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Entertainment was provided by the English band Mumford & Sons who have become a household name in America following the success of their debut album, Sigh No More having sold more than two million copies. A choice of the UK Prime Minister himself who has forged a keen interest in the west London quartet's musical renditions. US President Barack Obama's choice of perfomer was American soul singer John Legend.

 

Mumford & Sons were among many other British guests who have become household names in America. Others included Damian Lewis, the actor from the hit TV show Homeland; Sir Jonathan Ive, the designer for Apple; Hugh Bonneville, star of Downton Abbey; and Virgin entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. Rory McIlroy, the Ulsterman who recently became golf’s world number one, was also in attendance.The British Prime Minister, David Cameron finishes off his official trip to the United States with a visit to the New York City area that includes a meeting at the New York Stock Exchange and discussions with students at New York University.

 

His schedule also takes in the Hudson River, in New Jersey’s largest city, a meeting with Newark Mayor, Cory Booker to hear about some of the city’s programs for education, economic development and child and family support that could be replicated in Great Britain. And then onto the World Trade Center site and the Sept. 11 memorial.

 

During the Prime Minister's visit there has been the usual amount of mutual praise and admiration slapped on to each other's shoulders. Cameron spoke highly of Barack Obama's "strength, moral authority and wisdom" with President Obama calling the UK Prime Minister "the kind of partner you want at your side" as he welcomed him to his biggest White House state dinner yet. Both leaders reiterated their nations' "special relationship".

As the Prime Minister, David Cameron and Mrs Cameron visit Washington for an official visit, David Cameron and Barack Obama have written a joint article focusing on the alliance between their two countries.

 

ARTICLE BELOW:

 

Seven decades ago, as our forces began to turn the tide of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill travelled to Washington to coordinate our joint efforts. Our victories on the battlefield proved “what can be achieved by British and Americans working together heart and hand,” he said. “In fact, one might almost feel that if they could keep it up, there is hardly anything they could not do, either in the field of war or in the not less tangled problems of peace.”

 

Keep it up we have – not only winning that war for our survival but also building the institutions that undergird international peace and security. The alliance between the United States and Great Britain is a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share. But what makes our relationship special – a unique and essential asset – is that we join hands across so many endeavours. Put simply, we count on each other and the world counts on our alliance.

 

As leading world economies, we are coordinating closely with our G-8 and G-20 partners to put people back to work, sustain the global recovery, stand with our European friends as they resolve their debt crisis and curb the reckless financial practices that have cost our taxpayers dearly. We’re committed to expanding the trade and investment that support millions of jobs in our two countries.

 

As the two largest contributors to the international mission in Afghanistan,  we’re proud of the progress our troops have made in dismantling al-Qaeda, breaking the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan forces. But as recent events underscore, this remains a difficult mission. We honour the profound sacrifices of our forces, and in their name we’ll carry on the mission.

 

Over the next few days, we will consult about preparations for the NATO summit in Chicago, where our alliance will determine the next phase of the transition that we agreed to in Lisbon. This includes shifting to a support role in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014 and ensuring that NATO maintains an enduring commitment so that Afghanistan is never again a haven for al-Qaeda to launch attacks against our citizens.

As members of the international community, we have been united in imposing tough sanctions on the Iranian regime for failing to meet its international obligations. We believe there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution, and we are coordinating our diplomatic approach with China, France, Germany and Russia, our P5+1 partners. Meanwhile, as the United States imposes its strongest sanctions to date and the European Union prepares to impose an embargo on Iranian oil, the choice for Tehran will be sharpened – meet your international obligations or face the consequences.

 

As two nations that support the human rights and dignity of all people, we continue to stand with those brave citizens across the Middle East and North Africa who are demanding their universal rights. Having joined in the mission to protect the Libyan people last year, we support Libyan efforts to build democratic institutions and hold free and fair elections this year. We condemn the Syrian regime’s horrific violence against innocent civilians, and we are focused on the urgent humanitarian task of getting food and medicine to those in need.

 

With our international partners, we’ll continue to tighten the noose around Bashar al-Assad and his cohorts, and we’ll work with the opposition and the United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to plan for the transition that will follow Assad’s departure from power.As two of the world’s wealthiest nations, we embrace our responsibility as leaders in the development that enables people to live in dignity, health and prosperity.

 

Even as we redouble our efforts to save lives in Somalia, we’re investing in agriculture to promote food security across the developing world. We’re working to improve maternal health and end preventable deaths of children. With a renewed commitment to the lifesaving work of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, we see the beginning of the end of the AIDS pandemic. Through our Open Government Partnership, we’re striving to make governments more transparent and accountable.

 

Finally, as two peoples who live free because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we’re working together like never before to care for them when they come home. With new long-term collaborations to help our wounded warriors recover, assist in veterans’ transition back to civilian life and support military families, we recognize that our obligations to troops and veterans endure long after today’s battles end.

 

Our troops and citizens have long shown what can be achieved when British and Americans work together, heart and hand, and why this remains an essential relationship – to our nations and the world. So like generations before us, we’re going to keep it up. Because with confidence in our cause and faith in each other, we still believe that there is hardly anything we cannot do.

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Washington Bound - That 'Special Relationship'

and oh, how well that Garden grows

Prime Minister, David Cameron and his wife arrived in the United States for an official State visit to a warm and illustrious welcome, bringing back memories of past political collaborations of forged mutual respect, acknowledged common ground and deep friendship spanning years.

 

With David Cameron's arrival Stateside Tuesday, he was given a few pointers in the art of playing basketball by President Barak Obama who also joked to the media that Mr Cameron would have to follow this up with helping him out with cricket lessons.

 

The two leaders discussed the war in Afghanistan at a joint appearance on Wednesday. They said that NATO forces would hand over the lead combat role to Afghanistan forces next year as the U.S. and its allies aim to get out by the end of 2014.

 

Coming not too soon for some after the war effort was rocked by the burnings of Qurans at a U.S. base, with deadly protests against Americans and a shooting rampage, allegedly by a U.S. soldier, that left 16 Afghan civilians dead.

 

The obligatory mutual gift giving by Obama, 50, and Cameron, 45. The Obamas gave the Camerons a wood and charcoal burning grill engraved with American and British friendship flags, complete with his and her White House chef jackets embroidered with the Camerons’ names. The Prime Minister responded with a customised ping pong table complete with UK and US flag bats a reminder to the President of when the two leaders took on a pair of 16-year-old schoolboys for a doubles game at the Globe Academy school in south London - and lost.

 

The White House dinner saw a star studded flow of guests, who dined on Bison Wellington, combining the classic British pastry-around-meat dish with North Dakota buffalo loin.

Poster depicting the special

relationship in 1898

British Band Mumford and Son's perform for the

high brow group.

Some of the guests to turn up, Damian Lewis, Homeland actor and Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey.

Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron enjoy a spot of tennis with

a couple of tennis students.

- Sam Watts -

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Newt Gingrich hangs up his hat

After months of political wrangling and side stepping, seen as one of the dirtiest fights on the political program, Republican Presidential nominee-hopeful, hangs up his hat, but maybe not his boxing gloves.

 

Speaking in Arlington, Va the rather monotone, yet buoyantly colourful conservative, conceded defeat to his more robust rival, Mitt Romney.

Although a notably restrained endorsement for his rival camp, Gingrich vented his frustrations on the opposing Democratic team by saying;

"This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history."  And with a side-swipe towards the presumptive party's nominee he said, "As to the presidency, I'm asked sometimes, is Mitt Romney conservative enough? And my answer is simple, compared to Barack Obama? You know, this is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan."

 

Retiring from the race was not entirely unexpected as his last primary victory was two months ago in Georgia, his former home state. Surrounded by family members and supporters the 68-year-old controversial figure noted that his challenging campaign was "a truly wild ride," adding, "I could never have predicted either the low points or the high points."

 

In American bravado style Gingrich recounted his long career in public life saying he will not give up his life's ambition, along with his wife, "We owe it to America. Congress has decayed dramatically in the last 20 years," he said. "In the long run, if Congress doesn't understand things and can't legislate things, you can't fix it."

 

He called the stalemate in Washington "a really big problem" that "may be too big a challenge even for somebody who used to be speaker of the House."

- Anne Hunt -

Remembering the Los Angeles riots - (1992)

Twenty years on

The Los Angeles Riots of 1992 was sparked by what the world came to know as, the Rodney King Beating.

 

Following a high speed pursuit of the black motorist by a group of white LA police officers, King was pulled from his car and systematically beaten, kicked and tasered as he lay helpless on the ground.

 

Unsuspectingly, this abuse of power was videotaped and the grainy film that we have all seen today, was sent to the TV networks. A world wide public outcry ensued.

 

When a jury acquitted the three white and one Hispanic Los Angeles Police Department Officers of all wrong doing, the people in the primarily black neighbourhood of South Central spoke up in the only way they knew how.

- Kelly Walters -

Golden Gate Bridge 75th birthday

San Francisco's landmark bridge, the engineering magnificence that is; the Golden Gate Bridge, is 75 years old. And, to mark this special occasion, San Franciscans came out to celebrate in their droves, cycling and walking the 1.7mile steel suspension bridge - one of the modern Wonders of the World and opened to traffic on May 27th 1937 - in an effort to sap up the lingering history.

 

Special commemorative events took place along the shoreline from Fort Point, to the Pier and as the evening drew in the celebrations took on a new dimention in the form of music and merriment, along with the brilliant colourful pyrotechnics that lit up the night sky, adorning the city's great symbol of strength and courage - highlighting its tremendous majesty.

 

When you have great joy, you also have much sadness, as over the years the bridge has been the final perch for those lost souls who seek solace in taking their final plunge. Because of this, the bridge has also been called; The Bridge of Lost Soles and in a tribute to those 1,558 victims, the same number of shoes were laid out by the Bridge Rail Foundation, an organisation dedicated to preventing suicide jumps from the bridge, in poignant commemoration.

