse me." Park says, referring to the moment she arrived in China and was sold into the sex slave industry along with her mother - who was bought for a mere $65.

"But last year at One Young World [people] showed me that no, humanity is different, humanity is good, and we try and help one another.

"How lucky I am to know that."

Park says it was it was "scary" deciding to tell her story, particularly after her close friend Shin Dong-hyuk's experience.

Dong-hyuk is the only known person to have escaped after being been born in a North Korean gulag. His book 'Escape from Camp 14', which has since been made into a film, was met with concerns over whether he was telling the truth.

"Despite that I hope more refugees speak up," Park continues. "Because after that it was very hard for defectors especially. But don't lose hope."

Not to mention, of course, drawing attention from the watchful eye of North Korea.

"Yes, it was very scary. Risking your life is not an easy thing to do. I have a dream to have a normal life, someday have a child, get older. But it is hard, it’s a big commitment.

"And also to be in public, it’s not easy. It's painful," she adds, "all the attention."

In recent times, Park's home country has committed to a major drive to attract foreign tourists. The secretive regime hopes to welcome 2m tourists, compared to the meagre 100,000 visitors a year it currently pulls in.

But Park says although things aren't black and white, and visiting North Korea is "not good or bad", she has her reservations about the country's tourism boom.

"People go there and they are fooled by the propaganda," she explains. "You know: 'I had enough food, I stayed in hotel, I had electricity, a TV. People are not starving.'

"And it’s kind of more of a problem I think when people are so oppressed and people are dying in concentration camps. We are not animals. But these people come [here] like [it is] a zoo.

"It’s not their intentions when people go to the country they have to bow down to the statue of Kim Il-sung and that means 'we respect your dictator and we justify the dictatorship'.

"I’m happy for them to go to the country but can’t they just request that ‘I’m not going to bow down in front of Kim Jong-un and Kim Il-sung and let me go to see some other parts'?

"We have to be more forceful. If you are going to spend your money on freedom you’ve got to ask what it means, not just listen to what a dictator tells you. It’s funny to me, you know.. Unbelievable."

Since sharing her story in November last year, Park has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of her people. But, she says, her work has barely begun.

"My concern is we have not even started [the] conversation yet.

"It is ridiculous that lives are being sold for $65 in the 21st century. It’s unacceptable. If we have rights, if we say to [North Koreans] 'you are human beings, better than other animals', then we have to protect their rights."

She lets out a long sigh, admitting: "It’s hard to say what’s going to work.

"But I think we do have to carry on our conversation with China. We have to protect these people’s lives.

"Another thing is we need to get information through the borders so [North Koreans] can see what is happening outside in the rest of the world. It will free people’s minds.

"We also have to keep talking to all the world leaders about how to get Kim Jung-un to stop killing his people and respect their human rights.

"But," she laments, "it's not even on the world's agenda.

"ISIS is a big threat now, it is a big threat to everyone on earth, but North Korea is a big threat to everybody too.

"This dictator is a big threat to everybody. He is starving 25m people and he has a nuclear bomb. How do we know he is not going to bomb us?

"People forget about North Korea. They treat it as if it’s in a different universe, like it doesn’t exist. 'It’s our world, let’s talk about our problem here', they say. But we forget the normal people living there, trapped. I hope we can remember them.

"And because I am alive now so I can talk about my story. But if I’d died in the Gobi desert, nobody would have even known that I’d existed in the world."

Yeonmi Park is an ambassador for One Young World, a global forum for young leaders aged 18-30 which gathers youths from every nation in the world to develop solutions to some of today and tomorrow's most pressing issues.

Kathryn Snowdon   |   November 20, 2015   10:14 AM ET

A CNN journalist has been suspended from the network after she criticised the House of Representatives for passing a bill limiting the number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees entering the US.

Covering the news that the House had voted to bar refugees from the two war-torn countries as the US tightens its border security, Elise Labott, tweeted : "Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish."

The Global Affairs Correspondent's tweet has been 'liked' more than 4,000 times and retweeted 2,500 times.

A few hours later she apologised for her comments, saying they were "inappropriate and disrespectful".

While many people criticised Labott's comment, saying it showed bias:

Others felt that she made a valid point and should not have to apologise:

Labott's comments came after the Republican-controlled House voted 289-137 against President Barack Obama's plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the US next year.

Whether or not refugees should be allowed to enter the US has been a key topic in the presidential nomination race, particularly since last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, which saw the deaths of at least 129 people.

The frontrunner in the Republican contest, Donald Trump, has described letting Syrian refugees into the country as allowing a "Trojan horse" in, adding: "We cannot let them into this country, period."

Ben Carson, Trump's closest rival in the presidential leadership race, has compared refugees of the Syrian conflict to "rabid dogs".

Speaking in Alabama, the former neurosurgeon, said: "If there’s a rabid dog running around the neighbourhood, probably not going to assume something good about that dog and you’re going to want to put your children away."

Carson was responding to a question on whether Christian organisations should be assisting refugees.

Earlier this week, candidate Jeb Bush floated the idea there should be a religious test for those wishing to come the US. Christians rather than Muslims would be granted access under the Texan's plan.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton, who is the favourite to secure the Democrat vote, is taking a completely different approach, calling for an increase in the number of Syrians allowed to enter the US in 2016 to 65,000.


Many Republican State Governors have said that Syrians would not be welcome in their districts.

There is clear opposition to the President's plans, even from within his own party, with 47 Democrats going against Obama's administration during the vote on Thursday.

But Obama maintains that Syrian refugees present no more a threat to the US than tourists.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the President accused Republican presidential candidates of promoting fears about refugees in order to gain a political advantage.

Obama said that the "overwhelming numbers" of Syrians who are applying for entry to the US “are children, women, families — themselves victims of terrorism”.