World News

Obama: 2013 Filled with 'Ups and Downs'

President Obama says he does not think the past year was his "worst year" in office, as U.S. political analysts have labeled 2013.

Mr. Obama acknowledged during Friday's news conference that his opinion poll numbers are low, but said his ratings have gone up and down a lot throughout the course of his career. He said if he were interested in polling, he never would have run for the presidency.

Instead, the president said he is focused on "moving the ball" and creating greater opportunities for the American people.

He said that while there have been "ups and downs" and "frustrations," and a lot of his administration's legislative initiatives in Congress have not moved forward as rapidly as he would like, but he is going to "keep at it." And he noted progress in certain areas such as education, manufacturing and energy.

Mr. Obama also expressed optimism that legislation to reform the nation's immigration system will move forward in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives next year.

On the controversy over the NSA surveillance activities that came to light this year, President Obama said he is taking the issue and privacy concerns raised "very seriously." He called it a "debate that needed to be had" and said he will make a definitive statement about the way forward in January, after evaluating all the recommendations made by the independent panel.

Many have expressed concern about the extensive monitoring of phone calls both inside and outside the U.S. President Obama again defended the activity, saying the NSA program began as an attempt to prevent any repetition of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He said it is important for U.S. authorities to be able to track known terrorists outside the U.S. by monitoring their telephone calls into the country.

President Obama said the NSA disclosures, through leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have been damaging to the United States, its intelligence capabilities and its diplomacy.

While Obama acknowledged that the debate over U.S. surveillance activities is an important one the country needed to have, he said he thinks there was a way to have the conversation without the damage.

The president said the leaks have led to a "pretty distorted" view. He said for all its "warts," the United States is a country that abides by the rule of law and cares deeply about privacy and civil liberties; but, he said the disclosures have allowed other countries that actually do the things Snowden says he worries about, such as spying on their own citizens, targeting political dissidents and suppressing the press, to sit on the sidelines and act like the U.S. is the country with the problems.

The president refused to comment on whether he might consider amnesty for Snowden as Rick Leggett, head of the NSA's Snowden task force, has said could be worth considering. Obama said he will leave weighing in on the Snowden case to the U.S. attorney general.

The president defended the health care reforms, saying that 85 percent of Americans have already been benefiting from them; but, he acknowledged that problems emerged for those as they sought to buy insurance, sometimes for the first time in their lives.

He pledged that the government will continue to work to fix the problems people have encountered.

He said "the basic structure of that law is working," but acknowledged the rollout has been a "messy process."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs