Obama talks cyberattack, Cuba, Keystone pipeline in end-of-year news conference – Chicago Tribune

President Obama said on Friday that Sony Pictures Entertainment made a mistake in pulling the ‘The Interview’ from theaters, after the FBI announced that North Korea was responsible for the cyber attack on the entertainment company.

“Yes I think they made a mistake,” he said at his end-of-year news conference, in response to a question on Sony’s decision. He cited what would happen for other types of films, like documentaries that certain foreign regimes don’t like.

“We can not have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship in the United States,” he said. His opinion on Sony’s decision to pull the movie was in line with a number of industry voices who wondered if it set a bad precedent.

He added that “We cannot start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there may be a possibility of a terrorist attack.”

He said that he has a “long list of movies I am going to be watching,” in response to a question of whether he will watch the movie.

The FBI announced on Friday that they have concluded that North Korea was behind the attack on SPE’s computer systems. The bureau cited malware linked to “other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.”

A key question is what kind of response, if any, the U.S. government will take. MPAA chairman Chris Dodd called the cyber attack a “despicable, criminal act” that was the work of cyber terrorists.

Obama said that the U.S. would “respond proportionately … at a place and time of our choosing.”

Obama said that it “says something about North Korea” that they would launch an attack on Sony over a “satircal movie starring Seth Rogen.”

He called for measures to improve cybersecurity, noting that such attacks would threaten “not just a movie studio but the economy.”

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

Obama threatened to veto any efforts by a Republican-controlled Congress to weaken measures aimed at protecting consumers from abuses in the financial system.

Obama said he believed Republicans, who will be in charge of both houses of Congress from January, could work with the administration on issues such as tax reform.

But he said he would not accept roll-backs of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law as part of those deals.

“If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say ‘no’,” Obama said. “And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.”

Congress passed the Dodd-Frank law in response to the 2007-2009 crisis but many Republicans disagreed with its approach to cleaning up the financial system. They attached a provision to undo one section of the law to a government funding bill that lawmakers approved last week.

Democrats slammed that change as a capitulation to Wall Street but the Obama administration said it was a compromise in exchange for higher funding for two regulatory agencies.

Liberal lawmakers also warned that Republicans would use the same strategy in 2015 to water down the Wall Street overhaul by attaching provisions to unrelated bills that Democrats would feel compelled to support. Obama on Friday said he would not accept such substantial changes to his regulatory law.

BLACK AMERICA

Obama  said black Americans are better off now than they were when he began his presidency in 2009, but that the gap between blacks and whites remains.

“Like the rest of America, black America, in the aggregate, is better off now than it was when I came into office,” he told reporters in an end-of-year news conference.

“The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists, and we’ve got more work to do on that front.”

Obama said many of the jobs and housing that has been created since he took office has gone to African-Americans. But he also pointed to the persistent income gap between white and black citizens.

Speaking about the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of Eric Garner, a black man killed in a police chokehold in New York, Obama pointed to forthcoming task force recommendations to “rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.”

“I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had. These are not new phenomena,” said Obama, who was the elected the first black president of the United States in 2008.

“You’re not going to solve the problem if it’s not being talked about.”

CUBA

Obama said on Friday that the expanded diplomatic relationship with Cuba is not at a stage at which he would visit the island country or have its president come to the United States.

Obama said he is a “fairly young man,” so he expected that at some point in his life, he would have an opportunity to visit Cuba, but had no plans to do so now.

Obama said the Cuban government still represses its citizens, and that he does not expect overnight changes as a result of normalized relations between Cuba and the United States.

“What I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed you should try something different,” Obama told reporters in an end-of-year news conference.

TAX REFORM

Obama said he thought lawmakers could agree to make changes to the U.S. tax code in the next Congress, based on his recent conversations with Republican leaders.

“I’d like to see more simplicity in the system. I’d like to see more fairness in the system,” Obama said. “How we do that, the devil is in the details.”

 KEYSTONE

Obama said construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast would only nominally benefit American consumers and workers.

“There is very little impact – nominal impact – on U.S. gas prices, what the average American consumer cares about,” Obama told reporters during an end-of-year press conference.

Construction of the pipeline would create a “couple thousand” jobs, but there are better ways to create long-term, paying jobs for American workers by investing in infrastructure, Obama added.

Obama only called on female reporters during the press conference.

Reuters, Variety contributerd to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune

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