WBEZ | Barack Obama http://www.wbez.org/tags/barack-obama Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en President Obama Calls for Urgent Action, More Research on Zika Virus http://www.wbez.org/news/president-obama-calls-urgent-action-more-research-zika-virus-114632 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/zikababy1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Obama is calling for urgent action and research into the Zika virus, which is now active across much of Latin America and the Caribbean.</p><p>Zika is a mosquito-borne illness that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause serious birth defects in babies, including a condition called microcephaly, in which&nbsp;babies are born with small heads and under-developed brains.</p><p>The CDC is now warning women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to avoid travel or take precautions in the nearly&nbsp;<a href="http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices" target="_blank">two dozen countries</a>&nbsp;with Zika virus.</p><p><em>Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s</em> Jeremy Hobson talks with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/helenbranswell?lang=en">Helen Branswell</a>, who covers infectious diseases and public health for STAT, the new national health and medicine publication, about what is known and not yet known about Zika, and what people can do to protect themselves</p></p> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 15:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/president-obama-calls-urgent-action-more-research-zika-virus-114632 Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case on Obama's Immigration Actions http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-agrees-hear-case-obamas-immigration-actions-114508 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/obamaimmigration.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Supreme Court of the United States&nbsp;<a href="http://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/011916zor_l5gm.pdf">has decided to review</a>&nbsp;a challenge to President Obama&#39;s executive actions on immigration. As we&#39;ve reported, back in November of 2014,<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/11/20/365519963/obama-will-announce-relief-for-up-to-5-million-immigrants">&nbsp;Obama announced plans to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants</a>&nbsp;from deportation. Even before his plans got off the ground, lower courts put them on hold.</p><p>And late last year, a federal appeals court in New Orleans&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/11/10/455438464/appeals-court-deals-blow-to-obamas-immigration-plan">dealt the Obama administration a big blow</a>, deciding that the president had overstepped his legal authority when he issued the executive orders.</p><p>Now, the appeals process will bring it before the Supreme Court, which will have final say on the constitutionality of his action.</p><p>Under the plan, undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be allowed to remain here and receive a work permit. Obama also wanted to extend that protection to more immigrants who were brought here as children.</p><p>Obama said that he could take all of those actions under the guise of prosecutorial discretion, which gives the administration the power to decide which immigrants it wants to deport.</p><p>Here&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/01/immigration-policy-review-and-decision-this-term/#more-237381">how SCOTUSblog explains the legal questions</a>&nbsp;in the case:</p><blockquote><div><p>&quot;A rather unusual aspect of the case was that, although the lower courts had not decided a constitutional question the states had raised, the Justices added that question on their own. It is whether the policy violates the constitutional clause that requires the president to &#39;take care&#39; that the laws passed by Congress are faithfully executed. It is rare for the Court to take up an issue that was left undecided in lower courts.</p><p>&quot;The question no doubt was added to assure that all aspects of the states&#39; challenge be reviewed together. In addition to that issue, the case involves whether the states had a legal right to sue, or are barred from doing so under Article III; whether the policy is &#39;arbitrary&#39; and beyond the president&#39;s powers over immigration policy, and whether it is illegal because the government did not seek public reaction to it before adopting it as policy.&quot;</p></div></blockquote><p>The case &mdash;&nbsp;United States v. Texas &mdash;&nbsp;will be argued in April and we can expect a ruling by June. In other words, the Court will release a ruling on a hotly debated issue just as the 2016 presidential election enters its primetime.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/19/463577862/supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-case-on-obama-s-immigration-actions?ft=nprml&amp;f=463577862" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 19 Jan 2016 10:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-agrees-hear-case-obamas-immigration-actions-114508 Personalized Cancer Vaccines Could Be Key Piece of Cancer ‘Moonshot’ http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-01-14/personalized-cancer-vaccines-could-be-key-piece-cancer-%E2%80%98moonshot%E2%80%99 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/0113_cancer-vaccine-624x394.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama said he wants to &ldquo;make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.&rdquo;</p><p>A key piece of that &ldquo;moonshot&rdquo; &ndash; as the president and vice president have called it &ndash; may be a treatment that&rsquo;s still very much in the experimental phase: personalized cancer vaccines.</p><p><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2016/01/13/personalized-cancer-vaccines" target="_blank"><em>Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s</em></a>&nbsp;Jeremy Hobson talks with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.statnews.com/" target="_blank">STAT</a>&nbsp;senior science writer&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/sxbegle" target="_blank">Sharon Begley</a>&nbsp;about how those personalized vaccines &ndash; called neoantigen vaccines &ndash; work, and why they could become a central player in the push to cure cancer.</p><p><em><strong><a href="http://www.statnews.com/2016/01/12/personalized-cancer-vaccines/" target="_blank">Read more about personalized cancer vaccines on STAT</a></strong></em><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="http://players.brightcove.net/245991542/344c319b-6d23-4cbc-975e-c8530534af8a_default/index.html?videoId=4699180040001" style="; width: 624px; height: 386px; padding-bottom: 10px !important; margin: 0px !important;" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 14 Jan 2016 11:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-01-14/personalized-cancer-vaccines-could-be-key-piece-cancer-%E2%80%98moonshot%E2%80%99 CHART: How Much Gets Done From State of the Union Speeches? http://www.wbez.org/news/chart-how-much-gets-done-state-union-speeches-114456 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/obama_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res462703336" previewtitle="President Obama delivers the 2015 State of the Union address. Only about 40 percent of State of the Union requests get through Congress. For Obama, it's been even lower."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="President Obama delivers the 2015 State of the Union address. Only about 40 percent of State of the Union requests get through Congress. For Obama, it's been even lower." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/11/gettyimages-461915744_wide-47c83b3a7bb250fb5d5da37cbc56cae28b104419-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="President Obama delivers the 2015 State of the Union address. Only about 40 percent of State of the Union requests get through Congress. For Obama, it's been even lower. (Mandel Ngan/Pool/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>Here are a few safe bets for Tuesday&#39;s State of the Union: There will be dozens of applause breaks, endless GIF-worthy moments and a laundry list of proposals (not to mention lots of reporters using the phrase &quot;laundry list&quot; for the first &mdash; and maybe only &mdash; time this year).</p></div></div></div><p>One more bet: Most of those proposals won&#39;t be successful.</p><p>Since 1965, 39.4 percent of all State of the Union policy requests have been successful in some way (that is, Congress has passed legislation fulfilling some part of those requests). Over the course of seven addresses, President Obama has fallen short of that total, with a success rate of around 31 percent, according to data from Alison Howard, political science professor at Dominican University, and Donna Hoffman, political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa.</p><p>Each year, the university tallies up presidents&#39; requests to Congress, as well as whether Congress fulfills those requests in the following year. It further breaks down the data into whether Congress &quot;fully&quot; or &quot;partially&quot; acquiesced. Here&#39;s how presidents Johnson through Obama stand:</p><div id="res462707193"><div id="responsive-embed-sotu-success-20160108"><iframe frameborder="0" height="676px" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/sotu-success-20160108/child.html?initialWidth=773&amp;childId=responsive-embed-sotu-success-20160108&amp;parentUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2F2016%2F01%2F12%2F462696729%2Fchart-how-much-gets-done-from-state-of-the-union-speeches%3Fft%3Dnprml%26f%3D462696729" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 0px; border-style: initial; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;" width="100%"></iframe></div></div><p>The data reveals few important, if obvious things: One is that a friendly Congress helps. Lyndon Johnson, for example, had a high success rate, managing to pass landmark policies like Medicare. He also had a&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divided_government_in_the_United_States">Democratic Congress</a>&nbsp;to work with throughout his presidency.</p><p>Not only that, but Congress was less polarized back then. As congressional Republicans and Democrats have moved further and further apart ideologically, that may have helped bring down more recent presidents&#39; totals.</p><p>There are a couple of revealing details buried in Obama&#39;s data, however. One is that for Obama, success last year often amounted to Congress.&nbsp;</p><p>He&#39;s not unique in this &mdash; Bill Clinton also famously&nbsp;<a href="http://clinton2.nara.gov/WH/New/other/sotu.html">in 1996</a>&nbsp;asked Congress to &quot;never, ever&quot; shut down the government again. But it&#39;s just one sign of how the speech&#39;s tone can shift during a time of divided government.</p><p>Of course, there&#39;s a lot the data can&#39;t show, like the magnitude of what presidents have asked for. (Clinton asking Congress not to shut down again might be considered a smaller request than when he asked for health care reform, for example.)</p><p>Moreover, the data don&#39;t show what the president accomplished without Congress. While Obama has, over the years, asked for (and not received) action on a higher federal minimum wage, paid leave and stronger gun control, he has, in turn, made his own (less-sweeping) executive actions in those areas.</p><p>Not only that, but State of the Union addresses are, of course, much more than to-do lists for Congress.</p><p>&quot;Any State of the Union has multiple audiences,&quot; said Mary Kate Cary, who worked as a speechwriter under George H.W. Bush (though she herself did not write any of his addresses). For example, she said, &quot;There was an Obama&nbsp;<a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/28/president-barack-obamas-state-union-address">State of the Union</a>&nbsp;where the larger audience he was talking to, he was encouraging them to sign up for Obamacare. And then, there was a smaller audience where he wanted the 535 members of Congress not to vote for sanctions against Iran.&quot;</p><p>Elsewhere, the speeches subtly set up longer-term fights that will play out well after a president leaves office.</p><p>&quot;They send a shot across the bow in a battle that may not be won for a couple of years,&quot; said Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton. &quot;In the case of [this year&#39;s] speech, an election-year speech, the president will certainly be looking in some way to clarify the differences between the two parties,&quot; albeit without being overtly partisan about it, he added.</p><p>There&#39;s no great way to measure the &quot;success&quot; of one of these speeches, Shesol says. However, there&#39;s one way in which few of these addresses succeed, says Cary: memorability.</p><p>&quot;When was the last time somebody said, &#39;That [State of the Union] was the most brilliant speech I&#39;ve ever heard&#39;?&quot; she said.</p><p>&quot;There are very few lines from States of the Union that people can quote,&quot; she added, &quot;because they&#39;re kind of boring speeches.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/12/462696729/chart-how-much-gets-done-from-state-of-the-union-speeches?ft=nprml&amp;f=462696729" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 12 Jan 2016 16:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chart-how-much-gets-done-state-union-speeches-114456 5 Things to Watch for in Obama's Final State of the Union http://www.wbez.org/news/5-things-watch-obamas-final-state-union-114454 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-461854610_wide-4d07b99935a624c32b15b02278775774f75e41e7-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address. It&#39;s the last big speech many Americans will watch him deliver, and he wants to leave a good impression.</p><p>So here are five things to watch for.</p><p><strong>1. How different will this speech be from his past State of the Union addresses?</strong></p><p>White House aides are promising that this speech will be different. Instead of the usual laundry list of legislative proposals, the speech will be thematic and future-oriented. President Obama described what he wants the speech to focus on in a video the White House sent out previewing the speech.</p><div id="res462586724"><div style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VkuxFwjsdTw?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></div></div><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;Not just the remarkable progress we&#39;ve made, not just what I want to get done in the year ahead, but what we all need to do together in the years to come, the big things that will guarantee an even stronger, better, more prosperous America for our kids &mdash; the America we believe in. That&#39;s what&#39;s on my mind.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><p>This makes sense. With attention turning to the race to succeed him, the window for passing major pieces of legislation through an oppositional Congress is closing fast.</p><p>But there are still things the president wants Congress to do.</p><p><strong>2. What are Obama&#39;s legislative priorities?</strong></p><p>The president will probably reiterate his call for a hike in the minimum wage, as well as tax reform that frees up money for infrastructure investment. But those are big reaches. More realistically, the White House is hopeful they can get Congress to approve the big trans-Pacific trade agreement and a bill overhauling the criminal justice system. Expect to hear Obama offer an olive branch to the Republicans on those potentially bipartisan issues.</p><p><strong>3. How will the president try to shape his legacy?</strong></p><p>This is a valedictory speech, and Obama will try to frame his accomplishments in the most positive light. He&#39;ll talk about the dramatic recovery of the auto industry, the improving employment situation and the initiatives he&#39;s taken on his own to combat climate change, enact tougher gun background checks and reopen relations with Cuba.</p><p>The White House announced over the weekend the guests who will join first lady Michelle Obama in the House chamber. Those selections nod to the arc of Obama&#39;s presidency, and the president will no doubt nod to them on Tuesday night. They include Edith Childs, the South Carolina woman who inspired the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHfbKTiUH8U">&quot;Fired up! Ready to go!&quot; chant</a>&nbsp;during Obama&#39;s first campaign, one of the first women&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/10/12/army-ranger-school-has-a-groundbreaking-new-graduate-lisa-jaster-37-engineer-and-mother/">to graduate from Army Ranger School</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2010/08/30/129538470/mexican-man-illegally-in-u-s-deports-himself-gets-visa-after-year">a DREAMer</a>, the lead plaintiff in the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/06/26/417840345/supreme-court-changes-face-of-marriage-in-historic-ruling">historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage</a>, an empty chair for victims of gun violence, a criminal justice reform advocate, an Affordable Care Act &quot;navigator&quot; and many others.</p><p>Of course, the best way for President Obama to cement his legacy is to help elect a successor from his own party.</p><p><strong>4. How will Obama use the speech to help Hillary Clinton&#39;s campaign?</strong></p><p>In his last State of the Union address, the president framed the coming election in terms of the economic debate. He talked about widely shared prosperity and focused on inclusive growth, not just redistribution. And that&#39;s the frame Hillary Clinton has chosen for her campaign. Expect to hear more about that on Tuesday night.</p><p>Also listen for how often the president touches on hot-button issues that play well with the Democratic base, like climate change, gun control, immigration reform or gay rights. The White House promises this won&#39;t be a &quot;political&quot; speech, but the subtext will be clear: We&#39;ve come a long way, we have a long way to go, so let&#39;s not let the Republicans take us backward.</p><p><strong>5. What effect will the speech have?</strong></p><p>Most State of the Union addresses have a very short shelf life. But a well-received SOTU can deliver a political boost. President Obama is hoping this one does. The best way a President can help elect a successor from his own party is to get his approval ratings up &mdash; above 50 percent, if possible. Obama has been stuck in the mid-40s for months, below the 50 percent that president Reagan enjoyed at this point in his second term or the 60 percent Bill Clinton had. If he can improve his standing, he could help Hillary Clinton and his own legacy.</p><div>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/10/462581269/5-things-to-watch-for-in-obamas-final-state-of-the-union?ft=nprml&amp;f=462581269" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></div><div id="ad-backstage-wrap">&nbsp;</div><div id="commentBlock"><h3>&nbsp;</h3></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 12 Jan 2016 15:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/5-things-watch-obamas-final-state-union-114454 Will Obama's Action Create a Market for 'Smart' Guns? http://www.wbez.org/news/will-obamas-action-create-market-smart-guns-114399 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gunss.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Andy Raymond demonstrates the Armatix iP1, a .22-caliber smart gun that has a safety interlock, at Engage Armaments in Rockville, Md., last year. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images)" /></div><p>The notion of a gun smart enough to tell who&#39;s holding it isn&#39;t new.</p><p>Since the 1990s, inventors have been developing firearms geared with technologies that can authenticate their users &mdash; for instance by recognizing the fingerprint, the grip or an RFID chip &mdash; and stop working if held by the wrong hands.</p><p>Several manufacturers have tried to introduce Americans to the concept, but the market here has been&nbsp;<a href="http://fortune.com/2015/04/22/smart-guns-theyre-ready-are-we/" target="_blank">less than friendly</a>&nbsp;over concerns that they are unreliable and would lead to more gun control.</p><p>Supporters now hope that President Obama&#39;s new executive actions could turn things around.</p><p>In a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/05/462020685/obama-seeks-commonsense-gun-control-through-executive-actions" target="_blank">series of measures aimed at reducing gun violence</a>, Obama directed the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to &quot;conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms, and improve the tracing of lost or stolen guns.&quot;</p><p>In an address at the White House on Tuesday, Obama added: &quot;If we can set it up so you can&#39;t unlock your phone unless you&#39;ve got the right fingerprint, why can&#39;t we do the same thing for our guns? If there&#39;s an app that can help us find a missing tablet ... there&#39;s no reason we can&#39;t do it with a stolen gun. If a child can&#39;t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can&#39;t pull a trigger on a gun.&quot;</p><p>But to Stephen Teret, longtime proponent of smarter guns and founder of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/" target="_blank">Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research</a>, this could be the key element: Obama also directs the agencies to &quot;explore potential ways to further&quot; the use and development of smart gun technology as well as consult with other agencies that buy firearms to see if smart guns could be considered for acquisition and &quot;consistent with operational needs.&quot;</p><div id="res462035317"><iframe height="555" scrolling="no" src="http://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?embed=true&amp;id=2673821-2016smartgun-Mem-Rel" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 0px; border-style: initial; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;" width="100%"></iframe></div><p>Teret says smart, or personalized, guns have faced a stalemated kind of supply-demand: Manufacturers best-positioned to make and market these new guns don&#39;t want to go all-in on the idea without a reassurance of big orders, while no big buyer would put in such an order for an unestablished technology.</p><p>In simplest terms, if federal law enforcement and the military start buying lots of smart guns &mdash; and that&#39;s a big if &mdash; Teret thinks it would be just the incentive that manufacturers, venture capitalists and other investors need to consider such guns as a viable product.</p><p>&quot;What today represents is blowing up the logjam that has been keeping us from moving forward,&quot; Teret says.</p><p>The impasse has a long history. A&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/242500.pdf" target="_blank">2013 report from the Justice Department</a>, solicited earlier by Obama, listed numerous corporate and research projects in the U.S., Europe and Australia that tried to develop smarter gun technology, including from established gun-makers like Colt&#39;s Manufacturing and Smith &amp; Wesson.</p><p>Many of the projects fizzled out, facing&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2013/03/18/174629446/can-smart-gun-technology-help-prevent-violence" target="_blank">numerous reservations</a>&nbsp;both from gun proponents and from opponents.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Will It Make Us Safer?</strong></span></p><p>One of the biggest concerns from law enforcement officers cited by that 2013 DOJ report was reliability &mdash; the concern that a battery-powered or computer-chip-driven gun wouldn&#39;t fire when it should.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nssfblog.com/nssf-statement-regarding-executive-actions-to-reduce-gun-violence-and-make-our-communities-safer/" target="_blank">National Shooting Sports Foundation</a>, the main firearms industry trade association, in a statement, says it has never opposed development of smart gun technology. &quot;How additional government research into this technology would advance it is unclear,&quot; the group says.</p><p>And the industry&#39;s big worry is that support for smart gun technology would turn into a mandate that all guns need to be smart.</p><p>In fact, New Jersey&#39;s 2002 &quot;Childproof Handgun Law&quot;&nbsp;has spurred much of the outcry over&nbsp;attempts to sell smart guns in the U.S., because it said that once &quot;personalized handguns are available&quot; anywhere in the country, all handguns sold in New Jersey must be smart guns within 30 months.&quot;</p><p>The National Shooting Sports Foundation also says there are &quot;well-proven existing methods to secure firearms&quot; and that firearm accidents are at an all-time low.</p><div id="res462061142">The National Rifle Association, in its statement criticizing Obama&#39;s executive actions, didn&#39;t comment on smart guns specifically but generally argued that the presidential action would not have prevented recent mass shootings.</div><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vpc.org/" target="_blank">Violence Policy Center</a>, which advocates for gun control, also has no specific position on personalized guns but has argued that research dollars would be better spent on things that prevent gun violence, like better injury and death measurements, youth programs and public education about risks.</p><p>Spokesman Avery Palmer referred NPR to the group&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/Smart%20Gun%202013.pdf" target="_blank">2013 fact sheet</a>&nbsp;on smart guns, which runs through a variety of reservations about their effectiveness, including the possibility that it may attract more, not fewer, people to gun ownership.</p><p>The fact sheet also says the group opposes the use of any federal tax dollars in support of smart gun research. Asked whether that meant the group also opposed Obama&#39;s smart gun initiative, Palmer said the center didn&#39;t yet have enough detail on the proposal to determine the group&#39;s position.</p><p>Teret at Johns Hopkins says that firearm accidents have indeed been declining and smart guns aren&#39;t a panacea to gun violence. He compares his current advocacy to his earlier work to get air bags installed in cars, despite concerns about their risk and effectiveness.</p><p>&quot;No one can tell you with any level of certainty how many of the 33,000-plus [annual] gun deaths will be avoided by personalized guns,&quot; he says. &quot;But I certainly have absolute confidence that it will be enough deaths that will be avoided that makes this worth it.&quot;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://alltechconsidered" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Wed, 06 Jan 2016 23:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/will-obamas-action-create-market-smart-guns-114399 In Live Address, Obama Takes His Plan for Gun Control to the Public http://www.wbez.org/news/live-address-obama-takes-his-plan-gun-control-public-114377 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/obamagunadd.JPG" alt="" /><p><div id="res462025768" previewtitle="President Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss gun control measures, along with, left, acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Thomas Brandon and, right, FBI Director James Comey."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="President Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss gun control measures, along with, left, acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Thomas Brandon and, right, FBI Director James Comey." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/05/obama_custom-6bdd1d27e11b18cd8eb79e8bb9165722443d62a4-s900-c85.jpg" style="height: 314px; width: 620px;" title="President Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss gun control measures, along with, left, acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Thomas Brandon and, right, FBI Director James Comey. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters /Landov)" /></div><div><p>Saying that America faces a &quot;gun violence epidemic,&quot; President Obama is taking &quot;a series of commonsense executive actions&quot; to reduce gun violence Tuesday, the White House says. First among the measures: tighter rules on background checks for gun buyers.</p><p>President Obama made his case during a live address from the East Room of the White House Tuesday. We&#39;ve updated this post with news from the president&#39;s speech.</p><p>&quot;We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency,&quot; Obama said. &quot;It doesn&#39;t happen in other advanced countries. It&#39;s not even close.&quot;</p><p>The president invoked his own and gun owners&#39; views on constitutional rights &mdash; and he also invoked numerous mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., late in 2012.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/05/462033317/watch-president-obama-gets-emotional-talking-about-gun-control">He grew emotional</a>&nbsp;at the end of his speech, at one point giving up attempts to <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/05/462033317/watch-president-obama-gets-emotional-talking-about-gun-control?ft=nprml&amp;f=462033317" target="_blank">wipe away tears from his eyes as he spoke</a>.</p></div></div><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/myfByN5p928?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><div id="storytext"><p>The executive actions&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/04/461954288/obama-to-announce-executive-actions-on-guns-tuesday">were announced Monday afternoon</a>, with the White House saying the steps were necessary because Congress failed to take action.</p><p><strong>Update at 12:25 p.m. ET: A Heroic Example</strong></p><p>President Obama tells the story of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.knoxnews.com/news/crime-courts/Police-investigating-2-shootings-in-7-hours-362913061.html">Zaevion Dobson</a>, the 15-year-old high school student who saved the lives of three girls when he dove on top of them during a shooting in December.</p><p>&quot;An act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old,&quot; Obama says.</p><p>&quot;We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did,&quot; the president says. &quot;We&#39;re not asked to have shoulders that big, a heart that strong, reactions that quick.&quot;</p><p>He added that those who want to see change in America&#39;s gun policies should work through obstacles, &quot;and do what a sensible country would do.&quot;</p><p><strong>Update at 12:18 p.m. ET: &#39;The Rest Of Our Rights&#39;</strong></p><p>Saying that Second Amendment rights matter, President Obama states:</p><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;There are other rights that we care about, as well, and we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely &mdash; that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, S.C.; and that was denied Jews in Kansas City; and that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. They had rights, too.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><p>He then says the right of peaceful assembly has been robbed in movie theaters in Colorado and Louisiana &mdash; and the pursuit of happiness and liberty has also been taken away in attacks on schools.</p><p>&quot;Those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg, in Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers in Columbine, and from first graders in Newtown.&quot;</p><p>While applause had followed the president&#39;s listing of those events, his final words about students were said after an emotional pause; they were greeted with silence in the room.</p><p>The president repeated: &quot;First graders.&quot;</p><p>As he attempted to move on with his speech, Obama paused to wipe a tear from his eye.</p><p>&quot;Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,&quot; he said, his eyes now wet with tears. &quot;And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.&quot;</p><p><strong>Update at 12:15 p.m. ET: Role Of Technology</strong></p><p>&quot;If a child can&#39;t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can&#39;t pull a trigger on a gun,&quot; Obama says.</p><p>He compares &quot;smart guns&quot; to smartphones that require a fingerprint the device, and mentions trackers that could help find a stolen gun.</p><p><strong>Update at 12:10 p.m. ET: The Plan</strong></p><p>President Obama starts outlining the four steps he&#39;s taking via executive action, from closing the gun show loophole to expanding background checks to catch people trying to evade controls by making purchases through corporations or other entities. Improved mental health care is also in the plan.</p><p>The president&#39;s plan rests on four main points:</p><blockquote><ul><li><strong>Background Checks</strong>:&nbsp;Require all gun sellers &mdash; including online and at gun shows &mdash; to have a license and perform background checks. Have the FBI overhaul the existing background-check system.</li><li><strong>Enforcement</strong>:&nbsp;Improve the use of America&#39;s existing gun laws, and add 200 new agents to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.</li><li><strong>Mental Health</strong>:&nbsp;Remove barriers that can keep states from reporting and sharing information about people barred from owning guns for mental health reasons, and spend $500 million to increase access to mental health care.</li><li><strong>Technology</strong>:&nbsp;Push for research in gun safety technology, such as &quot;smart guns&quot; that can only be fired by authorized users. The research would be done by the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. The White House notes the federal government is &quot;the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country.&quot;</li></ul></blockquote><p><strong>Update at 12:07 p.m. ET: &#39;That&#39;s Not Right&#39;</strong></p><p>Obama faults Congress for making it more difficult to track and research gun violence in America, saying that public health experts now have more trouble collecting data and facts.</p><p>He adds that people who can&#39;t board a plane can still buy guns in America.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s not right,&quot; Obama says. &quot;That can&#39;t be right.&quot;</p><p>He then says, &quot;The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now. But they cannot hold America hostage. We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.&quot; &mdash; prompting a standing ovation from the audience.</p><p><strong>Update at 12:03 p.m. ET: &#39;We Can Save Some&#39; Victims</strong></p><p>&quot;We maybe can&#39;t save everybody, but we can save some,&quot; Obama says, acknowledging that stopping every gun attack is likely an impossible goal.</p><p>He says that in Connecticut, gun deaths dropped 40 percent after the state began requiring background checks and gun safety courses &mdash; while in Missouri, gun deaths rose to almost 50 percent above the national average after the state repealed gun control laws on background checks and permits.</p><p><strong>Update at 11:58 a.m. ET: &#39;Different Set Of Rules&#39;</strong></p><p>Obama says it&#39;s time to end the system in which some gun buyers operate under a &quot;different set of rules&quot; from others.</p><p>Recalling the 2013 failure to approve gun control legislation in the Senate, Obama says it failed because of Republican resistance.</p><p>&quot;How did this become such a partisan issue?&quot; Obama asks, quoting calls for better background checks from former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain.</p><p><strong>Update at 11:55 a.m. ET: The Second Amendment</strong></p><p>&quot;I taught constitutional law. I know a little about this,&quot; Obama said, insisting on his belief in the protections for gun owners. He adds that he thinks the right should be balanced with other protections.</p><p>And he says many gun owners agree with him.</p><p>&quot;A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale,&quot; Obama says.</p><p>He says there&#39;s no &quot;slippery slope&quot; to erode gun owners&#39; rights and confiscate guns.</p><p><strong>Update at 11:51 a.m. ET: Town Hall Meeting Thursday</strong></p><p>The president says he&#39;ll host a town hall meeting in Virginia to hear from both sides of the issue.</p><p>Calling for a sense of urgency about the issue, Obama says it&#39;s time &quot;not to debate the last mass shooting, but to try to prevent the next one.&quot;</p><p><strong>Update at 11:48 a.m. ET: Giffords Acknowledged</strong></p><p>Obama notes that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and barely survived in a 2011 attack in Tucson, Ariz., is attendance, setting off a wave of applause.</p><p>&quot;I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years,&quot; Obama says, noting the recovery efforts Giffords has undertaken.</p><p>&quot;Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns,&quot; Obama says.</p><p>He adds that there&#39;s resilience in the room, along with heartache, among the survivors of gun violence.</p><p><strong>Update at 11:45 a.m. ET: Obama Speaks</strong></p><p>The president was greeted with a loud and sustained ovation after he was introduced by Mark Barden, who lost his son in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Obama recalled speaking with Barden after that tragedy.</p><p>&quot;That changed me that day,&quot; Obama said, adding that he hoped it would also change the country.</p><p>The president then listed a string of shootings, in Aurora, Colo., the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.</p><p>Our original post continues:</p><p>&quot;We have tens of thousands of people every single year who are killed by guns,&quot; Obama said Monday. &quot;We have suicides that are committed by firearms at a rate that far exceeds other countries. We have a frequency of mass shootings that far exceeds other countries.&quot;</p><p>In a public opinion poll from last August, 85 percent of Americans said they&#39;re in favor of expanding background checks, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Those in support included 88 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans.</p><p>The National Rifle Association has criticized Obama&#39;s plan, calling it &quot;a political stunt.&quot; In 2013, the group worked to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/04/17/177638177/senate-rejects-expanded-background-checks-for-gun-sales">block enhanced gun control legislation</a>&nbsp;that was introduced in the wake of the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.</p><p>Today, President Obama was introduced by Mark Barden, who lost his son in that shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.</p><p>As NPR&#39;s Scott Horsley reported Monday, &quot;ATF will play a central role in the administration&#39;s move, by clarifying what it means to be &#39;engaged in the business&#39; of selling guns. Until now, some collectors and hobbyists have been able to avoid that designation.&quot;</p><p>Scott added, &quot;the FBI is hiring 230 additional staff people to speed the processing of background checks.&quot;</p><p>Gun sales have reportedly been up, as buyers worried it might become harder or impossible to purchase some weapons.</p><p>Some of those buyers visited a gun store and shooting range in Lorton, Va., where customer Sherry Shoske&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/461997774/gun-owners-brace-for-obamas-executive-order">told NPR&#39;s Eyder Peralta</a>&nbsp;on Monday that she recently bought an Uzi &quot;because I thought that [Obama] was going to be making changes, so I should buy any gun that I want to buy before he makes the changes.&quot;</p><p>Several customers at the store acknowledged that America has a problem with gun violence &mdash; and that some rules should change. But they also said the issue is too complex for quick fixes.</p><p>One customer, Chris Harto, told Eyder, &quot;It&#39;s easy to say if we didn&#39;t have guns this wouldn&#39;t happen. But the reality is, there&#39;s over 300 million guns in this country, and they&#39;re not going to go away.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/05/462020685/obama-seeks-commonsense-gun-control-through-executive-actions?ft=nprml&amp;f=462020685" target="_blank"><em>This story will be updated via NPR</em></a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 05 Jan 2016 10:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/live-address-obama-takes-his-plan-gun-control-public-114377 Obama Warns Campus Protesters against Urge to 'Shut Up' Opposition http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-edition/2015-12-23/obama-warns-campus-protesters-against-urge-shut-opposition <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/20151217_npr_obamainskeep_010_wide-c1dfe56dc8cafba6d141752544140058e55cb7c0-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res460394876" previewtitle="NPR's Steve Inskeep interviews President Obama at the White House."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="NPR's Steve Inskeep interviews President Obama at the White House." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/19/20151217_npr_obamainskeep_010_wide-c1dfe56dc8cafba6d141752544140058e55cb7c0-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="NPR's Steve Inskeep interviews President Obama at the White House. (Colin Marshall/NPR)" /></div><div><div><p>In a wide-ranging interview with NPR&#39;s Steve Inskeep, President Obama had some advice for college protesters across the country.</p></div></div></div><p>Over the past several months, protests have occurred at schools such as the University of Missouri, Yale and Ithaca College over issues ranging from offensive Halloween costumes, to the racial climate and the lack of minority faculty at schools, to school administrators&#39; responses to racially insensitive vandalism and other incidents on campuses. Many of these protests have been led by students of color and draw inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement.</p><p>Obama did not get into specifics about any particular recent protests and punted when asked whether schools like Harvard and Yale should get rid of symbols linked to slavery. But he did say that protesters on college campuses need to engage people they don&#39;t agree with, even as they protest.</p><p><strong>Watch the interview: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-edition/2015-12-21/obama-makes-no-apologies-fighting-isis-within-american-values" target="_blank">Obama Makes &#39;No Apologies&#39; for Fighting ISIS within &#39;American Values&#39;</a></strong></p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s a healthy thing for young people to be engaged and to question authority and to ask why this instead of that, to ask tough questions about social justice,&quot; Obama told Inskeep. &quot;So I don&#39;t want to discourage kids from doing that.&quot;</p><p>But, he continued, &quot;As I&#39;ve said before, I do think that there have been times on college campuses where I get concerned that the unwillingness to hear other points of view can be as unhealthy on the left as on the right.&quot;</p><p>Obama pointed out instances where students protest &quot;somebody like the director of the IMF or Condi Rice speaking on campus because they don&#39;t like what they stand for.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Well, feel free to disagree with somebody,&quot; Obama said, &quot;but don&#39;t try to just shut them up.&quot;</p><p>&quot;My concern is not whether there is campus activism,&quot; Obama told Inskeep. &quot;I think that&#39;s a good thing. But let kids ask questions and let universities respond. What I don&#39;t want is a situation in which particular points of view that are presented respectfully and reasonably are shut down, and we have seen that sometimes happen.&quot;</p><p>NPR&#39;s Gene Demby has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/12/17/459211924/the-long-necessary-history-of-whiny-black-protestors-at-college">written extensively</a>&nbsp;on the wave of protests sweeping across college campuses, noting that &quot;agitation for more resources, more active inclusion, more safe spaces and more black faculty has been a through line for black students on university campuses for generations.&quot; Demby also points out Obama&#39;s time at Harvard Law School, where he&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/at-harvard-obama-dived-into-diversity-fight#.dcdGaMda">spoke out about faculty diversity</a>, an issue college protesters continue to raise.</p><p>Obama wrote of his time as a student activist at Occidental College in his memoir <em>Dreams from My Father</em>.&nbsp;On Feb. 18, 1981, he&nbsp;<a href="http://www.oxy.edu/our-story/oxy-people/obama-oxy">gave a speech urging Occidental to divest</a>&nbsp;of its investments in apartheid-era South Africa. To make the point that students in Africa were being silenced, Obama was dragged offstage by two white friends before he could finish the speech.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/21/460282127/obama-warns-campus-protesters-against-urge-to-shut-up-opposition?ft=nprml&amp;f=460282127" target="_blank"><em><u> via NPR</u></em></a></p></p> Wed, 23 Dec 2015 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-edition/2015-12-23/obama-warns-campus-protesters-against-urge-shut-opposition Obama Makes 'No Apologies' for Fighting ISIS within 'American Values' http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-edition/2015-12-21/obama-makes-no-apologies-fighting-isis-within-american-values <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/20151217_npr_obamainskeep_003-982321798949bfd5d792806c358aeb8f3e49a18a.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Stressing that his administration has &quot;been at this for a long time,&quot; President Obama launched a forceful defense of his strategy against ISIS in a <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/21/460030344/video-and-transcript-nprs-interview-with-president-obama" target="_blank">year-end interview with NPR</a>. He makes &quot;no apologies,&quot; he said, for wanting to target terror groups &quot;appropriately and in a way that is consistent with American values.&quot;</p><p>Speaking with Steve Inskeep, host of&nbsp;<em>Morning Edition</em>,&nbsp;Obama also urged Americans to &quot;keep things in perspective&quot; when it comes to ISIS, though he says he understands &quot;why people are worried.&quot;</p><div><p>&quot;This is not an organization that can destroy the United States,&quot; he said, nor is it a &quot;huge industrial power&quot; that poses great risks to the U.S. &quot;institutionally or in a systemic way. But they can hurt us, and they can hurt our people and our families.&quot;</p><div><p>Here&#39;s how he explained why remembering &quot;who we are&quot; will lead to ISIS&#39;s defeat:</p><div id="res460339453"><div style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MNop1dom1m8" width="560"></iframe></div><div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Obama added that while ISIS, which he refers to as ISIL, should be taken &quot;seriously,&quot; domestic terrorism acts have killed at least as many Americans &quot;as those who were promoted by jihadists.&quot; Since Sept. 11, 2001, 45 people have been killed in the United States at the hands of Islamist extremist-inspired terrorists, and 48 have been killed in domestic terrorist attacks, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://securitydata.newamerica.net/extremists/deadly-attacks.html" target="_blank">count</a>&nbsp;from the New America Foundation.</p><p>Though Obama expressed deep confidence in his approach to fighting ISIS, he is facing a country with just as much criticism of that strategy &mdash; only 30 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent Gallup Poll approve of his handling of ISIS.</p><p>He said he understands where some of that sentiment comes from and that people are legitimately concerned about terrorism &mdash; though he says that fear is fueled in part by the media. &quot;If you have been watching television for the last month, all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you,&quot; he said.</p><p>He also believes there was a failing on his administration&#39;s part in not better informing the public of action that has been taken to fight ISIS.</p><p>&quot;So if people haven&#39;t seen the fact that in fact 9,000 strikes have been carried out against ISIL, if they don&#39;t know that towns like Sinjar that were controlled by ISIL have been taken back, or that a town like Tikrit, that was controlled by ISIL, now has been repopulated by previous residents, then they might feel as if there is not enough of a response,&quot; he said.</p><p>Obama also addressed the criticism from Republican presidential candidates, who have hit at his strategy frequently and forcefully on the campaign trail and in debates. The president&#39;s name came up at least 35 times in last week&#39;s Republican debate in relation to national security or ISIS. Diverging from the president, some called for leaving Syria&#39;s Bashar Assad in power to protect the country from falling to ISIS, while others pressed for widespread bombing of regions controlled by ISIS. In a year-end news conference last Friday, Obama reiterated that for the sake of stability in the region, he believes Assad must go.</p><div id="res460323339"><aside aria-label="pullquote" role="complementary"><p>Speaking to NPR, Obama responded to those strategies, saying that more bombs are not the answer. &quot;Well, when you listen to them, though, and you ask, &#39;Well, what exactly are you talking about?&#39; &#39;Well, we are going to bomb more,&#39; &quot; he said. &quot;Well, who is it you are going to bomb? Where is it that you are going to bomb? When you talk about something like carpet-bombing, what do you mean?&quot;</p></aside></div><p>&quot;If the suggestion is that we kill tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians and Iraqis, that is not who we are,&quot; the president continued. &quot;That would be a strategy that would have enormous backlash against the United States. It would be terrible for our national security.&quot;</p><p>The overall criticism from the Republican candidates boils down to a sentiment that Obama isn&#39;t showing enough strength against ISIS. At the Republican debate last week, Ted Cruz said, &quot;ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they&#39;re winning. And President Obama fuels that perception.&quot; Marco Rubio blamed the president for &quot;outsourcing&quot; foreign policy.</p><div id="res460430691"><aside aria-label="pullquote" role="complementary"><p>Obama, as he often has during his presidency, used a long-game defense. The one piece of advice he would leave the next president when it comes to battling ISIS, he said, is that it&#39;s &quot;important not just to shoot but to aim.&quot;</p></aside></div><p>Obama did have rare praise, though, for one GOP presidential candidate.</p><p>&quot;It is important in this seat to make sure that you are making your best judgments based on data, intelligence, the information that&#39;s coming from your commanders and folks on the ground, and you&#39;re not being swayed by politics,&quot; Obama said.</p><p>&quot;What&#39;s interesting is that most of the critics have not called for ground forces,&quot; he said. &quot;To his credit, I think Lindsey Graham is one of the few who has been at least honest about suggesting &#39;here is something I would do that the president is not doing.&#39; He doesn&#39;t just talk about being louder or sounding tougher in the process.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div><em>Listen to more of NPR&#39;s interview with President Obama this week on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/21/460281332/obama-makes-no-apologies-for-fighting-isis-within-american-values?ft=nprml&amp;f=460281332" target="_blank">Morning Edition.</a></em></div></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 21 Dec 2015 08:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-edition/2015-12-21/obama-makes-no-apologies-fighting-isis-within-american-values President Obama Holds End-of-Year Press Conference http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-12-18/president-obama-holds-end-year-press-conference-114220 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/1218_obama-press-conference-624x416.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_98225"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/12/1218_obama-press-conference.jpg" title="U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the climate agreement in the Cabinet Room of the White House on December 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)"><img alt="U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the climate agreement in the Cabinet Room of the White House on December 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/12/1218_obama-press-conference-624x416.jpg" /></a><p>U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the climate agreement in the Cabinet Room of the White House on December 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)</p></div><p>Closing out a tumultuous year, President Barack Obama sought to lay the groundwork Friday for his last year in office by vowing not to fade in the background but instead use his remaining months to push longstanding goals to fruition.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2016, I&rsquo;m going to leave it all out on the field,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Wherever there&rsquo;s an opportunity, I&rsquo;m going to take it.&rdquo;</p><p>In his annual year-end news conference, Obama portrayed 2015 as one of significant progress for his agenda, pointing to diplomacy with Iran and Cuba and an Asia-Pacific trade agreement as big wins for his administration. He also praised a Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage and a congressional rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law as further victories for causes he&rsquo;s made central to his presidency.</p><p>Still, he said, he plans to do much more in 2016.</p><p>&ldquo;I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter &ndash; and we are only halfway through,&rdquo; Obama said.</p><p>Calling attention to his signature legislative achievement, Obama announced that 6 million people had signed up for health care so far this year under the Affordable Care Act, a surge that officials say illustrates the program&rsquo;s durability.</p><p>After the news conference, Obama was to depart for San Bernardino, California, where he planned to meet with families of the 14 victims of the recent mass shooting. He then will fly to Hawaii where he&rsquo;ll spend two weeks on vacation with his wife and daughters in what has become a family Christmas tradition.</p><p>Hours before his departure, Congress passed a major bipartisan budget package that staved off a potential government shutdown and extended tax cuts for both families and businesses. The White House has indicated Obama will sign it.</p><p>Obama said lawmakers had ended the year on a &ldquo;high note&rdquo; with additional legislation on transportation and education. He noted optimistically that by averting a funding crisis for the next nine months, Congress had cleared a path for cooperation with him next year on areas of common ground.</p><p>&ldquo;Congress and I have a long runway to get some things done for the American people,&rdquo; he said. He pointed to a potential criminal justice overhaul and congressional consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact as areas ripe for cooperation.</p><p>Obama took questions as he closed out a turbulent year marked by successes on restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, clinching a nuclear deal with Iran and finalizing an unprecedented global climate treaty. Those successes have been tempered by a lack of progress on the president&rsquo;s other priorities, like closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center.</p><p>Obama said he&rsquo;d present a long-delayed plan to close the prison to Congress early next year, then wait for lawmakers&rsquo; reaction before determining whether to take action on his own to shut it. He predicted the prison population would dwindle by early next year to less than 100, a threshold his administration has been pushing for to bolster its argument that keeping the facility open isn&rsquo;t cost effective.</p><p>Amid widespread fears about terrorism and extremists, Obama pushed back against critics questioning his strategy for overcoming the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s only so much bombing you can do,&rdquo; he said, though he insisted anew, &ldquo;We will defeat ISIS.&rdquo;</p><p>He also affirmed his longstanding position that Syrian President Bashar Assad must leave power for Syria to resolve its civil war, even though his administration has recently said it could accept an unspecified transition period during which Assad stayed.</p><p>Still, Obama contended about Syria, &ldquo;Five years later, I was right.&rdquo;</p><p>The end of 2015 marks a major transition point for the president, who has one year left to try to finish as many of his projects as possible. He won&rsquo;t be rolling out sweeping new policy proposals that would be unlikely to get serious consideration amid the focus on electing his successor. The White House is promising Obama will deliver a &ldquo;non-traditional&rdquo; State of the Union address in January laying out an agenda that includes further executive steps on climate change and gun control.</p><p>Obama plans to return to the White House in early January to begin a final year in office that will be increasingly overshadowed by the 2016 presidential campaign. Predicting success for his party, Obama said he was confident Democrats would nominate a strong candidate to replace him.</p><p>&ldquo;I think I will have a Democratic successor,&rdquo; Obama said. &ldquo;And I will campaign very hard to make that happen.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Fri, 18 Dec 2015 15:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-12-18/president-obama-holds-end-year-press-conference-114220