Tag Archives: Obama

Russia Joins North Korea to Condemn “The Interview”

Spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry Alexander Lukashevich condemned the United States on Thursday for permitting the release of Sony Pictures raunchy comedy “The Interview.”

After Sony was hacked by an unknown entity, but most likely North Korea, the threat of further cyberattacks convinced the giant entertainment company to shelve the film to protect their interests. As a result of that decision Sony was inundated with criticism, including from President Obama, that caving into threats was not the way the United States, the world’s symbol of freedom and free speech, should respond. Sony relented and the film, an essentially low-brow, expletive not deleted, sexually suggestive trashy comedy became an ironic symbol of free-speech which opened in theaters across the country on Christmas Day.

North Korea already voiced its displeasure, insulting President Obama in the crudest language, a bit reminiscent of the movie they condemned. Now Russia is adding its angry voice to the chorus.

“The very idea of the film is so aggressive and scandalous that the reaction of the North Korean side… is completely understandable,” explained Lukashevich, referring to the film’s story which involves the assassination of the North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un.

“We believe that the threats of revenge and calls on other countries to condemn North Korea voiced in the United States are absolutely counterproductive and dangerous,” he added, adding that the escalation of tensions should be avoided.

Geithner Urges Republicans to Relent on Tax Hike Proposal

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

The two sides of the deficit issue took to the Sunday morning talk shows airing their views on how to approach the looming fiscal cliff. The deadly combination of tax hikes and spending cuts will be automatically triggered at the end of the year if no compromise deal is reached between the sides.

Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and Obama’s chief negotiator, urged Republicans to give specific ideas on ways to cut the deficit during his interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” television broadcast. He even predicted that the Republicans will agree to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to reach a deal by the end of the year and avoid and economic catastrophe.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner begged to differ and reiterated his position against tax hikes, leaving the debate at an impasse.

"Here's the problem," Boehner told "Fox News Sunday" as both sides took their battle to TV talks shows. "When you go and increase rates, you make it more difficult for our economy to grow," he said.

Boehner added that if Republicans in the end did give in to Obama’s demand for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue, “He’s going to spend it,” and not lower the deficit with the funds.

The Obama camp believes that they have the upper hand on the issue, giving Geithner the confidence to reiterate his stand that, "There's not going to be an agreement without rates heading up."

Polls show that most Americans support tax increases on the rich, and a few dissenters in what was in the past a solid wall of Republican opposition to such a move has convinced the Obama side that they will prevail on this issue.

Chinese Vice President Xi Visiting US for High Level Talks

High level talks are scheduled this Tuesday between President Obama and the up and coming leader of China, Vice President Xi Jinping. Xi is hoping that the talks will boost his international standing while he simultaneously tests Obama’s ability to balance diplomacy with China and his election-year pressures.

Xi’s visit has been carefully planned by his Chinese handlers so that it the once-every-ten-year Chinese transfer of power is accepted by Washington and the world as a significant rite of passage. Xi is expected to take the helm of the Communist Party, which leads China, later on in 2012, and then finally taking over the Chinese presidency in March of 2013.

The fifty-eight year old Xi arrived in Washington on Monday and was greeted with a dinner with veterans of US foreign policy, including former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was also on hand.

Obama has been working on changing US economic policy toward Beijing quietly, trying to find new ways to get results on such touchy issues as improved market access and better currency practices with China which have historically been thorns in the sides of Obama as well as his predecessors.

Xi is the highest ranking Chinese official to visit the US since Obama began his new US leaning toward Asia, began in November. Obama would like to see a more balanced relationship with Asia, reducing China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

US Tourism Industry Hoping to Cash In With Visa Reform

President Obama announced a strategy which he hopes will stimulate international tourism

US Tourist Site/Mount Rushmore

more in the direction of the United States;  the plan is to make the process of getting a tourist visa for potential visitors easier and quicker.

According to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organizations, there is expected to be at least one billion tourists from all over the world traveling this year. The problem is that very few of these tourists choose to visit the United States, often because obtaining a visa for a visit is an arduous, time-consuming and expensive undertaking.

Obama’s plan to streamline the acquisition of tourist visas could not come at a better time, since there is also expected to be an upsurge of touring Chinese and Brazilians, helping to more than offset an expected decline in tourism from Europe as a result of the difficult economic situation there.

“The fact that the president recognized the importance of international tourism is an incredibly positive move,” said Jim Evans, CEO of Brand USA, a public-private tourism promotion organization. “It definitely will have a very positive impact on hotel occupancies,” which in turn will boost profitability and growth in tourism-related jobs. “It just has a positive effect on all metrics for hospitality.”

Tourists for outside the country are a real boon to tourism. They spend their money on hotels, restaurants, go shopping, and pay all the taxes which these activities require. And when the go home, their money stays here.

But the United States has been steadily taking in less and less from this valuable market, even as the total number of tourists across the globe has been rising. In 2000 the US benefited from 17% of the international tourist trade, while in 2010 that percentage dropped to only 11%.

Obama announced his plan to change the procedure for obtaining tourist visas to the US at Orlando’s Walt Disney World last Thursday, believing this step, and others, can help reclaim some of the valuable market share of tourism.

“Just looking at the sheer numbers, it’s going to be huge,” said Kathleen Matthews, executive vice president of public affairs at Marriott International and member of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. “Reducing the wait time is going to be tremendous.”