Tag Archive | "President Barack Obama"

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President Obama Visits Kenya, Says Africa is On the Move


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

President Barack Obama on Friday made his first official trip to his father’s homeland: Kenya.

Despite a security breach and other concerns, Obama reunited with his 96-year-old grandmother Sarah Obama and his sister Auma Obama in Nairobi. This is the first public–and long sought after–visit with his African relatives since his ascendancy to the White House.

“It was a wonderful time,” Obama said  after spending time with his relatives this weekend. He said he will have “more freedom to reconnect” when he’s no longer president.

 

His homecoming in Nairobi, Kenya also included the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi. His three-day visit to Kenya will address business and investment and the region’s security threats.

At the summit, he urged equal rights for gays and lesbians in Africa and more opportunities for women and girls.

“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread,” Obama said during a joint news conference Saturday with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

However, his host Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta disagreed and said gay rights was a “non-issue.”

Gay rights are “not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact,” he said.

To aid Kenya’s economic trajectory, Obama announced more than $1 billion new commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations and philanthropists. Half of the money, White House officials said, will go to support women and young people, who Obama says face bigger obstacles when trying to start businesses in a growing economy. Africa, Obama said, is one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

He also visited Memorial Park Saturday for a wreath laying ceremony in honor of the victims of the deadly 1998 bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

While in Kenya, Obama is also scheduled to meet civil society groups to discuss human rights and civil liberties.

Obama first visited Kenya three decades ago and then in 2006 as a senator in Chicago.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Meets With President Obama


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — In an effort to shore up U.S. relations with Nigeria and to help fight Islamic extremists, President Barack Obama met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday at the White House.

 
Buhari’s visit to the U.S. comes within several weeks of taking office after the ouster of former Nigerian President Johnathan Goodluck in a contentious and historic election, after promising to to expel Boko Haram and root out endemic corruption in the Nigerian government. It was the first time a peaceful transfer of power occurred since the end of military rule in 1999.

 
Buhari’s visit on Monday is “a sign of the importance the U.S. places on relations with Nigeria,” White House officials said. Besides being a “Power Africa” focus country, Nigeria has a strong Nigeria diaspora community in the United States.

 
Obama invited Buhari immediately after the 72-year-old former dictator was declared the winner of the March election. Buhari praised Obama for demanding that the Nigerian election be transparent and fair.

 
“Nigeria is obviously one of the most important countries in the world and one of the most important countries in the African continent. Recently we saw an election in which a peaceful transition to a new government took place and it was an affirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy, a recognition that although Nigeria is a big country and a diverse country with many different parts the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process can change take place,” said President Obama who was flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, National security advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and other White House officials.

 
U.S. relations with Nigeria soured because of government corruption and the human trafficking of more than 200 schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by “an increasingly lethal” Boko Haram in April 2014. The abduction of these girls, most of whom were Christian and from the town of Chibok, led to international condemnation and a campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls.”

 
Boko Haram’s human trafficking and deadly rampages have killed thousands in Nigeria since its formation in 2009. Last Friday, at least 15 people were killed in suicide bombings at open air praying grounds on one of Muslims calendar.

 
Last week, Buhari fired the entire top echelon of the military, which he has accused of corruption that prevents what once was Africa’s mightiest armed force from curbing the Islamist insurgency based in Nigeria’s northeast. The insurgency has killed more than 13,000 people and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, according to reports.

 

 

Dressed in a traditional West African-style caftan of a black long gown and a matching pants and prayer hat, Buhari reaffirmed his allegiance to democracy and promised to address U.S. concerns.

 
Buhari noted the “positive trends” of elections in Nigeria and credited the “pressure from the United States and Europe to make sure elections were free and credible led us to where we are now.”

 
He said he was “extremely happy” about the progress and “very grateful” for the invitation from Obama to the White House.

 
Nigeria boasts Africa’s largest economy and hosts the fourth largest oil reserves. However, Nigeria’s economy has suffered under the decline of oil prices, government corruption and security issues.

 
Additionally, Nigeria plays a critical role in the region in terms of being an economic power, but also a historical contributor to peacekeeping and playing a very important role globally,” said Grant Harris, the senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council.

 
“This feels to us like Nigeria is at an important moment in which there can be real reforms across the board,” said Harris, in a conference call to reporters last week. “We’re looking forward to what we can do with a president who has staked out an agenda that we think is the right agenda at the right time.”

 
Grant said that the U.S. has been providing important security assistance to help professionalize the Nigerian military and to help their approach to Boko Haram.

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President Obama to Visit Federal Prison


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — As a part of his overall strategy to reform the “broken criminal justice system,” President Barack Obama is expected to visit a federal prison next week.

White House officials announced the visit on Friday, saying Obama will visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma this coming Thursday.

There, he is expected to meet with inmates and law enforcement officials, said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

At the prison, Obama will also conduct an interview with VICE that will be a part of a documentary airing this fall on HBO focusing on America’s “broken criminal justice system,”

 El Reno is a medium security federal correctional institution.

The visit to El Reno will be a part of a two-day trip to Oklahoma.

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Senate Passes NSA Reform Bill: USA Freedom Act


Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — After much wrangling over the need to balance national security and privacy concerns, the Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that aims to protect America against suspected terrorists.

The USA Freedom Act now requires overzealous intelligence and law enforcement officials to get a court order before probing phone databanks and engaging in counterterrorism activities such as wiretaps.

The Senate approved the bill 67-32, ending the brief lapse after it allowed the Patriot Act to expire Sunday at midnight. And previously, the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill with 338 Democrats and Republicans.

President Barack Obama, who pledged to address National Security Agency reform, signed the bill on Tuesday. This is one of the most sweeping surveillance reform in a generation.

Several surveillance programs were illegal because it violated Americans’ civil liberties, according to many conservatives on the hill. The most controversial surveillance tool, they said, is the sweeping power under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which requires the government to collect bulk phone records — including the numbers, time stamps, and duration of a call — and give sweeping power with wire taps.

It is a relief to millions of Americans because it reigns in the government’s surveillance powers.

“After needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country,” Obama said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell meets the press after Senate passes USA Freedom Act bill.

Sen. Mitch McConnell meets the press after Senate passes USA Freedom Act bill.

Other observers said this is “sensible” NSA reform that will restore public confidence in the country’s surveillance programs. That’s because the USA Freedom Act overhauls the government’s collection of bulk phone records and instead requires telecommunications companies to hold the data. The NSA now has six months to end its bulk collection program. Additionally, the Act restores the “lone wolf” provision, which allows law enforcement officials to follow suspects in contact with other terrorist groups.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this law “balances the need to protect the country with the need to protect the privacy of the American people.”

However, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), along with other conservatives who wanted to add more power to the NASA, disagreed with the majority.

“I cannot support passage of the so-called USA Freedom Act,” McConnell said. “It does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens, and it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool from our war fighters at the wrong time.”

Other proponents of civil liberty chimed in on what is considered a major reform of the way the NSA conduct its programs.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the law “is critical to keeping Americans safe from terrorism and protecting their civil liberties.”

In a press release Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Director Jameel Jaffer said: “”This is the most important surveillance reform bill since 1978, and its passage is an indication that Americans are no longer willing to give the intelligence agencies a blank check.”

Intelligence officials will continue using Section 215 and the roving wiretap provision for investigations that began before the June 1.

The program is one of the most controversial spying programs exposed by the Edward Snowden leaks nearly two years ago.

Photo Credit: defenseone.com; govsense.com

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U.S. