Is Obama the world’s funniest politician?

World leader in sense of humour shock! Barack Obama‘s spoof Spielberg film, in which he plays Daniel Day-Lewis playing Obama, has shown that either the White House has some canny spin doctors, or Obama is a genuinely witty guy. Politicians have often fancied themselves as comedians; Lembit Öpik even did some gigs when he lost his seat. Here are the world’s funniest policy-makers.

1. Barack Obama

Link to video: President Obama plays Daniel Day Lewis in White House skit– video

Not content with having a pretty smoochy singing voice, the US president has gone viral with his Obama/Lincoln skit made for the White House correspondents’ dinner. It was no surprise that the world’s most charismatic politician pulled it off, skewering his own gravitas and the method-acting lengths some actors go to: “This accent took a while … the cosmetics were challenging … you wouldn’t believe how long it takes to put these ears on.”

2. Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo
Beppe Grillo: started as a standup. Photograph: Eric Vandeville/Gamma

The rising star of Italian politics started as a standup, so it is not surprising that he has no difficulty making his constituents chuckle – even when he wants to be taken seriously. The 64-year-old founder of the Five Star Movement uses satire and statistics to expose corruption. In 2007 he claimed that the Italian parliament membership had a higher crime rate than one of the most dangerous suburbs of Naples.

3. Boris Johnson

Link to video: Boris Johnson gets stuck on a zip wire

The London mayor recently came second (behind Bradley Wiggins) in a poll to find Britain’s greatest wit. Johnson regularly sprinkles his interviews with witty apercus, helping to enhance that cuddly-teddy-bear persona. On his prime ministerial aspirations, Johnson commented that “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” It might not slay them at the Comedy Store, but it keeps the political hacks happy.

4. Tony Blair

Tony Blair with Catherine Tate as Lauren, taken for Comic Relief
Tony Blair with Catherine Tate as Lauren for Comic Relief. Photograph: Paul Randall/Comic Relief/PA

It may not be the main thing that the Labour leader is remembered for, but Blair was very funny when he appeared alongside Catherine Tate’s surly schoolgirl Lauren during Comic Relief in 2007. Blair’s dispatch box gigs stood him in good stead as he gave Lauren a taste of her own medicine: “I don’t care cos I ain’t bovvered.” Hugh Grant could not have delivered the line better. Certainly funnier than Margaret Thatcher’s wince-inducing Yes, Minister cameo.

5. Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill: formidable comebacks. Photograph: PA

The trend of politicians going for a giggle goes back a long way. Churchill was partial to a pithy put-down, and came out with a formidable comeback when accused of being tipsy by MP Bessie Braddock. “You are drunk.” “Yes. But you are ugly. But tomorrow morning I will be sober.” Eat your heart out, Jimmy Carr

Arlington Veterinarian Stresses Pet Health Value of Dog Grooming

ARLINGTON, Texas, April 28, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Grooming can improve more than a dog’s looks, especially as the weather begins to heat up. According to Dr. Roy Gully of Gully Animal Hospital, a clinic offering dog grooming in Arlington, it can provide significant health and wellness benefits, from detection of skin conditions to possible prevention of heat stroke in shaggier or more heat-sensitive animals. “We want people to know that regular veterinary grooming and wellness checks can help their dogs feel more comfortable and enjoy a lifetime of better health,” Dr. Gully says.

Grooming encompasses a variety of procedures aimed at improving a hygiene, health, and comfort level. These services typically including bathing, brushing and trimming of hair, cleaning of the ears and face, nail trimming and other essentials. Gully Animal Hospital relies on the services of three experienced staff groomers, Brandy Boren, Cynthia Tilotta, and Cassandra Willenburg.

“Keeping groomers on staff at the veterinary facility means that they can alert us to any health issues that may turn up during a grooming sessions,” says Dr. Gully. “This makes the grooming sessions an invaluable part of wellness care.” He explains that routine bathing or hair trimming, for example, can reveal fleas, skin tumors or dermatitis, all of which require veterinary attention. Similarly, inspection and cleaning of the ears can alert the groomers to the presence of mites or other pests. The vet team can then prescribe the appropriate medications or other treatments to cope with the issue.

Bathing also removes oils and dead skin cells that attract bacteria, while brushing and trimming remove matted clumps of hair that can cause the pet discomfort. Dr. Gully adds that nail trimming is another grooming measure that can help ensure pet health. Nails that are overgrown can be prone to catching, cracking, or tearing away from the cuticle, leading to painful toes and possible complications such as bacterial infection.

The approach of warmer weather makes grooming an even more urgent matter. “Dogs covered with shaggy coats can really suffer when it gets hot,” notes Dr. Gully, “and in the worst case scenario, they can succumb to heat stroke.”

Heat stroke is a condition in which excessive heat, coupled with insufficient shade and/or water, causes an animal’s body temperature to swing out of control. This condition can easily prove fatal. “Some breeds face a greater risk of heat stroke than others,” says the veterinarian, citing dogs who sport double coats or especially thick hair as examples. The groomers can perform shaves or cuts that provide much-needed comfort and cooling. “Arlington can get really hot, so we frequently recommend this procedure to help pets beat the heat,” he says.

In addition to dog grooming, Gully Animal Hospital provides emergency care, dental work, surgical treatment, pet boarding and routine preventative wellness care.

Memorial senior finds with elbow grease, a little SOAP goes a long way

For Emily David, community service is a life style.

“It’s not something to check off a to-do list,” David said.

After volunteering at St. Vincent’s emergency care, David said it opened her eyes of the need in the community.

She took some time to think what she could do something different to help. She grew up participating in canned food drives — so she began to think about something that’s important to her — hygiene.

The Memorial High School senior started a project that community members could get involved with last year. The project SOAP, or Sending Others Abundant Purity, distributed more than 11,550 items to 17 organizations.

Continuing the project for a second year, David has been collecting toiletry items for the past week with collection of donated items continuing through Friday at several locations around Evansville and Vanderburgh County.

David is hopeful SOAP can give to at least 17 organizations again this year, if not more.

“I looked on local charities’ websites and their need lists, and I found toiletries to be a very essential need,” she said.

David said Youth Resources Teen Advisory Council, of which she is the president, requires students to complete 15 hours of community service each year.

“I’m not so concerned about the service hours I have, it’s more of habitual thing,” she said.

She said she has approximately 400 hours, which she has to keep record of for school and resumes, but she’s not doing just for those reasons.

“I’m changed by what I see,” David said. “There’s always something that needs to be done, and through SOAP — it’s really shaped my passion for social action — and that’s going to be the basis of what I pursue in college.”

With David leaving for college next year, she has recruited several other youths to help and continue SOAP after she graduates.

Meghan Lasher helped David last year, and she said SOAP received a lot of positive feedback the response back from the organizations SOAP gave items to.

“I think it’s very important to help out the community, not just to show how much we care about the society, but also to realize how many people in the world are less fortunate than us just in our Tri-State area,” the New Tech Institute junior said.

Savene Billa, who helped SOAP for the first time this year, said helping others and the connections that grow from service projects are important for projects like SOAP.

“It may not be for everyone, but for me, I love seeing people’s reactions to things like this,” Billa said. “Seeing the people you’re affecting — I love that part.”

Obama re-iterates chemical weapons would be ‘game-changer’

Although there is evidence of chemical weapons in Syria, Obama said Friday it’s still unknown when or how they were used and emphasized the need to obtain strong evidence and work with the  international community. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

President Obama said Friday that the potential use of chemical weapons by the ruling regime of Syria against its people “adds increased urgency” to international concern about the regime.

Speaking to reporters during an Oval Office meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, Obama noted that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government were preliminary. That information, he said, “does not tell us when they were used, how they were used.”

Still, the president said: “Obviously, horrific as it is when mortars are being fired on civilians and people are being indiscriminately killed, to use potential weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line with respect to international norms and international law. And that is going to be a game-changer.”

On Tuesday, the Israeli military published intelligence findings that President Bashar Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons repeatedly in recent months. Part of Israel’s concern, and Obama’s, is that those weapons could fall into terrorist hands.

Two days later, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the U.S. believes “with some degree of varying confidence” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, specifically the nerve agent sarin, against its people.

A letter from the White House to Congress said the assessment was based on “physiological samples” but called for a United Nations probe to corroborate it and nail down when and how they were used.

The White House said on Thursday that the U.S. believes the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, an act that President Obama has previously said would be crossing a “red line.” NBC’s Jim Mikleszewski reports.

The American response is shadowed by the legacy of flawed intelligence reports of weapons of mass destruction that led to the invasion of Iraq.

The president spoke after the deputy foreign minister of Israel said world powers may now conclude there was “no avoiding” action to take control of the Assad regime’s chemical stockpile.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also said there was limited but growing evidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical agents.

Echoing the administration’s caution, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday that “every option is on the table” but stressed that “we want to do everything we can to avoid putting boots on the ground.”

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., said on Thursday that the Obama administration should consider a military approach but not commit American troops. He suggested providing weapons to trusted parts of the Syrian resistance.

The uprising against Assad began in March 2011, and an estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the violence that has followed.


A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.

Launch slideshow


No good options for Obama on Syria

Bush admin’s Iraq WMD claims hang over Syria chemical weapons debate

‘Suffocating in the streets’: Chemical weapons attack reported in Syria

This story was originally published on

Pet Foods Made With Owners, Not Pet Health, In Mind

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Advocates of sustainability look to examine every aspect of our lives and question whether something is compromising the future of society for the sake of current convenience.

Researchers at the University of Illinois, in conjunction with pet food maker The Nutro Company, have decided to look into pet ownership and see if the feeding habits of pet owners are sustainable in a new study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition.

Examining the sustainability of pet food is complicated because its production is linked with many aspects of human food production.

As a product, pet food is unique because it is necessary for pets, but owners will only purchase what is affordable. Also, pet foods are often formulated in an appeal to an owners’ sensibility and not necessarily made with a pet’s health in mind.

The study’s authors also note overfeeding as a problem among pet owners. Besides contributing to a pet’s obesity, overfeeding wastes food.

“They’re being fed as much as 20 percent more than they need, so their health is poor, and you’re wasting all that food,” said co-author Kelly Swanson, University of Illinois animal sciences researcher. “Especially with cats, it’s very difficult.”

In the study, the researchers noted dogs and cats require specific nutrients, not ingredients. Many pet foods contain animal protein in an appeal to pet owners; however, studies have shown animal protein can be replaced by plant protein without any noticeable effect to pet health. Soy-based proteins typically require less water and energy for their production, which can be six to 20 times more efficient in terms of fossil fuel demands.

The researchers also noted pet food is often made from secondary products of human food production.

“That’s great from a sustainability standpoint because we’re using the products that would otherwise not be used,” Swanson said.

The study also discussed nutritional sustainability, which involves promoting pet health, safety and food quality

“Advancement in areas of nutritional sustainability will help us develop innovative products to improve pet health and nutrition and produce quality and safe pet food,” said co-author Rebecca Carter, research scientist at The Nutro Company. “Nutritional sustainability is part of a wider sustainability platform to improve the sustainability of our products and promote the sustainability of pet ownership and the pet food industry.”

Swanson suggested the development of a model to estimate the environmental impact of pet foods and to create a standard for future sustainability strategies.

With pet ownership increasing in emerging nations, the study’s authors see sustainable pet ownership as more important than ever, adding that research which shows the positive impact pets have on people around them only reinforces the notion of caring for pets in a sustainable manner.

In their conclusion, the researchers said they hope to inform the dialogue surrounding pet ownership, noting there aren’t ‘bad’ or ‘good’ practices – just more or less sustainable ones.

With pet food being a $55 billion industry worldwide, the establishment of sustainable practices could have a global impact financially.

Wellness fair gives tips for a healthy life style

Zach Pearson

Equinox Staff


emily fedorko / photo editor Students from the Exercise Leadership Practicum course give advice to the attendees regarding healthy lifestyle practices.

For a long time now the goal of Human Resources department at Keene State College has been to acknowledge hard working employees of KSC and to give them ideas for how to deal with stress while making healthy choices in their lives. Senior Human Resources Assistant Karyn Kaminski and Assistant Director Karen Crawford took another step towards accomplishing that goal on Thursday, April 18, with a Wellness Fair that ran alongside the college’s regularly scheduled Healthy Returns event.

Healthy Returns is a program sponsored by University System of N.H. Human Resources and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. According to its website, the goal of the program is to educate people, helping them set goals for a healthier lifestyle with a focus on five important health areas: Blood Pressure Control, Weight Management, Cholesterol Management, Glucose Management and Smoking Cessation.

Kaminski said that the college has participated in Healthy Returns for years now, hosting an event in the fall and the spring. However, this is the first year for adding the accompanying Wellness Fair as Kaminski thought it might “bring in more people and also once they go to Healthy Returns and they start learning about their numbers and so forth, then they can go and learn different stretching techniques or learn how to make a healthy snack or get a massage.”  As an untested event, Crawford clarified that this year’s Wellness Fair was intentionally small, focusing on just a handful of things that they “thought employees would like to help really relieve stress and focus in on their own health.”

This spring Wellness Fair was a miniature version of the fair held in October, called the Personal Services and Personal Benefits Fair, where Kaminski said 35-40 community-based vendors come to the college ranging from financial consultants to fitness facilities. The Wellness Fair has a tighter focus, Kaminski said, really honing in on “wellness and tips for creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself.”

Crawford explained that the Wellness Fair and Healthy Returns are both connected to “Healthy KSC,” an initiative that was launched in February of 2012 and received two years of funding from trustees to help develop wellness programs for KSC. While Healthy Returns utilized the Mountain View Room of the Young Student Center, the Wellness Fair took over rooms 307, 308,and 309. Room 307 featured massages by Mary Beth Given of Massage Given on Marlboro Street.

Given said that a regular massage is important because “It helps with the stress factor. All that circulation that goes through your whole body. It’s really important to do that. Lower your blood pressure, lower your stress.”  Given was contacted for the Wellness Fair because she has participated in other events for the college.

One door over, in room 308, students from the Exercise Leadership Practicum course at KSC showed attendees different ways to stretch their muscles. Students from the class were recruited by their professor, Christine Miles, and participated in shifts to cover the entire event.  Tyler Penn, a senior at KSC, explained the importance of regular stretching as “it improves mobility. A lot of people sit in their everyday life. So when you’re at a desk job certain things that aren’t meant to lengthen and shorten start to lengthen and shorten.”

Ken Sikes, also a senior at KSC, said that events like this help because “It’s not at everybody’s forefront of their mind, thinking, ‘I’ve got to stretch today so ten years from now I can still get things from the top shelf.’ They don’t think about that. But if they get exposed to things like this it’s going to make them more aware and maybe make them change their lifestyle.”

In room 309, three Dietetic Interns from KSC—Carly  Lauraine, Jacylin Lee, and Colleen Lynch–staffed a “Healthy Snacking” table. Lee explained, “The point we wanted to get across is that snacking is okay. There’s plenty of healthy options and it just helps prevent being starving and overeating later.”

A few of those healthy options were free for attendees to sample, including whole grain pretzels, homemade hummus and ingredients to create your own trail mix with recommended portions. Lauraine said events like these were important because “there’s not really a lot of marketing around healthy foods right now.”

Also in room 309 was a table where college employees could learn about the health programs that Harvard Pilgrim offers. Lauren Alford, who manages wellness connection benefits for employees, staffed this table and answered any questions attendees had about the various programs. Of the event as a whole Alford said, “I think it’s really good for them to be able to come and they really cover a gauntlet of topics here. They do biometric screening. They also learn about some of their health insurance benefits working through the university that help further on the information they learned from biometric.”

Jennifer Drake-Deese said, “It’s great. It’s good to go in and know what your numbers are. It makes you keep track of them. And particularly going from the fall to the spring, making sure everything stays the same.”

Laura Mielke said, “It’s nice to have this fair piece where you learn about the benefits of your health care and insurance” adding that the make-your-own-trail-mix was “fantastic.” Rick Rumba, from WorkWISE NH, added, “It just keeps you on track with trying to do things to keep yourself healthy.”

Carrien said that if the fair continues she would come back next year because “It’s important for the future. It keeps health criticals down.”

Zach Pearson can be contacted at

Syria’s uneasy Christians feel both sides closing in

Syrian Christians like to say that they belong to an ancient community that long pre-dates the arrival of Islam – and that whatever the outcome of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, they will still be there when it is over. But these are deeply unsettling times – highlighted by the case of the two bishops kidnapped on Monday in another alarming example of the human toll of a war without end.

