Tips for Students to Counteract Climate Change

Maria Keogh   |   October 26, 2015    3:27 PM ET

According to Obama 'No challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change'

NASA this year released data showing how temperature, and rainfall patterns worldwide may change through the year 2100, because of growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere.

The evidence is apparently clear, and according to some UN climate change experts, we are running out of time to save our planet. Despite this warning, some scientists dispute the evidence for 'Global warming'.

As stated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide caused a 34 per cent increase in the global warming in the last 10 years.

The future generation of students have a pivotal role to play in helping to counteract adverse 'climate change' at schools, colleges or universities. Young people are a key demographic to ensure the protection of the planet. Here are some tips for students to help counteract 'Climate Change.'

Join a Climate Change Society in your University
If you don't have a society in your university, then get started. Contact the leader of your college, or university societies, and they will give you all the information you need.

Organise Educational Lectures
Research Climate Change guru's, and invite them to hold a lectures or Skype conference in your university. This is a great way of informing your peers of the urgent need of counteracting Global warming.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
One of the core ideas behind environmental responsibility is the "3 R's." By practicing reduce, reuse and recycle you conserve natural resources, and prevent pollution that ends up contaminating our air, water, soil, and eventually our bodies.

Buy and use less materials. Print and copy on two sides, or download lecture notes on your computer.
Remove your name from junk mail lists. Arrange announcements and newsletters to be electronic, for those who have access. Purchase items in bulk to reduce packaging.

Reduce Water Consumption
Take showers, instead of baths. Use a reusable water bottle instead of bottled water, although be aware that a reusable bottle gathers germs quickly.
Fully load your laundry, and set the washing machine to use cold water. Turn off the tap when you're not using the water, such as while brushing your teeth, or shaving.

Reuse and Recycle
Things don't always have to go in the bin after one use, or even after you think you're done with it. Be creative, and give things a second life. Donate used clothes, mobile phones and chargers to your local charity.

Organise events, such as, a charity fashion show from recycled clothing, or an art exhibition from your recycled art-work, or sculptures. Start a recycle-week in your college. Find out what your local recycling facility takes, and make sure you have collection bins clearly labeled around the campus.

Lower your Carbon Footprint
Turn off the lights when natural light is sufficient, and when you leave the room.
Consider walking or riding a bike to college, provided the distance is not prohibitive.
Use Compact fluorescent light bulbs.(CFLs) use 75% less energy than incandescent, and last up to 10 times longer.

Remember plug-in products are a leading source of energy consumption in dorms, labs, libraries and offices. Once plugged in, most products will consume energy even when they are not in use. So make sure you unplug, when it's charged. Cut down on the number of appliances you are running on your iPhone, or computer, and you will save your battery, bank balance, and you will be doing your duty for the environment.


More information may be found on these links
https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/climate-change-adaptation
http://www.preventclimatechange.co.uk/prevent-climate-change.html
https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/reducing-carbon-emissions/how-the-uk-is-progressing/
https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-evidence-causes/
https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_1002_en.html

Additional information about the new NASA climate projection dataset is available at:
https://nex.nasa.gov/nex/projects/1356/

Kathryn Snowdon   |   October 21, 2015    1:35 PM ET

The 14-year-old boy who was arrested after his teacher mistook a homemade clock for a bomb plans to leave the United States after accepting a scholarship to study in the Middle East, his family said on Tuesday.

Ahmed Mohamed will attend school in Qatar where he will be "accepted by that country", his father said.

The Texas teenager's family released a statement this week saying that Ahmed had accepted a scholarship to study at high school and then college in Doha.

ahmed mohamed

Ahmed Mohamed is moving to Qatar with his family

On Monday, Ahmed visited the White House and met President Barack Obama. The family announced they would be moving to Qatar as they boarded a flight from Washington on Tuesday.

"We are going to move to a place where my kids can study and learn, and all of them being accepted by that country," Ahmed's father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, told The Dallas Morning News before boarding an airplane from Washington back home to Texas on Tuesday.

Ahmed visited Qatar a few weeks ago during his world tour.

The statement said the family had been "overwhelmed by the many offers of support" since Ahmed's arrest at his school in Irving, Dallas.

The family said it accepted an offer from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development to join its Young Innovators Program.

Ahmed will relocate to Qatar after receiving a full scholarship for his secondary and undergraduate education.

The teenager said that he was impressed with the program and thinks he will "learn a lot and have fun, too," the Associated Press reports.

A statement from the Qatar Foundation said: "As an incubator of knowledge and talent, QF values its multiculturalism, diversity and non-discriminatory atmosphere, and is happy to welcome Ahmed to the Young Innovators Program.

"QF is glad to welcome the family to Doha and provide Ahmed with the opportunity to develop his skills and excel in future endeavors."

SEE ALSO:

Ahmed was arrested and placed in handcuffs at his school in Dallas after a teacher believed he had a bomb. He was then taken to a detention centre and was suspended for three days.

Police chose not to charge Ahmed and his parents later withdrew him from the school.

Thousands rallied round the teenager as the #IStandWithAhmed campaign was created. Obama even invited Ahmed to the White House.

Ahmed posted a picture on Instagram of him meeting Obama on Monday, captioning it "so happy, I can't believe that I met with the #president of the #unitedstates!!!!"

SO HAPPY, I CANT BELIEVE THAT I MET THE #president of THE #UNITEDSTATES!!!

A photo posted by Ahmed Mohamed (@official_istandforahmed) on

Natasha Hinde   |   October 14, 2015    8:28 PM ET

A couple got the surprise of a lifetime after President Obama crashed their wedding.

Brian and Stephanie Tobe wed at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in San Diego over the weekend.

The golfing venue is well-known for attracting sports stars (think Tiger Woods), celebrities and political figures.

Brian and Stephanie were both shocked and delighted to discover that the President was playing a round of golf near to where their ceremony would take place.

Wedding photographers Erin and Jeff Youngren recounted the moment they realised Obama was on the golf course in a blog post.

"Brian and Stephanie were so excited that he was there," writes Erin.

"We laughed and joked all morning, and tried to get a peek of him through the curtains, feeling honoured just to be at the same location, not expecting anything more than that."

The couple waited in the hotel while the President finished the course. They were forced to stay indoors for security reasons.

After Obama had finished and was due to leave, Brian and Stephanie - who was wearing navy heels and a Monique Lhullier gown - burst from the hotel and raced towards the golf course hoping they'd catch the President.

And they did.

Stephanie, who describes herself as a "shy person", told ABC News she was crying as she ran out to meet the President.

"I couldn't believe it," she added. "You're just overwhelmed with emotion."

According to the couple, President Obama congratulated them on their happy day and told Brian not to tread on his wife's wedding dress.

Then they had photographs taken with him, which they'll no doubt treasure forever.

SEE ALSO:

Couple Invite Strangers To Crash Wedding

This 80s-Inspired Engagement Shoot Is So Awkward

Aaron Barksdale   |   October 13, 2015    9:32 AM ET

This President Obama impersonator goes after Donald Trump in a hilariously, perfect diss track titled, "Back to Back."

Actor and impressionist, Iman Crosson who goes by the stage name Alphacat, impersonates Obama in his latest YouTube video which was inspired by Drake's response to the Internet beef he had with rapper Meek Mill in July. Alphacat is a popular social media personality known for his impressions of President Obama.

In the video, which has more than 235,000 views since it was posted on Saturday, Alphacat claps back at Trump's claim that Obama is worst president in history of the country by saying, "You'll make America better? I laugh so hard I'm crying. Mmmm... oh my God! Why you always lying?" 

Alphacat, dressed in a black suit as Obama, schools Trump on what he's done in his "back to back" presidential terms while riding around on an Oxboard and backed by an entourage of secret service agents. At the end of video, there's a clip of Alphacat with the real Obama (around 2:55) and the president's reaction to the spot-on impression is priceless!

Trump has taken a dig at nearly every presidential candidate in both parties during his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and he's also thrown a few shots at the current president, too. Since Obama is too busy running the country to respond to Trump himself this awesome parody diss record definitely puts Trump in his place, and we are living for every moment of it. 

Putin Colludes With ISIS to Shore Up Assad and All Obama Can Do Is to Prevaricate

Nehad Ismail   |   October 12, 2015   12:23 PM ET

Russian jets and warships have been bombarding targets across Syria for nearly 2 weeks in a campaign which Moscow says is aimed at the Islamic State fighters who control large parts of north and east Syria, as well as swathes of neighbouring Iraq.
But many Russian strikes have taken place in areas of western Syria held by other insurgent groups, and Western leaders have accused Russia of intervening primarily to support President Bashar al-Assad.
Most observers believe that Russia's intervention is to shore up the Assad regime by targeting the Free Syrian Army and ignoring ISIS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that one Free Syrian Army (FSA) target in the northern city of Aleppo was hit by Russian fighter jets, then was attacked by ISIS and was also attacked by the Syrian regime.

Only 1 in 20 Russian air strikes in Syria have targeted ISIS fighters according to the UK's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. British intelligence services claim that five percent of the strikes had attacked the militant group, with most "killing civilians" and Free Syrian forces fighting against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron says Vladimir Putin's decision to take military action in Syria to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a "terrible mistake". "It's going to make the region more unstable," he told the BBC on the first day of his Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester.

Activists in Syria believe that the Assad's regime is providing the Russians with a list of targets to be hit. So Assad selects the targets, and Putin's air force carries out the bombing. This explains why ISIS is being spared.

It is not therefore surprising to see Putin's airstrikes are not attacking ISIS (Daesh). ISIS has never been a real threat to Assad.

The Assad regime committed unspeakable crimes against its own people, colluding with ISIS for over two years. Evidence shows the Assad regime never targeted ISIS but invariably attacked the Free Syrian Army, the only moderate rebel group in Syria fighting ISIS (Daesh) apart from the Kurdish Peshmerga in the north of Syria. When Daesh seized oil wells the regime was its first customer, providing funding and support.

The relationship between the Assad and ISIS is complex and based on a mutuality of serving each other. It is a kind of a Faustian pact at best, and an outright collusion at worst. So, neither the Assad's regime nor Moscow are in a hurry to get rid of Daesh.

The dithering Obama administration has handed the initiative to Putin who seized it with relish. He is now calling the shots and is telling the world Assad must stay. Historical precedent is on Putin's side, he seized Crimea in March 2014 and the West did nothing apart from imposing puny financial sanctions here and there.

The gullible John Kerry, US Secretary of State, and Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary have cautiously welcomed Putin's intervention in Syria. Hammond told the media he hoped Moscow will use its leverage to force Assad to scale down barrel bomb attacks against Syrian civilians. The exact opposite happened. More and more barrel bombs are being dropped on people because Putin's action has emboldened Assad to be more brutal. Kerry in the meantime is busy arranging meetings, holding meetings, and speaking about more meetings, and telling the media about his constructive talks in various meetings.

Putin has forced the West to accept that Assad can stay during the transitional period which can be 3 months, 6 months, 2 years or 4. Putin decides and the world complies.

When I asked an American contact about Obama's paralysis he replied - "He is receiving advice from pro-Iranian advisors and from Tehran-funded lobbyists not to say or do anything that may alienate Iran and jeopardise the nuclear deal". This explains somewhat Obama self-imposed paralysis.
So the conclusion is this; no matter what Obama says or does, no one seems to take any notice. Republican Senator John McCain, a long-time critic of the current US administration, blames Obama's inaction and lack of strategy for Syria.

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Thomas L Friedman said this about Obama: "He keeps letting himself get pummelled into doing and saying things that his gut tells him won't work, so he gets the worst of all worlds: His rhetoric exceeds the policy, and the policy doesn't work".
It is clear the US and the EU have capitulated to Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In 2013 Kerry and Obama were outmanoeuvred by the Russians over Assad's use of chemical weapons, they are now being duped over the fight against ISIS/Daesh in Syria.
Of course the Russian action will prolong the war and escalates the violence and will force hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring countries and to Europe.

According to the Wall Street Journal; Donald Tusk EU Council President said last week "more than 3 million Syrians may seek refuge in Europe if the Assad regime Prevails".

Aubrey Allegretti   |   October 8, 2015    8:09 AM ET

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has entered the foray raging among White House-hopefuls in the US by suggesting that Barack Obama is not a "real black president".

The Times and Sun owner praised Republican candidate Ben Cason and his wife on Twitter this week, but also seemingly took a racially charged swipe at the current Democrat leader.

Murdoch described Carson as "terrific", having previously praised the 64-year-old African-American for being "irreproachable on background, achievements, character, vision".

But Murdoch added in his contentious post on Wednesday: "What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide?"

ben candy carson

Ben and Candy Carson pictured in a Phoenix, Arizona rally

In a follow-up tweet, the News UK owner referenced a New York Magazine article about the "minority community" and its disappointment with America's first black leader.

Several hours later, Murdoch apologised in a follow-up post, insisting he meant no offence with his original remarks and personally found "both men [Obama and Carson] charming".

Obama is set to step down as President in 2016, after a bitter battle between the eventually-chosen candidates from both Republican and Democrat parties go head-to-head next November.

Figures competing to succeed him include Jeb Bush, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

SEE ALSO:

Russia and Iran Are Not Allies Against ISIS

Dr Andrew Foxall   |   October 6, 2015   11:38 AM ET

Co-authored with Mr. Tom Wilson.

Dr Andrew Foxall is Director of the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society, a London-based international affairs think-tank, where Mr Tom Wilson is Resident Associate Fellow at the Centre for the New Middle East.

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In an escalation of the conflict in Syria, Russia's launching of airstrikes last Wednesday was closely followed by Iran's readying of its troops, the next day, for a ground offensive. This came after President Obama, addressing the U.N.'s General Assembly, had described ISIS as an "apocalyptic cult" and announced his willingness "to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran" in facing down the threat it poses.

Although the Kremlin said its airstrikes would target ISIS strongholds, thus far they have largely hit the US-backed Free Syrian Army. As if it were not apparent beforehand, Mr. Obama should question the motives of those whom he has embraced as allies in combating ISIS. In one important regard, their interests run squarely counter to those of the West: they do not want to defeat ISIS.

For the past six years, the U.S. has withdrawn from its role as global leader as Washington has recast how it deals with the outside world. Mr. Obama believes, as he explained in 2009, that "moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon." In America's post-Afghanistan, post-Iraq moment, the President prefers to 'lead from behind', with other countries sorting out their own problems.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Syria. And few countries understand the opportunities Mr. Obama's strategy of retreat and accommodation provide quite like Russia and Iran.

For President Vladimir Putin, the West's impotence in Syria is a reflection of the failures of democratic liberalism, which he seeks to undermine when- and where- ever he senses the chance. Russia's support for President Assad is primarily about securing its own interests in the Middle East -- and with them, the ability to call itself a global power. Mr. Putin's calls for a UN-mandated coalition to fight ISIS, the Russian leader hopes, will end his country's international isolation over Ukraine.

Having already allied itself with Iran and its Shia militias in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, the West is now doing the same in Syria. Tehran has used both its Hezbollah proxies and dispatched its own Quds forces to assist Mr. Assad in slaughtering his own people so as to keep in place the pro-Iranian Alawite regime there. Doing so not only preserves another Iranian satellite but also ensures that the Islamic Republic keeps open its corridor to Lebanon and the Mediterranean.

It is understandable that Washington, having failed to end the war in Syria over the last four years, should now be clutching at straws from Moscow and Tehran. But this is a self-defeating policy.

Earlier this summer, evidence emerged that Russia has helped its citizens join ISIS. Research conducted by the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta suggests that Russia's security service, the FSB, created a 'green channel' to enable jihadists to leave areas in Russia where they were fighting the Russian state and to travel to Turkey and then onto Syria. The FSB's logic, presumably, is that such jihadists are less of a threat to Russia if they are fighting (and dying) in Syria.

Throughout the Middle East, Iran has benefited from the instability of civil war, and has every interest in perpetuating these conflicts. Tehran has consistently hijacked this kind of strife for the purpose of extending its own influence and emboldening local proxies and allies. In both Lebanon and Yemen, we have seen how effectively the Iranians have fomented sectarian conflict as an opening for arming Shia factions and forcing a confrontation with rival powers. The same is now true in Syria.

President Assad, for his part, has strengthened ISIS, as well as other Islamist radicals, at the expense of Syria's moderate opposition. Throughout 2014, Mr. Assad's Syrian armed forces fought other rebel groups more often than they fought ISIS. At the same time, the strategy pursued by Mr. Assad's military has been to hold Damascus and the heavily Alawite territories to the west of the country, rather than recovering ISIS-controlled areas in the east.

Like Moscow and Tehran, Damascus has every interest in keeping the threat of ISIS as a force not only to further their own domestic interests but also to use as leverage in their relations with the West.

Even if Russia and Iran were serious about defeating ISIS, and even if they could deliver on this, the West would then have to confront the reality of a Syria in the clutches of two states hostile to its interests. Both of which would see this as an indication of Western weakness, and would be emboldened to further their ambitions.

It is a reflection of the failure of recent U.S. policy toward Syria that in fighting ISIS, Washington is aligning itself with regimes that do not want to defeat ISIS.

Fighting the Impunity of Terrorism with the United Nations Tools

Dr Ion Jinga   |   October 3, 2015   11:29 PM ET

Motto: "There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for". Mahatma Gandhi

Friday October 2nd, in New York and worldwide was celebrated the International Day of Non-Violence. It is marked on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence. Almost 68 years after Gandhi's assassination, his legacy as a prophet of non-violence is more actual than ever.
On September 29th, President Barack Obama hosted the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, at the United Nations in New York. The Summit was attended by representatives from more than 100 nations, Romania included, more than 20 multilateral institutions, some 120 civil society groups from around the world and partners from the private sector. Its agenda included a reflection upon lessons learned in fighting terrorism, a focus on comprehensive and integrative approaches to defeating ISIL, how to confront the false ideologies espoused by the group and how to address social, political and economic drivers of violent extremism.

In his remarks, President Barack Obama underlined that: "This is not a conventional battle. This is a long-term campaign, not only against this particular network, but against its ideology. Ultimately, it is not going to be enough to defeat ISIL in the battlefield. We have to prevent it from radicalizing, recruiting and inspiring others to violence in the first place. And this means defeating their ideology. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they're defeated by better ideas -- a more attractive and compelling vision. We will ultimately prevail because we are guided by a stronger, better vision: a commitment to the security, opportunity and dignity of every human being."

His words were echoed by the British Prime Minister David Cameron: "We need to win this propaganda war far more effectively than we have to date. I believe in freedom of speech, but freedom to hate is not the same thing".

I share this vision. And, again, as President Obama noted: "Poverty does not cause terrorism. But when people are impoverished and hopeless and feel humiliated by injustice and corruption, this can fuel resentments that terrorists exploit. Which is why sustainable development is part of countering violent extremism. So the real path to lasting stability and progress is not less democracy; I believe it is more democracy".

Justice is part of democracy. Together with freedom speech, freedom of religion and strong civil societies, it has to play a part in countering terrorism and violent extremism. Fighting the impunity of terrorism with the tools of international law, under the aegis of the United Nations, is part of Romania's approach and my country has a long and consolidated tradition in promoting the UN multilateral diplomacy and the UN legal instruments.

Speaking in front of the UN General Assembly on September 29th, President of Romania Klaus Iohannis sent an unequivocal message: "The consolidation of international justice and the need to put an end to impunity should trigger a reinforced legal approach towards international terrorism. Terrorism is a sum of crimes against individuals and societies. Romania believes that the international community should do more in combating terrorism with the tools of law, including international criminal law. It is with that purpose in mind that Romania and Spain triggered a process of reflection on the possible creation of an International Court for the Crime of Terrorism".

Same day, Foreign Ministers of Romania and Spain co-hosted a debate on the topic "Towards an International Court against Terrorism (ICT) - Ideas and Challenges", in the margins of the UNGA ministerial week. The debate reflected how to fight against terrorism with the means of international criminal law, and not only with the military force. The topic is both complex and sensitive: how to tackle the definition of terrorism, how to define jurisdiction, how to convince states to cooperate. All these elements were open for debate. It was underlined that the ICT added value would culminate to its preventative effect on perpetrators and the question of victims of terrorism came central: there is too much impunity for crimes of terrorism and too many victims not receiving justice nowadays. Hence, the discussion on the ICT was timely.

Terrorism attacks the core sovereignty of a country and therefore the issue of countering terrorism and violent extremism brought the whole of the UN together. More than half of the UN Security Council resolutions adopted over the past year focused on this topic and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was resolute in upholding the human rights in the fight against terrorism. Terrorist groups constitute a direct violation of the UN Charter and a great impediment to the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Political will and support from the civil society are essential for the continuation of the Romanian-Spanish initiative but one thing is clear: terrorism is a grave challenge and the international justice could be one of the greatest force at the disposal of mankind to counter it. It could be mightier than the mightiest weapon. As the great Romanian legal expert Vespasian Pella wrote in 1950: "Without an international court, indicted people would always feel convicted not as a result of guilt, but of defeat".

Will Vladimir Putin Save the World?

David Spencer   |   October 3, 2015    8:56 AM ET

There has been precious little to praise about the regime of Vladimir Putin in recent years. His actions in stoking civil war in Ukraine and annexing the Crimea region is criminal under international law, his crackdown on political opposition and dissenting voices has seen numerous state-sponsored and the oppression that can be experienced in Russia by ethnic and religious minorities, and the LGBT community, is shocking and criminally under-reported here in the west.

And yet it seems that this tyrannical despot might just be the one person able to stop the march of Islamic extremism in Syria, given the failings of our own Governments and International organisations to act.

The rise of ISIS and other Islamism groups in Syria and Iraq has been driven by the civil war in the region which has created a power vacuum in much of the east of the country. Combined with the inept and weak US-supported Iraqi government, the circumstances in the region were ripe for a non-state entity to fill the void.

This is precisely what ISIS have done having seen an opportunity to impose their own warped interpretation of the Koran on a large territorial area.

It is exactly this kind of situation which the UN should address as a peacekeeping organisation. However these days the UN can be perceived as little more than a feckless talking shop where nations can afford to be big of rhetoric, without ever having to worry about taking any meaningful action to back it up. Its history is littered with inaction and its role in the Syrian conflict to date has barely stretched beyond putting out press releases.

The UN's ineptitude is at least partly why the US and the UK have been drawn into other Middle East conflicts and it has been these ill-thought-through campaigns which have made further such interventions politically toxic. This has left a situation where the US and the UK are unable to justify putting troops on the ground in Syria.

This is despite the fact that ISIS do offer a far more tangible threat to British and US interests than other adversaries in the region. It was ISIS followers who killed the satirists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. It was an ISIS gunman who slaughtered British tourists on the beach in Tunisia. And it is ISIS who have gloated over the beheading of innocent western hostages and lured our Muslim citizens to their deaths in a conflict they are no part of.

Politicians go to great lengths to explain why ground troops will not work against them, yet military experts, such as the former head of British Armed Forces, Sir David Richards, consistently say it is the only way to defeat ISIS, and that success could be achieved in as little as six months.

Vladimir Putin is now stepping into this hiatus, and although his actions so far have been confined to air strikes, it is widely expected that ground troops will follow.

So what's the difference between Putin and the West? The primary one is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is allied to Putin and fiercely opposed by western leaders.

Make no mistake, he is also not a nice man. He has tortured captives, bombed his own civilians and is responsible for the deaths of some 200,000 of his own people during the civil war. In normal situations he is not the sort of leader we would want to work with.

But the current situation in Syria is far from normal, and the treat to our interests in growing. Yet still we remain intransigent in our insistence that we must get rid of ISIS and Assad. Such ambitions are at best naïve, and at worst making the situation far worse.

Speaking on BBC Newsnight this week, Lt General Sir Simon Mayall, a senior Military advisor, criticised the UK for being guilty of 'wishful thinking' over the removal of Assad, and stated that the Russians had been 'in many ways more realistic'.

History has shown time and time again that trying to win a conflict on two fronts at the same time always leads to disaster. Diplomacy norms state that it is fruitless to try and deal with two conflicting issues at the same time. The aftermath of the Arab Spring in countries like Libya has demonstrated clearly that removing those in power without a plan of transition leads to chaos and offers a fertile breeding ground for yet more Arab extremists.

And yet we remain steadfast.

To remove Assad from the regions he still controls now is only going to open up more territory for ISIS, or other Islamist groups, to move into. To remove them both together is all but impossible, and would simply open the door to al-Qaeda or others.

The only way to bring an end to the war in Syria is to take it one step at a time.

The first task has to be to defeat ISIS because it is they who pose the direct threat to western nations. Bashir al-Assad is a despicable figure, but he does not threaten the lives or security of Western people. It therefore makes sense to leave him in power, however flimsy and hampered by sanctions that may be, until the extremist threat has died down.

Then is the time to start political and diplomatic efforts to get rid of him.

Of course this is not Vladimir Putin's objective. His motivation is far from altruistic, as he wants to retain Assad as an ally in the region. But as the only actor in the region who seems willing to step up and take on ISIS, he is the most likely to move us on down the road towards this endpoint. Once Putin has removed those threatening Assad, the international community will find it much more straightforward to manoeuvre him out of power.

It is not a perfect scenario by any means, and will likely see a great deal more bloodshed in the interim. But in the long run, it seems to be the only viable, realistic solution to bring stability back to the region.

And while the rest of the world sits on its heels and fails to act, it seems it will be Vladimir Putin who is keeping the streets of the UK and the US safe from Islamic extremists. We may well have, not Barack Obama or David Cameron, but Vladimir Putin to thank for saving us from the horrors of ISIS.

An American Tribute to British Gun Policy

Judd Birdsall   |   October 2, 2015   11:27 PM ET

In the wake of yet another school shooting in the United States, I'm profoundly grateful, as an American in England, to live in a country where my children have no fear of guns at school.

The United States and the United Kingdom have many important similarities, but rational gun policy is not one of them.

The UK responded to 1987 Hungerford massacre by banning semi-automatic weapons and to the 1996 school shooting in Dublane by banning handguns. The US has suffered scores of mass shootings--294 in 2015 so far--and responded with well-meaning "thoughts and prayers."

And Obama is tired of it. The president has addressed the nation many times in the wake of mass shootings, and in response to Thursday's massacre at a community college in Oregon, he lamented:

I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America--next week, or a couple of months from now.

Americans are a profoundly religious people, so the outpouring of prayer is not surprising. But it seems that for far too many Americans their deepest religious allegiance is to Gun Almighty. And he is a jealous deity, demanding no compromise with commonsense. We sacrifice thousands of lives, 316,545 in the last decade alone, on the altar of the Second Amendment--or at least a fundamentalist interpretation of that amendment.

All of this is baffling to Britons. The US ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, has visited dozens of schools around Great Britain and asked students what they like and dislike or find confusing about America. The number one dislike is always the same: guns.

These British students understand the issue at a visceral level. They routinely see the news of American students senselessly murdered by a deranged person with easy access to guns that are designed not for hunting animals but for killing humans.

Britain hasn't had a school shooting in nearly 20 years. America has already had 45 school shootings this year alone.

Brad Pitt once said, "America is a country founded on guns. It's in our DNA." Pitt may be right, but Britons recognize this bit of American DNA for what it is: a genetic mutation. And a deadly one.

There is no comparable mutation in the United Kingdom. Here the collective right to safety trumps an individual right to guns. The UK doesn't have a written constitution, but even if it did, it wouldn't have an anachronistic Second Amendment that made sense in the time of muskets but not machine guns.

And, thankfully, guns are not a partisan issue in the UK. It was a Conservative government that introduced the handgun ban in 1996 following the Dublane shooting.

British politicians don't have to fear the lobbying influence of the American National Rifle Association. The NRA-UK is not linked to the American organisation and does not share its militant views. NRA-UK chief executive Derrick Mabbott has called the US group "fanatical" and told the Telegraph "I once had to sit through a diatribe from their CEO and it made me physically ill."

Rather than campaigning for more guns and fewer gun restrictions, the British version of the NRA focuses on training gun owners to safely and legally use their guns for sport and pest control. There's no pretense that guns are somehow for personal safety or to protect citizens from the government.

To obtain a firearms license in the UK, one must provide a compelling rationale, prove his identity, offer two character references, and secure approval from his doctor. Then there's a rigorous background check and home inspection by the police. If a licence is granted, it's usually only valid for five years.

The whole process instills a proper sense of the serious responsibility it is to own a gun. Plenty of American gun owners share this seriousness, but the easy availability of guns in the US breeds a gun culture much more focused on rights rather than responsibilities.

I find it refreshing to live in a country where very few people want guns, even fewer have guns, and those that do have gun licences have been thoroughly vetted.

Once when I was driving down a country road in Cambridgeshire with my children I saw a man carrying a rifle. I instinctively pulled over, rolled down my window, and had lovely chat with him. He showed his rifle to my kids. He was a farmer hunting pesky rabbits, and he shared my view that America's gun laws are insane.

Only afterward did I reflect on the encounter and realise that back home in America I would never approach a man with a gun, especially not with my kids in the car. I would make a whole range of different assumptions about him, right or wrong. And I would make an abrupt U-turn.

After yet another mass shooting, it's high time for America to turn away from policies that enable shockingly high levels of gun crime.

The UK provides an instructive model. As Obama argued, "We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours--Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it."

Chris York   |   October 2, 2015   11:59 AM ET

Thursday saw yet another mass shooting bring death, carnage and frustrated misery to the US as nine people were killed by a gunman on a college campus.

Chris Harper-Mercer was carrying four guns when he opened fire on the grounds of Umpqua Community College before being shot dead himself by police.

gun deaths

Infographic provided by Statista

A clearly exasperated Barack Obama once again addressed the nation to urge for tighter gun controls - something vigorously opposed by many in the US.

While the debate continues, this chart lays bare the stark reality of the numbers of US citizens killed on US soil by guns compared to terrorism related deaths and gun deaths in the UK.

Despite the disparity, the US continues to spend billions of dollars every year on counter-terrorism ($16bn in 2012) while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) submitted a request for £1.2bn for 2016.

obama

Obama expressed frustration that it was necessary for him to frequently console victims' families and that he was again calling for new gun control regulations.

"Somehow this has become routine," Obama said from the White House. "We've become numb to this.

"We should politicise it," he said. "As I said each time we see one of these mass shooting, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. … It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel."

Almost 1,000 Massacres Since Sandy Hook and the USA Still Hasn't Learned Its Lesson

David Mooney   |   October 2, 2015    3:12 AM ET

The damning inevitability with which commentators from all sides now speak following a gun tragedy in the USA says a lot about the situation the country finds itself in. President Obama seemed frustrated with having to address another media conference after yet more of his citizens have been killed in an incident where a white male took a gun to a campus, this time Umpqua Community College. "Somehow this has become routine," he said.

By now, the news of the events feel somewhat devoid of any actual human connection such is the frequency of these sorts of incidents. The reports feel divorced from reality and with each series of murders, the shock factor is somewhat diluted. A blasé "Oh, it's happened again?" isn't as far away as you'd think.

The latest is a shocking incident - but millions of people are not shocked by it.

The National Rifle Association is always quick to defend the weapon when it comes under the attack of the watching world. The most famous soundbite, which came from NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre after 20 children and six adults were shot dead at a Sandy Hook school in Newton, Connecticut in 2012, is that "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Since then, there have been 994 mass-killing incidents and almost 300 of them have happened this year alone. That's almost one a day. I don't want to sound like I'm trivialising that figure, but you've got to be pretty fucked up to turn that into a pro-gun stance. Almost 1000 massacres doesn't scream "there needs to be more firearms for good people" no matter how hard and how long you look at it.

When the pro-gun lobby says that these incidents shouldn't be politicised and that the time for analysing gun control isn't so soon after such a tragedy, it raises the question of exactly when is. These stories are now so frequent, it will always be too soon.

Perhaps if the "bad guys" in each of those mass killings couldn't pop down to their local supermarket and pick up their week's groceries, a few snacks and an assault rifle, then it might not have been a ridiculously simple task for them to walk into a college campus and end the lives of thousands of innocent victims, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It seems baffling that so many people in the United States seem to ask how on earth these sorts of tragedies happen every time they do, without even considering the most obvious and glaring answer. Millions of people own guns. And guns do have a very limited range of uses.

It should be as difficult as possible for anybody to get hold of a firearm and it should be a criminal offence to be caught in possession of one, with very few exceptions. Of course, some will slip the net; however a large number of would-be criminals, many of which suffer from mental health issues, would not be able to attack innocent victims quite so easily and many wouldn't know when to begin in trying to obtain a weapon.

For the record, mental health funding was cut by $4bn nationally between 2009 and 2011 - but no stringent gun laws have been imposed. People with such illnesses need support, not simple access to semiautomatic rifles. Also for the record, the majority of weapons used in incidents of mass killings in the USA are acquired legally.

In 1996, when 28-year-old Martin Bryant entered a café at Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia, and ate his lunch before setting off on a killing spree, the reaction in the country was for a clampdown on firearms. This was the massacre that tipped the country over the edge; almost 650,000 weapons were turned in to authorities in a national buyback scheme. Gun-related homicides dropped around seven per cent year on year.

Every argument in favour of keeping firearms available to the American public boils down to "I want a gun". It's not protection, those waters get muddied when family members are also likely targets as they make noises in the haze of a 3am wake-up in the home. Leave them in an open place and kids can discharge them completely by accident; lock them away and they're hardly protecting anything. The icing on the cake is that owning a firearm increases a person's risk of suicide.

In large parts of America, guns have been fetishized. They can end a life relatively easily and they should be feared, not revered, fondled or posed with for photographs to make a good Facebook profile.

It may sound trite, but it's a really simple equation. There will be fewer people shot if there are fewer firearms readily available. Just how many mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, or sisters must be told that a family member will not be coming home because a lunatic has put a bullet in them before the USA will actually do something about it?

It's Time for America to Rethink Its Gun Control Laws

Richard Neil   |   October 1, 2015    9:27 PM ET

Another day, another mass shooting spree. Surly by now, it's time for America to rethink its gun control laws and make the logical changes that other advanced countries have made. At the time of writing this article, at least 13 people have reportedly been killed and around 20 wounded in a college shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. How many more of these tragedies have to happen?

Ask yourself this, how would this killing spree have been possible if the killer didn't have access to firearms? If you're looking to murder as many people as possible whilst being at a safe distance to avoid being stopped, then I'd say a gun would be the perfect weapon for the job. So why are they so accessible to the public? "Guns don't kill people, people do" - yeah, people with access to lots of guns.

The National Rifle Association (N.R.A) are America's main advocator of gun rights and one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, they are believed to have over 5 million active members at present. They are an extremely powerful organisation that funds and manipulates conservative American politics by being one of the biggest financers in congressional elections. Whilst the N.R.A hides under the guise of 'protection' and 'freedom', they are actually protecting the gun industry to freely manufacture and sell essentially any weapon or accessory to American citizens.

The same old excuses keep being given by N.R.A supporters whenever a mass shooting spree occurs, they want to keep hold of their precious guns but none of their arguments have any real rational thinking behind them. It seems that their solution to the problem is to simply arm more people with guns! It's insane! It's like saying that the killing of any innocent child could have been prevented if the child was armed in the first place and able to return fire, wouldn't it just be a smarter move to remove all the guns?

How some of these military spec weapons can even be classed as for only 'home protection' is beyond absurd. I'm pretty confident that back in 1789, when they passed the law for the right to bear arms in the second amendment of their U.S Constitution, they wouldn't have had the advanced and sophisticated weapons that we have today. It's clearly an outdated law that needs to be brought into the modern era.

When the Dunblane school massacre happened in Scotland on the 13th of March 1996, it was one of the deadliest firearm incidents that the U.K had ever witnessed. It caused public outrage and two new firearms Acts were passed that made private ownership of handguns illegal in Britain. It took just one tragedy and nothing similar has thankfully happened since, so why won't America change their gun control laws? What is it that is really preventing them from doing so? President Barack Obama has already admitted that failing to pass "common sense gun control laws" was the greatest frustration of his presidency, so why can't even the most powerful man in the developed world make the changes? Is it that the N.R.A is just too dominant? Is it that their political system too now corrupted? Or is it simply that America is just a gun loving nation? Whichever it is, there will be no end to these mindless acts of violence as long as the weapons needed to commit them are so easily available to the public.

Eve Hartley   |   September 24, 2015    2:32 PM ET

The UK-based cousin of American president Barack Obama is suing her former employers at London's Met Police for £400,000 - claiming a pair of farting policemen were among those who made her life a misery.

Marie Auma says officers and employees pursued a conspiracy against her, including two who deliberately broke wind beside her desk at Southwark Police Station.

The 57-year-old, who was at Obama's inauguration in 2009, claims she was 'belittled and humiliated' in the campaign of alleged harassment.

It stemmed from alleged refusal of leave to visit her brother's grave after he died in a car crash in Kenya in 2007 and culminated in her being medically retired with mental health difficulties.

Now in a trial at Central London County Court, Auma, of Green Lanes, Palmers Green, Haringey, is fighting for compensation. The Met denies liability.


Her barrister Lorraine Mensah told Judge Simon Freeland QC that Auma, whose job involved liaising with crime victims, had been the victim of '21st Century bullying'.

Few of the individual incidents which occurred between 2007 and 2009 could be said to be harassment, but together they formed a 'culture' of bullying against her, she said.

She told the court Auma had been refused leave to visit Kenya in 2007, following the death of her brother in an accident.

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When she complained about the refusal, she was branded a trouble-maker in the force's 'rumour mill', said the barrister.

She said there was a 'pack mentality' and that the rumours led directly to an officer and another civilian employee deliberately breaking wind at her desk.

"The passing of wind at her desk in an open plan office is an attempt to belittle her and humiliate her."

"There was clear evidence before the defendants that she was suffering stress, causing her ill health, and she attributed that to the bullying and harassment that she complained of," Mensah added.

She had to take time off work due to chest pains in the second half of 2008, which she put down to anxiety and stress caused by her situation at work.

The Met could at any time have 'controlled or stopped' the harassment and so prevented Auma from mental injury, said the barrister.

Auma is related to Mr Obama through her aunt, Kezia Obama, who is the president's Bracknell, Berkshire-based step-mum.