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Thirty five Russian diplomats have been expelled from the United States as punishment for alleged interference into this year’s presidential election.

The US will also close two Russian compounds used for intelligence-gathering, in Maryland and New York, as part of a raft of retaliatory measures.

President Barack Obama had vowed action against Russia amid accusations it directed hacks against the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Russia has denied any involvement.

The 35 Russian diplomats from the Washington DC embassy and the consulate in San Francisco have been declared “persona non grata” by state department, giving them and their families 72 hours to leave the US.

The Russian government is expected to respond in turn by expelling US diplomats.

The state department move follows calls from senior senators to sanction Russian officials who are believed to have played a role in the hacking, which some lawmakers referred to as America’s “political Pearl Harbor”.

President-elect Donald Trump has dismissed the claims as “ridiculous” and said Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked about the possibility of sanctions before the announcement on December 28.

Sanctions have also been announced against nine entities and individuals including the GRU and FSB Russian intelligence agencies.

The US Department of Treasury said that the move targeted those responsible for “undermining election processes or institutions”.

Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, told the RIA news agency the expulsion represented “the death throes of political corpses”.

In a statement President Barack Obama said “all Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions”.

The outgoing president called the moves a “necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests”, adding it would not be “the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities”.

Barack Obama also announced the US would declassify technical information related to Russian cyber activity to “help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities”.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said in a statement that despite the measures being overdue “it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia”.

Paul Ryan added that “it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world”.

Maryland Democrat Senator Ben Cardin applauded sanctions against Russia but called them insufficient.

Ben Cardin called for Congress to take action separately from the White House, and plans to introduce legislation to establish a committee “to further examine the attack and Russian’s efforts to interfere in our election”.

In a joint statement by the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Security, and the FBI, officials appeal to companies to “look back within their network traffic” and report any signs of “malicious cyber activity” to law enforcement.

The Russian hacking, which the intelligence agencies describe as a “decade-long campaign” included methods such as “spearphishing, campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations; theft of information from these organizations; and the recent public release of some of this stolen information”.

Emails stolen from John Podesta and from the servers of the DNC were released during the 2016 presidential election by WikiLeaks.

Several US agencies, including the FBI and CIA have concluded that the hacked information was released to cause damage to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in order to favor Donald Trump.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has visited Pearl Harbor naval base, where he offered “sincere and everlasting condolences” to the victims of the 1941 Japanese attack on the base.

Shinzo Abe said: “We must never repeat the horrors of war again, this is the solemn vow the people of Japan have taken.”

He was accompanied by President Barack Obama, making the visit the first by the leaders of both countries.

Japan devastated much of Pearl Harbor base, killing more than 2,400 Americans.

Shinzo Abe paid tribute to the men who lost their lives in 1941 at the naval base, many of whom remain entombed in the wreckage of the USS Arizona, sunk by the Japanese that day, and vowed reconciliation and peace.

He said: “To the souls of the US servicemen who lie aboard the USS Arizona, to the American people, and all people around the world, I pledge that unwavering vow.”

Image source Reuters

Shinzo Abe went on to praise the US for its efforts to mend relations with Japan following the war between the two countries, which ended shortly after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945.

The prime minister called the renewed alliance between the countries an “alliance of hope”.

President Obama also paid tribute to the dead, saying that he had laid a wreath on “waters that still weep”.

He said: “That morning the ranks on those men’s shoulders reflected them less than the courage in their hearts.”

Barack Obama welcomed Shinzo Abe “in the spirit of friendship, in the manner Japan has always welcomed me”.

ShinzoAbe is the first Japanese leader to visit the memorial on the site of the Arizona, although several of his predecessors have been to Pearl Harbor in the past.

The Japanese prime minister and President Obama laid wreaths at the site and the two leaders prayed for the dead.

However, as expected, Shinzo Abe did not issue an apology for the attack.

Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor damaged all eight of the US battleships at the base and sunk four of them, propelling the US into World War II.

Nearly half of those killed were on the Arizona and the remains of most are still entombed in the wreckage.

All eight battleships at the base were damaged and four were sunk. But the key US aircraft carriers were at sea at the time.

On December 26, Shinzo Abe visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and laid a wreath.

He stood for a moment of silence at the cemetery near central Honolulu, a memorial to those who died the Pacific theater of war.

Shinzo Abe also held a summit meeting with Barack Obama in Hawaii, their last before President Obama steps down in January.


President Barack Obama has delivered his final Christmastime weekly address on December 24.

He was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and all together wished families across the US a joyous holiday.

Photo White House

Barack and Michelle Obama are continuing their annual tradition of spending Christmas in Hawaii, where they will remain until after New Year’s.

In their weekly address, President Barack Obama and the First Lady look back at their first joint holiday address, which appeared to tickle the commander-in-chief.

Barack and Michelle Obama also thanked US troops for their service and urged people to find ways to support them during the holidays.


Donald Trump’s New York campaign co-chair Carl Paladino has come under fire after crude remarks about President Barack Obama and the first lady.

Asked by a newspaper what he would most like to happen in 2017, Carl Paladino said he hoped President Barack Obama would die from mad cow disease and Michelle Obama would “return to being a male”.

Carl Paladino, 70, later said his remarks were meant to be humorous.

However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the comments were “racist” and “ugly”.

Photo Flickr

Many Twitter users also condemned Carl Paladino, with one saying there was “something deeply, horribly wrong” with him.

Meanwhile, the Parent Teacher Organization in the city of Buffalo called on Carl Paladino to resign from its school board.

The White House has made no public comment.

Carl Paladino, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the post of New York governor in 2010, was asked by Buffalo’s Artvoice newspaper for his hopes for 2017.

This is Artvoice‘s traditional end-of-the-year feature, where prominent local figures give their predictions.

Referring to Barack Obama, Carl Paladino said he hoped the president “catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations” with a cow and would die and be buried “in a cow pasture”.

On Michelle Obama, he said: “I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

Carl Paladino later said his remarks were “about a little deprecating humor which America lost for a long time”, adding: “Merry Christmas and tough luck if you don’t like my answer.”


Barack Obama has permanently banned offshore oil and gas drilling in the “vast majority” of US-owned northern waters.

The outgoing president designated areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as “indefinitely off limits” to future leasing.

The move is widely seen as an attempt to protect the region before Barack Obama leaves office in January.

Donald Trump’s supporters could find it difficult to reverse the decision.

In a joint announcement with Washington, Canada also committed to a similar measure in its own Arctic waters.

Photo Flickr

According to the White House, the decision was for “a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem”.

It cited native cultural needs, wildlife concerns, and the “vulnerability” of the region to oil spills as some of the reasons for the ban.

However, while Canada will review the move every five years, the White House insists President Obama’s declaration is permanent.

The decision relies on a 1953 law which allows the president to ban leasing of offshore resources indefinitely.

During the election campaign, Donald Trump said he would take advantage of existing US oil reserves, prompting concern from environmental groups.

Supporters have already suggested that any attempt to reverse the “permanent” decision outlined by the law would be open to a legal challenge.

Reacting to the Arctic declaration, Friends of the Earth said: “No president has ever rescinded a previous president’s permanent withdrawal of offshore areas from oil and gas development.

“If Donald Trump tries to reverse President Obama’s withdrawals, he will find himself in court.”

However, the American Petroleum Institute said “there is no such thing as a permanent ban,” and that it hoped Donald Trump’s administration would simply reverse the decision.

The president-elct has also raised fears among some environmental campaigners through his choices for senior White House roles.

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has been named his secretary of state. His energy secretary, Rick Perry, has previously called for less regulation of the oil industry in his role as governor of Texas.

Environmental groups strongly criticized both appointments.

Very little oil drilling currently takes place in the Arctic region, as it is more expensive and difficult than other available options.

In her last TV interview before the family leaves the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama said America’s outlook had changed since Donald Trump won November’s election.

Speaking on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Michelle Obama said: “Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.”

President Barack Obama repeatedly used messages of hope in his presidential campaigns and during his time in office.

Michelle Obama played an unusually prominent role in the 2016 election cycle, throwing her support behind Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and trading barbs with Donald Trump.

The first lady called on women to rise up against Donald Trump over his groping comments and denounced his campaign’s “hateful language”.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

In turn, Donald Trump accused Michelle Obama of spending too much time campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

Michelle Obama does not mention the president-elect by name in the preview clip of the Oprah Winfrey interview, to be aired by the CBS network on December 19.

However, she repeats previous assertions that the US needs “an adult” in the White House, saying the country’s president should provide stability and inspiration.

Michelle Obama says: “Having a grown-up in the White House who can say to you in times of crisis, <<Hey it’s going to be ok, let’s remember the good things we have, let’s look at the future, let’s look at all the things that we’re building>>…

“All of this is important for our kids to stay focused and to feel like their work isn’t in vain, that their lives aren’t in vain. What do we do if we don’t have hope?”

The first lady says she believes the American public will come to appreciate President Barack Obama’s impact with time.

Michelle Obama is an unusually popular figure in America’s political landscape, with a favorability rating, measured by Gallup at 64%, that is significantly higher than that of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Oprah Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2007 but failed to do so publicly in 2012.

In November, Oprah Winfrey urged voters to choose Hillary Clinton in November’s poll, saying: “You don’t have to like her… Do you like democracy or do you want a demagogue?”

Google and Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company ETECSA have signed a deal that will enable faster access to content from the tech giant.

Under the deal, Google will install servers in Cuba to improve connectivity speeds to its services, including Gmail and YouTube.

ETECSA and Google have reached their agreement in the final weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency.

It is not clear whether Donald Trump will change US policies towards Cuba.

A high-speed fibre-optic cable connecting Cuba to the global internet appears to have finally been activated

Barack Obama restored relations with Cuba earlier this year, after more than five decades of hostility between the two former Cold War rivals.

President-elect Donald Trump has made arguments both for and against improved ties with Cuba since being elected last month.

Even though most Cubans are likely to see the deal with Google as a step forward, it will do little to change the overall online accessibility on the communist island.

Cuba still has one of the lowest online connectivity rates in the world.

The majority of the population is not allowed access to the internet from home and must rely, instead, on expensive Wi-Fi points to get online.

Google said in a statement: “This deal allows Etecsa to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level.”

The agreement was signed in Havana by Alphabet Inc chairman Eric Schmidt and ETECSA president Mayra Arevich Marin.

Cuban business owners have appealed to Donald Trump not to reverse a recent thaw in bilateral relations.

In a letter, more than one hundred business owners said additional measures to boost travel, trade and investment would benefit both nations.

The president-elect, who takes office on January 20, has said he will end a deal under which ties were restored in 2015 unless Havana offers a “better deal”.

Cuba hopes to sign 12 agreements with the United States before Donald Trump’s inauguration.

On December 7, officials from both governments held talks in Havana to discuss how this could be achieved during President Barack Obama’s remaining weeks in office.

Cuban Foreign Ministry’s Director of US Affairs Josefina Vidal said: “At the moment we are negotiating 12 more [agreements] with the aim to be able to conclude and sign a majority of them.”

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Josefina Vidal said that a number of agreements had already been signed with Washington since 2015.

She also expressed hopes that the bilateral relations would continue improving but “within the respect of the existing differences and without having to make any kind of concession to the principles in which Cuba firmly believes”.

Barack Obama has worked to improve relations with Cuba, culminating in his historic visit to Havana in March 2016.

In November, Donald Trump threatened in a tweet to put an end to the detente following the death of Fidel Castro.

He said that if “Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal”.

Donald Trump’s camp accuses the Obama administration of giving too much away to Cuba without receiving enough in return.

Under President Barack Obama, diplomatic ties were restored in July 2015 after being severed in 1961.

Some trade restrictions have been eased and the White House has been lobbying the US Congress to terminate the Cuban economic embargo that has been in place for decades.

According to a new report, President Barack Obama has recommended to President-elect Donald Trump to elect a cybersecurity ambassador to help keep the US secure.

The 100-page document highlights areas where the US falls short and calls on the private sector to help hasten the improvement of digital services.

President Barack Obama set up the commission in preparation for the new administration.Barack Obama blames media for Donald Trump coverage

The outgoing president said its recommendations should be followed within the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Now it is time for the next administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change both in the United States and around the world,” Barack Obama said.

However, the report is only advisory and Donald Trump could choose to ignore its suggestions.

In its 16 recommendations, the Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity also suggested implementing a kind of “nutritional label” system for devices. The label would contain independent advice on how secure a particular device may or may not be.

The report’s backdrop comes amid ongoing concern about how weak cybersecurity is allowing other nations to interfere with US governance.


President-elect Donald Trump has said Fidel Castro was a “brutal dictator”, hours after the former Cuban leader’s death was announced.

Donald Trump, who takes office in January 20, said he hoped Cubans could move towards a freer future.

Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and ushered in a Communist revolution. He defied the US for decades, surviving many assassination plots.

His supporters said he returned Cuba to the people. Critics called him a dictator.

Raul Castro, who succeeded him as president, announced his death on state television on November 25.

In a statement, Donald Trump said that while Cuba remained “a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve”.

Image source Flickr

Image source Flickr

The US cut ties with Cuba in 1961 amid rising Cold War tensions and imposed a strict economic embargo which remains in place more than half a century on.

Under President Barack Obama, the relationship warmed and diplomatic ties were restored in 2015.

Donald Trump roundly criticized Barack Obama’s policy on the campaign trail but made no mention of his pledge to reverse it in his statement, saying his administration would do all it could to ensure Cubans could “begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty”.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, said history would “record and judge the enormous impact” of Fidel Castro. America was extending “a hand of friendship to the Cuban people” at this time, he added.

Fidel Castro was the longest serving non-royal leader of the 20th Century. He had been retired from political life for several years, after handing power to his brother in 2006 because of illness.

He will be cremated on November 26 at a private ceremony in Havana and a period of official mourning has been declared in Cuba until December 4, when his ashes will be laid to rest in the south-eastern city of Santiago.

In Miami, where there is a large Cuban community, there have been celebrations in some parts of the city, with people banging pots and cheering.


Ellen DeGeneres was praised by President Barack Obama for her influence on the gay rights movement as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Other celebrities including Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Michael Jordan were also among the 21 recipients of the country’s highest civilian honor.

President Obama said it was easy to forget the risk Ellen DeGeneres took to come out as gay in 1997.

During the award ceremony at the White House, he said Ellen DeGeneres’ bravery helped “push our country in the direction of justice”.ellen-degeneres-medal-of-freedom

“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far… just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” President Obama said.

“What an incredible burden that was to bear – to risk your career like that – people don’t do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, which recognizes contributions to United States culture, security and international interests, is the highest honor a civilian can receive, alongside the Congressional Gold Medal, a similar accolade awarded by the US Congress.

“These are folks who have helped make me who I am,” Barack Obama said.

“Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, personal way, in ways that they probably couldn’t imagine.”

