Besides Zayn, The Thing That Upsets Bill Maher The Most

Caroline Frost   |   April 8, 2015   12:55 PM ET

If you’re a fan of One Direction in general and Zayn Malik in particular, the name Bill Maher may not be one you knew a week ago, but is now one that surely fills you with venom.

Bill is the US satirist that strangely compared the departing pop star with the Boston Marathon bomber, and Zayn’s fans were not impressed - #Respect4Zayn being the hashtag that revealed their wrath.

However, it’s by no means the first time Bill’s courted controversy with his comments and, on the eve of his arrival in London for a stand-up gig at Hammersmith’s Apollo, he’s sounding pretty serene about the prospect of any threats coming his way – from any offended listeners to his various rants on extremism, women, Sarah Palin… (we spoke before Zayn-gate, but I suspect such fresh controversy won’t be prompting any kind of PR U-turn from Mr Maher).

bill maher

Bill Maher is unruffled by the prospect of offence - "I'm used to it"

“Yes I feel vulnerable, but I’m used to it, for over 20 years,” he chuckles down the phone. “There’s too much conformity in this country, we need people who speak out.”

The chuckle is impressive when I work out it must be 2am where Bill is, at home in LA, and I’m the first of a string of international chats. “I’m a night owl,” he explains.

I’ve not got long to flit through the various hot topics of the week and get his unique take on events, but first – why London, and why now?

“I love London, and before I’m dead, respectively,” he explains. “I’m not getting any younger.”

“I’ve been to London four times, we share a language.”

How IS the special relationship faring, I wonder, in the Cameron-Obama era?

“It’s invoked on both sides all the time,” says Bill. “Especially when we want someone to go to war with us.

“It’s still intact – we were birthed from you, we still enjoy the common cultural heritage and values. It’s great to have friends when the going gets tough.”

angela merkel

Bill Maher is irked by Barack Obama's absence from the Charlie Hebdo demonstration in Paris

And is it particularly tough right now? It seems not, according to Bill, who invokes history and begs me to keep the ISIS threat in perspective.

“It’s not unprecedented. Both your country and mine has faced down fascism, my mother was in wartime London when the bombs were dropping, and the outcome was uncertain.

“We have an environmental threat that grows daily, that’s much bigger than any Islamic threat or nuclear threat.

"The US shouldn’t be involved over there, I say let the civil war unfold. Let Saudi Arabia and Iran fight ISIS, we sold them the planes after all.

“What ISIS wants is for us to overcommit, it’s baiting us into overreacting.”

Despite this, Bill remains furious about not just the tragedy of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, but also his own leader’s response.

“I wasn’t surprised by what happened, no,” he starts. “Islamic terrorists are hellbent on committing acts such as those.

“I was very surprised and disappointed by the US lack of representation at the demonstration in Paris that followed. I guess my President was washing his hair that day.

“He can attend the funeral of a dirtbag in Saudi Arabia (I’m guessing he means King Abdullah), but can’t get to an event attended by 44 world leaders.”

(It’s 2.15am now on Bill’s side of the call – and it sounds like he’s just warming up.)

Bill’s TV show ‘Real Time’ frqeuently ignites media fire from both sides of the political divide. In the last six months alone, guest Ben Affleck accused host Bill and author Sam Harris of religious stereotyping – Bill says of that now, “It’s good to start the debate” – while scholar Reza Aslan slammed him for suggesting female genital mutilation was an Islamic problem.

“I’m the Liberal,” Bill tells me, with the equanimity of one who has defended his corner many, many times. “I’m defending women’s rights, gay rights, and people somehow have a problem with me standing up for them.”

What’s interesting is how frequently, whatever the debate, Bill returns to the environment. Despite his selecting a chocolate of a topic each day to incite, stimulate, enrage his audiences, it’s clear the environment stays close to his heart underneath everything else.

“I’m bleak about it,” he admits. “I’m somewhat hopeful about everything else, but I do wonder if we haven’t already passed the tipping point. A day doesn’t go by that we’re not harming this planet.”

He’s quick, though, to remind me, he remains a funny man at heart – “full out comedian of 35 years standing” – and anyone attending his Hammersmith gig will be assured of lots of chuckles (although perhaps not any One Direction fans who happen to be passing).

“All these people we’ve been talking about, they’re just players on the world stage,” Bill finally reminds me. “I want to make people laugh. I take comedy very seriously.”

Bill Maher will play Eventim Apollo London on Saturday 23 May - click here for ticket info.


Sara C Nelson   |   April 7, 2015   10:43 AM ET

US President Barack Obama’s Easter address was rudely interrupted this year by airborne invaders.

Of the honey-making variety.

The President was reading Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are to children at the White House Easter Egg Roll when a small squadron of bees gatecrashed the event.

As a ripple of unease sped through his audience, Obama exclaimed: “Oh no, it’s a bee!”


'That's OK guys, bees are good': President Obama attempts to quell the panic

Once the fear had evolved into screams of terror the President tried to calm his young charges, assuring them: “That’s OK, guys, bees are good. They won’t land on you. They won’t sting you, they’ll be OK.”

But the children refused to be calmed, shrieking back: “They sting and they’re scary!”


The President attempted to restore order once more, insisting: “Hold on! Hold on! You guys are wild things! You’re not supposed to be scared of bees when you’re a wild thing!”

The South Lawn features its own beehive, and the White House uses honey from it in the kitchen, Politico writes.

And Obama himself has taken a personal interest in the preservation of the humble honey bee by last year announcing a task force to help save the dwindling population.

Iran: the New Chapter

Robin Lustig   |   April 6, 2015   12:00 AM ET

It's a deal. Or, to be strictly accurate, it's a framework deal, which means that Iran and the six major powers with whom it's been negotiating over its nuclear research programme still have a few i's to dot and t's to cross.

Even so, it's definitely worth celebrating. Not so long ago, there was a distinct possibility that Israel, with or without tacit US approval, might launch air strikes against Iran, with incalculable consequences for the region.

It's only three years since the then US defence secretary Leon Panetta was reliably quoted as saying they he believed there was "a strong likelihood" that Israel was about to start bombing Iran. Five years before that, a senior retired Israeli military official said: "If the Americans do not take military action against Iran, we'll do it ourselves."

And only a matter of weeks ago, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington to make a deeply controversial speech to the US Congress on the perils of doing a deal with Tehran. The Obama administration, to its credit, ignored him.

So the announcement from Lausanne on Thursday night was immensely significant. But so was the first phone call that President Obama made after the deal was done - to King Salman of Saudi Arabia. (Mr Netanyahu, it seems, had to wait.)

Because the Saudis are every bit as worried about the prospect of a stronger Iran as the Israelis are. If this deal is good for Iran - and if sanctions are lifted, it will be very good indeed for Iran - then the thinking in Riyadh is likely to be that it's bad for Saudi Arabia. It's not just sectarian rivalry between Sunni Riyadh and Shia Tehran: it's also good, old-fashioned strategic rivalry in one of the most febrile regions on earth.

It may even be that the Saudis' unusually assertive military intervention against Shia rebels in Yemen was at least partly due to Riyadh's determination to send a message to Tehran: you may get a deal in Lausanne, but you won't automatically get what you want elsewhere.

So let us assume that the Iran nuclear deal does stick: how likely is it that for the first time since the 1979 revolution, relations with Washington will return to something resembling normal?

Not very, is the short answer, at least as long as Iran's leaders continue to back President Assad in Syria, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. On the other hand, in Iraq, where Iranian fighters are in the forefront of the ground war against Islamic State while US warplanes are in action overhead, the two countries look almost like allies.

And here's something else that's worth considering: what will be the effect in Iran itself of the Lausanne deal? It will be presented, obviously, as a tremendous victory for the leadership - but although President Rouhani has been backed by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he still has plenty of hard-line opponents who will try to prevent the deal being finalised.

Rouhani owed his election victory in 2013 to a promise to get the crippling economic sanctions lifted by, in his words, "increasing mutual trust" with other countries. If he can demonstrate that his approach has paid off, he will be much strengthened politically and his critics will be weakened.

As the American security analyst Fred Kaplan wrote: "Tehran's rulers have long justified their alliance with terrorists and their repressive domestic policies by raising alarms about the threat from demonic America."

So if that threat is receding, might Rouhani then be tempted to recalibrate Tehran's support for Hizbollah and Hamas? Or will he want to buttress Iran's proud reputation as an implacable enemy of Israel by continuing to support hostile Palestinian and Lebanese groups on its borders?

Iran has been immeasurably strengthened since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 (yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences). It now plays a crucial role in Iraq, it has foiled the attempted overthrow of its ally in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, and in Lebanon Hizbollah is a vital political player. Most recently, its Shia allies in Yemen have forced the president to flee.

The shape of the Middle East has changed, and is continuing to change, beyond recognition, first as a result of the wave of unrest that was briefly heralded as the Arab Spring, and now by the Iran nuclear deal. No one can predict what it will look like when stability returns.

The regional analyst Abdel Moneim Said Aly, director of Cairo's al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, wrote in Foreign Policy: "I am 67 years old - I lived through the 1956 and 1967 wars, the Arab-Israeli peace, the revolutions and coup d'états. Despite all that, I never had the same uncertainty that I have now about the region. Everything is possible."

Sara C Nelson   |   March 31, 2015   10:31 AM ET

A former Ukip candidate has suggested Israel should kidnap US President Barack Obama and put him on trial in the style of a Nazi war criminal.

Hendon candidate Jeremy Zeid made his comments on Facebook as he shared a story about the US declassifying documents about Israel’s nuclear programme.

In a post revealed by the Hope Not Hate blog, which was later deleted, he wrote:

facebook jeremy zeid

“Once Obama is out of office, the Israelis should move to extradite the bastard or ‘do an Eichmann’ on him, and lock him up for leaking state secrets. After all, what’s sauce for the Pollard goose is sauce for the Obama gander, don’t you think?”

Pollard is a reference to the US imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard, who was jailed for selling classified information to Israel.

In response to a comment Zeid added: “Nah just kidnap the bugger, like they did to Eichmann, who suddenly found that he’d woken up in Israel. The problem is that Israeli jails are far more humane and adherent to human rights than American ones.”

barack obama

Zeid has suggested Israel kidnap US President Barack Obama

Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann fled to Argentina after the Second World War, though he was kidnapped by Israeli agents in 1960, spirited to Israel, tried and executed.

Zeid told the Times Series he has stood down as the party’s candidate for Hendon but insisted he sticks by his comments "100 per cent".

He told the Jewish Chronicle: “All I said is that we should ‘do an Eichmann’ and extradite him. It is a private opinion.

“Remember that phrase ‘Je Suis Charlie?’ Well, freedom of speech.


Adolf Eichmann, flanked by guards, in the Jerusalem courtroom during his trial in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II

“People can spin it anyway they want. If people do not like it, well, I am sorry.

“I have not stepped down because of Ukip. Every time I mentioned the NHS or economy everyone was just obsessed with race.

“I am done with politics because people focus on the minutia.”

Last year Zeid caused outrage after claiming some parts of London were being “ethnically cleansed” of white people, The Independent reports.

He later wrote the tweet was “badly worded”.

Chris York   |   March 30, 2015    2:48 PM ET

Despite the millions of dollars of security, helpers and state-of-the-art transport, Barack Obama can still be caught out by the humble step.

We've all been there - negotiated some stairs just a little too enthusiastically forcing us to perform some pretty hasty emergency maneuvers.

Luckily Obama is apparently pretty much unflappable and his recovery is suitably adept which is fortunate as those steps from Air Force One are really high...

air force one


Jessica Elgot   |   March 22, 2015    1:25 AM ET

President Obama has said Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments about Arabs could threaten to "erode the meaning of democracy" in the country, in a revealing interview with The Huffington Post at the White House.

In an exclusive sit-down with White House correspondent Sam Stein, the US President called out Netanyahu for his recent comment that there would be no Palestinian state under his leadership.

Obama said Netanyahu had made it hard for people to "seriously believe" peace negotiations are possible.

As his re-election campaign looked shot last week, the Likud leader told a radio station that there would "indeed" be no Palestinian state under his watch, and posted an infamous Facebook tirade, called racist by many, where he accused left-wing parties of "bussing in Arab voters" and warned of Arab voters "heading to the polls in droves".


The Huffington Post meets President Barack Obama

Obama said: "We continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic. And I indicated to him that, given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing the negotiations are possible."

Obama had raised eyebrows after he waited nearly two days before congratulating Netanyahu by phone. Making clear his distaste for Netanyahu's description of Arab voters, Obama said the rhetoric was "contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly".

To lose those values, Obama said, would give "ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country".

Netanyahu attempted to row back on his two-state solution comments in his first post-election interview with MSNBC, after his party took 30 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. "I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change,” Netanyahu told the broadcaster. “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.”


On the table were Iran, Israel and getting enough sleep

But speaking to Huffington Post, Obama made it clear he was taking Netanyahu's pre-election comments seriously. "We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership," Obama said. "And so, that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.

"We’re going to make sure, regardless of disagreements we have on policy, that our military and intelligence cooperation to keep the Israeli people safe continues and that cooperation also helps the American people stay safe."

"But we are going to continue to insist that from our point of view, the status quo is unsustainable, and that while taking into complete account Israel’s security, we can’t just in perpetuity maintain the status quo, expand settlements, that’s not a recipe for stability in the region."

The President said he was optimistic that the Israeli elections would not have a "significant impact" on the USA's attempts to do a nuclear deal with Iran that would please both Congress and the American public, despite acknowledging "skepticism" in Israel that "Iran has made vile comments, anti-Semitic comments, comments about the destruction of Israel".


President Obama gestures as he speaks to Sam Stein

"It is precisely for that reason that even before I became President, I said Iran could not have a nuclear weapon," he added.

Speaking about the negotiations between his country and Iran, Obama said that President Hassan Rouhani's regime had "not yet made the kind of concessions that are I think going to be needed for a final deal to get done".

"But they have moved, and so there’s the possibility," he said, speaking optimistically about the resumption of talks when the two sides meet again next week, after the Nowruz holidays in Iran. "Our goal, though, is to get this done in a matter of weeks, not months."



In your seventh year in office, what have you learned about pacing yourself and managing the stress of the job?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, the truth is that I'm lucky to, by inclination and temperament, be fairly steady --

Your Hawaiian roots, basically?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, exactly. I think that's probably what it is - good weather and beaches.

So I don't get too high, don't get too low. I've been very consistent about exercising in the morning. That helps. But I think the most important - I'm very consistent about spending time with family. And when you have dinner with your daughters, particularly teenage daughters, they’ll keep you in your place and they’ll teach you something about perspective.

But I think the most important thing is to take the long view on things. We live in such a 24/7, Twitter-fed, constant news cycle, and everything is a crisis and --

You're not on Twitter.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not. But everything is a crisis. Everything is terrible. Everything is doom’s day. Everything is if it doesn’t get solved tomorrow your presidency is going off the rails. I mean, there must have been -- what -- 15, 20 things that over the last seven years folks have said, this is it, it's over.

We had the Gulf oil spill, worst environmental disaster in history. Everybody said, oh, he’s handling this terribly. A year later, nobody was talking about it, and in retrospect, it turns out that we handled that as well as any environmental crisis has been handled.

Ebola, remember that? Obviously it's still a serious problem and we've got to get down to zero, but that was probably one of the most effective international public health responses in history, and that was led by us. If we hadn’t acted it would still be raging and everybody else would be at risk.

And so, those experiences I think remind you that my job is to keep my eye on the ball and to stay focused on what can we get done every single day to advance the vision and the values that brought me here.

What can I do to make sure that middle-class families are feeling more secure; that more young people are able to access opportunity; that we are safe; that we are working with our international partners to try to create more order at a time when there’s a lot of chaos; how do we deal with terrorism in a way that's consistent with our values? As long as I stay focused on those North Stars, then I tend not to get too rattled.

I was wondering how many hours of sleep you're getting a night?

THE PRESIDENT: Probably not enough.

That's what I figured.

THE PRESIDENT: I will say that when people leave the administration and I see them six months later, they’ve got the post-administration glow. (Laughter.) They really look good. So I'm hoping the same happens to me.

There’s hope for you. Thank you, Mr. President.

Great to see you.

Daniel Welsh   |   March 20, 2015    8:59 AM ET

Charlie Sheen has been accused of racism after he posted a tweet about President Barack Obama.

The ‘Anger Management’ actor had been making a point on his Twitter page about the funeral of Major General Harold Greene, which the President did not attend, claiming it was unfair for him to miss memorial services for war veterans when he could make time for basketball brackets.

charlie sheen

Charlie Sheen

Writing on his Twitter page, Charlie addressed the President as “Barry Satera Kenya”, along with a message questioning his priorities as a public figure.

However, a lot of people have claimed that it was racist of him to refer to Barack Obama as such, because his father originally came from Kenya.

Charlie himself has defended himself from accusations of racism, insisting that the nickname he used was one he actually heard Obama use himself in jest, asking his Twitter followers: “So is he bad to? [sic]”

He also used the hashtag #FoSpeech, though, no, we’re still not exactly sure what that means either.

Of course, Charlie is no stranger to scandal, and the last time we saw him, he was chatting to a shocked fan at Taco Bell, to whom he confessed he was “f***ing hammered”.

Before that he was causing an uproar on Twitter once again, although this time it was Rihanna on the receiving end of his furious jibes, after the ‘FourFiveSeconds’ singer refused to meet with him while they were dining at the same restaurant.


The Idea and Reality of Change: Lessons From the Film Selma

Bukky Olaleye   |   March 19, 2015    3:33 PM ET

President Barack Obama's speech given on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama has been variously dissected and defended, prodded and praised. Nevertheless it helps to capture today, the essence of struggle and triumph that took place during that period in 1965. There is a section of his speech that expresses a central theme of the film Selma, the act of people coming together for the purpose of change. He asks "What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people - the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many - coming together to shape their country's course?"

The film is a dramatisation of the events that took place in Selma, Alabama as part of the African American people's movement to exercise their constitutional right to vote. There were three marches that month, the last two led by Dr Martin Luther King. There have been many portrayals of Martin Luther King Jr but Selma director, Ava Duvernay wanted to present a different view of his character. For example Dr King, who is often referenced by his 'I Have a Dream speech, is seen from the perspective of man, husband, father as well as powerful leader. By doing that, the film tries to humanise the struggle and speaks to us of our own potential. The film is a study of what happens when intention and action result in revolution, based largely on the commitment, resolve and shared aims of the people.

It is a study in dedication

The commitment of the men and women who took part in the marches is remarkable; it is echoed in the dedication of those who brought this story to the screen. There were many passionate people involved in the making of the film, perhaps none more than the main actor, David Oyelowo. David tells the story of how he 'knew' he was to play Martin Luther King Jr and describes how when given the opportunity, he embodied the character such that it could ring true on screen. His commitment to the process paid off, earning him much praise for his performance.

It is a study in determination

The people that marched were aware of the risks to their lives but went ahead regardless. They were determined to change the course of history and literally put their lives on the line. The first march termed Bloody Sunday was as the name implies violent, but they were undeterred. Many of them held on to their resolve, facing off against the batons, tear gas, sticks and stones. They rallied together for the second time, and it is during the third that they actually completed the march and gained victory. The makers of Selma were determined to get the story told, and many of those who took part in the actual march were part of the film, fifty years on, just as invested.

It is a study in solidarity

Such a demonstration reminds us of what is possible when people get together in unity, to galvanise change. It is recorded that were 600 people from different walks of life, from different faiths and different backgrounds united for one cause. White and black came together determined to stand up against injustice. We don't always appreciate the power of unity or even the power that we have within us. In one scene in the film, Amelia Boynton Robinson, played by Lorraine Toussaint, reassures Coretta Scott King. She reminds her of her ancestors: 'They are in our blood stream, pumping in our hearts every second. They prepared you. You are prepared.

We too are prepared. We may not agree with the rhetoric of President Obama, or disagree with the stylisation or representation of the film. What is difficult to contest is the ability of a well told story to impart huge life lessons, to teach, lead, and position us to walk in our own potential and to 'shape the course of things.'

Thomas Tamblyn   |   March 17, 2015    9:36 AM ET

Jimmy Kimmel is determined to prove that aliens are real. Not content with persuading former US President Bill Clinton to talk about Area 51, the talk show host took full advantage of having current US President Barack Obama on his show as well.

It didn't take him long to get onto the subject, suggesting that if he had been made President the first thing he would do is head straight down to Area 51 and find out for himself.

Of course President Obama wasn't going to fall for that trick, instead joking that that's precisely why Kimmel probably wouldn't be President.

When asked seriously if he knows anything about the existence of aliens, the President simply responds "I can't reveal anything."


Thomas Tamblyn   |   March 13, 2015    4:23 PM ET

It's that time of the year again when the prestigious "GIFYS" reveals the web's favourite GIFs, whether they're a cat wiggling its bottom or President Obama cooly skateboarding his way through a major worldwide peace conference.

It should come as no surprise then that President Obama skateboarding his way through the 'Nuclear Security Summit' has been crowned GIF of the year.

A glorious piece of image manipulation the GIF looks utterly real and even though the GIF itself is actually around three years old, the award is simply proof that the moment something appears on the internet, it becomes timeless.

Check out the slideshow below to see all the winners from the 2014 "GIFYS":

Ryan Barrell   |   March 13, 2015    9:43 AM ET

Jimmy Kimmel is fairly well known for getting celebrities to read mean tweets about themselves, and it's always hilarious. Now he's managed to turbo-charge the segment by getting the most powerful man in the world to do it too.

President Barack Obama, who is reaching the end of his second and final term as the US Commander-in-Chief, has been hoping to secure a positive place in the minds of the US public by popping up on various media you wouldn't expect.

Earlier this year he appeared in a BuzzFeed video using a selfie stick and the internet went into meltdown.

Following the tirade of angry tweets, Obama went on to talk to the late-night host who introduced him as the USA's "first Kenyan-born Muslim Socialist ever elected president", to which he responded: "You should see what the Senate says about me."

The President is ineligible to be the President after the 2016 election, due to term restrictions laid out in the 22nd Amendment. The election is scheduled for 8 November, and the new President-elect will take office on 20 January 2017.


Ryan Barrell   |   March 12, 2015   12:16 PM ET

A pair of President Barack Obama's Secret Service agents are being investigated for allegedly crashing a vehicle into a White House barricade after attending a party.

The agents, identified by the Washington Post as Mark Connolly, the second-in-command on Obama's detail, and George Ogilvie, a senior supervisor in the Washington field office, have reportedly been reassigned to "non-supervisory, non-operational assignments".

A spokesperson for the Secret Service told the BBC the crash occurred on 4 March at around 10:30pm local time.

mark connolly secret service

Mark Connolly, left, is being investigated for the alleged incident

Witnesses claim to have seen the officers driving a car with emergency lights flashing and showing their badges in an attempt to gain access to the secure grounds of the White House.

The men were not allowed into the area due to a previous security alert surrounding a suspicious package, and at that point they drove into the barriers and through some security tape.

It is illegal to use emergency lights on a government vehicle without a security reason, and agents are bound by law to not drive after consuming any alcohol.


March 2014: Agent found passed out drunk in a hallway of a Dutch hotel, unable to make it back to his room.
Agents are forbidden to drink alcohol in the 10 hours leading up to an assignment.

October 2014: First female head of the Secret Service resigns over security breaches which saw an armed man allowed into an elevator with the President and a man with a knife jump the fence and enter the building.

January 2015: Secret Service agent drunkenly crashes surveillance drone on White House lawn, causes security alert.

Agents on duty reportedly wanted to arrest Connolly and Ogilvie, but were told to let them go home by a supervisor.

The agency's new director Joseph P. Clancy said the incident will be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general because it involves such senior officials.

"If misconduct is identified, appropriate action will be taken based on established rules and regulations," agency spokesman Brian Leary said.


Sara C Nelson   |   March 6, 2015   12:01 PM ET

Russell Brand poses an intriguing question in his latest online news broadcast, musing: “ISIS vs climate change – which kills more?”

As Brand rightly points out, stories about climate change fail to inspire the same visceral reactions as, say, coverage of terror attacks and uprisings.

But he quotes sobering figures from climate change group DARA, which estimates deaths related to global warming in 2010 amounted to 5 million.

russell brand

Russell Brand addresses the links between terrorism and climate change

The number marks a sharp contrast to reports which claim 26 Americans were killed in jihadi attacks in the US in the last 10 years.

And Brand cites an unlikely ally in this debate – in the form of US President Barack Obama.

Obama gave a lengthy Vox interview last month in which when asked if the media “sometimes overstates” the risks posed by terrorism as opposed to climate change and epidemic disease, he replied: “Absolutely.”

He added: “Climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.”

syria drought

Farmers in the drought-hit region of Hasaka in northeastern Syria in 2010

Brand references a recent National Academy of Sciences study which traces the conflict that has torn Syria apart in part, to a record drought worsened by global warming.

Climate change leading to crop failures, hunger, anger and dissent are, he says: “The perfect condition there for terrorism, for mayhem.”

Given that the Syrian conflict has resulted in the deaths of 210,000 and the displacement of 10million, Brand asks: “These events occur because of conditions, so if climate change is causing five million deaths and terrorism is causing 26 deaths, why is climate change largely being ignored and terrorism being vehemently promoted?”

The answer, Brand says is his ever-present foe: The carbon emission-pumping behemoth that is capitalism.


Brand points the finger squarely at big businesses like Exxon, which he alleges: “Last year made $44.9bn, make that money as a direct result of 210,000 people being killed and 10 million people being displaced in Syria because their social conditions are being destroyed because of climate change."

He adds: “So the truth that terrorism is a problem created by climate change and not as bad a problem as the climate change itself, that truth is never revealed because the politicians have been bribed and the media makes money from that situation.”

A number of Brand's followers were not convinced by his argument, but links between climate change and conflict are not new.

Last October, then-US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a Pentagon report that made exactly that point. "Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration," Hagel said.

Also, last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded: "Human security will be progressively threatened as the climate changes."

Brand signs off with the following suggested checklist for President Obama:

  • Withdraw troops from the Middle East.

  • Make it illegal to profit from Middle Eastern interests and limit involvement solely to humanitarian.

  • Invest in green energy.

  • Make it illegal to have media conglomerates which dominate the global narrative.

Is the U.S. Opening the Door for Europe to Lead in Tech?

Andrea Giuricin   |   March 4, 2015   10:09 AM ET

This week, more than 80,000 people gathered in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. Leaders from across the mobile industry will come together to discuss how we're on the "Edge of Innovation" and the endless possibilities the mobile Internet creates.

Over the past several years, the mobile Internet and connectivity have changed our lives. It started in the U.S. where a light-touch regulatory approach combined with an investment-friendly environment enabled providers to deploy next-generation infrastructure and entrepreneurs to create new businesses from Facebook to Uber and more. We've seen other regions look to replicate this success.
Thanks to this light-touch regulation, the market has a strong increase and the sector is leading in the creation of new high-skilled jobs. The market capitalization of the first three companies born due to this infrastructure development reached 1342 billion of dollar (February 2015).

Unfortunately, as we enter one of the largest events of the year for the mobile industry, we're also seeing the beginning of the downfall of U.S. Internet policy.

Last Thursday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, introduced a regulatory framework that place the Internet under heavy regulation created in the 1930s. The FCC took unilateral decision to change the way the U.S. Internet is regulated despite the possibility for bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress to update the country's communications laws.

The U.S.'s new approach of prescriptive regulations on the Internet- created by one agency - threaten its position as a leader in the mobile revolution and the direction of the rest of the world. For 20 years, U.S. Internet policy was the gold standard. It led to massive investments in infrastructure and drove innovation. Europe and the rest of the world are still trying to catch-up.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama criticised Europe for trying to rein in the power of U.S. tech companies on the continent. It's an interesting criticism given his strong push to have the FCC regulate U.S. Internet companies. So now it's OK for the U.S. to create burden some regulations in their country but Europe should make everything flexible for them. The U.S. also criticises Russia and China for creating unnecessary regulations making it more difficult to deploy new services but the U.S. can create all the unnecessary regulations they want? It's a risky precedent.

In a White House's report on "Four Years of Broadband Growth", they highlight the annual investment in U.S. wireless networks. It grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies in the country. The report also notes that investment in European wireless networks remained flat during the same period.

Why did FCC and U.S. President Barack Obama want to change such successful policies? Without a doubt, we can expect years of litigation in the U.S. on this issue and it will have an impact on the global Internet ecosystem.

The Silicon Valley cluster was born in USA also thanks to the light-touch regulation. Over regulation could lead USA to lose the world leadership the IT sector.

On the positive side, it opens the door for Europe to once again become the leader in the technology sector.