Five ‘hot mic’ moments that got leaders in trouble

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown

It’s a golden rule of politics: always assume the microphone is on.

But as many world leaders can testify, it’s a rule that’s often forgotten.

‘Hot mic’ moments have heaped embarrassment on politicians across the globe, from America to Australia.

Just this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught appearing to mock US President Donald Trump at a Nato meeting.

Unguarded comments like these have been a source of humiliation, sometimes with huge political fallout.

They have also shone a light into the murky corridors of international diplomacy – for better or worse. Here are five of the most memorable.

1. Ronald Reagan: ‘We begin bombing in five minutes’ (1984)

Ronald Reagan
Image captionUS President Ronald Reagan was often known to crack jokes during sound checks

At the height of the Cold War, US President Ronald Reagan turned up the diplomatic heat with a riff on Soviet Russia.

During a soundcheck before his weekly radio address, Mr Reagan joked with sound engineers who were recording him for NPR radio.

“My fellow Americans,” the president said. “I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

The tongue-in-cheek remarks were not broadcast live, but a recording was later leaked to the public.

As a result, Soviet forces were temporarily put on high alert in the Far East, and the comments drew condemnation from the USSR.

2. Jacques Chirac doesn’t like British or Finnish food (2005)

Jacques Chirac
Image captionMr Chirac accused Britain of having the “worst food”, second only to Finland

French President Jacques Chirac caused a stir with culinary comments he allegedly made during a trip to Russia.

According to French newspaper Libération, the veteran politician was speaking to his Russian and German counterparts during an event marking the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad – Russia’s enclave in northern Europe.

Thinking he was off-microphone, Mr Chirac allegedly said of the UK: “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”

“The only thing the British have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease,” he added.

While they didn’t make it to broadcast, the comments were never denied by Mr Chirac’s media team.

It came at a time of cool relations between Britain and France, as the two countries clashed over farming subsidies and France’s decision to abstain from involvement in the Iraq War.

3. ‘Yo Blair!’ (2006)

George W Bush and Tony BlairImage copyrightPRESS ASSOCIATION
Image captionGeorge W Bush’s unguarded comments to Tony Blair were mocked by political opponents

During a G8 Summit in St Petersburg, a private conversation – later known as “Yo, Blair” – was picked up by a microphone close to US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

During the exchange, Mr Bush appeared to greet his UK counterpart, saying “Yo, Blair, how are you doing?” He went on to thank him for the gift of a sweater, and made derogatory remarks about Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Referring to Syria’s support of Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel, Mr Bush said he he hoped the UN would “get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this…” followed by an expletive.

“Get Kofi [Annan] on the phone with [Bashar] Assad and make something happen,” he added.

Mr Bush’s use of the phrase “Yo Blair” was mocked by political opponents of both leaders. But its veracity has been questioned, with some journalists suggesting that he said “Yeah, Blair”.

The recording nonetheless highlighted the leaders’ close, and often controversial, relationship at the time.

4. Gordon Brown’s ‘bigoted woman’ (2010)

Media captionBrown: “I apologise if I’ve said anything that has been hurtful”

While speaking with members of the public in Rochdale, northern England, Britain’s then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was confronted by a woman who queried levels of immigration.

After their exchange, Mr Brown entered his car with a Sky News microphone still pinned to his clothing.

Not realising the microphone was still on, he told an aide that the conversation “was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman”.

Asked what she had said, he replied: “Ugh, everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.”

Mr Brown later visited the woman – Gillian Duffy – to apologise, and repeated his apology during an interview on BBC Radio 2.

5. ‘I can’t stand him any more’

Media captionJournalist Dan Israel, who broke the story: ”They weren’t supposed to hear it, there was a mistake”

A chat between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama was overheard by journalists at a G20 meeting in France.

Shortly before a press conference, reporters were handed translation boxes but were told not to plug their headphones in until the leaders’ backroom conversation had finished.

Several people ignored the instructions and heard Mr Sarkozy talking to Mr Obama about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I can’t stand him any more, he’s a liar,” Mr Sarkozy said.

“You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day,” replied Mr Obama.

For several days there was media silence in France about the exchange, but Dan Israel of the French news website Arret sur Images later broke the story.

The exchange highlighted Israel’s strained relationship with both France and the US at the time.

Alabama to vote on bill banning abortion

Abortion is being debated in the Alabama statehouse (pictured) as well as at 15 others across the USThe Alabama state legislature

Alabama lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill to outlaw abortion outright in the state, which would become the strictest such law in the US if passed.

The state Senate began debating the measure on Tuesday, and must decide whether to allow exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

The bill was passed 74-3 this month in the state House of Representatives.

Activists hope it will challenge a landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion in the US.

What next?

A final vote could come on Tuesday evening.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey has not said whether she would sign it, but she is seen as a strong opponent of abortion.

Democrats plan to mount a filibuster to block the bill, but have only eight seats in the 35-member chamber.

Republican lawmaker Terri Collins, sponsor of the legislation, said: “Our bill says that baby in the womb is a person.”

Democratic state Senator Bobby Singleton said the bill “criminalises doctors” and is an attempt by men “to tell women what to do with their bodies”.

As the Senate debated whether to an exception for rape and incest, Democrat Rodger Smitherman said: “We’re telling a 12 year old girl who, through incest and rape is pregnant and we are telling her that she doesn’t have a choice.”

What does the bill do?

It goes further than legislation passed recently elsewhere in the US to ban abortion after a foetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy.

Under the Alabama measure, provision of abortion at any stage in pregnancy would be a class A felony.

Doctors could face 10 years in prison for attempting to terminate a pregnancy and 99 years for actually carrying out the procedure.

A woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.

The bill would allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk.

Its text says more foetuses have been aborted than people killed in “Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields”.

anti-abortion activist in PhiladelphiaAn anti-abortion activist in Philadelphia

Why now?

Supporters of the legislation have welcomed an inevitable challenge in federal court if the measure becomes law.

The bill’s architects expect it will be defeated in the lower courts, but hope it will end up before the Supreme Court.

Their aim ultimately is to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

Emboldened by the addition of two Trump-nominated conservative justices, anti-abortion activists are eager to take one of the most divisive issues in America back to the highest court in the land.

Eric Johnston, founded the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition that helped draft the bill, told NPR: “The dynamic has changed.

“The judges have changed, a lot of changes over that time, and so I think we’re at the point where we need to take a bigger and a bolder step.”

What’s the national picture?

If signed, the Alabama measure would become one of more than 300 laws challenging abortion access in the US.

Its passage comes amid a wave of anti-abortion measures in Republican-controlled state capitols around the nation.

Legislation to restrict abortion has been introduced in 16 of America’s 50 states this year alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for more abortion access.

The flurry of measures has led these activists to warn that a swathe of US territory could become an “abortion desert.”

At the other end of the political spectrum, a Democratic-sponsored bill in Virginia that would have allowed third-trimester abortions up until the point of childbirth failed to make it out of committee.

Swarthmore College fraternities disband after ‘rape attic’ claims

Students hold a "sit-in" at Phi Psi fraternity, Swarthmore College (28 April)The protesters say fraternities have too much power on campus

Two fraternities at a US college have disbanded after leaked meeting minutes that referred to buying date rape drugs and a “rape attic”.

Students had staged sit-ins at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, calling for Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon to be banned from campus.

College president Valerie Smith said the frats had agreed to disband but that an investigation would continue.

“As a community, we have much healing to do,” she added.

Fraternities are exclusive, mostly all-male student organisations. Some are based on areas of study, professions, academic credentials, or on specific religious or ethnical backgrounds. Others serve more of a social purpose.

Last month two student publications – The Phoenix and Voices – published what are alleged to be internal documents from the Phi Psi fraternity.

The redacted, 117-page documents include “meeting minutes” and details of pledging rituals from 2012-16. They feature racist, misogynistic and homophobic language and accounts of physical and sexual assaults, and bravado about buying “date rape” drugs.

The “minutes” also allege that Delta Upsilon “have both a rape tunnel AND a rape attic (gotta choose one or the other)”.

Allegations of sexual assault, violence and harassment have also been shared by students on an anonymous Tumblr page named “Why Swarthmore’s Fraternities Must Go.”

What has the college said?

In her statement, Ms Smith said that an investigation ordered into the fraternities would continue, despite the two groups having disbanded.

“We have heard heartbreaking stories from students who feel unwelcome to the point of wanting to transfer out of our community,” she said.

“Those stories have come from across the spectrum of our student body – from student protesters to fraternity members. Stories such as these reflect our failure to realise the values we so often espouse.”

She added that “at this time, we have no evidence that any current student participated in the behaviours documented in those materials”, but that they would be analysed by an external investigator.

When did students start protesting?

Student protesters began occupying Phi Psi’s on-campus fraternity house and camping outside on Saturday.

Organizing for Survivors (O4S) and the Swarthmore Coalition Against Fraternity Violence, which arranged the protest, called on Swarthmore to terminate the leases of both fraternities and ban them from campus.

Instead, they want the properties to be designated for “marginalised” students groups like women and ethnic minorities.

What are the protesters saying?

Fraternities are the only student groups able to lease property on campus. Many members also play in college sports teams, and alumni are often important donors for fundraising campaigns.

Organiser Morgin Goldberg, 22, told the BBC that this had given fraternities “undue social power that they not only hold, but abuse”.

Ms Goldberg says she has witnessed harassment, racism and homophobia by members.

“If any other student group had this way of conduct, they would be off campus in 10 seconds,” she added.

“Isolating a few bad apples will not address the structure,” said Ms Goldberg.

“This is the start of the conversation, not the end of it, about social life at college and which students groups are represented and which are under the bus”.

What did the fraternities say?

Phi Psi, which is not affiliated with the national umbrella group for fraternities, was suspended from Swarthmore in 2016 for violating its alcohol and drugs policy. It reopened for parties a year ago.

In a statement, the group said language used in the leaked documents “[was] not representative of who we are today”.

“All our current brothers were in high school and middle school at the time of these unofficial minutes, and none of us would have joined the organization had this been the standard when we arrived.”

Delta Upsilon fraternity told Philadelphia Magazine that it read the documents “with total revulsion” and said they “do not reflect the values” of the group.

Aljazeera: US police brutality videos emerge showing unnecessary force

Police brutality continues to make African American community feel marginalised.

Relations between police and the African American community in the United States have flared up again after controversial new videos emerged appearing to show officers using unnecessary force.

 

Columbine survivors mark twentieth anniversary of massacre

Samantha Haviland was a student at Columbine High School when the 1999 shooting happened

Survivors of the Columbine High School shooting have been speaking at a remembrance ceremony in Denver to mark the twentieth anniversary of the massacre.

Twelve students and a teacher were murdered by two teenagers.

One former student, Patrick Ireland, who was injured by bullets, said no one from the school or surrounding community had emerged unscathed.

The event was the culmination of three days of commemorations. Earlier, members of the public left flowers and cards at a memorial to the victims.

Bill Clinton spoke at the remembrance ceremony via video link


Columbine students and staff also marked the day by taking part in community service projects.

Survivor Will Beck places flowers at the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park in Littleton, ColoradoWill Beck placed flowers at the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park in Littleton, Colorado

 

Sean Graves, a massacre survivor and 2002 graduate, speaks during the Columbine Remembrance Ceremony at Clement ParkSean Graves, a massacre survivor and 2002 graduate, spoke during the ceremony

 

Crosses with the names and portraits of the victims at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens, also in Littleton, ColoradoCrosses with the names and portraits of the victims at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens, also in Littleton, Colorado

 

People gather to remember loved ones at the Columbine MemorialPeople gathered to remember loved ones at the Columbine Memorial

 

Spencer Greenlee, a student at Columbine High School, sits in prayer at the memorialSpencer Greenlee, a student at Columbine High School, sat in prayer at the memorial

 

Candles wrap around a collection of flowers laid at the memorialCandles around a collection of flowers laid at the memorial

 

Visitors read a poem left the memorialVisitors read a poem left at the memorial

“A Message from the Future with AOC”: New Film Imagines World Transformed by the Green New Deal

APRIL 18, 2019

As the push for the Green New Deal builds momentum in the United States, The Intercept has released a short illustrated video imagining a future shaped by the progressive environmental movement. It’s titled “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The New York congressmember narrates the film to envision an America that has been transformed by the Green New Deal policies, including a just transition of jobs, Medicare for all, and a total overhaul of the country’s energy system. The result is a vision of radical hope and transformation. The film features stunning artwork by award-winning illustrator Molly Crabapple. It is presented by The Intercept and Naomi Klein, co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis, and co-directed by Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt.

Vaccines: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Published on Jun 25, 2017
The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the minuscule risks, but some parents still question their safety. John Oliver discusses why some people may still feel uncertainty about childhood vaccinations.