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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs