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Joe Biden


VP Joe Biden has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.

President Barack Obama praised Joe Biden for his “faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and your lifetime of service”.

The award comes as both men prepare to leave office when Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20.

The vice-president has said he plans to stay active in Democratic Party politics.

A visibly emotional Joe Biden stood by as President Obama heaped praise on what he called the “best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people”.

According to the New York Times, the medal was awarded with distinction.

Image source NBC News

That additional honor has been reserved in recent administrations for just a handful of recipients, including Pope John Paul II.

Barack Obama joked that the internet would have one last chance to mock the pair’s “bromance”.

Joe Biden said he was “part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things”.

The vice-president said that he had had no idea the award was coming.

“I had no inkling. I thought we were coming over to Michelle for you, Jill and Barack and I and a couple of senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.

“Mr. President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill but I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room.

“Mr. President, I’m indebted to you. I’m indebted to your friendship. I’m indebted to your family.”

Barack Obama said that Joe Biden’s career was “nowhere close to finished” both at home or abroad.

The vice-president has said he plans to work on policy issues at institutes at the University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania, and continue his efforts tackling cancer, which claimed his son Beau in 2015.

Joe Biden gave an hour-long interview with media outlets on January 12 in which he strongly criticized Donald Trump for his condemnation of the US intelligence services.


“It is really very damaging in my view to our standing in the world for a president to take one of the crown jewels of our national defense and denigrate it,” he said.

“It plays into, particularly now, the Russian narrative that America doesn’t know what it’s doing.”

However, Joe Biden was full of praise for his successor, Mike Pence, saying he had sent him memos on how to handle certain situations.

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Vice-President Joe Biden has told Donald Trump to “grow up” and criticized his attacks on the intelligence community.

On January 6, Donald Trump will be briefed on allegations that Russia meddled in the US presidential election – claims he has cast doubt on.

Joe Biden said it was “absolutely mindless” for Donald Trump not to have faith in intelligence agencies.

Russia denies hacking alleged to have helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

On January 5, the president-elect questioned how intelligence agencies were confident about the alleged Russian hacking “if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers” belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

In an interview with the PBS, Donald Trump: “For a president not to have confidence in, not to be prepared to listen to, the myriad intelligence agencies, from defense intelligence to the CIA, is absolutely mindless.

“The idea that you may know more than the intelligence community knows – it’s like saying I know more about physics than my professor. I didn’t read the book, I just know I know more.”

When asked what he thought of Donald Trump’s regular attacks on Twitter, Joe Biden said: “Grow up Donald, grow up, time to be an adult, you’re president. Time to do something. Show us what you have.”

Photo AP

The VP went on to call Donald Trump “a good man”.

Joe Biden said he had read a US intelligence agencies report outlining Russian involvement, the details of which are starting to emerge in media.

According to the Washington Post and NBC News citing intelligence sources, agencies had intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election showing senior Russian government officials celebrating Donald Trump’s win over rival Hillary Clinton.

US authorities had also identified Russian actors who delivered stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website.

NBC News says the alleged Russian hacking targeted not just the DNC but also the White House, joint chiefs of staff, the department of state and large US corporations.

An unclassified version will be made public next week.

Joe Biden said the report clearly details “that the Russians did, as a matter of policy, attempt to affect and… discredit the US electoral process”.

He said the hacking was part of a systematic campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta was among those hacked on the DNC server.

On January 5, the Director of National Intelligence, Gen James Clapper, told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hack, and said the motive would be revealed next week.

President Barack Obama last week ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US over the alleged hacking. Russia has said it will not reciprocate.

Donald Trump has repeatedly rejected allegations that the Russian government hacked into the computers of John Podesta or the servers of the DNC.

On January 4, the president-elect repeated a suggestion that “a 14-year-old” may have been responsible for the breach.

On January 5, he said he was a “big fan” of intelligence agencies, after months of casting doubt on the Russian link, but later went on to raise questions over how the Democratic Party responded to the security breach.

Last week, Donald Trump said he would announce information about hacking “on Tuesday or Wednesday”, but no announcement came.

Joe Biden will not run for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 White House race.

The 72-year-old vice-president said his family was ready after the death of his son, Beau Biden, earlier this year, but he had now run out of time.

He also said it would be a mistake for Democrats to turn their backs on President Barack Obama’s record.

Democrats seeking an alternative to frontrunner Hillary Clinton had been urging Joe Biden to run.

Though he will not be a candidate, Joe Biden said he “will not be silent”.

“I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully on where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation.”

Joe Biden said any candidate would be making a “tragic mistake” to reject the Obama legacy, and urged an end to political bickering.

“I believe we have to end the divisive, partisan politics ripping apart this country,” he said as he stood in the Rose Garden of the White House, flanked by his wife Jill and President Barack Obama.Joe Biden White House 2016

Repeating a dig at Hillary Clinton that he has made several times this week, he said it was wrong to see Republicans as enemies.

When asked at last week’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton said she was proud of making an enemy out of Republicans.

In explaining his decision not to join the race, after three months pondering it, Joe Biden said his family had “reached a point” where they felt they could cope with his third presidential run, but time was now against him.

Beau Biden died from brain cancer in May, another family tragedy for the former Delaware senator after the deaths of his baby daughter and first wife in 1972.

Joe Biden then rose through the Senate ranks and ran for president in 1988 and 2008.

After hearing the news, presidential candidates for 2016 tweeted their well wishes.

Bernie Sanders also tweeted that he supported Joe Biden’s plans to make college free, fight economic inequality and close tax loopholes.

Democratic candidate Martin O’ Malley tweeted that he respected Joe Biden’s decision and that he is “one of the most decent, compassionate public servants our nation has produced”.

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VP Joe Biden has called Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, who killed four marines and a sailor in Chattanooga in July, a “perverted jihadist”, despite no official determination of motive.

Speaking at a memorial service in the Tennessee town, Joe Biden also called the suspect a “perverse ideologue”.

According to authorities, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez acted alone when he attacked two military facilities in Chattanooga.

However, the FBI has said it has not yet been able to establish a motive.

Joe Biden was joined by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and families of the victims for the service, a month on from the July 16 attack.

The vice president alluded to the recent loss of his own son Beau Biden, a former attorney general of Delaware who died from brain cancer in May.

“I wish I were not here,” he told the families.

Photo AP

Photo AP

“I have some sense of how hard it is for you to be here.”

“I didn’t have the privilege of knowing any one of them personally but oh, I knew them,” Joe Biden added.

“Confident, determined, trustworthy, compassionate and always, always loyal. I knew them. They were my son. And so many other sons I know.”

FBI investigators say Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, acted alone in the crime but say they are still unsure whether he was inspired by radical ideology or driven by mental illness as his family has suggested.

“The meaning of their killing is yet unclear, what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology was at work, we don’t know,” said Ashton Carter.

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a former engineering student, was shot dead by police after opening fire at a military recruitment centre and later a reserve centre 7 miles away.

Ashton Carter has ordered the military to review its procedures for protecting American troops inside the US and to step up security at recruiting stations.

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President Barack Obama has delivered an emotional eulogy at the funeral of Beau Biden, the son of Vice-President Joe Biden.

Former Delaware Attorney-General Beau Biden died on May 30 from brain cancer at the age of 46.

Beau Biden was seen as a rising star of US politics but suffered from health problems in recent years.

He had intended to run for Delaware state governor in 2016.

Barack Obama said: “Beau Biden was an original. He was a good man. A man of character. A man who loved deeply and was loved in return.”

About 1,000 people – including Bill and Hillary Clinton and numerous other top politicians – attended the funeral at a Roman Catholic church in Wilmington, the largest city in the state of Delaware.

Joe Biden led a procession into the church with his family at the beginning of the service.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Mourners heard Barack Obama describing Beau Biden as a public servant who learned through early tragedy what mattered most and as a result decided upon living “a life of meaning” that would inspire those around him.

“He was a scion of an incredible family, who brushed away the possibility of privilege for the harder, better reward of earning his own way,” the president said.

Barack Obama described Beau Biden as a son, a father, a soldier and a politician who refused to take short cuts in his determination to serve his country and others.

He said that a “cruel twist of fate” killed Beau Biden’s mother and infant sister in a car crash four decades ago and left Beau – three years old at the time – and his younger brother Hunter in hospital.

Coldplay singer Chris Martin was a soloist at the service – he volunteered to perform after hearing that Beau Biden liked the band.

Beau Biden was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2013 and underwent treatment that was initially successful. However, the cancer recurred earlier this year.

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Vladimir Putin is to discuss a peace plan for east Ukraine with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders by phone.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are pushing a plan to end bloody fighting between government and rebel forces.

Meeting the Russian president in Moscow on February 6, they agreed to four-way talks with Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko on February 8.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the east since April.

Thousands more have been injured and more than a million have fled their homes.

Ukraine’s military reported continued shelling on February 7, accusing the rebels of preparing new offensives, while the rebels accused the government itself of attacking along the line dividing their forces.

Petro Poroshenko has called on the West for support up to and including weapons.Ukraine peace plan Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko

He made the plea at a security conference in Munich on February 7, when he brandished passports that he said were those of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Russia denies intervening directly in eastern Ukraine.

Angela Merkel told the conference in Munich that there was no guarantee diplomacy would succeed but it was “definitely worth trying”.

The plan is thought to be an attempt to revive a failed ceasefire deal signed in Minsk, in Belarus, in September. Since then, the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.

Francois Hollande said it would include a demilitarized zone of 31-44 miles around the current front line.

The French leader has described the Franco-German plan as “one of the last chances” to end the conflict.

“If we fail to find a lasting peace agreement, we know the scenario perfectly well – it has a name, it is called war,” Francois Hollande said.

The US is said to be considering pleas to send weapons to Ukraine.

Angela Merkel, however, said she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

The statement put Angela Merkel in opposition to NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force general Philip Breedlove, who told reporters that Western allies should not “preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option”.

Vice-President Joe Biden said the US would “continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself”.

“Let me be clear – we do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine,” Joe Biden said.

“But let me be equally clear – we do not believe Russia has the right to do what they’re doing.”

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The US has expanded visa restrictions on unnamed Venezuelan officials it accuses of human rights violations and corruption.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said the measures were an attempt to violate Venezuelan sovereignty.

They build on sanctions imposed last year on officials alleged to have violated the rights of protesters.

The list of officials banned from entering the US has been extended, and now includes family members.

“We are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States,” said US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Nicolas Maduro reacted angrily and said he would write a letter to President Barack Obama.

“We can’t let an empire that has been eyeing all of us pretend or think it has the right to sanction the country of [Simon] Bolivar,” Nicolas Maduro said, making reference to the Venezuela-born hero of Latin American liberation.Nicolas Maduro and Joe Biden in Brazil

The sanctions imposed in December were aimed at officials accused over their role in suppressing anti-government protests that shook Venezuela in the first six months of 2014.

The new visa restrictions were announced a day after Nicolas Maduro accused Vice-President Joe Biden of plotting a coup against his Socialist government during an energy summit of Caribbean leaders in Washington.

Joe Biden’s office called the allegation “baseless and patently false”.

“President Maduro’s accusations are clearly part of an effort to distract from the concerning situation in Venezuela, which includes repeated violations of freedom of speech, assembly, and due process,” read a statement.

Joe Biden and Nicolas Maduro had shaken hands in Brazil during Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s inauguration ceremony on January 1.

“Vice-President Biden: Look me in the eyes. I saw you in Brazil, I gave you my hand,” said Nicolas Maduro in a televised address on February 1.

“You, who said this is a new era for relations in Latin America, were going to conspire against Venezuela,” he added.

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been tense for many years. They last had ambassadors in each other’s capitals in 2010.

According to Secret Service officials, shots were fired near Vice-President Joe Biden’s house in the state of Delaware, but he was away at the time.

The shots were fired on January 17 from a public road in Greenville, outside a security perimeter, Robert Hoback said.

The road is several hundred feet from the house, and officials were searching to see if the shots had hit anything.

The incident, which happened at about 20:25 on Saturday, is under investigation.

The Secret Service said the vehicle from which the shots were fired “drove by the vice president’s residence at a high rate of speed”.Shots fired near Joe Biden's house in Delaware

“The shots were heard by Secret Service personnel posted at the residence, and a vehicle was observed by an agent leaving the scene at a high rate of speed,” it said.

Joe Biden’s office says the vice-president and his wife, Jill, were later briefed on the incident.

One man was arrested later nearby but it is not known if he was directly involved in the shooting.

The Bidens spend many weekends at the Delaware house, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The incident comes four months after an intruder armed with a knife managed to dodge guards and enter the White House.

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Cleveland house of horrors survivors Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus met with President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden last month at the White House.

Amanda Berry, 28, told People magazine: “It was one of the most unbelievable moments in my life.”

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus met with President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden at the White House

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus met with President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden at the White House (photo White House)

Gina DeJesus, 24, said she particularly liked talking to VP Joe Biden because he was “very down-to-earth”. She added that she appreciated how much time VP Joe Biden, a longtime advocate of ending violence against women, spent with them and their families.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus visited the White House with Amanda’s older sister Beth Serrano and Gina’s parents.

While the two women were meeting with Joe Biden in the West Wing, President Barack Obama swung by to say hello and the group snapped a picture.
The family trip to D.C. was paid for by the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children and marked the girls’ first flight.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were also treated to a salon visit and a shopping spree.

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President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden are taking part in First Lady Michelle Obama’s health campaign Let’s Move by making a film while jogging around the White House.

Michelle Obama’s initiative intends to fight childhood obesity by encouraging healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden are taking part in First Lady Michelle Obama’s health campaign Let's Move by making a film while jogging around the White House

President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden are taking part in First Lady Michelle Obama’s health campaign Let’s Move by making a film while jogging around the White House

The first lady has unveiled new changes to US nutrition labels, the most sweeping overhaul in more than two decades.

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US Vice-President Joe Biden has arrived in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

His visit to Asia has been dominated by a row over China’s newly-declared air zone, which covers East China Sea disputed islands controlled by Japan.

Joe Biden arrived from Tokyo, where he reaffirmed the US alliance with Japan.

The vice-president attended an official welcome ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People where he met China’s Vice-President Li Yuanchao, and said China and the US should expand practical co-operation and deliver results.

On Thursday he will visit China’s leadership compound, known as Zhongnanhai.

While in Tokyo, Joe Biden said he would raise concerns over China’s new air zone “in great specificity” during meetings with China’s leaders.

Jo Biden and Xi Jinping are said to enjoy a relatively close relationship.

Joe Biden has arrived in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang

Joe Biden has arrived in Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang

China announced a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) last month, and said aircraft flying through the zone must follow its rules, including filing flight plans.

The ADIZ covers islands claimed and controlled by Japan, and a submerged rock claimed by South Korea.

The US, Japan and South Korea have rejected China’s zone, and flown undeclared military aircraft through the ADIZ.

On Friday, China scrambled fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese planes flying in the area.

Tokyo has told its national carriers not to file flight plans with the Chinese side when transiting the zone, but on Friday the US said it expected its carriers to “operate consistent with Notams [Notices to Airmen] issued by foreign countries”.

This did not indicate “US government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly-declared ADIZ”, the state department said.

Speaking in Tokyo on Tuesday, Joe Biden said the US was “deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea.”

On Wednesday, Chinese state media criticized Joe Biden’s comments.

“Washington has obviously taken Japan’s side,” state-run newspaper China Daily said in an editorial.

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Vice-President Joe Biden said at the beginning of a tour of East Asia that the US remains “deeply concerned” about China’s new air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

In written responses to Japan’s Asahi newspaper, Joe Biden said China and Japan had to establish measures to lower tensions.

Joe Biden arrived in Tokyo late on Monday and will then head to Beijing and Seoul during his six-day visit.

The air zone row is likely to dominate the week of talks.

Joe Biden’s most important task this week will be persuading Beijing and Tokyo to stop baiting each other, and to start talking about how to avoid an unintended clash.

Both the US and Japan have voiced strong criticism of China’s establishment of an ADIZ that includes islands claimed and controlled by Japan. It also includes a submerged rock claimed by South Korea.

China says aircraft operating within its ADIZ must follow certain rules such as filing flight plans, or face “defensive emergency measures”.

US, Japanese and South Korean military aircraft have all defied these rules and Japanese commercial carriers have agreed to a government request not to comply.

On Friday, China scrambled fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese planes flying in the area.

Joe Biden told the newspaper that the establishment of the ADIZ underscored “the need for agreement between China and Japan to establish crisis management and confidence building measures to lower tensions”.

Joe Biden arrived in Tokyo late on Monday and will then head to Beijing and Seoul during his six-day visit

Joe Biden arrived in Tokyo late on Monday and will then head to Beijing and Seoul during his six-day visit

As well as “the strength of our alliance commitments” with Japan, he planned to “emphasize the importance of avoiding actions that could undermine peace, security and prosperity in the region”, he said.

Joe Biden was met at the airport late on Monday by the new US envoy to Japan, Caroline Kennedy. Later on Tuesday, he meets Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.

Shinzo Abe said on Sunday that he expected to discuss the ADIZ issue with Joe Biden.

Tokyo has told its national carriers JAL and ANA not to file flight plans with the Chinese side when transiting the zone, but on Friday the US said it expected its carriers to “operate consistent with Notams (Notices to Airmen) issued by foreign countries”.

This did not indicate “US government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly-declared ADIZ”, the state department said.

Shinzo Abe said on Sunday he expected to have “in-depth” talks with Joe Biden about the ADIZ row.

Japan, he said, would “resolutely but calmly deal with Beijing’s attempt to change the status quo” in the region.

Tensions between Japan and China have been high for months because of a territorial row over islands in the East China Sea.

Japan controls the islands, which are called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. They are also claimed by Taiwan and lie in a strategically important area south of Japan and north of Taiwan.

The US has described China’s move as destabilizing.

After Tokyo, VP Joe Biden heads to Beijing for talks with President Xi Jinping and then travels on to South Korea.

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The White House has potsponed a meeting with Democrats and Republicans congressional leaders as lawmakers continue talks on raising the nation’s debt limit.

The talks were to take place between President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The US government shutdown, also a result of the political deadlock, has now entered its third week.

Officials warn of economic calamity should the US default on its debt.

In a statement, the White House said Monday afternoon’s meeting had been postponed to “allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress towards a solution that raises the debt limit and reopens the government”.

It is unclear when it will be rescheduled.

The White House has potsponed a meeting with Democrats and Republicans congressional leaders as lawmakers continue talks on raising the nation's debt limit

The White House has potsponed a meeting with Democrats and Republicans congressional leaders as lawmakers continue talks on raising the nation’s debt limit

President Barack Obama sounded his own warning as he toured a soup kitchen for the poor in Washington D.C. earlier on Monday.

“This week if we don’t start making some real progress, both the House and the Senate – and if Republicans aren’t willing to set aside their partisan concerns in order to do what’s right for the country – we stand a good chance of defaulting,” he said.

“And defaulting would have a potentially devastating effect on our economy.”

Barack Obama said he saw “some progress” in the talks, ahead of Thursday’s deadline for the US to raise its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit or risk default on its debt.

Expected to attend the White House meeting were Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

On Monday, Harry Reid told the Senate he was “very optimistic we will reach an agreement”. Mr McConnell also expressed optimism, following what he described as “a couple of very useful discussions” with the Democratic leader.

Republican Senator Susan Collins acknowledged the Senate did not have a finished agreement, but said senators were “making very good progress”.

A separate bipartisan group led by Susan Collins also met for several hours earlier in the day to discuss possible solutions, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Congressional Democrats are now said to be using the looming debt ceiling deadline as leverage to push back against previously enacted cuts to the US government budget.

Those deep military and domestic spending cuts, known as the “sequester”, went into effect in January 2013 after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a budget compromise.

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President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures.

Barack Obama said a “limited” strike was needed to degrade President Bashar al-Assad’s capabilities in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Key Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor both signaled their support for military action. Congress is expected to vote next week.

The UN earlier confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees.

More than 100,000 people are thought to have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden met House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen and ranking members from the national security committees in Washington on Tuesday.

John Boehner signaled his support for Barack Obama’s call for action, saying that only the US had the capacity to stop President Bashar al-Assad. John Boehner urged his colleagues in Congress to follow suit.

Eric Cantor, the House of Representatives majority leader, said he also backed Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures

President Barack Obama’s plans for a military strike on Syria have won backing from key US political figures

The Virginia Republican said: “Assad’s Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, is the epitome of a rogue state, and it has long posed a direct threat to American interests and to our partners.”

Nancy Pelosi said she did not believe Congress would reject a resolution calling for force.

Barack Obama said that Bashar al-Assad had to be held accountable for the chemical attack and that he was confident Congress would back him.

He said he was proposing military action that would degrade Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons “now and in the future”.

“What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional,” the president said.

“At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the top US military officer, Gen Martin Dempsey, are appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

John Kerry told the panel that US allies such as Israel and Jordan were “one stiff breeze” away from potentially being hurt by any fresh chemical weapons attacks, and that US inaction would only embolden the Syrian president.

“This is not the time for armchair isolationism,” John Kerry said.

“This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter. Neither our country nor out conscience can afford the cost of silence.

“We have spoken up against unspeakable horror many times in the past. Now we must stand up and act.”

But John Kerry said again that there would be no American boots on the ground in Syria and that Barack Obama was “not asking America to go to war”.

Chuck Hagel said that “the word of the United States must mean something” and echoed John Kerry when adding: “A refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America’s other security commitments, including the president’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

There will also be a classified briefing for all members of Congress.

Barack Obama will head to Sweden late on Tuesday for a G20 meeting sure to be dominated by Syria.

France has strongly backed the US plan for military action.

President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday: “When a chemical massacre takes place, when the world is informed of it, when the evidence is delivered, when the guilty parties are known, then there must be an answer.”

Francois Hollande called for Europe to unite on the issue, but said he would wait for the Congress vote.

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A complete list of the gifts received by US officials from foreign leaders last year, as well as a couple dozen from previous years, were disclosed by the State Department on Thursday.

The lavish gifts include diamond-and-ruby-encrusted jewels worth $500,000 received by Hillary Clinton from the Saudi Arabian king.

Hillary Clinton’s gifts from King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz – which included a necklace, bracelet, earrings and a ring – were by far the most expensive items among the hundreds of gifts given to U.S. officials in 2012.

The gift-giving continues a long-held tradition of international diplomacy, in which the wealthy and powerful show their appreciation for one another by exchanging artwork, jewelry, electronics and other presents.

Most of the items are required to be donated to the national archives, though a few may be kept depending on their value. The Hill newspaper first reported on the gifts.

In addition to her jewels from Saudi Arabia, Hillary Clinton also received wine from Algeria; a two-piece bronze sculpture of a red chili pepper from Singapore; a cuff bracelet, necklace and earrings from Kazakhstan; caviar and a wool carpet from Azerbaijan; Cognac from Russia; gold, sapphire and diamond jewelry worth $58,000 from Brunei; and a sword from Yemen.

Among President Obama’s gifts were: Christmas mugs, coffee, and steak knives from Brunei; a basketball autographed by Chinese President Xi Jinping; a ‘silver figure representing [an] oversized coffee bean’ from Colombia; a leather wallet and tote bag from France; a porcelain vase decorated with images of the White House and Kremlin from Russia; a chest of liquor and a Coca-Cola bottle decorated with beads from Mexico; and a 41-inch saber from Mongolia.

Hillary Clinton received $500,000 diamond-and-ruby-encrusted jewels from Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz

Hillary Clinton received $500,000 diamond-and-ruby-encrusted jewels from Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz

Gifts were also given to Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, former CIA Chief David Petraeus and Chief Justice John Roberts, among others.

Joe Biden’s gifts included a silver knife and chopsticks from Mongolia, a leather cigar box from Mexico, and a female bare-breasted bust from Liberia.

In every case, officials accepted the items because “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and US”, according to a document provided by the State Department.

SAMPLING OF ITEMS RECEIVED BY US OFFICIALS:

President Barack Obama’s gifts included:

  • Christmas mugs, coffee, and steak knives from Brunei
  • Basketball autographed by Chinese President Xi Jinping
  • “Silver figure representing [an] oversized coffee bean” from Colombia
  • Leather wallet and tote bag from France
  • Porcelain vase decorated with images of the White House and Kremlin from Russia
  • Chest of liquor and a Coca-Cola bottle decorated with beads from Mexico
  • 41-inch saber from Mongolia

Hillary Clinton’s gifts included:

  • Wine from Algeria
  • Two-piece bronze sculpture of a red chili pepper from Singapore
  • Cuff bracelet, necklace and earrings from Kazakhstan
  • Caviar and a wool carpet from Azerbaijan
  • Cognac from Russia
  • Gold, sapphire and diamond jewelry worth $58,000 from Brunei
  • Sword from Yemen

Joe Biden’s gifts included:

  • Silver knife and chopsticks from Mongolia
  • Leather cigar box from Mexico
  • A female bare-breasted bust from Liberia

Vice-President Joe Biden has said the US has “no doubt” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and that it must be held accountable.

The US has said its military is ready to launch strikes if President Barack Obama order an attack, and allies say they too are ready to act.

The Syrian government has strongly denied claims it used chemical weapons.

UN weapons inspectors are set to return to the site of last week’s suspected attack near Damascus on Wednesday.

Their evidence-gathering visit was delayed by a day after they were fired on.

The US says it will release its own intelligence report into the incident at Ghouta, a suburb of the capital, in the coming days.

More than 300 people reportedly died there.

President Barack Obama is said to have made at least 88 calls to foreign leaders since Wednesday’s suspected attack.

Vice-President Joe Biden has said the US has "no doubt" that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and that it must be held accountable

Vice-President Joe Biden has said the US has “no doubt” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and that it must be held accountable

British PM David Cameron said the world could “not stand idly by”, and French President Francois Hollande said France was “ready to punish” whoever was behind the attack.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that “attempts at a military solution will lead only to the further destabilization” in Syria and the region.

Sergei Lavrov emphasised the need for a political solution in a phone call to the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, the foreign ministry in Moscow said.

Russia, China and Iran have previously warned against launching an attack on the war-ravaged country, where more than 100,000 people are thought to have died in two years of fighting.

Stocks have fallen on global markets and oil prices have shot up amid growing concern about an impending attack.

The US has not yet released its intelligence report into the alleged chemical attack, but US officials now say they are certain the Syrian government was behind the incident.

Joe Biden is the most senior member of the Obama administration to blame the Syrian government for the attack.

In a speech to a veterans’ group in Houston, he said there was “no doubt who was responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime”.

He said that “those who use chemical weapons against defenceless men, women, and children… must be held accountable”.

White House spokesman Jay Carney earlier said it would be “fanciful” to think anyone else could be responsible – saying the Syrian regime remained in control of the country’s chemical arsenal and used the type of rocket that carried the payload used last Wednesday.

But he insisted there were no plans for “regime change”. Any military campaign is likely to be limited in scope, with missile strikes targeting military sites and no ground troops.

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US Vice-president Joe Biden has talked to Ecuador’s leader Rafael Correa by phone about fugitive Edward Snowden’s bid for asylum.

Joe Biden held talks with President Rafael Correa on Friday, the two countries confirmed.

According to Rafael Correa, Joe Biden asked him to reject the request but Washington gave no details.

In a new development, a German magazine says a document leaked by Edward Snowden shows the US bugged EU offices.

Spiegel magazine says a September 2010 “top secret” document of the US National Security Agency (NSA) outlines how the agency bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the UN. The document explicitly referred to the EU as a “target”, the magazine reports.

Edward Snowden is believed to be staying at a Moscow airport, having arrived nearly a week ago from Hong Kong, where he had been staying since he revealed details of top secret US surveillance programmes.

The US has charged him with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Each charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

US Vice-president Joe Biden has talked to Ecuador's leader Rafael Correa by phone about fugitive Edward Snowden's bid for asylum

US Vice-president Joe Biden has talked to Ecuador’s leader Rafael Correa by phone about fugitive Edward Snowden’s bid for asylum

Ecuador has said it is willing to consider Edward Snowden’s request but only when he is physically in the Latin American country.

Rafael Correa said on Saturday that Joe Biden had “passed on a polite request from the United States to reject the request”.

He said he had told Joe Biden: “Mr. Vice-president, thanks for calling. We hold the United States in high regard. We did not seek to be in this situation. Do not get the idea that we are anti-American, as some ill-spirited media outlets are doing.”

If Edward Snowden ever came to “Ecuadoran soil” with his request, he added, “the first people whose opinion we will seek is that of the United States”.

The Ecuadorean president, a leftist economist who received a doctorate in the US, denied he was seeking to disrupt relations and said he had “lived the happiest days of my life” in the US.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said only that Joe Biden and Rafael Correa had held a wide-ranging conversation.

Edward Snowden’s father has said he believes his son would return to the US under certain conditions.

Lon Snowden asked for “ironclad assurances” his son’s rights would be protected in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

He asked his son not be held before trial nor subjected to a gag order, and be able to choose where he was tried.

According to his newly-released tax returns documents, President Barack Obama made $608,611 in 2012, down more than 20% from 2011.

The decline in Barack Obama’s pay comes as sales of his books slow.

Barack Obama’s presidential salary is $400,000.

The President and First Lady Michelle Obama paid an effective tax rate of 18.4% and donated $150,034 to 33 different charities.

Barack Obama’s tax rate will rise next year under a recent agreement with Congressional Republicans.

President Barack Obama made $608,611 in 2012, down more than 20 percent from 2011

President Barack Obama made $608,611 in 2012, down more than 20 percent from 2011

“Under the president’s own tax proposals, including limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement accompanying the release of the president’s and vice-president’s tax returns.

President Barack Obama also paid $29,450 of state income tax in Illinois, the White House said.

About two-thirds of the Obamas’ charitable contributions were given to the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to military servicemen, veterans and their families.

Barack Obama’s earnings have declined significantly from 2009.

In 2009, Barack Obama’s first year in office, he earned $5.5 million, mostly from sales of his books Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

Vice-President Joe Biden and his wife Jill reported $385,072 of income and paid $87,851 of federal tax.

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Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech posted online that the US was proposing talks while “pointing a gun at Iran”.

On Saturday, US Vice-President Joe Biden suggested direct talks, separate to the wider international discussions due to take place later this month.

But the US widened sanctions on Iran on Wednesday, aiming to tighten a squeeze on Tehran’s ability to spend oil cash.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran's nuclear programme

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme

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Barack Obama is to be publicly sworn in as US president for second time.

Hundreds of thousands are expected in Washington for the event, which will feature music from Beyonce, parades, black tie balls and tight security.

They will crowd on to the Washington Mall to see the president take the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol.

Barack Obama was officially inaugurated in a small White House ceremony on Sunday, as the US Constitution requires the president be sworn in by January 20.

In the famous Blue Room, Barack Obama rested his hand on a Bible used for many years by his wife’s family and vowed “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

He will repeat those words at Monday’s public inauguration, in which he is also expected to use part of his address to outline his plans for the next four years.

Speaking at a reception for supporters late on Sunday, Barack Obama suggested he would dwell on the “common good” and the “goodness, the resilience, neighborliness, the patriotism” of Americans.

“What we are celebrating is not the election or the swearing-in of the president,” Barack Obama said.

“What we are doing is celebrating each other and celebrating this incredible nation that we call home.”

Barack Obama is to be publicly sworn in as US president for second time

Barack Obama is to be publicly sworn in as US president for second time

By the end of Monday, Barack Obama will have taken the oath four times – as many as President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Four years ago, Barack Obama had to repeat the oath privately to make sure all constitutional obligations were met after he tripped over the words.

Following Monday’s ceremony outside Congress, Barack Obama will have the traditional lunch with US lawmakers in the building’s Statuary Hall.

The president is then expected to follow the recent tradition of walking through the crowds for at least some of the way in the procession back to the White House.

Vice-President Joe Biden, who was also sworn in on Sunday, will repeat his oath publicly as well.

Thousands of workers and volunteers prepared Monday’s celebrations. White tents, trailers and generators are set up along the Washington Mall parade route, while nearby buildings have been adorned with red, white and blue bunting.

In 2009, nearly two million people crammed into Washington to witness President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Inauguration Day schedule:

11:30 EST : Official ceremony begins at the West Front of US Capitol

11:55 EST: Barack Obama is publicly sworn in as president by Chief Justice John Roberts

12:00 EST: Barack Obama delivers inaugural address

12:39 EST: Barack Obama signs nomination papers for his Cabinet

13:00 EST: Inaugural lunch in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol

14:36 EST: Inaugural parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, ending at the White House.

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Barack Obama has officially been sworn in today for his second term as US president in a small ceremony at the White House.

Although the US Constitution requires the oath of office to be taken by noon on January 20, that falls on a Sunday so the public inauguration will take place on Monday.

Barack Obama took his official oath in the White House’s Blue Room.

The public ceremony with pomp and circumstance will follow on Monday.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Barack Obama, witnessed by First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia as well as some family members and reporters.

Resting his hand on a bible used for many years by his wife’s family, Barack Obama vowed “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

He will repeat those words during Monday’s public inauguration, in which he will set out his plans for the next four years.

Barack Obama has officially been sworn in today for his second term as US president in a small ceremony at the White House

Barack Obama has officially been sworn in today for his second term as US president in a small ceremony at the White House

Vice-President Joe Biden was sworn in for a second term at a small ceremony at his official residence earlier on Sunday morning.

Joe Biden, 70, will also repeat his oath publicly on Monday.

Thousands of workers and volunteers have been working to finish construction for Monday’s celebrations, with white tents, trailers and generators being set up along the Washington Mall’s parade route as nearby buildings were adorned with red, white and blue bunting,

For his part, Barack Obama rolled up his sleeves and donned gloves to spend Saturday sprucing up a school with other volunteers, as part of a National Day of Service kicking off the inauguration ceremonies – similar to the way he spent the day before his first presidential inauguration in 2009.

He urged volunteers to honor the memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, whose birthday, a national holiday, falls on Monday. This year is the 50th anniversary of King’s march on Washington.

President Barack Obama’s second term work will be more of a challenge than Saturday’s school work, trying to change America’s gun laws, reforming immigration and dealing with the country’s debt.

In 2009, nearly two million people crammed into Washington to witness President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Four years on, the mood is unlikely to match that excitement.

But the second inauguration of America’s first black president is a moment many will not want to miss.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected in Washington for that event – a smaller number than the 1.8 million who flocked for the swearing-in in 2009.

They will crowd onto the Mall leading to Congress wrapped up against the cold, to see their president take the oath of office on the steps of the flag-draped Capitol and listen to his speech.

The day will include music from Beyonce and Fun, parades, black tie balls and very tight security.

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 Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who sparked the FBI’s discovery of the affair between David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, scooped an invite to his daughter Anne’s high security wedding last month.

Jill Kelley – whose own alleged relationship with General John Allen has led to his nomination to lead American troops in Europe being put on hold – was invited to the wedding of Anne Petraeus and Matt Mauney, alongside her twin sister Natalie Khawam.

Pictures taken at the nuptials clearly show Jill Kelley, 37, standing just behind the elegant bride as she claps along to a band and mingles with guests said to have included Vice President Joe Biden – and illustrate just how far the ambitious brunette had infiltrated the high-powered political world.

Anne Petraeus has posted many pictures of her big day on her website fANNEtasticfood.com and in a post called We’re Married! the 30-year-old blonde, who is a trained dietician, gave a sneak peak at her reception – with Jill Kelley standing behind her in one of the photos.

Dressed in a smart black gown, Jill Kelley – who was the unpaid “social liaison” at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa – looked to be having a fine time at the wedding, held at Rosemont Manor in Berryville, Virginia, on October 13.

Frances Townsend, former Homeland and Counterterrorism security advisor to President George Bush, today even tweeted: “Sources tell me Jill Kelley & twin both attended the Petraeus daughter wedding last month whr 1 guest refrd 2 them as the Kardashian twins!”

Jill Kelley was invited to the wedding of Anne Petraeus and Matt Mauney, alongside her twin sister Natalie Khawam

Jill Kelley was invited to the wedding of Anne Petraeus and Matt Mauney, alongside her twin sister Natalie Khawam

The wedding was said to be a high security affair as pr service PR Log noted three days after the wedding that: “Berryville was abuzz this past weekend as residents noticed tightened security around Historic Rosemont Manor, the former estate of Virginia Governor and US Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.

“Rumors began circulating around town that Vice-President Joe Biden was at Rosemont. Others thought Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta was visiting.

“Berryville Police and Clarke County Sheriff Department cruisers and several unmarked SUV’s were parked within the perimeter of the Rosemont estate, some noticeable from the road.”

General Manager Bill North acknowledged that while there was heightened security at Rosemont, all Rosemont clients are offered a high level of privacy and security, saying: “Obviously, this wedding has special significance because of General Petraeus’s presence, but there will be other weddings in the future that will have enhanced security.”

President Barack Obama laid a wreath of flowers at Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday in a traditional gesture as Americans marked three days of Veterans Day commemorations.

Barack Obama was joined by the First Lady, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The President said the wreath-laying is a gesture to “remember every service member who has ever worn our nation’s uniform”.

He said in a speech at the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater that America will never forget the sacrifice made by its veterans and their families.

Barack Obama also says that “no ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service”. He says the country must commit every day “to serving you as well as you’ve served us”.

Earlier, the Obamas and Bidens held a breakfast with veterans at the White House.

This year, Veterans Day falls on a Sunday, and the federal observance is on Monday.

President Barack Obama laid a wreath of flowers at Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday in a traditional gesture as Americans marked three days of Veterans Day commemorations

President Barack Obama laid a wreath of flowers at Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday in a traditional gesture as Americans marked three days of Veterans Day commemorations

It’s the first such day honoring the men and women who served in uniform since the last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011.

It’s also a chance to thank those who stormed the beaches during World War II – a population that is rapidly shrinking with most of those former troops now in their 80s and 90s.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, a steady stream of visitors arrived Saturday morning as the names of the 58,000 people on the wall were being read over a loudspeaker.

Some visitors took pictures, others made rubbings of names, and some left mementos: a leather jacket, a flag made out of construction paper, pictures of young soldiers and even several snow globes with an American eagle inside.

A half-dozen women of various ages knitted intently near a pile of hand-made scarves while frail, silver-haired men sat waiting for a chance to tell their war stories Saturday as tourists and veterans filed into the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

The museum planned a series of events to celebrate the Veterans Day weekend.

The knitters had gathered to commemorate 1940s homefront efforts to supply World War II troops with warm socks and sweaters.

At the National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, about 1,000 people including Cub Scouts and Gold Star Mothers gathered on a crisp fall day for a short ceremony.

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VP Joe Biden, who has previously misremembered what state and what century he was in, now seems to have forgotten that Barack Obama is the president.

Speaking to a crowd of 1,200 people at a high school in Lakewood, Ohio, Joe Biden was slamming a “pernicious” Mitt Romney ad claiming that Jeep will move jobs out of Ohio to China.

The vice-president said that the ad claimed that “President Clinton bankrupted Chrysler so that Italians could buy it to ship jobs overseas to China”.

Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the U.S. and left office in January 2001. Barack Obama became the 44th president in January 2009 and for the past nearly 4 years Joe Biden has served as his vice-president.

In Joe Biden’s defence, there was perhaps a Freudian element to the slip. Bill Clinton, who previously enjoyed testy relations with Barack Obama, has been mobilized by the current president to be his most prominent campaigner and the two men made joint appearances in Virginia on Saturday and New Hampshire on Sunday.

Joe Biden’s gaffes are numerous and legendary in political circles. He recently referred to Tim Kaine, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and the current Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, as “Tom”.

VP Joe Biden, who has previously misremembered what state and what century he was in, now seems to have forgotten that Barack Obama is the president

VP Joe Biden, who has previously misremembered what state and what century he was in, now seems to have forgotten that Barack Obama is the president

On a previous stop in Ohio, Joe Biden complained to an audience in the town of Marion about television ads “here in Iowa”. In Danville, Virginia, he declared: “We can win North Carolina!”

In August, Joe Biden asked a Blacksburg, Virginia crowd: “Folks, where’s it written we cannot lead the world in the 20th Century in making automobiles?”

The 20th Century ended on December 31st 1999, nearly 27 years after Joe Biden first took his seat in the U.S. Senate and almost 9 years before he became vice-president.

Last week, Joe Biden joked about his gaffes while at the same time putting a slightly more favorable gloss on his mixing up Ohio and Iowa.

Speaking to campaign volunteers in Davenport, Iowa, Joe Biden said: “I’ve been living in Ohio like I used to live in Iowa. As a matter of fact, I got in trouble [with] the press, which never points out any mistake I make. I was in Ohio talking about it and saying <<it’s good to be here in Ohio>> and then I said <<and in Iowa>>.”

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Honey Boo Boo has yet again made it into the Presidential election campaign – this time with Vice President Joe Biden admitting to “catching snippets” of the TLC show on Air Force Two.

Quizzed about his pop culture habits, gaffe-prone Joe Biden revealed his favorite television shows were Modern Family and Parks and Recreation in an interview with a Miami Radio station on Friday.

But Joe Biden said he was well aware of the phenomenon that is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo after watching the program while travelling.

“Beyond Modern Family and Parks and Recreation, that’s about it, those are ones that I spend most of my time [watching],” Joe Biden told 93.9 MIA radio.

“I haven’t spent most of my time with pop culture that, like, my granddaughter talks about. Like Honey Boo Boo is not top on my list, but I am aware just, you know by catching snippets on Air Force Two, [that it is] quite a phenomenon. But, but I do try.”

Joe Biden admits watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Air Force Two

Joe Biden admits watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Air Force Two

Alana Thompson aka Honey Boo Boo found fame as an unlikely beauty pageant favourite in the TV show Toddlers and Tiaras before landing her own reality TV show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

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