Obama addresses successes, shortcomings for 2013
President Barack Obama addresses reporters during his year-end news conference Friday.
December 20th, 2013
03:16 PM ET

Obama addresses successes, shortcomings for 2013

Correction: We hate to admit it, but in the heat of live-blogging President Barack Obama’s year-end news conference, we misquoted him as saying he “screwed the duck” with the Obamacare rollout. What he actually said was: “We screwed it up.” And in this case, so did we. We regret the error, and we thank our audience for the feedback.

[Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET] Obama hailed what he said was the first rollback in Iran's nuclear capabilities in a decade. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons has long posed a challenge to U.S. national security, and the U.S. now has a structure under which Iran can "get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion" and prove that any peaceful nuclear program will not be weaponized and that it won't threaten the U.S. and its allies in the region, including Israel.

If Iran reverts to its old ways, Obama said he would put more pressure on Iran, but that isn't necessary right now. Existing sanctions remain in place, costing Iran billions of dollars each month in oil sales, along with banking sanctions, he said. There is no need to leave a club hanging over Iran's head, Obama said, because there's no doubt among Iranians that Congress will pass more sanctions if necessary.

[Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET] Asked about the implications of nominating Sen. Max Baucus as ambassador to China when Baucus offered the best hope of overturning the tax code, Obama called for "swift confirmation" of Baucus as ambassador and said that if Democrats and Republicans are "serious about tax reform, then it's not going to depend on one guy."

[Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET] Despite the negative publicity surrounding his health care initiative, 2 million people or more have signed up, Obama said, saying the program is "working."

"The demand is there, and as I've said before, the product is good," he said.

[Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET] Obama declined to comment specifically about Edward Snowden, saying he would let the courts and attorney general comment on his case, but he said that Snowden's leaks have "done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and U.S. diplomacy."

He further said the United States is a country that "abides by the rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our Constitution," where countries with less concern for civil liberties have been able to sit on the sideline and cast aspersions as a result of the leaks.

However, he called the debate that was sparked by the Snowden incident an "important" one.

[Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET] Asked what his New Year's resolution would be, Obama responded, "To be nicer to the White House press corps," earning some laughter and light applause.

[Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET] Obama cites "comprehensive immigration reform" as an example where there's largely bipartisan support on an issue. He expressed hope that despite a "few disagreements," Congress could pass reform that would boost the economy and allow the country to attract more high-skilled workers.

[Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET] Asked to name his worst mistake of the year, Obama said, "since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up" on the health care roll-out. Despite meeting every three weeks with officials to ensure that consumers had a pleasant experience with the roll-out, "the fact is it didn't happen in the first month, in the first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable."

[Updated at 2:46 p.m. ET] While insisting that the NSA has committed no abuses in performing its surveillance duties, "there may be another way of skinning the cat" to alleviate Americans' concerns, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET] "This is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust," Obama says of the NSA surveillance program, while conceding that American trust in the process has "diminished."

[Updated at 2:36 p.m. ET] Obama says there is a review of NSA surveillance under way to determine if current programs balance the need to keep the country secure while "taking seriously the rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties."

As for the controversial collection of metadata, Obama says there have been no alleged instances of the NSA acting inappropriately in the use of the data. The president says he has confidence that the NSA is "not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around."

[Updated at 2:31 p.m. ET] Asked if 2013 was the worst year of his presidency, Obama chuckled and said that despite Congress failing to act on his legislative initiatives, there have been many successes. Among those are an increase in wireless capacities in classrooms, a manufacturing hub in Youngstown, Ohio, that will "build on the renaissance we're seeing in manufacturing" and the fact that the U.S. is "producing more oil and natural gas in this country than we're importing."

[Updated at 2:26 p.m. ET] Obama says providing more opportunities for the middle-class and those hoping to join the middle class will be a top priority for 2014, and he'd like to see the country add more jobs, especially those with "wages and benefits that allow families to build a little bit of financial security."

"I think 2014 needs to be a year of action," he says

[Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET] As businesses are positioned to add new jobs amid more growth, Obama predicts 2014 will be "a breakthrough year for America," but much remains to be done, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:21 p.m. ET] So far in 2013, the United States added 2 million jobs as unemployment has fallen to the lowest point in five years, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:19 p.m. ET] Obama's year-end news conference has begun.

[Original story posted at 1:57 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama's year-end news conference is expected to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • U.S.
Vigil for teen who died in police custody turns violent
Protesters allege foul play in the death of Jesus Huerta, 17, who died of a gunshot wound while in police custody.
December 20th, 2013
01:26 PM ET

Vigil for teen who died in police custody turns violent

A vigil for a teen who died in police custody turned violent in Durham, North Carolina, with riot police using tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd.

At least six people were arrested at the Thursday night march to protest the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, according to police.

"I could not be more proud of the restraint and professionalism demonstrated by our officers," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said in a statement to the media, adding that injuries to those marching were minimized because of his officers' actions.

"There was a march. The peaceful intent did not exist. We used the best practices in law enforcement," he said at a news conference Friday.

Protesters threw bottles and rocks at police officers and vandalized police property, Lopez said, defending his officers' reaction to the vigil.

The Durham Police Department says Huerta died on November 19 from a self-inflicted gunshot while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. The teen was being taken to the police station by Officer Samuel Duncan about 3 a.m. for a second-degree trespassing violation.

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Filed under: North Carolina • Protest • Race • U.S.
SeaWorld takes out ads to defend itself against whale mistreatment accusations
SeaWorld is firing back against allegations that it mistreats killer whales.
December 20th, 2013
01:18 PM ET

SeaWorld takes out ads to defend itself against whale mistreatment accusations

Faced with a growing backlash from entertainers and others responding to a documentary film claiming mistreatment of whales, SeaWorld bought full-page ads in newspapers nationwide Friday to call the accounts inaccurate and paint its employees as "true animal advocates."

"The truth about SeaWorld is right here in our parks and people," the company said in the ad, which appeared in The New York Times and other papers.

SeaWorld has been battered in recent weeks since the television premiere of the documentary "Blackfish" on CNN.

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Filed under: Animals • U.S. • Whales
December 20th, 2013
02:19 AM ET

California high school to be tested for TB

All 1,800 students and staff at a southern California high school will be screened for tuberculosis Friday after 45 students tested positive for possible exposure, authorities said.

The Riverside County Department of Public Health and state officials have determined there is a possibility of exposure to other Indio High School students, though "the risk of transmission appears to be moderately low," according to a letter to parents on the school's website.

Students will have to return to school in Indio, California, on Monday to have the test results evaluated, the letter says. Without verification of a current TB testing and results, students won't be allowed to return to school after the holiday break, on January 6, the school said.

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Filed under: U.S.