U.S. President Barack Obama said he believes the Russian city of Sochi, scheduled to host the upcoming winter Olympic Games, is safe and Americans who want to go should continue with their plans.
Obama spoke to CNN television Friday to discuss the Olympics, which begin February 7, and his new plan to encourage major companies to hire more of the long-term unemployed in the United States.
The president said he will continue to reach out to Congress to work on long-term issues such as unemployment and immigration reform, but meantime, he plans to use executive actions to achieve what he can -- a tactic he outlined Tuesday in his annual State of the Union address.
President Obama said Friday that he wants top companies to take a pledge to ensure that people who have been unemployed for a long time are not automatically screened out of the hiring process.
He plans to make a formal announcement later Friday with the CEO's of a number of major U.S. companies who support his plan.
Obama has secured commitments from companies such as Apple, Ford and Walmart to observe best practices, and not discriminate in hiring against people out of work for a long time.
Friday's announcement comes after the president spent two days traveling across the country, talking about the need to provide more opportunity for Americans still struggling in the economy.
Opposition Republicans are challenging Obama on his State of the Union agenda. They also are casting themselves in a more positive light as being open to cooperation.
In a letter to the president, Republicans point to measures passed by the Republican-controlled House, including one on job training, that have not been acted upon by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
They identify natural gas production, workplace rules and federally funded research as areas that hold potential for cooperation, and also are rolling out proposals on immigration reform.