June 29, 2013

In Africa, Obama urges House to pass immigration overhaul

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged the House to pass a rewrite of the nation's immigration laws before its August recess.

"There’s more than enough time," Obama said at a news conference in South Africa. "This thing has been debated amply, and they’ve got a bunch of weeks to get it done. And now is the time."

The Senate this week passed a bill. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a

"I think they worked very hard. It’s not the perfect bill, but it’s consistent with the principles I laid out of strong border security, of reformed legal immigration system, and a pathway to citizenship for those who are currently in undocumented status inside the United States," Obama said. "The framework that the Senate has set up is a sound framework. It doesn’t reflect everything that I would like. Nobody is going to get 100 percent of what they want -- not labor, not business, not the advocates, not me."

June 28, 2013

Obama stresses food security in western Africa

In his final event in Dakar, Senegal Friday, President Barack Obama met with farmers and entrepreneurs to talk about new technology that can help African countries to produce more nutritious, less costly food. 

A trio of technologies were highlighted: Rice milling, bio-fortification (the process of cross-breeding plants to enhance their nutritional content) and mobile technology.

Last year, Obama joined with other leaders in launching the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition with a pledge to lift 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by 2022. U.S. based non-governmental organizations offered more than $1 billion over three years, and $750 million over five years.

"Obviously, we’ve got budget constraints back home, which means that we’ve got to come up with new and creative ways to promote development and deliver aid," Obama told reporters Friday. "We’re focusing on how do people become more productive as opposed to simply giving them food or giving them medicine....It's not just a matter of alleviating hunger or reducing poverty; it’s creating the basis for the entire continent to get incorporated into world markets in a way that ultimately will benefit not just Africa but also the United States."

Continue reading "Obama stresses food security in western Africa" »

Obams talks about the China factor while in Africa

President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday that rival China has invested heavily in Africa, but said America can still compete in the fast-growing continent.

"This is not a zero-sum game. This is not the Cold War. You’ve got one global market, and if countries that are now entering into middle-income status see Africa as a big opportunity for them that can potentially help Africa," Obama told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One from Senegal to South Africa. "What we have going for us, though, is our values, our approach to development, our approach to democracy."

China overtook the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner years ago. It has helped pay for roads and bridges and bought 20 percent of Standard Bank of South Africa. Its president and vice president have visited more than 30 African countries in recent years.


"A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa," Obama said. "On the other hand, they recognize that China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy. And oftentimes that leaves Africa as simply an exporter of raw goods, not a lot of value added -- as a consequence, not a lot of jobs created inside of Africa, and it does not become the basis for long-term development."
Obama is pushing small- and medium-sized businesses to invest in Africa by strengthening agencies, such the Overseas Private Investment Corp., and encouraging regional cooperation, eliminating legal barriers and requiring greater transparency in anti-corruption measures

"One of the main things that we want American companies to see is that Africa is ready to do business and that there’s huge potential there," he said. "What African countries have to do -- and this is a message I’m delivering consistently -- is ensure that there’s stability and good governance so that American companies can reduce some of those risks that have nothing to do with business and have to do with will they be able to get their profits out, will they have to pay a bribe, will they have to find ways to negotiate with bureaucracies endlessly."

Obama nominates Gaspard to be ambassador to South Africa

Just before arriving in South Africa, the second leg of his three-nation, one-week trip, President Barack Obama nominated a new ambassador to the country.

The choice was not surprising: Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee, had long been expected to get the nod.

Gaspard previously served as an assistant to the president and director of the Office of Political Affairs and national political director for Obama's campaign.

 

June 27, 2013

Obama calls Supreme Court decisions on same-sex a victory for democracy

President Barack Obama called a pair of Supreme Court decisions this week allowing same-sex marriage "a victory for American democracy."

"I believe at the root of who we are as a people, who we are as Americans is the basic precept that we are all equal under the law," he said at a news conference in Dakar, Senagal. "We believe in basic fairness. And what I think yesterday's ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody."

He said that his administration is reviewing legal statutes to determine whether the government can provide benefits to same-sex couples even in states where gay marriage is banned.

Continue reading "Obama calls Supreme Court decisions on same-sex a victory for democracy " »

Obama examines slave trade on first day of African visit

 

Kumar-obama-door-cropped

President Barack Obama peered out the open door of a former slave house that looks out on the Atlantic Ocean. He was alone for a brief moment in the door, looking out into the ocean and then to his right and left.

His wife, Michelle, joined him and then his daughters took a glance. Finally, he returned to the door for another long look.

