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Starwood Hotels & Resorts has become the first American company to agree a deal with the Cuban authorities since the revolution of 1959.

The hotel and leisure company will renovate and run three hotels in Havana.

A Starwood spokesman said the company would be making a “multimillion-dollar investment to bring the hotels up to our standards”.Starwood Cuban deal

The news comes on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba – the first by a US president in almost 90 years.

The deal is a welcome reminder of how far things have come between the US and Cuba since they decided to normalize ties.

Tourism in Cuba is at an all-time high, including a sharp rise in the number of US visitors, especially since travel restrictions were eased by President Barack Obama.


President Barack Obama has signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on North Korea, after its “illicit” nuclear test and satellite launch.

The executive order freezes North Korean government property in America and bans US exports to, or investment in, North Korea.

It also greatly expands powers to blacklist anyone, including non-Americans, dealing with North Korea.

The January 6 nuclear test and February 7 satellite launch were violations of existing UN sanctions.

Barack Obama’s order includes measures from the recently agreed UN Security Council sanctions – the toughest sanctions in decades against North Korea.North Korea US sanctions 2016

It also contains separate sanctions passed by Congress and enacted by the president in February.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “The US and the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and we will continue to impose costs on North Korea until it comes into compliance with its international obligations.”

Barack Obama said the sanctions “did not target the people of North Korea” but suggested that the country’s leadership only had itself to blame.

How much property North Korea has in the US is unknown, and trade between the two is tiny, but the expanded blacklist power is a significant stepping up of the punitive measures available to Washington.

It is also the first time the US has had a blanket ban on trade, as it once had with Iran and Myanmar.

Amid the heightened tensions, North Kroea sentenced American student Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor on March 16 for “severe crimes” against the state.

The US demanded North Korea immediately release Otto Warmbier, 21, who was arrested for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel while on a visit in January.


Veteran appeals court judge Merrick Garland has been nominated by President Barack Obama to be the next US Supreme Court Justice.

The Supreme Court vacancy follows the death of Antonin Scalia last month.

Judge Garland, 63, is viewed as a moderate and has won praise from senior Republican figures.

Barack Obama’s appointment has to be ratified by the Senate, but its Republican majority has vowed to block a vote on any Supreme Court nominee from the current president.

Republicans have called on Barack Obama to leave the nomination to his successor, who will be elected in November.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative, left the nine-member Supreme Court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

It also set off a battle in a presidential election year over Antonin Scalia’s successor.

Urging the Senate to support Merrick Garland, Barack Obama said: “He is the right man for the job. He deserves to be confirmed.”

President Barack Obama said Merrick Garland – chief judge of the Washington appeals court and a former prosecutor – enjoyed respect from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Announcing the nomination in the White House Rose Garden, Barack Obama praised Merrick Garland’s decency, integrity and even-handedness during his long career in public service, and described him as an exemplary judge.

Merrick Garland was prepared to serve on the court immediately, he said.

Barack Obama expressed hope that Republicans would act in a bipartisan spirit and give Merrick Garland a “fair hearing”.

The nomination was the “greatest honor of my life”, Merrick Garland said.

Merrick Garland was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning confirmation in a 76-23 Senate vote, and served in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration prior to that.

Republicans again stressed they would defer action on a nomination to the Supreme Court until after the election.

Senate Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell said the American people should have a voice in filling the vacancy. He also accused Barack Obama of making the nomination “in order to politicize it for purposes of the election”.


President Barack Obama has presented to Congress a plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The Guantanamo Bay closure is one of the president’s long-standing goals.

Barack Obama wants to transfer the remaining 91 detainees to their home countries or to US military or civilian prisons.

However, Congress is deeply opposed to terror suspects being held on US soil and is expected to block the move.

The prison costs $445 million to run annually and closing it was a 2009 promise from President Barack Obama.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Human rights campaigners have repeatedly complained about the prison in Cuba, which has held 780 detainees since it opened in 2002.

Barack Obama told reporters on February 23 it undermined national security.

“This is about closing a chapter in our history,” he said.

“It reflects the lessons we’ve learned since 9/11 – lessons that must guide our nation going forward.”

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio was scathing in his criticism, saying Guantanamo prisoners do not belong on US soil.

“These are literally enemy combatants,” he said, adding he would ship terrorists straight to Guantanamo “to find out what they know”.

It estimates the move would save up to $180 million a year in cost savings.

Barack Obama, who will complete his second and final term in January, said it was important not to pass the problem on to his successor.

“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law.”

Guantanamo Bay is located on an American naval base in south eastern Cuba.

Former President George W. Bush opened it to accommodate foreign terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

One of the key complaints from human rights groups is that many detainees have been held there without charge or trial.

The plan does not specify where in the US detainees would go.

The Pentagon has considered 13 different locations in the US, including seven prisons in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas, and six other places on military bases.


The US has imposed new expanded sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program, weeks after it launched a long-range rocket.

North Korea has refused to stop its nuclear program and the bill was easily passed last week by Congress.

The sanctions attempt to cut off money North Korea needed to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads.

The US and China are negotiating over a UN Security Council resolution on new sanctions.

China has said some of the measures could cripple North Korea’s economy.Barack Obama North Korea sanctions

The sanctions freeze the assets of anyone doing business related to North Korea’s nuclear or weapons program or involved in human rights abuses.

The bill also allows for $50 million to support humanitarian programs and transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea.

North Korea recently fired a long-range rocket, which critics said was a test of banned missile technology. State television announced that North Korea had “successfully placed a satellite in orbit”.

The morning after that launch, Barack Obama said: “This is an authoritarian regime. It’s provocative. It has repeatedly violated UN resolutions, tested and produced nuclear weapons, and now they are trying to perfect their missile launch system.”

It came after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January. Analysts say Kim Jong-un is looking to appear powerful before his important Seventh Party Congress in May.

“The bill was the first one exclusively targeting North Korea, which was passed in an unusually expeditious fashion. We expect it to provide a platform for the US to take strong and effective measures [against North Korea],” said South Korea’s foreign ministry in a statement.

South Korea has said it will be discussing with the US the deployment of a missile defense system.


Donald Trump will not be president, says President Barack Obama, because it’s a “serious job”.

Speaking at the ASEAN economic summit in California, the president was asked by a reporter about Donald Trump.

“I continue to believe that Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people,” said Barack Obama.

Donald Trump is the frontrunner in the Republican race to be his party’s choice for the White House.

He has won one state primary already, and leads the polls in South Carolina, where Republicans vote on February 20.

The electorate will not pick him, said Barack Obama, because “they recognize that being president is a serious job”.

“It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show, it’s not promotion, it’s not marketing, it’s hard. It’s not a matter of pandering and doing whatever will get you in the news on a given day.” Donald Trump criticized by Barack Obama

Donald Trump responded by saying it was a compliment to be criticized by a president who had done so much damage to the country.

His antipathy to Barack Obama goes back a number of years – he used to demand that the president produce proof that he was born in the US.

His election campaign has continuously made headlines, for controversial remarks and policies.

Donald Trump said he would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, build a wall on the southern border paid for by Mexico and that Muslims should be stopped from entering the US.

His chief rival is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but one of his other rivals, the big-spending former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, will be hoping for a better performance after disappointment in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed over support for President Barack Obama in their first debate since the New Hampshire primary.

The former secretary of state sought to cast herself as the protector of Barack Obama’s legacy, sharply attacking Senator Bernie Sanders for criticizing the president.

“The kind of criticism I hear from Senator Sanders, I expect from Republicans,” Hillary Clinton said.

Nevada and South Carolina, states with large minority populations, vote next.

At the PBS NewsHour televised debate, Hillary Clinton repeatedly emphasized her ties to Barack Obama who is extremely popular among minority voters.

Meanwhile, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took pains to tailor to his message of economic fairness to address disparities in black communities.

Hillary Clinton also stressed her pragmatism, questioning Bernie Sanders’ pledges to provide universal healthcare and free higher education.

“We have a special obligation to make clear what we stand for which is why we can’t make promises we can’t keep,” Hillary Clinton said.

Immigration reform was also a major topic of discussion. Both Democratic candidates supported creating a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US and they decried a recent uptick in deportations by the Obama administration.PBS debate Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Criticizing the anti-immigrant positions of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders said immigrants should not be scapegoats for economic uncertainty.

“We have got to stand up to the Trumps of the world, who are trying to divide us,” the senator said.

Hillary Clinton is trying to rebuild her campaign after Bernie Sanders decisively won the New Hampshire primary.

She received a much-needed endorsement from an influential bloc of black Democrats in Congress on February 11.

Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary by 22 percentage points and lost the Iowa caucuses narrowly, but both states have nearly all-white populations.

He now faces the challenge of finding votes among the sizable Latino and black electorates in Nevada and South Carolina.

Hillary Clinton has strong support among Latinos and African-Americans and is expected to do well in the two states.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll in South Carolina gave Hillary Clinton a lead of 74 over Bernie Sanders’ 17% among black voters.

On February 11, the political action committee of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton as their Democratic presidential candidate, giving an added boost to her campaign.

“We must have a president that understands the racial divide, not someone who just acquired the knowledge recently but someone…who has lived it and worked through it down through the years,” CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield told reporters on February 11.

Recognizing the need to do more to court the black vote, Bernie Sanders met civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton in New York on February 10.

However, Al Sharpton declined to say which candidate he would back after the meeting.

It is still unclear who the winner of the Democratic contest will face in the Republican race, with Donald Trump, John Kasich and Ted Cruz finishing first, second and third in the New Hampshire primary.

Both Republican and Democratic parties will formally name their presidential candidates at conventions in July.

Americans will finally go to the polls to choose the new occupant of the White House in November.


The Supreme Court has blocked President Barack Obama’s plans to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from US power plants.

The court ruled that Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan could not go forward until all legal challenges were heard.

Designed to cut US emissions by 32% by 2030, the scheme put huge emphasis on a shift to renewable energy.

It formed the key element of the US pledge at UN climate negotiations held in Paris in December 2015.

Introduced by Barack Obama in August 2015, the plan set carbon reduction goals for each state and it was up to the states themselves to come up with proposals to meet those goals.

A group of 27 states, utilities and coal miners sought to block the proposal in the courts. They argued that the plan was an infringement on states’ rights.

An initial attempt to halt the implementation of the plan until legal challenges were heard was thrown out by a US appeals court in Washington in January.

However, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to halt the plan pending the outcome of the litigation.Clean Power Plan 2016

White House spokesman Josh Earnest put out a statement following the decision: “We disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds.

“The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions, and will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country, and major progress in our efforts to confront the risks posed by climate change.

“We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling could have significant implications for Barack Obama’s attempt to cut down on carbon.

Under the Clean Power Plan, individual states were due to submit their proposals on how to meet the CO2 restrictions by September 2016. That date will be missed.

It is unlikely that all the legal questions over the future of the Clean Power Plan will be resolved before President Obama leaves office in January 2017.

West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the high court’s action a “great victory”.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” he said in a statement.

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan were confident that the courts would ultimately upheld its legality.

“The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fuelled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future, and the stay cannot reverse that trend,” said David Doniger, from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling will be seen as a major embarrassment for President Barack Obama, who helped craft a new global agreement on climate change at UN sponsored talks in Paris in December.

What will worry the White House more is the division of the court along ideological lines, with conservative justices all supporting the stay while the liberal justices opposed.

If these divisions hold, the Clean Power Plan may suffer further setbacks in the Supreme Court which may ultimately render it useless.

If that was to happen, the ability of the US to live up to its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement would be in serious doubt.

President Barack Obama will ask the US Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted primarily through mosquitoes, has spread rapidly through the Americas.

It has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains.

The money will go to mosquito control efforts and vaccine research programs among other initiatives.

The White House says that some of the money will go towards “enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission” of the virus.

The Zika virus is currently being transmitted to new patients in 26 countries in the Americas, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed 50 cases of the virus in the United States among people who had travelled to affected regions and returned to the US.Zika virus in US

There is a growing fear that as warmer months approach in the northern hemisphere and mosquitoes become active, local transmission could become a problem – especially in the southern US.

Last week, the first case of locally transmitted Zika was reported in Dallas, Texas. Notably, the virus was spread in this case through sexual contact, not a mosquito bite.

The Zika virus has had a considerable impact in Brazil, which has seen a spike in microcephaly cases – totaling around 4,000 in recent months, stirring fears ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an emergency over the cases last week, prompting research and aid to be fast-tracked.

The Reuters news agency reported that the US Olympic Committee has told its athletes and staff who are concerned about the virus to consider skipping the games.

However, the Zika virus did not keep revelers home from Carnival in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend – some 70,000 fans were said to have been in attendance.


President Barack Obama has pledged his support to the city of Flint in Michigan in the water contamination crisis.

Speaking from nearby Detroit, Barack Obama said: “If I were a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kid’s health could be at risk.”

Flint’s water became contaminated when lead leached from old pipes after a change in supplier in 2014.

Since then, residents have complained of bad smells, headaches and rashes.

Unable to drink tap water, the National Guard has joined volunteers in distributing lead tests, filters and bottled water.

Photo Flintwaterstudy.org

Photo Flintwaterstudy.org

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has faced calls to resign over the way he has handled the crisis.

On January 20 Rick Snyder released a batch of emails from 2014 and 2015 concerning the issue.

One email suggests that a day after doctors reported high levels of lead in local children, one of the governor’s top advisers told him city officials, not state officials, had to “deal with it”.

The switch to a river water source was a money-saving move when the city was under state financial management.

The water from Flint River stripped lead from the pipes and into the supply.

Lead exposure can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children.

Last week, President Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint, which is predominantly an African-American, working-class city.

That declaration brought $5 million in federal aid but was far short of the $31 million requested by Republican governor Rick Snyder.

A day after meeting Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, Barack Obama said: “I told her we are going to have her back and all the people of Flint’s back as they work their way through this terrible tragedy.

“It is a reminder that we can’t short-change the basic services we provide to our people.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has urged President Obama to class the crisis as a federal disaster, saying its severity poses an “imminent and long-term threat” to residents.

By classing it as such, on the same level as natural disasters, Flint would be able to get much more federal aid.

In an interview this week, Gov. Snyder admitted it was a disaster but denied it was his “Katrina moment” – a reference to the much-criticized response of President George W. Bush to the hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005.


One of President Barack Obama’s key immigration reform plans could be challenged by the Supreme Court.

The plan would lift the threat of deportation from 5 million migrants living illegally in the US.

A coalition of 26 mostly conservative states, led by Texas, has been successful in lower court challenges.

A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in the early summer, just as the election gets into full swing.

“We are confident that the policies will be upheld as lawful,” said White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.

President Barack Obama announced the plan, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), in November 2014.Barack Obama immigration plan at Supreme Court

He justified using his presidential powers, without Congress, by saying it was in response to inaction over the issue of immigration from Congress.

If allowed to go forward, it would allow people who have lived in the US for more than five years and who have children who are living in the country legally to apply for work authorization.

In announcing the plan, Barack Obama said it would allow those who qualify to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law”.

Challenges to the plan began shortly after President Barack Obama’s announcement, with a federal court in Texas effectively putting a pause on it in February.

The Obama administration lost an appeal in November, keeping the injunction in place.

The White House has vowed to kickstart the program if the Supreme Court was to rule in its favor, so that migrants could began enrolling before a new president takes office in January 2017.

One of the largest questions looming over the case is whether the state challengers have the right to do so.

Texas argues it will have to spend millions of dollars to provide driver’s licenses to people who are part of the program.

The issue of immigration has become a controversial and polarizing issue in the 2016 presidential race.

Leading Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she would maintain and expand President Barack Obama’s reforms, while Republican front runner Donald Trump has said he would reverse the reforms and step up enforcement.


Sean Penn’s interview with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been criticized by the Obama administration and Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio.

The interview was conducted in October in the Mexican jungle after El Chapo Guzman’s jail break, and published by Rolling Stone magazine.

A White House spokesman said Sean Penn’s “so-called interview” was “maddening”, while Marco Rubio said it was “grotesque”.

El Chapo (Shorty) Guzman, 58, was recaptured on January 8 after months on the run.

Unnamed Mexican officials say Sean Penn’s secret meeting helped lead them to the boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

El Chapo Guzman has now been returned to the maximum-security Altiplano jail, from where he escaped in July 2015 via a tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.

In the Rolling Stone article, the result of a seven-hour “sit-down”, El Chapo Guzman said he was the world’s leading supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.Sean Penn and El Chapo Guzman interview

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told CNN: “One thing I will tell you is that this braggadocious action about how much heroin he sends around the world, including the United States, is maddening.

“We see a heroin epidemic, an opioid addiction epidemic, in this country… But El Chapo’s behind bars – that’s where he should stay.”

The Mexican authorities would not say whether they would investigate Sean Penn and a Mexican actress, Kate del Castillo, who apparently arranged the interview.

Denis McDonough declined to answer a question about whether the US would hand Sean Penn over to Mexico for questioning.

“Well, it poses a lot of very interesting questions both for him and for others involved in this-so-called interview, so we’ll see what happens on that – I’m not going to get ahead of it,” he said.

Marco Rubio told ABC: “If one of these American actors who have benefited from the greatness of this country, who have made money from our free enterprise system, want to go fawn all over a criminal and a drug trafficker in their interviews, they have a constitutional right to do it. I find it grotesque.”

Mexico has said it will begin the process of extraditing El Chapo Guzman to the US, in line with extradition requests from 2015.

He is charged with smuggling vast amounts of drugs into the US.

No detail has been given about the timeframe for extradition but experts say the process could take months.

Mexico and the US have an extradition treaty but there are many steps that need to be taken and officials who need to approve the request.

Previous requests from the US have been turned down.

El Chapo Guzman, who was named Public Enemy Number One by the Chicago Crime Commission in 2013, has been indicted by at least seven US federal district courts.


Scott Stockert, a North Dakota man who allegedly plotted to kidnap one of President Barack Obama’s two pet dogs, has been arrested in Washington DC.

Officials say Scott D. Stockert, 49, was planning to snatch one of the dogs, either Bo or Sunny.

Police in Washington DC found weapons in Scott Stockert’s car, including a shotgun, a rifle and a machete.Obama dog kidnap plot

Agents say the man made several outlandish claims during his arrest, including that he intended to run for president.

He also said he was the son of former President John F. Kennedy and actress Marilyn Monroe, according to court documents.

Scott Stockert has been charged with violating the District of Columbia’s gun laws.

The First Family acquired Bo in 2009, with Sunny, referred to by the family as Bo’s “little sister”, following in 2013.

The US gun sales are rising, just as President Barack Obama unveils control measures designed to limit the availability of weapons.

Smith & Wesson’s shares rose to their highest value since 1999 ahead of Barack Obama’s announcement.

On January 4, Smith & Wesson raised its sales estimate, saying the market was “stronger than originally anticipated”.

The number of background checks on potential buyers – a guide to future sales – has also risen.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System said that checks were up by about 38% last month compared with December 2014.

Smith & Wesson’s trading update said that for the three months ending January 31 it expected sales to be about $175 million-$180 million. Earlier guidance put the likely figure at between $150 million and $155 million.Gun sales and control measures

The gunmaker said that “the sell-through rate of its products at distribution has been stronger than originally anticipated, resulting in reduced distributor inventories of its firearms”. That means guns are being bought faster than Smith & Wesson is supplying them.

The company said its net profit was $14.2 million for the period, compared with $5.2 million for the same period last year.

In December, Smith & Wesson reported that profits had nearly tripled for the three months to October and net sales have increased 38% over the last five years.

On January 4, the White House unveiled proposals for gun control measures that require more sellers to get licenses and more gun buyers to undergo background checks.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will require that people who sell guns at stores, at gun shows or over the internet be licensed and conduct checks.

The bureau is also finalizing a rule requiring background checks for buyers of dangerous weapons from a trust, corporation or other legal entity.

News of the stronger gun market saw Smith & Wesson’s shares up 11% on January 5, despite stock markets in general falling sharply. Competitor Sturm Ruger’s share rose 7.28% to a 52-week high.


President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases at the White House, saying the “constant excuses for inaction” have to stop.

The White House has outlined Barack Obama’s plans for executive action, which focus on background checks.

Most of the actions can be carried out without Congressional approval.

“That’s why we’re here, not to do something about the last mass shooting, but to prevent the next one,” Barack Obama said.

“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” he said.

Barack Obama gave his remarks surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings, recalling mass shootings across the United States in the past few years and everyday gun violence in cities like Chicago.

Gun violence is significantly higher in the US than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year.Barack Obama gun control speech

Congress has been reluctant to pass any laws restricting gun ownership, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.

Barack Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.

The executive actions include:

  • Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers
  • States providing information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence
  • Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners
  • Congress being asked to invest $500 million to improve access to mental healthcare in the US
  • The departments of defense, justice and homeland security exploring “smart gun technology” to improve gun safety

The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted: “@POTUS is right: We can protect the second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to.”

Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions are unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says “Obama wants your guns” with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.

Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.

During Barack Obama’s speech, comedian Amy Schumer, cousin of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, was in the audience. Two women died in a shooting at a movie theatre in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Trainwreck.

Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a shooting, was there as well, in addition to many relatives of victims and survivors of mass shooting.


President Barack Obama has announced he will take unilateral action to tackle the gun violence in the United States.

In his first weekly address of 2016, Barack Obama said he would meet Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss actions he could take.

Barack Obama said he was using his executive powers as president because the US Congress has failed to address the problem.

Analysts say there will be a backlash from gun activists and Republicans.

However, Barack Obama told Americans that he had received too many letters from parents, and teachers, and children, to sit around and do nothing.

“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence,” he said.Barack Obama gun control laws

“But what if we tried to stop even one? What if Congress did something – anything – to protect our kids from gun violence?”

Barack Obama has admitted that his inability to win Congressional backing for what he called “common sense gun laws” was the greatest frustration of his presidency.

The president could use his executive authority in several areas, including expanding new background check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume dealers.

However, he is likely to face stiff opposition to his plans.

The National Rifle Association has already launched a video series attacking gun control activists.

In Texas, a new “open carry law” will allow Texans with a permit to wear handguns on their hips in holsters – openly displaying the fact they are armed.

Last month a Texas police chief warned the president that trying to disarm Americans could spark a revolution.

Previous efforts to introduce stricter gun control laws have repeatedly foundered despite the large number of people dying in gun attacks.

A joint Democrat-Republican bill following the 2012 shooting of 20 children and six adults at a primary school in Connecticut failed to get the 60 votes needed to broaden background checks and ban assault weapons.

President Barack Obama has said the climate deal reached at Paris summit is “the best chance we have to save the one planet we have”.

He said it could be a “turning point” for the world to take on the challenge of a low-carbon future.

China, the world’s biggest polluter, also hailed the deal. However, some campaigners said it did not go far enough to protect the planet.

The Paris Agreement aims to curb global warming to less than 2C (3.6F)

Nearly 200 countries took part in tense negotiations in Paris over two weeks, striking the first deal to commit all nations to cut emissions.

The agreement – which is partly legally binding and partly voluntary – will come into being in 2020.Barack Obama on Paris climate change deal

Describing the agreement as “ambitious”, Barack Obama said: “Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one.

“In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investments.”

However, the US president admitted that the pact was not “perfect”.

China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua agreed that the Paris plan was not ideal. But he added that “this does not prevent us from marching historical steps forward”.

China earlier said rich developed countries needed to offer more financial support to developing countries.

Giza Gaspar Martins, the chairman of the group representing some of the world’s poorest countries, said: “It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world.”

However, Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations.”

Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.

However, the targets set by nations will not be binding under the deal struck in Paris.


President Barack Obama has delivered a rare Oval Office address after the last week’s San Bernardino attack that left 14 dead.

Barack Obama said the killings were “an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people”.

“Freedom is more powerful than fear,” the president said, warning that falling prey to divisiveness in American society would play into the hands of extremists.

Barack Obama also said the US must make it harder for potential attackers to obtain guns.

The president vowed that the US would overcome the evolving threat of terrorism, but warned that Americans “cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam”.Barack Obama Oval Office address December 2015

“If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate,” Barack Obama said.

He reminded his audience that Muslim-Americans were part of US society.

“And, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that,” he said.

Barack Obama warned that turning against America’s Muslim communities would be exactly what Islamist extremists in the so-called Islamic State group want.

The president told Americans that terrorism had entered a new phase, from large scale attacks by al-Qaeda to less complicated attacks by radicalized individuals.

He said the US would draw upon “every aspect of American power” to combat ISIS.

Barack Obama underscored that the US and its allies have increased their bombing of Islamic State oil infrastructure and would continue to train and equip moderate rebels in Iraq and Syria.

“Our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary,” he said.

Barack Obama added that there are a number of things that can be done on home soil to combat terrorism.

He called for stricter gun control and said he had ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the K-1 fiancé visa program under which the female attacker in San Bernardino originally entered the US.

This was only the third Oval Office address of Barack Obama’s presidency – they are reserved for events of national importance.

Barack Obama’s speech was in response to a mass shooting by a married couple that left 14 dead.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, opened fire on an office Christmas party and were later killed in a shootout with police.

In his speech, the president characterized ISIS as “thugs and killers”, adding: “The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.”

The group said in a radio broadcast that the couple that Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were ISIS supporters, but gave no indication that ISIS was involved in the attack’s planning.

The FBI is also looking into reports Tashfeen Malik posted a message on Facebook pledging allegiance to ISIS around the time of the attacks.

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik used handguns and semi-automatic weapons that had been legally purchased in the US, police say.

Bomb equipment, weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were later found in their home.

The San Bernardino attack is the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 26 people were killed at a school in Connecticut in 2012.

The authorities said there was no indication so far the killers were part of an “organized group or formed part of a broader terrorist cell”.


President Barack Obama has urged Turkey and Russia to end their dispute, a week after Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane.

After talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Paris, Barack Obama reaffirmed US support for “Turkey’s right to defend itself and its airspace”.

However, the US president stressed that Russia and Turkey should “de-escalate” their dispute.

“We all have a common enemy,” Barack Obama said, referring to ISIS.Barack Obama on Russian warplane downing

“I want to make sure that we focus on that threat,” he said.

“Turkey is a NATO ally,” Barack Obama added.

“And we’re very much committed to Turkey’s security and its sovereignty. We discussed how Turkey and Russia can work together to de-escalate tensions and find a diplomatic path to resolve this issue.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke to reporters after December 1 meeting. He said his government wanted to reduce tensions and was “determined to keep up the fight” against ISIS.

Barack Obama and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among 150 leaders attending climate change talks in Paris.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his criticism of Russian air strikes against Turkmen rebels in north-western Syria, complaining that the area is being “continuously bombed”.

Moscow says Turkey shot down its SU-24 warplane inside Syria on November 24.

Turkey says the fighter jet entered its airspace and was repeatedly warned to leave before it was downed.

Russia has insisted its warplane did not cross the border and that it gave advance notice of the flight path to the US.

One Russian pilot was killed and the other rescued. A Russian marine was killed during the rescue operation.

Russia is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes have targeted rebel groups, including ISIS.

Turkey strongly opposes Bashar al-Assad and has been accused of turning a blind eye to jihadist fighters crossing from its territory into Syria.


President Barack Obama has admitted that he does not dye his hair, unlike other world leaders.

Barack Obama, 54, was responding to a Cambodian student who asked him for wise advice.

The president participated in a town hall meeting with Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) attendees at Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 20, 2015, before attending the ASEAN summit meeting.

Barack Obama entered office in 2009 with dark black hair, however in recent years it has turned markedly more grey.Barack Obama hair dye

The color of a president’s hair has been controversial at times, with some leaders keeping secret the fact that they dyed their hair.

Barack Obama told the student: “The first thing I want from young people is to stop calling me old.

“I don’t dye my hair and a lot of world leaders do.

“I won’t say who. But their barbers know, their hairdressers.”

President Ronald Reagan never admitted to dying his jet-black hair, and his barber never spilled the beans, either.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder once sued a news agency for claiming that he hued his hair.


Dozens of Democrats joined Republicans as the House of Representatives has passed a bill that tightens restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, amid security concerns.

The House passed the measure 289-137, in a rebuke to the White House.

President Barack Obama has said he will veto the legislation.

The bill follows the ISIS-led attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead.

Seven of the perpetrators died in the attacks, and one of them is thought to have been a Syrian who entered Europe via Greece with migrants.

The bill still needs to pass the Senate before hitting Barack Obama’s desk.

Photo AP

Photo AP

It would require the head of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence to sign off on each refugee as being “not a threat to the security of the United States,” following an FBI background check.

Calling the Paris attacks “a game changer”, Rep Brad Ashford, a Democrat from Nebraska, said: “I cannot sit back and ignore the concerns of my constituents and the American public.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he supported the bill because “it is against the values of our nation and the values of a free society to give terrorists the opening they are looking for”.

Others urged compassion for those fleeing the war-torn regions.

“Defeating terrorism should not mean slamming the door in the faces of those fleeing the terrorists,” said Rep Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York.

“We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty.”

Republicans do not have the votes to override Barack Obama’s veto, but say that their affirmative vote in symbolic.

Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky who is currently running for president, has highlighted a 2011 case in his home state of two Iraqi refugees who schemed to send rifles, missiles and money to al-Qaeda against US troops in Iraqi. They are now imprisoned.

The White House has said that 2,174 Syrians have been admitted to the US since the attacks in September 2001, and noted that none of them has been arrested or deported for terror offences.

Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and to Europe since the Syrian conflict began about four years ago.

The Obama administration announced in September that it wanted to resettle about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the US by the same time in 2016.


Speaking during a joint session of both houses of parliament President Francois Hollande has said that France is committed to “destroying” ISIS after last week’s deadly attacks.

Francois Holland said he would table a bill to extend the state of emergency declared after the attacks for three months and would suggest changes to the constitution.

France’s military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria will also intensify.

ISIS says it carried out the attacks on bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and Stade de France in which 129 people died.Francois Hollande speech Paris attacks

Francois Hollande said the constitution needed to be amended as “we need an appropriate tool we can use without having to resort to the state of emergency”.

He said he would travel to meet Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in the coming days to discuss action against the group.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris on November 16 to show support for “America’s oldest friend” against what he called “psychopathic monsters”.

At a G20 summit in Turkey, world leaders promised tighter co-operation in the wake of the attacks.

Barack Obama said the US and France had made a new agreement on intelligence sharing but said US military advisers thought sending ground troops to combat ISIS would be a mistake.

In his address, Francois Hollande reiterated his opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power but said “our enemy in Syria is Daesh [ISIS]”.

He promised more resources for the security forces and said the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier would be sent on November 19 to bolster the military campaign against ISIS.

On November 15, French aircraft attacked Raqqa, ISIS stronghold in Syria. French officials said 10 jets had dropped 20 guided bombs targeting sites including a command centre, a recruitment centre for jihadists, a munitions depot and a training camp.

ISIS has issued a statement saying the raid targeted empty locations and that there were no casualties.


President Barack Obama has rejected an application to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

Speaking from the White House, Barack Obama said it would not have served the “national interests” of the US.

The pipeline’s construction has been hotly disputed for seven years, with environmentalists saying it would do irreparable damage.

However, Barack Obama said the pipeline had taken on an “overinflated role” in the climate change debate.

The proposed pipeline would have run 1,179-miles taking 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska.

Barack Obama said it would not have lowered petrol prices, nor created long-term jobs affected energy dependence.

“The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy,” he said.

Republican presidential candidates condemned the news, with Jeb Bush calling it an attack on the US economy.Keystone pipeline

In February, the Republican-led Congress voted to begin construction immediately, but Barack Obama vetoed the bill to await environmental reports.

The decision comes as world leaders plan to meet in Paris at the end of the month to finalize a major global climate agreement.

The agreement, which could be reached at the meeting known as the UN Climate Change Conference or COP 21, would be a major part of the president’s legacy.

While the project is dead for now, the pipeline controversy will not end any time soon.

Proponents will almost certainly challenge the decision in court and if a Republican is elected president in 2016, construction could yet be approved.

The Keystone XL pipeline also generated controversy outside of Washington, souring relations between the former Canadian PM Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama said he had spoken to newly-elected Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and they agreed the issue of climate change trumped any differences of opinion over the pipeline.

President Barack Obama intends to rule on the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline before the end of his term, the White House said.

TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, had wanted to delay the approval process until after his term.

The White House said on November 3 “there might be politics at play” in the decision by TransCanada.

Some analysts think the company is waiting in hopes that the next president would welcome the project.

TransCanada had complained for years about delays from the Obama administration and had aggressively urged that the project be approved as quickly as possible.

The Keystone XL would send more than 800,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil to Nebraska. From there, the oil would travel to refineries and ports along the US Gulf Coast.

Photo ABC

Photo ABC

The project has pitted Republicans and other supporters – who say it will create much needed jobs – against many Democrats and environmentalists, who warn the pipeline will add to carbon emissions and contribute to global warming.

President Barack Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the pipeline in February.

All the Democratic candidates for president – including front-runner Hillary Clinton – oppose the project. The Republican field supports the pipeline.

Outgoing Canadian PM Stephen Harper was a strong proponent of the pipeline, but his successor Justin Trudeau – while supportive – is less bullish on the scheme.

The Keystone XL pipeline project was first proposed more than six years ago, but has languished, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an international boundary.


President Barack Obama has hit out at his Republican rivals likening them to “Grumpy Cat”, the notoriously unhappy feline.

As he addressed the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum on October 23, Barack Obama accused the Republicans of being “so down on America” and always suggesting that “everything is terrible”.

Photo ABC News

Photo ABC News

“I mean, they are…They are gloomy. They are like Grumpy Cat,” Barack Obama added, referencing the feline internet sensation.

The comparison was accompanied by an imitation of the Grumpy Cat frown – an image familiar to fans of the Internet meme that ultimately spawned a product line and a Christmas movie.

“I mean, I know it’s political season, but you listen to [the Republicans] and they’ve constructed this entire separate reality. It’s like the Twilight Zone,” Barack Obama continued.

Several times during his 23-minute speech, Barack Obama referred to Republicans’ statements as “crazy”.