Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Donald Trump: I’ll send troops to Mexico to stop ‘bad hombres’

President Trump in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart threatened to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless that country’s military does more to control them, and scrapped with Australia’s prime minister in another call.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to The Associated Press.

“You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

Continue reading Donald Trump: I’ll send troops to Mexico to stop ‘bad hombres’

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It Took The Secret Service 5 Days To Realize A Gunman Had Shot At The White House

Secret Service fence jumper

The Secret Service is coming under renewed scrutiny after a man scaled the White House fence and made it all the way through the front door before he was apprehended.

An in-depth report from The Washington Post details how the Secret Service reportedly failed to identify and respond to a 2011 shooting attack on the White House.

The elite law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the president didn’t realize that bullets had hit the White House until five days after a gunman shot at the upstairs residence that houses the first family, according to the Post.

It wasn’t until a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor that the Secret Service realized what had happened. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were out of town the night of the attack, but their youngest daughter Sasha was home.

At least seven bullets hit the White House that night.

From the Post:

Secret Service officers initially rushed to respond. One, stationed directly under the second-floor terrace where the bullets struck, drew her .357 handgun and prepared to crack open an emergency rifle box. Snipers on the roof, standing just 20 feet from where one bullet struck, scanned the South Lawn through their rifle scopes for signs of an attack. With little camera surveillance on the White House perimeter, it was up to the Secret Service officers on duty to figure out what was going on.

Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. “No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down,” a supervisor called over his radio. He said the noise was the backfire from a nearby construction vehicle.

The the gunman, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, was eventually arrested, but the lack of initial response to the serious threat is concerning.

The Post also reports that it was “sheer luck” that Ortega-Hernandez was identified at all. He crashed his car seven blocks from the White House and left his gun inside.

This report comes a little over a week after an intruder armed with a knife managed to scale a White House fence and run into the building. Despite the incident, Obama said he has “full confidence” in the Secret Service.

A former Secret Service agent wrote in The Washington Post this week that the agency is “in over its head protecting the White House” and “isn’t prepared to hold back a coordinated attack … by multiple invaders.”

Secret Service morale has reportedly been declining during the past few years.

Obama: ‘Russia Doesn’t Make Anything’

Obama has tried to focus U.S. foreign policy on Asia, a response to China’s economic and military might. But for months, that “pivot” has been overshadowed by a flurry of international crises, including Russia’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer and second-largest natural gas producer. Europe relies heavily on Russian energy exports, complicating the West’s response to the Ukraine crisis.

Obama downplayed Moscow’s role in the world, dismissing President Vladimir Putin as a leader causing short-term trouble for political gain that will hurt Russia in the long term.

“I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything,” Obama said in the interview.

“Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking,” he said.

Obama told Putin last week that he believes Russia violated the 1988 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles.

Speaking of Russia’s “regional challenges,” Obama said in the interview: “We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy.”

Obama described U.S. tensions with China as “manageable.”

China is engaged in territorial disputes with its neighbors in the oil-rich South China Sea, and frequently skirmishes with the West over intellectual property issues.

“One thing I will say about China, though, is you also have to be pretty firm with them, because they will push as hard as they can until they meet resistance,” Obama told the Economist.

“They’re not sentimental, and they are not interested in abstractions. And so simple appeals to international norms are insufficient,” he said.

Obama said he believes trade tensions will ease when China shifts “from simply being the low-cost manufacturer of the world” and its companies begin making higher-value items that need intellectual property protections.

“There have to be mechanisms both to be tough with them when we think that they’re breaching international norms, but also to show them the potential benefits over the long term,” he said.

Great-power politics – The new game

A CONTINENT separates the blood-soaked battlefields of Syria from the reefs and shoals that litter the South China Sea. In their different ways, however, both places are witnessing the most significant shift in great-power relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In Syria, for the first time since the cold war, Russia has deployed its forces far from home to quell a revolution and support a client regime. In the waters between Vietnam and the Philippines,

America will soon signal that it does not recognise China’s territorial claims over a host of outcrops and reefs by exercising its right to sail within the 12-mile maritime limit that a sovereign state controls.

For the past 25 years America has utterly dominated great-power politics. Increasingly, it lives in a contested world. The new game with Russia and China that is unfolding in Syria and the South China Sea is a taste of the struggle ahead.

Facts on the ground

As ever, that struggle is being fought partly in terms of raw power. Vladimir Putin has intervened in Syria to tamp down jihadism and to bolster his own standing at home. But he also means to show that, unlike America, Russia can be trusted to get things done in the Middle East and win friends by, for example, offering Iraq an alternative to the United States (see article).

Lest anyone presume with John McCain, an American senator, that Russia is just “a gas station masquerading as a country”, Mr Putin intends to prove that Russia possesses resolve, as well as crack troops and cruise missiles.

The struggle is also over legitimacy. Mr Putin wants to discredit America’s stewardship of the international order. America argues that popular discontent and the Syrian regime’s abuses of human rights disqualify the president, Bashar al-Assad, from power. Mr Putin wants to play down human rights, which he sees as a licence for the West to interfere in sovereign countries—including, if he ever had to impose a brutal crackdown, in Russia itself.

Power and legitimacy are no less at play in the South China Sea, a thoroughfare for much of the world’s seaborne trade. Many of its islands, reefs and sandbanks are subject to overlapping claims. Yet China insists that its case should prevail, and is imposing its own claim by using landfill and by putting down airstrips and garrisons.

This is partly an assertion of rapidly growing naval might: China is creating islands because it can. Occupying them fits into its strategy of dominating the seas well beyond its coast. Twenty years ago American warships sailed there with impunity; today they find themselves in potentially hostile waters (see article).

But a principle is at stake, too. America does not take a view on who owns the islands, but it does insist that China should establish its claims through negotiation or international arbitration. China is asserting that in its region, for the island disputes as in other things, it now sets the rules.

Nobody should wonder that America’s pre-eminence is being contested. After the Soviet collapse the absolute global supremacy of the United States sometimes began to seem normal. In fact, its dominance reached such heights only because Russia was reeling and China was still emerging from the chaos and depredations that had so diminished it in the 20th century.

Even today, America remains the only country able to project power right across the globe. (As we have recently argued, its sway over the financial system is still growing.)

There is nevertheless reason to worry. The reassertion of Russian power spells trouble. It has already led to the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine—both breaches of the very same international law that Mr Putin says he upholds in Syria (seearticle).

Barack Obama, America’s president, takes comfort from Russia’s weak economy and the emigration of some of its best people. But a declining nuclear-armed former superpower can cause a lot of harm.

Relations between China and America are more important—and even harder to manage. For the sake of peace and prosperity, the two must be able to work together.

And yet their dealings are inevitably plagued by rivalry and mistrust. Because every transaction risks becoming a test of which one calls the shots, antagonism is never far below the surface.

American foreign policy has not yet adjusted to this contested world. For the past three presidents, policy has chiefly involved the export of American values—although, to the countries on the receiving end, that sometimes felt like an imposition.

The idea was that countries would inevitably gravitate towards democracy, markets and human rights. Optimists thought that even China was heading in that direction.

Still worth it

That notion has suffered, first in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the wider Middle East. Liberation has not brought stability. Democracy has not taken root.

Mr Obama has seemed to conclude that America should pull back. In Libya he led from behind; in Syria he has held off. As a result, he has ceded Russia the initiative in the Middle East for the first time since the 1970s.

All those, like this newspaper, who still see democracy and markets as the route to peace and prosperity hope that America will be more willing to lead.

Mr Obama’s wish that other countries should share responsibility for the system of international law and human rights will work only if his country sets the agenda and takes the initiative—as it did with Iran’s nuclear programme. The new game will involve tough diplomacy and the occasional judicious application of force.

America still has resources other powers lack. Foremost is its web of alliances, including NATO. Whereas Mr Obama sometimes behaves as if alliances are transactional, they need solid foundations. America’s military power is unmatched, but it is hindered by pork-barrel politics and automatic cuts mandated by Congress.

These spring from the biggest brake on American leadership: dysfunctional politics in Washington. That is not just a poor advertisement for democracy; it also stymies America’s interest. In the new game it is something that the United States—and the world—can ill afford.

Understanding the racial bias you didn’t know you had

Barack Obama has been confused with a valet.  Teachers have lower expectations for black and Hispanic students. Jurors are more likely to see darker-skinned defendants as guilty.

Sure, you could throw all of these things under the broad category of racism. But some of these disparities are often perpetuated by people who insist that they believe with all their hearts in racial equality.

IT SEEPS INTO JUST ABOUT EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE

There’s a term for what’s happening when, despite our best intentions and without our awareness, racial stereotypes and assumptions creep into our minds and affect our actions:  implicit racial bias.

It seeps into just about every aspect of life, including areas like criminal justice that can have deadly consequences. Thirty years of neurology and cognitive psychology studies show that it influences the way we see and treat others, even when we’re absolutely determined to be, and believe we are being, fair and objective.

That’s why implicit racial bias has been called “the new diversity paradigm — one that recognizes the role that bias plays in the day-to-day functioning of all human beings.”

Here’s what you need to know about how it works.

What is implicit bias?

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The first step in understanding how implicit racial bias works is to understand the general concept of implicit bias, which can shape the way we think about lots of different qualities: age, gender, nationality, even height.

You can think of it generally as  “thoughts about people you didn’t know you had.”

Two of the leading scholars in the field, Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, capture it well in the title of a book they wrote about the concept. It’s called “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

YOU CAN THINK OF IT GENERALLY AS  “THOUGHTS ABOUT PEOPLE YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU HAD”

What do these “blind spots” look like, and how do they shape behavior?  Well, if you have a stereotype about Asian people that labels them as “foreign,” implicit bias means you might have trouble associating even Asian-American people with speaking fluent English or being American citizens. If you’ve picked up on cultural cues that women are homemakers, it means you might have a harder time connecting women to powerful roles in business despite your conscious belief in gender equality.

The effects aren’t always negative: if you have a positive attitude about your alma mater, implicit bias could mean you feel more at ease around someone who you know also graduated from there than you do around people who went to other schools.

But there are a couple of things make implicit bias especially fascinating and potentially insidious:

First, since our thoughts often determine our actions, implicit bias can lead to discriminatory behaviors (more on those below). Second, it is impossible to detect without taking a test. In other words, you can’t sit down and do introspection about your biases, and you can’t just decide not to let them affect your attitudes and actions. Implicit bias lives deep in your subconscious, and it is largely separate from the biases you know you have.

How does implicit racial bias affect the way we think about race?

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Implicit bias comes from the messages, attitudes, and stereotypes we pick up from the world we live in, and research over time and from different countries shows that it tends to line up with general social hierarchies.

Studies have shown that people have implicit biases that favor Germans over Turks (in Germany), Japanese over Koreans (in Japan), men over women (when it comes to career-related stereotypes), youth over elderly, and straight people over gay people.

So, it’s no surprise race is a prime area for implicit bias, and if you live in America, you can probably make an educated guess about some of the ways it tends to play out: among other things, there’s a widespread preference for light skinned over dark skinned and white over black.

How is this related to regular old racism?

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Implicit racial bias tends to work against the same groups that are the victims of the type of overt racism that you hear from white supremacists or the more subtle bigotry of people who believe that racial minorities suffer from cultural pathology or who actively defend racial and ethnic stereotypes.

But it can also affect the minds of people who would say — honestly — that they are horrified by these types of attitudes. That’s because the implicit associations we hold often don’t align with our declared beliefs.

THE IMPLICIT ASSOCIATIONS WE HOLD OFTEN DON’T ALIGN WITH OUR DECLARED BELIEFS

As Cynthia Lee, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law, has explained, “the social science research demonstrates that one does not have to be a racist with a capital R, or one who intentionally discriminates on the basis of race, to harbor implicit racial biases.”

In all areas touched by implicit bias, including race, we tend to hold biases that favor the group that we belong to (what researchers call our “ingroup”). But research has shown that we can also hold implicit biases against our ingroup. So yes, white Americans generally have implicit biases against other races, but racial minorities can hold implicit biases against themselves, too. These results are rarely reflective of conscious attitudes.

How do you figure out whether you have implicit racial bias?

To evaluate implicit bias, scientists mostly use tests that measure reaction time and rely on the idea that if we closely associate two concepts in our minds, they’ll be easy for us to sort together. And if we don’t associate them, they’ll be harder, and take more time, to sort together.

The most popular of these tests is the Implicit Association Test, or IAT. Anthony Greenwald and his colleagues invented it in the mid-1990s. An organization called Project Implicit, maintained by Greenwald, Mahzarin Banjai, and Brian Nosek, allows people to take it online. The test is basically a video game that you play on a computer, the object of which is to sort categories of pictures and words.

An image from an implicit bias test at Project Implicit

An image from an implicit-bias test at Project Implicit

Here’s an example of how it measures implicit racial bias: in the black-white race attitude test, test takers are asked to sort pictures of white and black people’s faces, and positive and negative words, by pressing one of two keys on the keyboard. It turns out that most people are able to do this more quickly when the white faces and positive words are assigned to the same key (black faces and negative words are assigned to the other key), compared with when white faces and negative words are assigned to the same key (and black faces and positive words are assigned to the other key). The difference in the time it takes a user to respond in different situations is the measure of implicit bias. Try a test yourself at Project Implicit.

“[M]Y HANDS WERE LITERALLY FROZEN WHEN I HAD TO ASSOCIATE BLACK WITH GOOD”

Here’s how Banaji explained the way taking the IAT feels, in a 2013 interview with the Boston Globe:

“So when I took the test … it was stunning for me to discover that my hands were literally frozen when I had to associate black with good. It’s like I couldn’t find the key on the keyboard, and doing the other version, the white-good, black-bad version was trivial. So the first thought that I had was: ‘Something’s wrong with this test.’ Three seconds later, it sunk in that this test was telling me something so important that it would require a re-evaluation of my mind, not of the test.”

How do the implicit racial biases the IAT reveals play out in reality?

Implicit racial bias can shape our beliefs and assumptions, color the way we treat other people, and even help decide what “feels true” for us when it comes to larger social and political issues.

Banaji explained that in one version of the IAT, researchers took famous Asian Americans such as Connie Chung and Michael Chang and Kristi Yamaguchi and picked white foreigners such as Hugh Grant, Katarina Witt, and Gerard Depardieu, and asked test takers to connect them to American symbols and foreign symbols. They found it was easier to associate Hugh Grant with American symbols than Connie Chung. “That shows how deeply the category ‘American’ is white” in many people’s minds, she said.

IT WAS EASIER TO ASSOCIATE HUGH GRANT WITH AMERICAN SYMBOLS THAN CONNIE CHUNG

She went on to explain what she said were the connotations of implicit bias when it comes to politics: “The reason I especially like that result is that in the first Obama election and since then, the issue has come up about these ‘birthers,’ and I think what we captured there was a little bit of a birther in all of us. I think this is where conscious attitudes matter. You and I say, ‘I consciously know Barack Obama was born in this country, and I believe this because the evidence is there.’ For some people who we might write off as the lunatic fringe, the association to be American is to be white. I can see for them that feels true.”

What are the main areas in which implicit racial bias affects our everyday lives?

Implicit biases are pervasive.  Researchers say everyone possesses them, even people like judges, who have avowed commitments to impartiality.

And they don’t just stay tucked away in our unconscious until they’re revealed by a computer game. They determine how we behave. There is increasing evidence that implicit bias — including implicit racial bias, which the IAT measures — predicts behavior in the real world. This behavior, of course, harms the people who are members of groups that are the subjects of negative implicit bias.

For example, research has shown that it can affect healthcare: in one study, despite self-reporting very little explicit bias, two out of three clinicians were found to harbor implicit bias against blacks and Latinos. And it turns out that this affected the care that black patients got: the stronger the clinicians’ implicit bias against blacks relative to whites, the lower the black patients rated them on all four sub-scales of patient-centered care. It’s also been connected to racial discrimination in hiring, performance evaluations, housing discrimination, and even perceptions of neighborhood crime.

How does implicit bias affect criminal justice?

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Criminal justice — from arrests, to police shootings, to juries’ perceptions of defendants — is such a rich area for implicit racial bias to operate that it deserves its own separate discussion.

To understand the gaping racial disparities in criminal justice, it helps to understand implicit bias. As Vox’s German Lopez has explained:

Part of the problem is outright racism among some judges and cops, socioeconomic disparities that can drive more crime, and drug laws that disproportionately affect black Americans. But the other explanation is that cops, like everyone else, carry this implicit bias, which experts agree affects how they police people of different races. Since these are the people who carry out the initial steps of law enforcement, this bias might launch a cascading effect of racial disparities that starts with simple arrests and ends in prison or death.

These are a few ways implicit bias has been found to operate at every level of the criminal-justice system:

Can you get rid of implicit racial bias?

The good news is that there is some evidence that implicit biases, including implicit racial biases, are malleable.

THERE ARE STUDIES THAT DEMONSTRATE THAT YOU CAN AT LEAST PRODUCE SHIFTS

Several different approaches have shown promise for getting rid of implicit bias, generally, which all apply to implicit racial bias, too.

  • Counter-stereotypic training: People can be trained, using visual or verbal cues, to develop new associations that contrast with the stereotypes they hold.
  • Exposure to individuals who defy stereotypes:  Being made aware of people who challenge the assumptions that fuel our biases — for example, male nurses, elderly athletes, or female scientists — has shown potential to decrease them.
  • Intergroup contact: Simply having contact with the people about whom you have bias can reduce it. But researchers have found the contact typically has to involve individuals sharing equal status and common goals, a cooperative rather than competitive environment, and the presence of support from authority figures, laws, or customs.
  • Education efforts aimed at raising awareness about implicit bias: the criminal-justice and health-care realms especially have embraced this approach.
  • Taking the perspective of others: considering contrasting viewpoints and recognizing multiple perspectives can reduce automatic implicit bias.
  • Mindfulness-meditation techniques: new research suggests that these can reduce implicit bias by short-circuiting negative associations.

While these methods are promising, implicit biases are really tough to shake. As Banaji told the Boston Globe, “I would say we should not be naïve about how easily we can change them. On the other hand, there are studies that demonstrate that you can at least produce shifts.”

Russia: We warned the Yanks about Islamic State

A joke making the rounds among Russian officials and hacks who take a keen interest in what is going on in the Middle East these days goes something like this: How will the Yanks deal with the Islamic State group?

They will create “Islamic State 2”, a bigger and better armed group, and let it deal with the original Islamic State group. And what happens when “Islamic State 2” turns against them as it happened with the original Islamic State? They will create “Islamic State 3”, and so on.

But seriously, the rise and spread of the Islamic State group is no laughing matter. Now that the US and its allies have finally woken up to the dangers of the spread of the extremist group, the worry in Moscow is that the hotheads in the Pentagon and at Nato headquarters in Brussels will decide to start hitting Islamic State positions in Syria along with “other targets” there as well – for instance, Syrian army positions.

US President Barack Obama has already announced his plan to deal with the group, promising to lead a “broad coalition” that will “roll back this terrorist threat”. In Moscow, the fear is that the US will seize this opportunity to intervene in Syria.

The Libyan scenario

According to Valeriy Fenenko from the Moscow Centre for International Security, the US can actually use the presence of the Islamic State group in Syria as a pretext to implement the “Libyan scenario”.

“The Americans are bound to try to compensate for their failure last fall,” he says. “At first, it will be air strikes against terrorists and then, in parallel, it may amount to helping the moderate opposition. The US may start a creeping interference, like it happened in Bosnia,” he said.

In any event, Russian diplomatic efforts are in full swing. According to one Russian source, Moscow is trying to prevent possible air strikes in Syria by the US, UK and others, in the same way it did last year when the danger of air strikes was growing by the day.

“Our people in Arab and European capitals were desperately trying to find some sort of solution last year,” he said. “The threat of a regional war that could escalate into a world war was taken very seriously by the Kremlin. And this scenario is in the cards again.”

The feeling in Moscow is that the recent Nato summit in Newport, Wales, missed out on a great opportunity to involve Russia in finding a solution to the spread of the Islamic State group and other militant groups associated with it across Iraq and the Middle East generally. Not to mention, the very real threat of these violent men entering European countries, and even reaching the US.

“The Russians have been warning the Americans ever since the civil war broke out in Syria that it was very dangerous to arm the opposition there,” one former Russian general who was in charge of anti-terrorist operation told me. “There was no chance that the arms destined for the so-called moderate opposition would not end up with the likes of the Islamic State. Not to mention that lots of it was coming as well from ‘liberated’ Libya.”

The same bandits

What worries Russian officials is the stubborn refusal of the Obama administration to talk to President Bashar al-Assad’s government about a possible joint effort in defeating the Islamic State group in Syria.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said recently, it doesn’t make sense for the West to help the Iraqi government to fight the Islamic State group but deny cooperation to Assad who is fighting “the same bandits”.

Some Russian analysts are saying that the bigger problem of the current crisis is that the Islamic State group runs its recruitment campaigns not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well.

Different figures are cited over the number of Europeans who have joined the ranks of the group in the past several months, but if you consider that the number of fighters has risen – according to Russian estimates, from about 6,000 in June to over 30,000 at present – it can be assumed that we are talking about thousands of young Muslims travelling from Europe to fight in what they believe is a holy war.

The senseless war in Gaza has probably indirectly boosted the Islamic State group’s recruitment campaign, making it easier to claim that the West and Israel are hellbent on wiping out the Muslims in the Middle East. It remains unclear as to why Israel’s armed forces attacked Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and conducted blanket air strikes that were bound to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.

In the opinion of Russian experts, this looked more like a smokescreen for US failures in Iraq and Libya rather than an attempt to wipe out Hamas’ arsenal and top commanders. From a military point of view, Benjamin Netanyahu’s war achieved absolutely nothing, except perhaps giving Hamas a boost in popularity.

The danger for Russia from the Islamic State group is that some of its members come from Chechnya and Dagestan, the two Muslim republics in the south of Russia, and there is a risk that the group can find sympathisers and supporters there and even start to build a network across the Caucasus.

That is why Moscow is now calling on all parties to make a joint effort to destroy the Islamic State group before it becomes truly international.

However, as the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Konstantin Sivkov points out, the military option is only part of the solution in tackling the Islamic State group.

He says that air strikes would not be enough and that it’s crucial to also fight its ideology and cut off its finances that are now flowing through perfectly legal banking channels.  The war against the Islamic State group is fraught with dangers. It might get out of control and drag the whole region into a much wider conflict.

President Obama to appear on ‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls’

US President Barack Obama will trek through the wilderness in Alaska this week with British TV adventurer Bear Grylls, the NBC channel has announced.

He is due to tape an episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls to observe the effects of climate change on the area, it said. He is the first president to appear on the show, to be aired later this year.

President Obama is on a three-day tour of Alaska aimed at highlighting the pace of climate change.

It is part of his administration’s efforts to build support for new legislation significantly capping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the US, as well as raise attention to the ways climate change has damaged Alaska’s natural landscape.

Mr Obama follows several other high profile figures, including actresses Kate Winslet and Kate Hudson, who have tested their survival skills on the show.

Bear Grylls – a former British special forces soldier – puts celebrities through their paces in remote forests and mountains across the world, “pushing their minds and bodies to the limit to complete their journeys”.

US President Barack Obama walks towards the Marine One prior to his departure from the White House 31 August 2015 in Washington, DC.

This week Mr Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where he is due to address foreign ministers from Arctic nations at a conference on climate change.

He is also scheduled to visit glaciers and meet fishermen and native leaders to discuss rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers and melting permafrost in the sparsely populated US state.

Before he departed for Alaska, President Obama announced he was changing the name of Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, to its original native Alaskan, Denali.

Earlier this month, the president unveiled plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from US power stations by nearly a third within 15 years.

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