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White House

The US – Israel’s closest ally – has said the shelling of a UN shelter in Gaza is “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible”.

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life.

A quarter of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the fighting, the UN says.

Israel says its operation in Gaza is designed to defend its population from attacks by Palestinian militants.

It blames the Hamas militant group for most of the civilian deaths in Gaza, saying its fighters deliberately operate from civilian areas.

The Israeli army has now “neutralized” 70-80% of Hamas’ offensive tunnel network into Israel.

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life

Israel says it will not stop its operation in Gaza until all the tunnels – which militants use to infiltrate Israeli territory – have been destroyed.

Since Israel began its offensive in Gaza on July 8, 1,422 Palestinians have been killed and 8,265 injured, most of them civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

This means more Palestinians have now been killed than during Operation Cast Lead – the last time Israel launched a ground invasion in Gaza – in 2008-2009.

Fifty-eight Israelis have been killed in total – 56 soldiers and two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.

“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

“But the shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible, and it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to high standards that they have set for themselves.”

He was referring to an incident on Wednesday, when at least 16 people were killed when shellfire hit a UN-run school designated as a civilian shelter in the Jabaliya district of Gaza City.

Josh Earnest said there was little doubt that the shells were fired by the Israeli military.

The UN has also condemned the continuing violence.

“The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe,” UN humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos told the Security Council.

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India’s new PM Narendra Modi has overtaken the White House on Twitter, a study of political use of the social network has found.

Narendra Modi’s account @NarendraModi has 4.99 million followers, ahead of the @WhiteHouse account which has 4.98 million followers.

His huge victory in the recent general election was partly credited to a well-organized social media campaign.

Narendra Modi has overtaken the White House on Twitter

Narendra Modi has overtaken the White House on Twitter

Narendra Modi, leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is also the most followed Indian leader on Twitter.

“Mr. Modi’s seen a stratospheric rise,” said Matthias Luefkens, who heads the annual Twiplomacy, a study conducted by global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller.

Although Narendra Modi speaks mostly in Hindi, his tweets are always in English, preferred for business in a nation with 22 official languages.

Narendra Modi, who was elected in May, scored 24,000 re-tweets for his own “India has won!” victory message.

“I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world,” Narendra Modi has said in a message on his new website.

The five most followed world leaders were President Barack Obama (@BarackObama) with 43 million followers of his campaign account, Pope Francis (@Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) with 5 million followers, with @WhiteHouse and @NarendraModi in fourth and fifth places.

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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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Last month, the White House held a Women of Soul concert as part of the In Performance at the White House series featuring Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Janelle Monae and Ariana Grande.

Aretha Franklin avoided Patti LaBelle at the White House concert

Aretha Franklin avoided Patti LaBelle at the White House concert

Aretha Franklin entered the concert hall to a standing ovation. On her way to her seat, she passed Patti LaBelle. Patti LaBelle reached out her hand to the Queen of Soul and that hand was left high and dry. As Aretha Franklin hit Patti LaBelle with the side eye, she brushed past LaBelle and headed to her seat while still enjoying the adulation from the audience.

It’s been well known for quite some time that Aretha Franklin doesn’t care for Patti LaBelle – although no one’s really ever been able to figure out exactly why.

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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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Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday, US officials say.

China has urged the US to cancel the meeting, saying it will “seriously impair China-US relations”.

China describes the Dalai Lama as a separatist, while the spiritual leader says he only advocates greater autonomy for Tibet, not independence.

Officials say the US does not support Tibetan independence but is concerned about human rights in China.

The two men last met in 2011, in talks that angered China.

Tibet is governed as an autonomous region in China.

China has been widely accused of repressing political and religious freedoms in Tibet. Beijing rejects this and says economic development has improved Tibetans’ lives.

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday

Barack Obama will host the Dalai Lama in a private meeting in the White House Map Room on Friday morning, US officials said.

The president traditionally hosts foreign leaders in the Oval Office, so the decision to use the Map Room is viewed as an attempt to give the visit a lower-profile.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Barack Obama would meet the Dalai Lama “in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader”.

“We do not support Tibetan independence,” she said, adding that the US “strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China.

“We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China.”

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Beijing was “firmly opposed” to the meeting.

“The US leader’s meeting with the Dalai is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs, a severe violation of codes of international relations and will seriously impair China-US relations,” she said in a statement.

China had “already lodged solemn representations” with the US on the matter, Hua Chunying added.

In recent years more than 110 ethnic Tibetans – mostly young monks and nuns living in areas outside Tibet – have set themselves on fire in apparent protest against Beijing’s rule.

The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the protests, a charge he strongly rejects.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, after Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising in Tibet.

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On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande has been honored at a lavish White House state dinner, the first since 2011.

State dinner menu:

First course: American Osetra Caviar, Fingerling Potato Veloute, Quail Eggs, Crisped Chive Potatoes

French President Francois Hollande has been honored at a lavish White House state dinner

French President Francois Hollande has been honored at a lavish White House state dinner

Second course: White House’s Winter Garden Salad

Main course: Rib Eye Beef, Blue Cheese, Charred Shallots, Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Chard

Dessert: Hawaiian Chocolate-Malted Ganache, Vanilla Ice Cream and Tangerines

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A man has been arrested by the US Secret Service after trying to climb over the White House fence, leading to a security lockdown.

The unidentified would-be intruder was carrying two bags, which are being screened, said the authorities.

A man has been arrested by the US Secret Service after trying to climb over the White House fence, leading to a security lockdown

A man has been arrested by the US Secret Service after trying to climb over the White House fence, leading to a security lockdown

“[The suspect] did not make it over the fence,” a Secret Service spokesman told Reuters news agency.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were not in the White House at the time.

Both had travelled to Michigan for the signing of agricultural legislation.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and military children decorated Christmas cookie ornaments, made tissue-paper flowers and used dried fruit to make tiny wreaths into the State Dining Room at the White House.

Two life-sized replicas of the Obamas’ Portuguese water dogs – Bo and his little sister Sunny – made from black satin ribbon, are one of the first things people will see this month as an expected 70,000 visitors stream in to the White House for tours and holiday functions. Both dogs wag their tails and Bo gives a high-five. They are surrounded by Christmas trees made of books.

Sunny and Bo, dark chocolate miniature versions, are also part of the annual gingerbread White House display. Both dogs hang out near a functioning replica of the fountain on the North Lawn. The illuminated, edible White House sits on top of a life-sized fireplace fashioned from more than 1,200 Springerle cookies. The entire display weighs about 300 pounds and is trashed after the holidays due to its prolonged exposure to so many people.

Sunny and Bo, dark chocolate miniature versions, are part of the annual gingerbread White House display

Sunny and Bo, dark chocolate miniature versions, are part of the annual gingerbread White House display

Michelle Obama, who has emphasized support for military families, gave some of them a first look at the decked-out White House halls on Wednesday. She asked Americans gathering with friends and family for the holidays to also remember the men and women in uniform.

“During this holiday season, as we gather with our loved ones, I’d ask every American to remember what our military families and service members often experience during this time of year,” Michelle Obama said.

“Let us all remember the sacrifices they make to proudly serve all of us.”

An annual highlight of the decorations is the official White House Christmas Tree. This year it’s a towering 18 ½-foot Douglas fir from Lehighton, Pennsylvania, that fills the oval-shaped Blue Room. It honors military families, a holiday tradition of Michelle Obama’s, and among its trimmings are photos of their joyous homecomings.

This year’s White House Christmas theme is “Gather Around: Stories of the Season” and is focused on stories behind American holiday traditions.

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Ghastly webs with giant black spiders adorned an orange-hued White House on Thursday, slithering down from the Truman Balcony along the South Portico, where haystacks and nearly 200 pumpkins dotted the lawn for the annual White House Halloween event.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, clad in orange and black, emerged in the evening to greet the zombies, wizards and superheroes waiting diligently to hear the president’s response to an eerie query: Trick or treat?

It was treats – thousands of packages of jelly beans, dried fruit and White House Sweet Dough Butter Cookies – that Barack and Michelle Obama handed children as they walked across the South Lawn, past stilt-walkers, jugglers and a giant, transparent bubble housing Glinda the Good Witch, who brandished her magic wand in true Wizard-of-Oz fashion.

Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, clad in orange and black, emerged in the evening to greet the zombies, wizards and superheroes

Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, clad in orange and black, emerged in the evening to greet the zombies, wizards and superheroes

Fog billowed across the lawn, obscuring the Washington Monument in the distance as children and their parents mingled with White House staffers dressed as football players, vampires and princesses. A brass band of white-faced skeletons set the mood with creepy Halloween tunes, dancing as they played alongside a family of ghosts camped out near the area where the president’s helicopter normally lifts off.

Even Barack Obama’s dogs donned costumes — no, not the real Sunny and Bo, but topiaries carved from ribbons and pipe cleaners and dressed up, Bo as a pirate and Sunny as a sunflower.

The festivities marked the return of a favorite annual tradition at the White House that had to be scrapped last year. After three straight years of passing out goodies, rain or shine, Obama and the first lady canceled the event last year because of Superstorm Sandy, which had walloped the East Coast earlier in the week.

More than 5,000 people took part in this year’s Halloween event, the White House said.

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Honey Boo Boo visited the White House as her family made their way from their hometown in rural McIntyre, Georgia to Washington D.C.

The breakout Todlers and Tiaras star dressed in head to toe pink and her trademark blonde curls wrapped away in tight cornrows as she sashayed her way along the National Mall.

Honey Boo Boo and her family travelled to Washington D.C. as they cross the country on a promotional tour for their new book

Honey Boo Boo and her family travelled to Washington D.C. as they cross the country on a promotional tour for their new book

Honey Boo Boo, 7, picked up a milkshake as the family toured the nation’s capital by foot, passing by the Washington Monument and stepping inside the Air and Space Museum for an air conditioned respite.

Taking in the sights with Honey Boo Boo was mother June Shannon and sisters Lauryn “Pumpkin” and Jessica “Chubs” – who dressed up for the occasion in a patriotic starry tee and jeans.

Also joining the pack was father Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson and his brother Lee “Uncle Poodle”.

Earlier in the day Honey Boo Boo attended her very own book signing in McLean, North Virginia, taking centre stage at Tysons Corner Mall to promote the new book, How to Honey Boo Boo: The Complete Guide on How to Redneckognize the Honey Boo Boo in You.

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President Barack Obama is to have lunch at the White House with defeated Republican election rival Mitt Romney, officials have confirmed.

Thursday’s face-to-face will be their first meeting since Barack Obama overcame Mitt Romney in the November 6th election.

On election night Barack Obama pledged to meet Mitt Romney for talks on how to “move this country forward”.

The pair sparred in a bitter campaign and are said to have little rapport.

Over the course of three presidential debates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney interrupted each other frequently and sniped aggressively over policy and principle.

However, they are now to meet in the private dining room at the White House, and the press will not be permitted to cover the lunch, the White House said on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama is to have lunch at the White House with defeated Republican election rival Mitt Romney

President Barack Obama is to have lunch at the White House with defeated Republican election rival Mitt Romney

The meeting comes as Barack Obama and the Democrats negotiate with congressional Republicans over the impending “fiscal cliff” – a combination of tax rises and spending cuts set to occur on 1 January.

The measures were partly put in place within a 2011 deal to curb the yawning US budget deficit, but also include the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans.

During the campaign, Mitt Romney called for sharp spending and tax cuts to fix the deficit. Barack Obama insists the wealthy should pay more in taxes.

Mitt Romney has dropped out of sight since the election, and analysts say he has little influence on congressional Republicans.

Barack Obama wasted little time on Wednesday as he headed back to Washington hours after celebrating his election victory in Chicago and securing a second term in the White House.

Fresh challenges lie ahead for the president as the stock market tumbled in response to his triumph at the polls over Mitt Romney and sabre-rattling from Republicans who demanded that he make good on his promise to work with both sides of the political aisle in the next four years.

Barack Obama was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and their children Malia and Sasha as they departed the Windy City on Air Force One. They arrived in Washington at about 6:30 p.m. and returned to White House which has been their home for the last four years – and where they will remain for the next four.

Tuesday night, Barack Obama called for unity and set out an optimistic vision of America’s future this morning in a rousing acceptance speech.

He promised “the best is yet to come” and said the fierce battle with Mitt Romney had made him a better president, vowing: “I will return to the White House more determined and inspired than ever.”

In a speech that saw a return to the soaring rhetoric he has become known for since his election in 2008, Barack Obama said he had “listened and learned’ from the American people during his campaign.

With his voice going hoarse at times, he said that “progress comes in fits and starts” and the road is littered with “difficult compromises”. But he said he enters the next four years with an “economy recovering, a decade of war ending and a long campaign is over”.

Barack Obama wasted little time on Wednesday as he headed back to Washington hours after celebrating his election victory in Chicago and securing a second term in the White House

Barack Obama wasted little time on Wednesday as he headed back to Washington hours after celebrating his election victory in Chicago and securing a second term in the White House

Barack Obama paid tribute to his opponent and hopes they can “work together in the coming weeks”.

The GOP has indicated that they will hold him to it.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was frosty in his post-election remarks.

“The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term,” Mitch McConnell said.

“Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner added speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning: “Mr. President, this is your moment. We want you to lead… Let’s find the common ground that has eluded us.”

A package of huge tax hikes and spending cuts – known as the “fiscal cliff” – is scheduled to take effect in the new year if the parties cannot come to a compromise.

So far, Republicans have adamantly refused to raise taxes, even on America’s richest people, as part of a deficit-reduction package. Barack Obama and other Democrats maintain that such tax hikes must be part of the deal.

The president’s administration is optimistic about an agreement.

Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he and Barack Obama are anxious to move forward on a bipartisan solution to the “fiscal cliff”, but a compromise will hinge on Republicans.

“What is the takeaway going to be on the part of our Republican colleagues? What judgment are they going to make?” Joe Biden told reporters on Air Force Two, as he flew from Chicago, where he watched election returns Tuesday night, to his home in Delaware.

“I know it takes a little time to kind of digest what’s going on. But I think people know we’ve got to get down to work and I think they’re ready to move,” Joe Biden said.

Joe Biden said he believes there are at least six Republican senators who are prepared to compromise on fiscal issues, adding that Democrats “are going to have to compromise too. It’s not like we’re going to go in and say: <<This is our deal. Take it or leave it>>.”

Another challenge for Barack Obama lies in the stock market, as the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 200 points within minutes after the opening bell and it continued falling, down 354 points two hours later.

In late afternoon trading, it was down 323 points, or 2.5%, while index futures also plunged after the European Union slashed its growth forecast for next year.

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The White House has decided to release details of one of its most closely guarded secrets – the recipe for President Barack Obama’s home-brewed honey ale.

The beer is believed to be the first-ever made at the White House.

The recipe was kept under wraps until 13,000 people signed an online petition demanding to know it, and someone even filed a freedom of information request.

Barack Obama has been taking the beer with him on the campaign trail, and is said to be known to offer it to voters.

For weeks, the White House had refused to comment on the recipe, but the secret was finally aired in a blog post entitled “Ale to the Chief”.

The White House has decided to release details of one of its most closely guarded secrets, the recipe for Barack Obama's home-brewed honey ale

The White House has decided to release details of one of its most closely guarded secrets, the recipe for Barack Obama's home-brewed honey ale

The long-awaited special ingredients include: light malt extract, amber crystal malt, honey, gypsum, yeast and corn sugar.

“With public excitement about White House beer fermenting such a buzz, we decided we better hop right to it,” says the White House’s assistant chef Sam Kass, who brews the ale.

Although Sam Kass is the brewer, the White House stressed that it was Barack Obama who bought the equipment and pays for the ingredients out of his own pocket.

There is also a video on how the beer is brewed.

“God, that is one incredible beer, if I do say so myself. America I wish everyone could taste this but we don’t quite brew enough,” Sam Kass comments at one point.

Cynics may say there is more than a bit of politics in the mix.

One of the oldest political clichés states that people vote for the person they would most like to have a beer with – and Barack Obama’s rival in the November election, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, does not drink.

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The White House issued an angry denial following claims that First Lady Michelle Obama indulged in a $50,000 shopping spree at Agent Provocateur’s boutique in Madison Avenue in New York.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph today, Agent Provocateur’s boutique in Madison Avenue was partially closed off for Michelle Obama.

Kristina Schake, director of communications for First Lady Michelle Obama said this morning: “This story is 100 per cent false.”

The Telegraph claimed: “Michelle Obama has risked the wrath of cash-strapped Americans by indulging in a $50,000 shopping spree at Agent Provocateur…

“Along with the Queen of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah, she closed off part of Madison Avenue to spend time in the luxury lingerie shop.”

The article also said that Michelle Obama’s alleged spree had sparked the 12% boost in sales recently released by the British label.

But while the chain’s profits are certainly on the rise, it was quick to point out that this is not thanks to Michelle Obama.

A spokesman for Agent Provocateur said: “Recent claims regarding Michelle Obama and purchases made at an Agent Provocateur boutique are incorrect.

“Agent Provocateur never discusses any of its clientele or their purchases.”

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph today, Agent Provocateur's boutique in Madison Avenue was partially closed off for Michelle Obama

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph today, Agent Provocateur's boutique in Madison Avenue was partially closed off for Michelle Obama

Indeed, it goes without saying that Michelle Obama’s lingerie-purchasing habits are most likely not something she would be prepared to share with anyone but the President himself.

It seems Agent Provocateur is doing fine without her help though. In the last 43 weeks, the company reported trading has been up 12.5% on a like-for-like basis and 21.6% overall.

Over the Christmas period overall business also shot up more than 15%.

Agent Provocateur CEO Gary Hogarth told the Telegraph that the label had garnered several “unexpected famous names” in the U.S. as of late.

Beyonce Knowles and Christina Aguilera have been seen at its stores in recent months, presumably purchasing unmentionables which can run to as much as $1,990 for a single French lace nightie.

Michelle Obama has come under fire from critics of late, who have taken issue with her taste for expensive designer labels and lavish parties.

A new book by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, “The Obamas”, fuelled widespread criticism when it emerged that she had hosted a high-octane Alice in Wonderland Halloween party in 2009, a time when the country was in the midst of a recession.

The expensive wardrobe Michelle Obama packed for their $4 million Hawaii Christmas break, including a $2,000 dress and $1,000 skirt, also sparked a reaction.

One comment on the Naked DC site read: “She claims to be a champion of the poor and a fellow bargain shopper, but yet, here she is, sporting a dress that no unemployed American can afford.

“For someone who says she understands the troubles of the American people, who claims to shop at Target, she certainly fails to show it.”

Michelle Obama’s striking cobalt blue Barbara Tfank dress, worn for last week’s State of the Union address, is believed to be worth approximately $2,000.

While winning over the style set with the eye-catching look, some questioned whether her choice was appropriate, given that she was seated next to Jackie Bray, a single mother from North Carolina who put herself through community college to boost her career prospects after getting laid off from her job.

Agent Provocateur, founded by the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, Joseph Corré, and his then-wife, Serena Rees, in 1994, was bought out by private equity firm 3i in 2007 for a reported $108.5 million.

With Sarah Shotton as creative director, the designs certainly are not for the faint-hearted. The current collection is inspired by her collection of vintage Playboy magazines.

The company’s expansion in the U.S. – where sales have outpaced the UK – is already underway.

According to Business Week, Agent Provocateur has annual sales of $40million, with a budgeted increase of nine per cent same-store sales this year in the U.S.

By summer, the label plans to have 11 retailers in the U.S. and is aiming to expand from 54 to 100 total stores worldwide in the next three years.

US President Barack Obama got into the holiday spirit last night as the First Family lit up the new National Christmas Tree at White House.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia took the stage next to Santa Claus and Kermit the Frog and officially marked the start of the Christmas season with some carolling before they flipped the switch.

The 26ft Colorado blue spruce was planted in March on the Ellipse, a park that lies between the White House and the National Mall.

Strong winds in February toppled the previous tree, which stood in the park since 1978.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia took the stage next to Santa Claus and Kermit the Frog and officially marked the start of the Christmas season

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia took the stage next to Santa Claus and Kermit the Frog and officially marked the start of the Christmas season

In remarks delivered during the tree-lighting ceremony, attended by hundreds, Barack Obama briefly retold the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and linked the religious leader to his own faith.

“And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbour as ourselves.

“That teaching has come to encircle the globe. It has endured for generations and today it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans,” President Obama said.

Barack Obama urged the crowd to be generous and to help others in need during the holidays.

“In this season of hope, let’s help those who need it most: the homeless, the hungry, the sick and shut-in,” Barack Obama said.

“In this season of plenty, let’s reach out to those who struggle to find work or provide for their families.”

President Barack Obama welcomed troops returning home in time for the holiday, and asked Americans to express their gratitude to service members.

“In this season of generosity, let’s give thanks and honour to our troops and our veterans and their families who’ve sacrificed so much for us,” he said.

Barack Obama was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Michelle; daughters Sasha and Malia; and mother-in-law Marian Robinson.

Before the ladies hit the switch, President Obama said: “This is the new tree. I know it’s not quite as big as the old tree. But it’s going to take time to grow. But we’re going to fill it up with some spirit and start a new tradition right now.”

Michelle Obama also took the stage to read Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Muppet star Kermit the Frog and Santa Claus, as children gathered around.

The lighting ceremony, hosted by television’s Carson Daly, included performances of Christmas carols and tunes by pop group Big Time Rush, English singer Ellie Goulding, pop band OneRepublic, country singer Rodney Atkins, soul songstress Marsha Ambrosius and the Airmen of Note, a jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force.

The new National Christmas Tree was planted in March in a New Jersey nursery.

The ceremony marks the 89th holiday tree lighting.

The tradition began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.

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Washington authorities are investigating a report that gunshots were fired near the White House on Friday.

An AK-47 assault rifle was recovered and several streets were shut down.

At least one suspect was still at large, NBC Washington reported.

Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said two cars were seen leaving the area.

Edwin Donovan also said witnesses heard shots and saw the cars racing on Constitution Avenue toward 17th Street.

One of the vehicles was abandoned at 23rd and Constitution.

Washington authorities are investigating a report that gunshots were fired near the White House on Friday

Washington authorities are investigating a report that gunshots were fired near the White House on Friday

Police lost sight of one vehicle but they caught up with a possibly stolen Honda sedan near the Roosevelt Bridge, NBC Washington said.

Edwin Donovan said witnesses saw the driver get out and run across the Roosevelt Bridge toward Arlington, Virginia.

Sgt. David Schlosser of the U.S. Park Police said the agency received a report of shots fired near 16th Street and Constitution Avenue, between the White House and the Washington Monument, at about 9.30pm.

David Schlosser added that the White House did not appear to have been the focus of the incident.

President Barack Obama was in San Diego, California, at the time of the incident on his way to the APEC summit in Honolulu.

 

Daryl Hannah was arrested Tuesday in front of the White House along with other environmental protesters who oppose a proposed Canada – U.S. Gulf Coast oil pipeline.

The 50 year-old actress, well known from “Splash” and “Roxanne”, was arrested after refusing police orders to leave the sit-in protest and she was released after paying a $100 fine, U.S. Parks police said.

Daryl Hannah was among more than 70 people arrested Tuesday.

Keystone XL pipeline would bring oil sands petroleum from Canada to Texas refineries and will cost 7 billion dollars. The proposed oil pipeline would go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.

 

Daryl Hannah was among more than 70 people arrested Tuesday

Daryl Hannah was among more than 70 people arrested Tuesday

 

Hundreds of people have been arrested outside the White House since the Tar Sands Action protest began on August 20, according to police.

Before she was arrested, Daryl Hannah told The Associated Press the protesters want to be free from dependence on fossil fuels.

Daryl Hannah was not the only actress involved in an incident in front of the White House, either “Superman” actress Margot Kidder was arrested there last week.

The protesters called for clean energy investments instead. Daryl Hannah said they hope President Barack Obama will not bow to oil lobbyists.

[googlead tip=”vertical_mic”]Republican Michele Bachmann, 55, won the Iowa Straw Poll Saturday, affirming her status as a top-tier candidate in the Republican race to challenge President Barak Obama in 2012.

 

Michele Bachmann received 28% of the nearly 17,000 votes cast. The Texas Republican, Ron Paul was close behind her with 27%. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty came in a distant third with 13% of the vote, followed by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with 9% and businessman Herman Cain with 8%.

 
Michele Bachmann received 28 percent of the nearly 17000 votes cast

Michele Bachmann received 28 percent of the nearly 17000 votes cast

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The daylong political festival was the first indication of how these Republicans are faring with the Grand Old Party (GOP) base. Nine candidates were on the ballot, and voting ran for 6 hours on the campus of Iowa State University.

Voters came in from far and wide, some of the candidates organizing bus caravans to bring backers to the event. In the past the turnout has ranged from 14,000 to 23,000.

Free hamburgers and ice cream were provided and some candidates even paid the $30 entry fee for their supporters to vote in the Iowa Republican Straw Poll.

Sunday morning, it was the ultra-conservative Tea Party favourite Michele Bachmann who was doing the rounds of the talkshow studios on the big television networks, while the former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a poor third, became the first hopeful to announce he was dropping out of the race.

 

For Michele Bachmann, who won 28% of votes cast, it was the latest success in a rapid rise from local politics to Republican frontrunner.

 

As the result emerged late on Saturday, Bachmann, standing on the steps of her campaign bus, shouted what has become her slogan, just as “hope and change” was for Obama.

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“You have just sent a message that Barack Obama will be a one … term … president.”

 

“I think what people see in me is I’m a real person, I’m authentic,” she said.

 

Michele Bachmann compared herself to Ronald Reagan, who is saw as one of the party’s giants by Republicans, in being guided by a core set of principles.

 

“I don’t compromise my core principles. That’s how you lead, you lead from principles.”

 

Bachmann’s weekend victory provides important momentum for her campaign and can expect an influx of financial support, but the bigger question for Republicans is whether her appeal can be broad enough to seduce enough voters in the November 2012 presidential election. Although there are eight declared candidates, realistically only three are still in the race: Michele Bachmann, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and the Texas Governor Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy on Saturday.

Although Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll, her vote is soft, with many still undecided.

Sue Matejka, 65, reflects the fluidity of Iowa Republicans. She travelled the three hours from her home in Olin, Iowa, to Ames for the Straw Poll in a bus paid for by Tim Pawlenty but, despite accepting his largesse, had no qualms about voting for Michele Bachmann.

“I am undecided,” she said. For her, the overriding imperative is a candidate who will unseat Barack Obama.

“It is between Bachmann and Perry. I haven’t heard enough about Perry. What is on paper looks good. What he has done for Texans is good,” she added.

Michele Bachmann has risen fast since being elected to Congress in 2006. She has made the most of frequent appearances on television, particularly Fox News, where she is a favourite because of her ultra-conservative views.

She is one of the most high-profile figures, along with Sarah Palin, in the Tea Party movement. In line with Tea Party principles, she adopted a hardline position during the debt crisis, saying she would not vote for raising the national debt ceiling and on Sunday repeated her view that deep cuts in federal spending were vital.

But it is her views on social issues that helped secure her win in Iowa, one of the most socially conservative states in the country outside of the south. Before joining Congress, she prayed outside abortion clinics.

 

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Michele Bachmann is also one of the most outspoken critics of homosexuality, co-owning with her husband, Marcus, a clinic in Minnesota where, according to an ABC report by an undercover team, counsellors encourage gay people to pray to get rid of homosexual urges.

 

“It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay,” she said in a speech in 2004.

While such views on social issues go down well in Iowa, Republicans know such statements will alienate many of the independent voters who decide elections nationwide.

Bachmann’s biggest problem is the entry into the race of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is a strong candidate. While Perry holds many of the same views as Bachmann on social issues, he said that while he is opposed to same-sex marriage in Texas, he thinks it is fine for New York, saying that is the prerogative of each state to decide. As governor of a state with the best record of job growth in the country, Rick Perry is better placed than Michele Bachmann to take on Barak Obama on the economy. Michele Bachmann acknowledged she cannot win on social issues alone and shifted the emphasis in her round of television interviews on Sunday to the economy.

“It will be an economics election.”

 

Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy earlier Saturday, came in 6th place with 3.6% of the vote, ahead of GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, all of whom didn’t compete in the contest.

The poll results are nonbinding, amount to a popularity contest and offer candidates a chance to test their get-out-the-vote organizations.

Michele Bachmann’s victory may provide a road map for the Iowa campaign heading into the caucuses that are just four months away. But the straw poll has a mixed record of predicting the winner of that contest.

In 2008, Romney won the straw poll, but the big news was the surprising second-place showing of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, but dropped from the race soon after. McCain, who eventually won the nomination, didn’t compete in the straw poll and finished in 10th place.

Meanwhile, Barak Obama, dropping in the polls and aware of the boost Republicans received from four days of campaign events in Iowa that attracted 700 journalists, heads off on Monday on a three days bus tour of the mid-west, including Iowa. A CNN poll last week put Obama on 47%, down from 52% in January. The White House election is 16 months away but he has a lot of ground to make up.

Michele Bachmann won first poll of Republican contest for 2012 presidential race.

 

Republican Rick Perry will make the formal announcement on Saturday in Charleston, South Carolina.[googlead tip=”patrat_mic” aliniat=”dreapta”]

 

The Republican Rick Perry will officially announce his candidacy on Saturday, August 13, said Washington Times after information was provided exclusively by Carl Cameron from Fox News, known as having a hostile position to the current president, Barack Obama.

He will make his announcement in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is scheduled to speak at an annual conference of conservative bloggers.

Texas Governor Rick Perry is running for the US presidential race.

Republican Texas Governor, Rick Perry is running for the US presidential race.

Rick Perry will then travel to New Hampshire and on to Iowa Sunday — hitting 3 of the first 4 states to hold nominating contests next year.

Rick Perry makes his entrance about six months before the Iowa caucuses, the traditional kickoff of the nominating season (the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States). Iowa is scheduled to be followed by New Hampshire’s primary, Nevada’s caucuses and South Carolina’s primary, though several other states are considering moves to jump ahead in the line.

The rest of the field has been assembled in Iowa for Thursday night’s nationally televised debate, Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll, the Iowa State Fair, which runs for 11 days and is a traditional hot spot for meeting voters and mugging for cameras.

 

[googlead tip=”vertical_mic”] Rick Perry’s presidential nomination is expected to fundamentally reshape the race and divert attention from other contenders, many of whom will be competing this weekend in the Iowa Straw Poll.

 

Being now in his 11th year as Texas governor, Rick Perry could fill the void some party activists see and could unify social and economic conservatives in the “Grand Old Party” (GOP a traditional nickname for the Republican Party)

“This is about electing a true conservative leader with a real record of job creation as our next president,” said Scott Rials, executive director of “Make Us Great Again”, one of the several pro-Perry political action committees that have formed to raise and spend money independently of Rick Perry’s campaign.

 

“Governor Rick Perry is our best qualified candidate to win back the White House and get our economy back on track.”

 

“Contrary to written reports that Governor Perry would use his Charleston speech on Saturday to announce his intention to run, he will tell the influential red state gathering … that he has entered the contest,” Rick Perry’s campaign strategist, David Carney told The Washington Times on Thursday.

In a preview of the Perry campaign’s emphasis, David Carney hailed the three-term governor as someone “known by many as America’s jobs governor.”

Carney, who was chief strategist for Rick Perry last year when he defeated Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas’ gubernatorial primary, said the Perry record stands “in perfect contrast to the current occupant of the White House, whose administration has appeared to be flailing around, trying to deal with economic woes for months.”

The GOP’s move also adds another target for President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee, which had invested time in trying to discredit former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whose polls show he is the front-runner in the field.

 

Conservatives were pleased with Rick Perry’s pending announcement.

 

“I think Governor Perry entering the race will solidify conservatives,” Dr. Randy Brinson, an Alabama gastroenterologist and founder of Rock the Vote, told The Washington Times.

 

“Romney will hope for a perilous split due to the large number of social conservatives in the race but history shows it will not occur as Romney strategists think.”

 

“Perry travels to Alabama and the key state of South Carolina to line up solid support over the weekend,” said Dr. Brinson, who is considered a major force in conservative politics in the South.

 

“Obvious strategy is to anchor South Carolina which is the make-or-break state for all Republican presidential contenders.”

 

Kirsten Gray, Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman, who disputed Rick Perry’s activity claims by saying he fought for a budget that would lay off thousands of state workers, said:

 

“Not surprising Rick Perry is making his announcement in South Carolina instead of Texas — there’s nowhere in the Lone Star State he could announce without an angry mob showing up.”

 

[googlead tip=”lista_medie” aliniat=”stanga”]According to the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls, Mitt Romney leads Rick Perry 20.4% to 15.4%. Former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, who has not announced a candidacy, places third, in a near-tie with Republican Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, an announced candidate who polls fourth.

Rick Perry did not seek space at the straw poll, though his announcement Saturday could fuel a write-in campaign there.

On Thursday, Mitt Romney was heckled by liberal activists as he delivered a soapbox speech at the Iowa fair.

 

"I’m not going to raise taxes. That’s my answer. If you want someone to raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama," said Mitt Romney to the liberal hecklers at Iowa fair.

"I’m not going to raise taxes. That’s my answer. If you want someone to raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama," said Mitt Romney to the liberal hecklers at Iowa fair.

 

“You ready for my answer? I’m not going to raise taxes. That’s my answer. If you want someone to raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama,

 

Mitt Romney told the hecklers.

Rick Perry’s entry makes him the first sitting governor in the race, the field having a handful of former governors.

Winning the presidency by Perry would mean for Republicans to return to the power after the defeat of George W. Bush in 2008.

Last May, Washington Times wrote that Governor Rick Perry is capable to attract not only among Republican voters, but also from conservatives, independents and even Obama’s Democrats.

The first sign that he could run for US presidency was in June 2011, when he was invited to a Fox News show and said:

 

“I am thinking seriously about it.”

 

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Rick Perry is the Texas Governor since 2000, when he ascended from the lieutenant governorship after George W. Bush won the White House.