Challenges overshadow Obama 2nd term oath

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Updated 20 January 2013
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Challenges overshadow Obama 2nd term oath

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will take the oath of office for the third, fourth and final time this weekend during an inauguration celebration that kicks off his second term in a more muted tone than his historic swearing-in four years ago.
High unemployment and partisan fights over fiscal policies have drained some of the hope that marked Obama’s first swearing-in after he swept to victory on a mantle of change in 2008 to become America’s first black president. This time around, there is a less festive inauguration.
Today, following a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Obama will be sworn in officially at the White House at 11:55 a.m. EST, meeting the constitutional requirement that he do so on Jan. 20. That portion will be private — except for a media presence — with a small audience of mostly family members.
Obama will repeat the procedure on Monday during a public ceremony at the US Capitol.
Both times he will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts who, in 2009 after flubbing the oath the first time, administered it to Obama again in the White House the day after his inauguration. The president’s two recitations this year will be the third and fourth time he has taken the oath.
It will be only the second time he has made an inaugural address, however, and millions worldwide will be watching. Some 800,000 people are expected to flock to Washington for the event, down from a record 1.8 million in 2009.
Obama is expected to talk about the need for political compromise where possible — a nod to the divisive fights with the Republican-led House of Representatives over the “fiscal cliff” and raising the US debt ceiling.
He will emphasize that the values on which the United States was founded should still guide the country in the 21st century and encourage Americans to make their voices heard to influence lawmakers’ actions, according to an administration official.
He will also touch on the goals he hopes to address in his second term, while leaving detailed policy blueprints for his State of the Union address next month, the official said. Deficit reduction, gun control, immigration reform, and energy policy are likely to be top priorities in his second term.
Obama has been working on his inaugural address at the White House, scrawling out drafts by hand on yellow legal pads.
While second inauguration speeches rarely go down in history, Monday’s address is a rare opportunity to face millions of television viewers and seek support for upcoming fights with the men and women who work in the Capitol building behind the podium where he will speak.
The White House views the two speeches — he delivers his State of the Union address before Congress on Feb. 12 — as two parts of a package, with the first one spelling out a vision and the second one specific policy proposals.
“The president, I think, is very appreciative of the fact that the American people have given him this opportunity to deliver a second inaugural address,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters this week.
“He believes that we have work to do, and he believes that both the agenda he has put forward so far and the agenda he will put forward in the future will help this country move forward in a variety of ways,” Carney said.
After lambasting Republican opponent Mitt Romney during the campaign for remarks that dismissed nearly half of the US electorate, Obama is likely to offer some words of humility and resolve to represent even those who did not vote for him last year.
After the speech Obama and his wife, Michelle, will join Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, at a luncheon at the capitol. Later the two couples will take part in the inaugural parade, returning to the White House in a motorcade and likely getting out to walk part of the way, waving at the crowd and surrounded by Secret Service members. For weeks, workers have been building stands along the parade route for visitors to watch.


Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

Updated 33 min 18 sec ago
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Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

  • Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014 coup
  • The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis

BANGKOK: Anti-government protesters began marching in Bangkok on Tuesday from a university in the Thai capital to Government House to demand that the military government hold a general election by November.
Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014, coup and have warned protesters not to defy a junta ban on public gatherings.
Police set up barriers along some roads near the university and carried out security checks on Tuesday.
More than 100 demonstrators walked in a line behind a truck with loudspeakers as police looked on, according to Reuters reporters at the scene.
One of the protest organizers, Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, said protesters planned to march peacefully.
“I hope they will let us walk out. We have no intention to prolong today’s activities. I think they will try to stop us ... we will not use violence,” Sirawith said.
Police said around 200 protesters had gathered.
“Authorities will use the law 100 percent. If they walk out we will use the law immediately. We have put forces all around Government House ... if they come in to these areas there will be a prison sentence of up to 6 months,” deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul told reporters.
“Police have no weapons. They are carrying only batons,” he said.
Activists complained of a military crackdown ahead of the gathering.
On Monday, Sunai Phasuk, Thai researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, said two activists had been held incommunicado at a secret detention center.
“Their alleged ‘crime’ is providing loud speakers for anti-junta rally,” Sunai wrote on Twitter.
They were later released.
The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis, according to international and domestic polls that say corruption is as endemic as ever.
The government has also repeatedly delayed the general election, which was first tentatively set for 2015, with the latest date now February 2019.
Some fear the date could be pushed back again.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters gathered at Government House the protesters were welcome to send a representative to the prime minister’s office.
“The prime minister works hard ... the NCPO these four years has worked every day ... All NCPO members have worked hard,” Prawit said.
Suchada Saebae, 55, a market vendor, disagreed.
“I came since 6 a.m. this morning because I think the NCPO has done a rubbish job these past four years,” Suchada said.
Some protesters held Thai flags and others held signs with cartoons of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as Pinocchio.
Protests against military rule have taken place intermittently in Bangkok since the start of the year.
Some of them have been led by young activists. Others have been attended by former “red shirts,” or supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in 2006 and fled abroad.
His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted in the 2014 coup and also fled abroad before being convicted in absentia of corruption.
Thailand has been rocked by pro- and anti-government street protests for more than a decade, some of them deadly.
The military says it carried out the 2014 coup to end the cycle of violence.