Honorees from the entertainment world included Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford and Cicely Tyson, as well as musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross.

From the sporting world, former basketball superstars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan were awarded the medal, alongside sports broadcaster Vin Scully.

Bill and Melinda Gates were awarded for their philanthropic work through their charitable foundation.

Despite Barack Obama’s words on the contribution Ellen DeGeneres made to the country, she almost missed the ceremony after security refused to let her in to the White House.

Ellen DeGeneres tweeted alongside a photo of herself sitting on a nearby park bench: “They haven’t let me in to the White House yet because I forgot my ID.”

APEC leaders have said they will pursue free trade deals despite Donald Trump’s election victory.

During the campaign, Donald Trump called for greater protection for US jobs and said he would tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the biggest multinational trade deal in years.

After a two-day summit in Peru, leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation defended the benefits of open markets.

China also claimed growing support for a wider 21-nation trade deal it backs.

In a statement at the end of the summit the APEC leaders said: “We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism.”

It also referred to the “rising skepticism over trade”, after the uneven recovery since the financial crisis had caused more people to question whether globalization worked for enough people.

However, the leaders said that the “the benefits of trade and open markets need to be communicated to the wider public more effectively, emphasizing how trade promotes innovation, employment and higher living standards”.apec-peru-2016

The TPP pact involves 12 countries: the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

It aims to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth.

Donald Trump said the proposal was a “terrible deal” that would send American jobs to countries with cheaper labor.

The agreement must be ratified in the US Congress, which remains in the hands of Donald Trump’s party – meaning it’s expected to fail.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had also opposed the pact.

After the APEC summit, President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the pact, saying not going ahead would undermine the US position across Asia Pacific.

Barack Obama warned he was already hearing calls for a less ambitious trade agreement that would exclude US workers and businesses.

“When it comes to trade, I believe the answer is not to pull back,” he said.

“The answer is to do trade right, making sure it has strong labor standards, strong environmental standards, that it addresses ways in which workers and ordinary people can benefit rather than be harmed by global trade.”

However, while some leaders think the TPP could go ahead without the US, others say it would be impossible without a complete renegotiation.

Over the weekend, New Zealand PM John Key suggested there could be minor changes to the agreement that would give Donald Trump enough wiggle room to support it, without losing face.

Meanwhile Peruvian President Pedro Pablo said the TPP should not be written off, despite Donald Trump’s win.

China – which is not part of the TPP – has set out an alternative vision for regional trade.

Its proposal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), does not include the Americas.

After the APEC summit, Beijing said several nations including Peru and Chile had expressed interest in joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

President Barack Obama has said he may speak out, against tradition, after leaving office if he feels Donald Trump is threatening core American values.

By convention, former presidents tend to leave the political fray and avoid commenting on their successors.

President Obama said he would give Donald Trump time to outline his vision but added that, as a private citizen, he might speak out on certain issues.

President-elect Donald Trump spent the weekend interviewing candidates for top jobs in his cabinet.

Speaking at a forum in Lima, Peru, President Obama said: “I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off.”

However, President Obama added, if an issue “goes to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, then I’ll examine it when it comes”.

Barack Obama described himself as an “American citizen who cares deeply about our country”.Donald Trump criticized by Barack Obama

Speaking at a news conference to mark the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, President Obama reiterated that he would extend to Donald Trump’s incoming administration the same professional courtesy shown to his team by his predecessor George W. Bush.

George W. Bush has refrained since leaving office from commenting on Barack Obama’s presidency.

“I don’t think it does any good,” President Bush told CNN in 2013, after Barack Obama was elected for a second time.

“It’s a hard job. He’s got plenty on his agenda. It’s difficult. A former president doesn’t need to make it any harder. Other presidents have taken different decisions; that’s mine.”

George W. Bush’s stance falls in line with tradition. US presidents tend to avoid criticizing predecessors or successors. Barack Obama was clear that he would not weigh in on Donald Trump’s decisions while he was still in office.

However, his suggestion that, as a private citizen, he would seek to defend “core values” comes amid mounting concern among civil rights groups and others about Donald Trump’s political appointments.

Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was previously the head of Breitbart, a website accused of promoting racism and anti-Semitism.

His national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, has previously likened Islam to a “cancer” spreading through the US.

Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, lost the chance to become a federal judge in 1986 because of allegedly racist remarks.

President Obama said he believed the intense responsibility of the presidency would force Donald Trump to moderate some of the more extreme policy positions he had advocated during his campaign.

On November 20, Donald Trump indicated he had made more selections after a weekend of interviews at his golf resort in New Jersey, saying: “We really had some great meetings, and you’ll be hearing about them soon.”

He has confirmed he is considering retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis for the role of defense secretary, calling him “very impressive” in a tweet. He also met former critic Mitt Romney, who is now being considered for secretary of state.

The incoming president also says that his wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son Barron will not move into the White House straight away. They would move “very soon, right after he finishes school”, he said. The school year runs from late August or early September until late May or June.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, said his first priority after leaving office was to take Michelle on vacation and “get some rest, spend time with my girls and do some writing, do some thinking”.

Asked about the failure of the Democratic Party’s campaign under Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama criticized the “micro-targeting” of “particular, discrete groups”, arguing there should have been an effort to reach out to the entire country.

Hillary Clinton has been criticized for focusing her energy on certain demographics, including Latinos and women, who were believed to support her, at the expense of a more inclusive campaign.

That approach “is not going to win you the broad mandate that you need”, Barack Obama said, adding that the party needed a “smarter message”.


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has announced he already submitted his letter of resignation.

General James Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee that “it felt pretty good”.

He had been expected to step aside, as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to appoint his own officials.

Analysts believe that James Clapper is sending a signal to the Trump administration that they must now speed up the transition.

President-elect Donald Trump has denied that his transition team is in turmoil, despite having only filled two postings so far.

One of Donald Trump’s close advisers, Kellyanne Conway, told reporters at Trump Tower in New York that announcements would be made before or after Thanksgiving, which is one week away.James Clapper China hacking US government

James Clapper will remain in post until President Barack Obama leaves office.

“I submitted my letter of resignation last night which felt pretty good. I’ve got 64 days left,” he said.

Committee members jokingly asked him to stay for four more years.

James Clapper has authority over 17 different agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the (Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

More than 107,000 employees report to James Clapper with a combined budget of over $52 billion.

In a profile published by Wired magazine only hours before James Clapper’s announcement, he said that he never questioned the morality of his profession.

In his role, James Clapper has often been in the position of defending the National Security Agency (NSA), just one of the covert agencies that his office oversees.

NSA’s image was badly damaged after Edward Snowden revealed how they collect information on American citizens.

During a 2013 congressional hearing, James Clapper was asked: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?”

“No, sir,” he replied.

“It does not?” the incredulous senator responded.

“Not wittingly,” James Clapper said.

“There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”

On November 17, James Clapper was asked if Donald Trump will open up a rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but answered that he does not predict a “significant change in Russian behavior”.

James Clapper, 75, has served in the job for six years after previously working for the US Air Force and the Defense Intelligence Agency.


Ellen DeGeneres and other stars are set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.

The medal recognizes people who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the United States, the White House said.

President Barack Obama will honor the 21 people at a ceremony on November 22.

Ellen DeGeneres is joining HGTV with a six-episode competition series

The president said the medal was a “tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better”.

“From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Diana Ross and Robert Redford are among the other honorees from the entertainment world.

Bill and Melinda Gates and SNL producer Lorne Michaels will also be recognized.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who have contributed to the security or national interests of the US, the White House said.

It also rewards people who have contributed to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Honorees from the sports world include basketball players Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, along with veteran sports broadcaster Vin Scully.

Architect Frank Gehry, attorney Newt Minow, designer Maya Lin, polymath physicist Richard Garwin, mathematician and computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton and Eduardo Padron, and president of Miami Dade College in Florida will also receive the medal.

Posthumous honors will go to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

President Barack Obama is seeking to assure United States allies that President-elect Donald Trump will honor the country’s international alliances when he takes office in January.

He told reporters that Donald Trump had “expressed a great interest” in maintaining the US commitment to NATO.

During the campaign, Donald Trump said he might abandon a guarantee of protection for fellow NATO countries.

The Republican candidate’s statements alarmed the Baltic states, which fear Russian aggression.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty commits allies to come to the aid of a member state under attack.

In July, the Republican candidate said the US would only come to the aid of allies if they have “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

The US has long been pressing its European allies to spend more on defense.

President Obama was speaking hours before his arrival in Greece, on his final official overseas trip.Barack Obama blames media for Donald Trump coverage

He will later travel on to Germany and then to Peru.

Security has been stepped up in the Greek capital Athens, where anti-US protests are planned.

Barack Obama is expected to use his final foreign visit to calm nerves over the forthcoming administration of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump’s surprise election victory has raised concern among some world leaders after a string of controversial statements he made during his campaign.

At a White House news conference on November 14, President Obama said Donald Trump had “expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships”.

He said this included “strong and robust NATO” partnerships, which he said would convey “enormous continuity” to the world.

The president said that in last week’s White House meeting with his successor, he had urged Donald Trump to send “some signals of unity… and to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign”.

President Obama said he “absolutely” had concerns about Donald Trump but urged his fellow Democrats to accept the result and “recognize that that is how democracy works”.

On November 15, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed confidence about the Western alliance’s future.

“President-elect Donald Trump stated during the election campaign that he is a big fan of NATO, and I am certain that he will be a president… who will live up to all the commitments of the United States in the alliance,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on November 14 that President Vladimir Putin had spoken by phone to Donald Trump and agreed to work with him towards improving US-Russia relations.

Donald Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin, describing him as a stronger leader than Barack Obama.

Greek minister of state Nikos Pappas said there was surprise in Greece as elsewhere at the election result, but added: “Everybody would be expecting the US government to continue to be on our side.”

“The mood of Greek people for this political change is <<wait and see>>,” he said.

High on the agenda in talks between Barack Obama and PM Alexis Tsipras on November 15 will be Greece’s crippling debt problems.

The US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have urged restructuring of the debt but face resistance from EU states, particularly Germany.

As preparations for Barack Obama’s visit went ahead, Greek anarchist and left-wing groups announced they were planning protest marches “against the representative of imperialist powers”.

Police banned public gatherings in central Athens and near the city’s international airport until after Barack Obama’s departure. Extra officers are also being deployed.

The last official visit to Greece of a sitting US president – by Bill Clinton in 1999 – was marked by extensive violent protests.

Donald Trump has said he is open to keep key parts of President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill, the ObamaCare.

The president-elect, who has pledged to repeal the 2010 law, said he will keep the ban on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he also favored allowing young adults to be insured on their parents’ policies.

“I like those very much,” he said of the two pillars of the bill.

Photo AP

Photo AP

It was his meeting with President Obama on November 10 that had made him reconsider his calls for an all-out replacement of the Affordable Care Act, he told the newspaper.

Asked whether he would implement a campaign promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while secretary of state, Donald Trump said: “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve healthcare, jobs, border control, tax reform.”

Meanwhile, protesters angered by Donald Trump’s election gathered in several cities for a third night on November 11. Thousands took to the streets of Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, voicing anger at the president-elect’s comments about immigrants, Muslims and women.

In a separate interview with CBS, Donald Trump said the parts of ObamaCare he was “going to try to keep” were “the strongest assets”.

He said that while the bill would be repealed and replaced, the changes would provide Americans with “great healthcare for much less money”.

Donald Trump made the statement during an interview with the 60 Minutes program, which is due to air on November 13.

Also on November 11, Donald Trump put Vice-President-elect Mike Pence in charge of his transition team, replacing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Donald Trump has said it was a “great honor” to meet President Barack Obama for transition talks at the White House.

President Obama said he was “encouraged” by their “excellent” and “wide-ranging” conversation, lasting over an hour.

During the election campaign, Donald Trump vowed to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy and he has previously questioned his US citizenship.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, had called Donald Trump “uniquely unqualified”.

However, following Donald Trump’s shock defeat of Hillary Clinton in November 8 election, President Obama appealed for national unity and said he was “rooting” for him.

After today’s behind-closed-doors meeting in the White House, President Obama said: “My number one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful.”

He said they had discussed domestic and foreign policy and he had been “very encouraged” by the president-elect’s interest in working with President Obama’s team on issues facing the US.

Image source AP

Image source AP

President-elect Donald Trump said he would “very much look forward” to dealing with President Barack Obama in future.

“I have great respect, the meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half, and it could’ve, as far as I’m concerned, it could’ve gone on for a lot longer,” Donald Trump said.

“We discussed a lot of different situations – some wonderful and some difficulties.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the two men did not resolve their differences but “the meeting might have been at least a little less awkward than some might have expected”.

“President Obama came away from the meeting with renewed confidence in the commitment of the president-elect to engage in an effective, smooth transition,” he said.

Donald Trump flew from New York on his private jet and landed at Reagan National Airport, just outside the nation’s capital.

He was accompanied by his wife, Melania, who had a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama. President-elect Donald Trump, along with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, then met Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying they “can’t get started fast enough, whether it’s healthcare or immigration”.

Paul Ryan described it as a “fantastic, productive meeting”.

President Obama congratulated Donald Trump in a phone call in the early hours of November 9.

The defeated Hillary Clinton also told supporters Donald Trump had to be given a “chance to lead”.

President-elect Donald Trump meets President Barack Obama at the White House for what could prove to be awkward transition talks.

Donald Trump has questioned Barack Obama’s US citizenship and vowed to dismantle his legacy.

During the campaign President Obama called Donald Trump “uniquely unqualified”, but now says he is “rooting” for him after his shock defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Thousands have taken to the streets of major cities denouncing Donald Trump.

Donald Trump flew from New York on his private jet and landed at Reagan National Airport, just outside the nation’s capital.Donald Trump criticized by Barack Obama

The two men are expected to appear together for the cameras in the Oval Office after a behind-closed-doors meeting.

Donald Trump is being accompanied by his wife, Melania, who will have a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama.

On November 9, Barack Obama – who campaigned against Donald Trump – urged all Americans to accept the result of the presidential election.

“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” the president said.

The defeated Hillary Clinton also told supporters Donald Trump had to be given a “chance to lead”.

Despite their calls, protesters gathered in several cities across the country on November 9. Many chanted: “Not my president.”

In his victory speech, Donald Trump vowed to “bind the wounds of division”, after an acrimonious election contest, and to be “president for all Americans”.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has insisted President Obama is sincere about ensuring a smooth handover when he meets Donald Trump, although he added: “I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy meeting.”

With the Republicans holding a majority in both chambers of the Congress Donald Trump has an easier path to pass his laws and scrap key Obama initiatives like his healthcare reforms.

Barack Obama has urged Democrats of all ethnic backgrounds to get out and vote for Hillary Clinton, warning that the fate of the US – and the world – is at stake.

The president said Donald Trump was a threat to hard-earned civil rights.

Barack Obama was speaking at a rally in North Carolina.

Donald Trump said Barack Obama should stop campaigning for Hillary Clinton and focus on running the country.

“The bottom line is, no-one wants four more years of Obama,” the Republican candidate told supporters in Pensacola, Florida.

Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton had become “unhinged” in recent days.Barack Obama blames media for Donald Trump coverage

Americans will vote for the candidate they want to see in the White House on November 8, with recent polls showing the race tightening between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Barack Obama told supporters in the key battleground state of North Carolina: “The fate of the republic rests on your shoulders.

“The fate of the world is teetering and you, North Carolina, are going to have to make sure that we push it in the right direction.

“I am not on the ballot, but I tell you what – fairness is on the ballot; decency is on the ballot; justice is on the ballot; progress is on the ballot; our democracy is on the ballot.”

The FBI is now investigating new emails that may be linked to its probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

FBI chief James Comey has faced a fierce backlash for announcing the move just 11 days before the presidential election.

Earlier, Barack Obama implicitly criticized James Comey over the new inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s email use.

It emerged in March 2015 that Hillary Clinton had been breaking federal rules by operating a private email server while she was secretary of state from 2009-2013.

Hillary Clinton’s lawyers combed through the server and provided the state department with 30,000 work-related emails, but her campaign deleted another 33,000 messages, saying they were personal in nature.

James Comey concluded in July that Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information, but there were no grounds for any charges.


President Barack Obama has revealed that his youngest daughter, Sasha, recently mocked him on Snapchat.

He said 15-year-old Sasha had recorded him discussing the social network at a family dinner and then quietly posted a reaction to her friends.

It is not the first time President Obama has discussed Sasha’s online activities.

In July, Barack Obama said Sasha also tweets, leading several media outlets to try to identify her account.

It remains secret.

Likewise a copy of the described Snapchat post has not been made public. Messages posted to the app are designed to disappear after being viewed or within a short period of time, but there are ways to circumvent the restrictions.

Barack Obama recounted the latest event on Monday’s edition of the Jimmy Kimmel Live TV show.

“Sasha gave me instructions on Snapchat,” said the president.

“One night at dinner we’re sitting there, and I had read that Snapchat was becoming really popular among her age cohort. So, I said: <<So, tell me about Snapchat.>>

“So, she starts explaining stuff – you can make little faces on your picture, and this and that and the other.

“And at the end of it, Michelle and I are sitting there. And I said: <<Isn’t this interesting?>>

“And I started talking to Michelle about the implications of social media and what all this means.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

“[And I] come to find out she was recording us the whole time, and then sent to her friends afterwards: <<This is my dad lecturing us on the meaning of social media.>>

“And she took a picture of herself sort of looking bored.”

The president added that the first lady – who joined Snapchat in June – and his eldest daughter Malia had “loved” the post.

Jimmy Kimmel joked that the event represented a security breach.

Barack Obama also mentioned that his own iPhone was limited to receiving emails and browsing the internet, and would not take photos, play music or make calls.

“My rule has been throughout my presidency, that I assume that someday, some time, somebody will read this email,” he said.

“So, I don’t send any email that at some point won’t be on the front page of the newspapers.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been beset by a scandal over leaked emails, while her rival Donald Trump has been accused of using outdated software on his company’s email servers.

Barack Obama also said that he expected technology to preoccupy his successor.

“One of the biggest challenges… is going to be: how do we continue to get all the benefits of being in cyberspace but protect our finances, protect our privacy?

“How do we balance issues of security? Because people expect the government to monitor this enough to protect them from bad guys.

“But they worry that if government is in there too much, then who is going to protect them from government?

“This is going to be a big debate that we’re going to have for a long time.”

President Barack Obama has said Donald Trump’s insistence that he might not accept the election result is “dangerous”.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Miami for Hillary Clinton, President Obama said Donald Trump’s comments undermined American democracy.

During the third debate, the republican nominee refused to say he would accept the outcome of the election on November 8.

The billionaire later said he would accept a “clear” result but left a challenge open.

Speaking in Ohio on October 20, Donald Trump said, with a grin: “I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election – if I win.”Barack Obama blames media for Donald Trump coverage

In the same speech, the Republican said he would accept a clear election result but reserved the right to file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable one.

Hours later, Barack Obama said that sowing the seeds of doubt in people’s minds about the legitimacy of US elections provided a boost to the country’s enemies.

“You’re doing the work of our adversaries for them, because our democracy depends on people knowing that their vote matters,” the president said.

Donald Trump has been heavily criticized by many in his own party by suggesting he might not accept the election result.

For days, the Republican has claimed the election is rigged against him, due to media bias and voter fraud.

During October 19 debate with Hillary Clinton, when moderator Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump if he would accept losing to her, the Republican nominee said he would “keep you in suspense”.

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, later insisted that the candidate had meant he would not concede until the “results are actually known”.

Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in 2008, said: “A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility.”

First Lady Michelle Obama also joined the attack on October 20, saying “you do not keep American democracy in suspense”.

At the Ohio rally, Donald Trump also reiterated a claim he made during the debate, that Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama were responsible for inciting violence at a Chicago rally earlier this year.

The crowd erupted into cheers of: “Lock her up!”

During the debate, Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman”.

Donald Trump has trailed Hillary Clinton in the polls after facing damaging fallout over a video that emerged of him making inappropriate remarks about groping women.

Latest polls suggest Hillary Clinton is ahead nationally and in key battleground states.

Barack Obama has urged Donald Trump to “stop whining” as he rejected his claim that November 8 election will be rigged.

The president said Donald Trump’s attempt to discredit a poll before it has even taken place was “unprecedented” for a presidential candidate.

Also “unprecedented”, said Barack Obama, was Donald Trump’s “flattery” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump is facing sinking poll numbers and accusations of assault.

The New York billionaire has claimed the next month’s election will be “absolutely rigged” for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In a White House Rose Garden news conference on October 18 alongside visiting Italian PM Matteo Renzi, President Obama said Donald Trump’s assertions were “based on no facts”.

“I’d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and try to make his case to get votes,” Barack Obama said.

“By the way,[it] doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you want out of a president, if you start whining before the game’s even over.

“If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.”Donald Trump criticized by Barack Obama

President Obama also addressed Donald Trump’s admiring remarks about Vladimir Putin.

“Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin and the degree to which he appears to model much of his policies and approach to politics on Mr. Putin is unprecedented,” Barack Obama said.

The president’s broadside comes a day after Donald Trump said he would consider visiting Russia before taking office, if elected.

Donald Trump told a talk-radio host: “If I win on November 8, I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration.”

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on October 19.

The Republican nominee has seen his poll numbers slide since their first battle of wits, followed by the emergence of the 2005 tape that he was forced to address in the second debate.

Donald Trump denied any impropriety, but a number of women have come forward with assault allegations against him.

Hillary Clinton will head into October 19 debate with a seven-point lead over Donald Trump, according to a Monmouth University poll. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 47% to 40%, while 7% of likely voters say they will support the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson.

Barack Obama has blasted Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recent remarks about women, saying they would be intolerable even for someone applying for a job at a 7-Eleven convenience store.

At a rally supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, President Obama also urged senior Republicans to formally withdraw their endorsement of Donald Trump as presidential candidate.

Many top Republicans have withdrawn their support for Donald Trump afer a video in which he boasts of groping women emerged last week.

Donald Trump accused them of disloyalty.

The New York billionaire was particularly scathing about House Speaker Paul Ryan whom he described as a “weak and ineffective” leader.

Addressing a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, on October 11, Barack Obama referred to Donald Trump’s crude remarks about women, saying: “Now you find a situation in which the guy says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-Eleven.”

The president said: “You don’t have to be a husband or a father to say that’s not right. You just have to be a decent human being.”

Barack Obama questioned how senior Republican politicians could still want Donald Trump to be president.Barack Obama blames media for Donald Trump coverage

“The fact is that now you’ve got people saying: <<We strongly disagree, we really disapprove… but we’re still endorsing him>>. They still think he should be president, that doesn’t make sense to me,” he told the crowd.

Barack Obama was interrupted several times by anti-Clinton campaigners but seemed unfazed, saying: “This is democracy at work. This is great.”

The hecklers were escorted from the venue by security officials.

In another development, Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chairman John Podesta has said that Russia was behind an apparent hacking of his emails and may have been colluding with the Trump campaign.

John Podesta said on October 11 that the FBI was investigating the hacking of the emails that were published by WikiLeaks.

The 2005 video released on October 7 revealed Donald Trump describing how he had sought to have s** with a married woman and making other aggressive comments about women.

Nearly half of the 331 incumbent Republican senators, House members and governors have condemned the lewd remarks and about 10% have called for Donald Trump to drop out of the race, according to Reuters.

On October 10, Paul Ryan said he would not defend Donald Trump over the remarks.

Paul Ryan told fellow House Republicans he would instead focus on congressional elections to ensure Republicans could maintain legislative control.

Donald Trump fired back in a string of tweets, saying the “shackles” had been removed, allowing him to “fight for America the way I want to”.

He said he neither wanted nor needed Paul Ryan’s support.

Donald Trump said “disloyal” Republicans “come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!”

He attacked Senator John McCain, who has denounced Donald Trump’s conduct and faces a close re-election battle in Arizona, as “foul-mouthed”.

Despite a widening divide within the Republican Party, some members insist they are sticking by Donald Trump.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was “really disturbed” by Donald Trump’s comments about women but still planned to support him, saying the election was “about bigger issues than that”.

Texas Senator and former rival Ted Cruz also said he would still cast his ballot for Donald Trump, telling a Texas TV station that Hillary Clinton was an “absolute disaster”.

Donald Trump delivered a gaffe while addressing supporters in Florida on October 11, telling them to go out and vote on the wrong date.

ABC News footage showed Donald Trump saying: “Go and register. Make sure you get out and vote, November 28.”

The election date is November 8.

A recent PRRI/Atlantic poll suggested Hillary Clinton holds a 49-38 lead over Donald Trump.