Barack Obama: Nobel Peace Winner. War President.

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

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“I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank” (Obama, 2007)

Hope. Change. Peace.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign focused on the principles that changes were needed, and if he were given the chance, it would be possible under his leadership. He promised a ‘change’ from the Bush-era politics, an end to the Middle Eastern wars, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. The emphasis was on hope. The emotive theme was peace. His inspirational rhetoric echoed around the world. The focus was not on the fact that he was the first black president of the USA, but rather that he was so vastly different from the militaristic George W. Bush. Whereas Bush inspired anger, even ridicule towards the end of his office, Obama inspired hope in millions simply through his rhetoric. In October 2009, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a gesture that would never have been given to his predecessor.

Yet beneath all the spin, the PR tactics and the powerfully emotive rhetoric encompassing such  words as “hope” and “change”, Obama’s policies are not so dissimilar to those that the Bush-era enacted. Some even claim that Obama may even be worse. He is certainly more charming, intelligent and emotive than Bush ever was, and this may be why he is able to captivate people’s hearts so. His eloquence with words and his calm, rational demeanor can potentially be very disarming; and if his policies are not so dissimilar to his predecessor’s, then his ‘promises’ for change are simply empty rhetoric, possibly designed to provide a smokescreen for what is essentially a continuation of the Bush-era politics that many Americans began to despise. Continue reading

Obama jokes about Predator drone strikes

Hellfire missile explosion. Quote from site: 1...

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Hellfire Missile Explosion

Just who is the real Barack Obama? The Nobel-peace-price-winning President ordered air strikes inside Pakistan just three days after being sworn in. During his first nine months he authorised as many strikes as George W Bush did in his final three years of office. And 2010 saw the number of drone strikes rise to 115 in that year alone, equal to a drone strike every three days. According to New America Foundation, one in four of those killed by drones has been an innocent. However, the Brookings Institute estimates are much higher – a civilian-to-militant ratio of 10:1. Just remember this fact: the US is not even at war with Pakistan.

Despite authorising the ongoing civilian casualties and horrific air strikes by unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, Obama took time out last year to enjoy a dinner attended by annoying teenage pop “band” the Jonas Brothers. Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last May, Obama took the opportunity to joke about the recent drone strikes. Seeing the Jonas Brothers in the audience, Obama referred to his daughters, saying: “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don’t get any ideas”. A small titter arises from the crowd. Obama should have left the ‘joke’ here. Instead he carries on: “Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?” The crowd laughs, the dinner continues. But how can the Nobel peace prize winning President so casually joke about the attacks on innocent Pakistani citizens, attacks which he authorised, attacks which he has stepped-up since coming into office?

Since he came into power, Obama has expanded and escalated covert CIA programmes of “targeted killings” inside Pakistan. The programme, started by the Bush administration in 2004, uses Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles to bomb targets in Pakistan, often culminating in the deaths of innocent civilians. Merely the names alone should set off alarm bells: what sort of Nobel peace prize winner authorises Hellfire missiles to rain down on a country that is not at war? The drone strikes on Pakistan have been criticised by many, including the UK’s former air chief marshal in Iraq, Sir Brian Burridge, who describes the strikes by unmanned drones as a “virtueless war”. The remote-controlled aircraft are controlled from thousands of miles away – away from the violence, the slaughter, and the cold reality. Meanwhile, the next generation is being trained to use these drones through the use of video-games such as Call of Duty – modern warfare games that are all about the “killstreaks”. This is not me being cynical or satirical – games like CoD really are, in their own way, mimicking reality. Take a look at this clip from the game CoD: Modern Warfare 2. The clip is over 7 minutes long so you don’t have to watch the whole thing. Just take a couple of minutes to have a look. When you get a high-enough “killstreak” in the game, you get the option of utilising air strikes and calling in helicopters for “support”. This is as close to Predator/Reaper drones as any 14 year old kid can get, until (sorry – unless) they join the army at a later age:

Pakistani civilians are being killed by remote-controlled aircraft which don’t know the difference between man, woman or child. They don’t know the difference between “terrorist” or farmer, and the ones controlling the drones are so far removed from the “war-zone” that they cannot differentiate between friend or foe. The “virtual” reality overcomes the true reality and it just becomes another part of the game, another kill to add to the killstreak.

Obama should apologise for his tasteless joke and show some respect for the countless innocents who have lost their lives and their families through the strikes he has authorised inside Pakistan. Or perhaps he should just hand back his Nobel peace prize. It is clear that they gave it to the wrong guy.

Beauty sleep is not a myth

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Ground-breaking new research has shown that people deprived of sleep for long periods of time appear less attractive and more unhealthy, a study has concluded. Unbelievable.

A Swedish study has shown that the concept of “beauty sleep” is not a myth – although being a “well known” concept it has lacked scientific support.

Volunteers in the study were photographed after eight hours sleep and again after being kept awake for 31 hours. Remarkably, observers rated the sleep deprived volunteers as being less attractive and less healthy than their well-rested selves – truly some revolutionary findings. Who would have known, unless this study was conducted?

The untrained observers were asked to “rate” the faces of 23 young men and women after a normal night’s sleep and then after a night of sleep-deprivation. The authors concluded in the British Medical Journal:

“Sleep deprived people are perceived as less attractive, less healthy and more tired compared with when they are well rested”

I’m sorry but, excuse me? Sleep deprived people are perceived of as being more tired in comparison to when they are well-rested?

Who is funding research like this? Apologies for the sarcastic tone of this post, but seriously, I am just amazed that this was actually researched. It is concluding that people that have been awake for going on for 31 hours are going to be perceived as being less attractive, less healthy, and more tired? Does science ever apply common sense, or does it have to test everything before it accepts it as “fact”?

I just get irritated at research like this, the fact that time and money goes into researching these sort of “hypotheses”, despite the fact that a seven-year old could probably tell you the answer for free. So what have we learnt from this? Sleeping less makes you look as if you have slept less. If you stay awake for 31 hours, people will think you are ill. And you probably are ill – stop drinking Irn Bru and get some rest, yeah?

Talbot Campus on #dayx3*

The cold cuts deep despite the sun’s subtle warmth. A young girl pulls her coat tight around her, shivering in the bitter air as she makes her way to the warmth of Poole House. Shelter.

Inside, the canteen marks a departure from the desolate barrens of the outside world – conversations compete for attention as students sit nursing hot drinks, discussing the ebbs and flows of existence. Despite the chatter, however, many seats are empty; the abandoned tables contrast with the hub of activity that the canteen usually brings. The cashiers wear Christmas hats, trying to invoke some festive spirit. A tiny Christmas tree sits atop a counter, looking forlorn. Today, we mourn.

Today is the day that Parliament votes on the proposals for the rise in tuition fees; today is the day that our government votes to condemn future generations to a lifetime of debt. Perhaps this is the reason Talbot Campus is so empty, so unwelcoming – a taste of things to come. I head out of Poole House and make my way to the AUCB campus, to see if the atmosphere is any different. As I step onto AUCB soil, the rays of the sun hit me in the face, blinding me. The campus, however, is also deserted. A stack of abandoned goods lay strewn on the side of the path – chairs, desks, planks of wood, a TV. As I make a right and head down the path towards the courtyard, I see a few students wandering aimlessly, some sitting on benches smoking cigarettes in the bitter cold as a bulldozer makes its way towards a construction site, scattering a few students who look lost. The atmosphere here is no different from Talbot Campus; it is empty, uninviting and desolate. Today the whole of Bournemouth University appears to be in mourning, the outcome already pre-empted by the few who walk the twin campuses with no real purpose. I depart. A small procession of students passes, some carrying placards, making their way to the SUBU coaches bound for the London protest. Some have not given up yet, imbued with a fighting spirit and a sense of optimism. They are chatting amongst themselves, laughing. It inspires hope in me.

In the circle courtyard outside Poole House, a banner reads: “Bournemouth University against Education Cuts”. The courtyard itself is empty. Work is still commencing on the newest “state-of-the-art” lecture theatre, the construction site fenced off. Who knows whether it will ever be filled once the cuts start to bite? I head back into Poole House, into the warmth. Grabbing a coffee, I sit down and mull over the scene before me. Suddenly, Christmas music pipes up, lifting the bleak mood. BU language society members stand in a line, enacting the songs in sign language for those who sit attentively. People clap. I chuck a few pence into the donation pot and make my way out, hands in pockets, deep in thought.

*#dayx3 is the twitter hashtag for the third day of student demonstrations which took place on the actual day that Parliament voted on the proposals to raise tuition fees. I wrote this feature on dayx3, as I walked around Bournemouth University’s Talbot Campus. It was a cold winter morning, and the campus was fairly quiet, perhaps an indicator of things to come, I wondered. I filed this under Comment as well as Fiction>Stories, as it is also a piece of creative, journalistic writing.