The door was the last location for slaves being shipped to North America. The waves of the ocean crashing on the rocks could be heard.

Large, enthusiastic crowds greeted Obama on his first day in Africa with some spectators lining the streets to catch a glimpse hours before he even departed his hotel. Local newspapers were filled with articles and ads, some urging Obama to keep sending money to combat AIDS/HIV. Thousands of American flags and posters, large and small, welcomed the United States’ first black president to the continent where his father was born. “Welcome home, President Obama” one sign read. “We hope you enjoy your stay.”

Obama is scheduled to depart Senegal Friday for South Africa, but the fragile condition of Nelson Mandela, the ailing former president and anti-apartheid leader, threatens to complicate his trip to Pretoria and Cape Town.

Obama says he will not personally speak to China, Russia about fugitive leaker

President Barack Obama said Thursday that he has not spoken to his Russian and Chinese counterparts
about leaker Edward Snowden, who remains as a fugitive, because he does not want to damage larger relationships with the nations.

"I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally," Obama said at a news conference with Senegal President Macky Sall Thursday. "I shouldn't have to. This is something that routinely is dealt with between law enforcement officials in various countries. And this is not exceptional from a legal perspective." 

Obama said he does not want to engage in "wheeling and dealing" with his sometimes rivals in China and Russia and would not have the U.S. military return him.

“I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” he said.

Continue reading "Obama says he will not personally speak to China, Russia about fugitive leaker" »

June 26, 2013

Obama arrives in Senegal for first substantive African trip as president

President Barack Obama landed in Dakar, Senegal Wednesday night, the first stop of his three-country, one-week visit to sub-Saharan African.

Dozens of greeters from the Sengal government, including President Macky Sall and Madame Mareme Sall and U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Lewis Lukens were on hand. Obama walked the carpet shaking hands as he headed to his armored limousine with his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Sasha and Malia.

Massive and enthusiastic crowds very likely will greet him at planned stops in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. But many Africans remain disappointed at his disengagement the last four years.

Still, signs welcoming him to Senegal could be seen around Dakar. Newspapers were filled with articles and ads, some urging him to keep sending money to combat AIDS/HIV. 

He will visit historic venues, including the spot in Senegal where slaves were shipped off to North America and the island prison in South Africa where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years.

Obama is not expected to visit the gravely ill Mandela, but the former president's condition is already overshadowing his visit.  

He will meet with government leaders in each nation and deliver a major speech to the continent while in South Africa. Throughout, he’ll stress investment, trade, energy and democracy. He isn’t expected to unveil any significant new programs.

Read today's full story here.

June 14, 2013

White House defends Obama's Africa trip

The White House is defending President Obama's upcoming trip to three African countries despite the hefty price tag, saying that the U.S. would be "ceding its leadership position in the world" by not engaging in Africa.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that Obama has not traveled to Africa "in the same way that we've traveled to other regions in the world," noting that Obama has traveled "significantly" in Asia, has taken several trips to Latin America and to Europe and will have taken several trips to Russia by the end of the year.

"Africa's a critically important region of the world," Rhodes said, contending the U.S. has "huge interests there." He noted some of the world's fastest growing economies are in Africa, along with a fast growing youth population.

He said there are democratic institutions on the upswing in the three countries Obama is visiting: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, and that some of the U.S.'s biggest development efforts on issues like global health and combating HIV and AIDS have focused on Africa.

"So for the United States to say, 'We're a world leader except in this continent' doesn't make any sense," Rhodes said. "Just as we put a premium on developing our ties in emerging regions like southeast Asia and Latin America, we need to be present in Africa."

He noted other economies are "quite present" in Africa, including China, Brazil and Turkey.

"The U.S. would be ceding its leadership position in the world if the president of the United States was not deeply engaged in Africa," Rhodes said, adding that the trip has been "highly anticipated on the continent" and that there's "grave disappointment" that Obama hasn't traveled to Africa other than a  stop in Ghana.

Continue reading "White House defends Obama's Africa trip " »

June 13, 2013

Obama scraps African safari in wake of story detailing major costs

The White House cancelled President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama's plans for an African safari after the Washington Post began asking about the trip's expenses, the newspaper says.

The story says "hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency."

The story says the pesident and first lady had planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, "which would have required the president’s special counterassault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document. But the White House canceled the safari Wednesday after inquiries from The Post about the trip’s purpose and expense, according to a person familiar with the decision."

The story says that while the "preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander-in-chief on trips abroad."

ABOUT THIS BLOG

"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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