 

At the time of its mammoth erection in 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge was heralded as an engineering marvel and when one of the bridge's designers, Daniel Mohn gave his final speech during the opening day ceremonies, he

Sir, "I present to you a bridge that will last forever."

 

What he should have said is, "I present to you a bridge that will last forever if properly maintained." Since its first day of operation, more than 2 billion vehicles have crossed the impressive structure.

 

The imposing tourist attraction was named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance of water to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, which was championed by engineer Joseph Strauss in the 1920s. The bridge, which rises majestically above a Civil War-era fort on the San Francisco side and arches across to the Marin County headlands to the north, is in the middle of a seismic upgrade that has seen many of its structures replaced or modified.

 

Plans for a moveable barrier to separate north and southbound traffic and a net system to prevent suicides are also moving forward.

 

Maintenance on the bridge to keep the structure sound has taken its toll. Crews have had to install a bracing system after high winds lashed and twisted the span in the 1950s, raising fears it would collapse. Years later, they had to replace vertical cables when they were found to have corroded in the bridge's damp, foggy climate, potentially destabilising the span.

 

Eleven men died during construction from 1933 to 1937 - ten of them when scaffolding fell through a safety net that had been set up to protect workers. The conditions back then were difficult, cold, foggy and windy, and workers who helped construct supports for the south tower had to contend with dangerous tides. The current retrofit project is expected to extend the bridge's lifespan by another 150 years.

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1,558 shoes to commemorate those lost 'soles' to the perils of life.

 

Imelda Marcos' footwear absent.

- Kelly Walters -

The area was completely devastated starting from the day the verdicts were read out and lasting for two days. 54 people died and 2000 were injured from the widespread looting, arson and vicious assaults.

 

The LAPD were incapacitated and the National Guard had to be brought in. A total of 1 Billion dollars damage has been estimated. Asian and Hispanic business concerns became the targets for the malcontent.

Whether Katie Holmes had enough of Tom Cruise's rumoured halitosis, or there's an element of truth in the much publicized, so-called, objections to her husband's band of dark-suited 'MEN IN BLACK' - CIA styled, Scientology guards - with unnerving stalking and somewhat intimidating presence - 'cruising' around their Hollywood  home, is at this time unknown, however, rumour has it....

 

There's a lot of conjecture on this. And no one is talking, least of all former wife Nicole Kidman who was married to Tommy for close on ten years and who even adopted two children - now fully fledged Scientologists - with the man of her dreams. However, if a picture could paint a thousand words her departing gift to Mr Cruise - perhaps summing up the fateful split - and now seen as a somewhat iconic image suggesting the inner release from the cult's shackles and a future that meant sublime freedom. Ironically, in 2007 Kidman played the lead in a remake of the 1956 Science Fiction cult classic, 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' Perhaps this too was yet another passing dig at her EX. Ms Holmes has made it clear that she was scared for her daughter's... eh, shall we say, RE-Conditioning. A mental 'Invasion' influenced by this rather insidious and controversial cult. Scientology.

 

What is also interesting, from an analytical prospective, is that Tom's former wives, like Mr Cruise himself, were all originally Catholics. That there could be anything ominous in that -or not - is again - open to conjecture? Catholics seem to have their own style of conditioning. Long known in Vatican circles as 'If we have you for 7 years, we have you forever.' Some might call that approach brainwashing.

Cults, fast bucks, or just preying...on the inadequate?

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Cults, or if your prefer 'Following's,' like Scientology, to name just one of many which have sprung out of the USA in the last 150 years go back to the 'Snake Oil Salesmen' days where roaming 'Carpet Baggers'  swamped the American frontier with tales of instant cures. Those salesmen were merely trying to sell useless good health, whereas cults, like Scientology, profess to sell spiritual awareness and well being. Many may recall  "Jim" Jones who was the founder and leader of the 'Peoples Temple,' best known for the 1978 mass suicide of 909 Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana along with the killings of five other people at a nearby airstrip. Over 200 children were murdered at Jonestown, almost all of whom were forcibly made to ingest cyanide by the elite Temple members.

 

Unlike Jones, L. Ron Hubbard the founder of Scientology had a reasonable career as a Fantasy and Science Fiction writer who, for reasons known to only his strange mind, wrote a book called 'Dianetics.' Unlike Hitler, whose ramblings in Mein Kampf already indicated 'Mein Fuhrer' was many cents short of a dollar. Hubbard, however, was a professional writer and took the 'professional pains' approach to his subjects and presented an almost believable case, which he called ''The Dynamic Principle of Existence." He started this as "Survive", presenting his description of the human mind in far more abstract terms than any psychiatrist had ever done.

 

Naturally, scientists and the medical profession claimed him to be an outright charlatan and fraudster - as have many other countries around the Globe. Many where his 'teachings' - which I prefer to term as 'false and twisted logic' - and even mildly amusing than the 'naive' could swallow. But many rich people today claim his writings to be their saviour, and although many of his 'followers' are creative and well-off neurotics, they contribute millions to the 'Cult's coffers.' Maybe this is the reason why Hubbard himself was known to say, "If you want to make money, go start a religion." And that my friends, he certainly did!

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