Bishop Yuhanna Ibrahim, head of the Syriac Orthodox church in Aleppo, and Bishop Boulos Yaziji, of the Greek Orthodox church in the city, were abducted by gunmen Syrian state media called “terrorists”. Later the kidnappers were described as “Chechen mercenaries” fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra, an extreme Islamist group that has links with al-Qaida. The anti-Assad opposition countered at once that it believed the regime was implicated.

Christians make up about 10% of Syria‘s 23 million population and have traditionally been regarded as loyal to a regime that strictly limited political freedoms for all citizens but guarantees their religious worship. Like other minorities, they have been mainly neutral or loyal to Assad since the uprising began two years ago. Still, an estimated 300,000 – perhaps a third of the total – have already fled abroad.

Samir Nassar, the Maronite archbishop of Damascus, warned dramatically earlier this month that Christians in Syria now faced a choice between “two bitter chalices: to die or leave”.

The church hierarchy is generally cautious. “We Christians are citizens like all other Syrians,” Bishop Loukha al-Khouri, deputy patriarch of the Greek Orthodox church – the largest denomination – told the Guardian in Damascus last week. “We live in freedom and carry out all our religious ceremonies. The so-called opposition accuse us of defending the regime and the president. But as a church we respect our president and the government because they look after stability and security. Christians have been here since the days of St Paul. Syria is the best country for Christians in the region.”

Christians serve in the armed forces and other security forces. Michel Aflaq, the founder of the Ba’ath party, was Greek Orthodox. Early on in the uprising, Assad appointed a Christian general, Daoud Rajha, as defence minister, but he was killed in a bombing last summer.

Still, there is no disguising a sense of growing anxiety against a background of allegations that churches have been attacked and Christians targeted by rebels.

But a church in Deir al-Zour in the north-east was hit by government air raids. Easter services had to be cancelled in Homs last year after weeks of heavy shelling. Bishop Ibrahim made waves recently when he said he could not blame so many Christians for leaving considering the “difficult circumstances in terms of security and the threats they face daily.” He also rebuked the president for “not dealing with the crisis in a better way”. Ibrahim is also said to have had good relations with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the part of Aleppo under their control.

The Syrian National Coalition, the main western-backed anti-Assad grouping, has tried to avoid any whiff of sectarianism and has condemned Jabhat al-Nusra as “un-Syrian”. Its current leader, the respected George Sabra, is a Christian. Abdulbaset Sieda, another opposition leader, is a Kurd. Other Christians such as Michel Kilo played a prominent role in the opposition long before 2011. Basil Shehadi, a young Christian film-maker and activist, was killed by a government sniper in Homs last year.

The bishops’ abduction combines specific Christian concerns with the general phenomenon of lawlessness at a time when the regime is emphasising – critics say exaggerating – the Islamist aspects of the uprising.

Officials in Damascus focus sharply on Jabhat al-Nusra. Assad himself told a delegation of visiting Lebanese politicians on Sunday that the Syrian army was now facing “al-Qaida” and played down the role of the FSA. In recent days, state TV broadcast an interview with a captured Nusra leader who warned that Christians faced three stark choices: to convert to Islam, to pay a tax as a minority, or to be killed.

“Everyone is afraid of these extremists,” said George Nashawati of the St Gregory Orthodox Society for Orphans and the Elderly in Damascus. “But especially Christians. Look what happened in Iraq. It could happen here.”

However, a priest from Harasta described how Muslim neighbours had asked to shelter in his church during fighting. “Of course there have been some negative incidents but it would be wrong to give the impression that all Muslims behave like that,” he added. Other Christians say that for all the deterioration in security they do not feel targeted because of their faith.

Bishop Khouri, who is known as an ultra-loyalist, accused western countries of betraying their own religious heritage by backing the rebels. “France likes to say that it defends Christians but they help terrorists to come to our country,” he complained. “How is that Qatar can influence France and Britain with their money? It is well known that the leaders of Qatar are Jews.”

Other Christians adopt a more nuanced position – sitting on the fence rather than standing on the front line. “In Syria there are moderate Muslims who don’t discriminate against Christians,” explained Abu Jean, a crucifix hanging prominently from the mirror of his Damascus taxi. “We are afraid of people like Jabhat al-Nusra. We will fight each other and we will suffer. Christians should be neutral. But this is not our business. I will not let my son join the [government] popular committees or the national defence army – or the armed opposition either.”