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Aug 032013
 

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama, who turns 52 on Sunday, spent Saturday playing golf with friends at Joint Base Andrews, but before he hit the links, he was briefed on the terrorist threat that will cause 21 U.S. embassies to close Sunday.

“Before departing this morning, the president was updated on the potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco. He will continue to be updated through the weekend,” a White House official told reporters.

The State Department has ordered all U.S. embassies to close Sunday. Most are closed anyway on Sundays, except those in Muslim countries, meaning the closures affect 21 embassies in the Muslim world. The State Department also issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans on Friday.

After the briefing, the president’s motorcade left the White House with golf clubs and at least one cooler in tow. Later, he planned to head to Camp David.

Three groups teed off at Andrews, according to a White House official, including a smattering of old friends and former colleagues. Among them were two Chicago friends, Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker. Whitaker attended graduate school with Obama at Harvard. High school friends Mike Ramos and Bobby Titcomb, who was arrested in 2011 in Honolulu on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute, were also there.  Obama has played golf with him at least twice since the arrest.

Former aide Reggie Love and Chicago chef Sam Kass, who has also served as a White House chef, senior policy adviser on nutrition, and executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, also played.

Obama was expected to depart for Camp David in the afternoon, returning Sunday.

The presidential golf outing got cool-for-August morning temperatures accompanied by some intermittent, light drizzling rain.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 272013
 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will commemorate the 60 year anniversary of the Korean War armistice Saturday, marking the end of hostilities on the peninsula.

Communist North Korea invaded South Korea with 135,000 troops on June 25, 1950, and three years later with more than 2.5 million dead, including more than more than 36,000 Americans who died in combat, the war ended.

Joined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Obama will lay a wreath at the memorial in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Obama issued a declaration making today National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, noting that the conflict “defined a generation and decided the fate of a nation.”

“We remember ordinary men and women who showed extraordinary courage through 3 long years of war, fighting far from home to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met,” Obama said in his proclamation. “This anniversary marks the end of a war. But it also commemorates the beginning of a long and prosperous peace.”

It is often referred to as the “Forgotten War,” because fighting half a world away garnered little domestic attention at the time. But the remnants of the conflict are still felt today. North Korea and South Korea remain divided, and there is still no peace treaty between the two countries.

According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs there are still 2 million living veterans of that war.

“No monument will ever be worthy of their service, and no memorial will fully heal the ache of their sacrifice,” Obama said in the proclamation. “But as a grateful nation, we must honor them — not just with words, but with deeds.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 132013
 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Able to play golf with pretty much anyone he wants, President Obama is spending his Saturday on a military course with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, co-hosts of Pardon the Interruption.

Saturday is Kornheiser’s 65th birthday, as was mentioned on the ESPN show Friday.

They’re playing at Fort Belvoir, a military base off I-95 about 30 minutes south of the White House. Wilbon and Kornheiser did not ride with the president in his motorcade, which arrived at 10:15 a.m., according to pool reports.

On Friday, Wilbon, Kornheiser, and Tony Reali — host of ESPN’s Around the Horn and PTI’s longtime on-air fact-checker — ate lunch at the White House and visited with Obama in the Oval Office.

Reali described the visit in a YouTube video posted to the Around the Horn channel.

“Coolest experience of my life,” he said.

Two years ago, Obama told Reali and frequent guest Kevin Blackistone that Around the Horn is the only TV show he watches, Reali said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 072013
 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania) — President George W. Bush cautioned against criticizing gay couples, saying in an exclusive ABC interview that you shouldn’t criticize others “until you’ve examined your own heart.”

Bush had waded into the revitalized gay-marriage debate last week — if only barely — in a comment to a reporter in Zambia, who asked whether gay marriage conflicts with Christian values.

“I shouldn’t be taking a speck out of someone else’s eye when I have a log in my own,” Bush said.

The former president explained his comment to ABC’s Jonathan Karl during their exclusive interview last week in Tanzania.

“I meant it’s very important for people not to be overly critical of someone else until you’ve examined your own heart,” Bush told ABC.

As president, Bush opposed gay marriage, and Republicans pushed ballot measures to ban it at the state level. The topic has seen rejuvenated discussion after the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The 43rd president traveled to Africa with former first lady Laura Bush to promote their Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, a program through their foundation to expand care and prevention of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Last week, the Bushes helped renovate a clinic in Zambia that will serve as a cervical-cancer screening and treatment center.

As president, Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to address the wide spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Since leaving the White House, he has received warm welcomes on the continent.
“People admire America,” Bush told ABC. “Africans are thrilled with the idea that American taxpayers funded programs that save lives.”

By chance, the Bushes and Obamas crossed paths on their coinciding Africa trips, as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spent six days touring the continent to strengthen U.S. ties with sub-Saharan nations. President Obama and President Bush appeared together in Tanzania, but did not speak publicly, at a ceremony commemorating the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy there.

“This is one of his crowning achievements,” Obama said of PEPFAR before their meeting. “Because of the commitment of the Bush administration and the American people, millions of people’s lives have been saved.”

“We just chatted about his trip,” Bush said of their time together, noting that he asked Obama about his daughters. “We didn’t sit around and hash out policy.”

On his ascent to the White House, Obama heavily criticized his predecessor, mostly for the war in Iraq. But Obama has maintained some of his Bush’s national-security policies since taking over — a posture that has earned him criticism from liberal supporters.

Obama has continued the use of overseas drone strikes, and, most recently, the White House and the National Security Agency acknowledged that until 2011, NSA continued collecting email “metadata” records for U.S. citizens. The Bush-launched program continued with Obama’s approval.

Asked why some of his counterterrorism programs have continued under Obama, Bush suggested that Obama realized the gravity of security threats after becoming president.

“I think the president got into the Oval Office and realized the dangers to the United States,” Bush told ABC. “He’s acted in a way that he thinks is necessary to protect the country. Protecting the country’s the most important job of the presidency.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 062013
 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House says it won’t classify the Westboro Baptist Church as a “hate group” in response to petitions filed at WhiteHouse.gov.

That doesn’t mean the White House reserves judgment.

“As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups,” said the official White House response. “That all said, we agree that practices such as protesting at the funerals of men and women who died in service to this country and preventing their families from mourning peacefully are reprehensible.”

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an unaffiliated Baptist church of around 50 members, has picketed the funerals of service members and Newtown, Conn., school shooting victims in the name of its anti-gay ideology.

The church recently announced via Twitter that it would picket the funerals of the 19 Arizona firefighters who died attempting to contain a wildfire.

“Praise God,” the tweet read. “A consuming fire!”

The White House response also chronicled the location and the number of signatures on the five petitions attempting to classify the WBC as a hate group and revoke its IRS tax-exempt status.

Signatures concentrated around the Kansas region, where the WBC is located, and Newtown, Conn. – where the church picketed the funerals of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

The largest petition – “Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group” – netted 367,180 signatures.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio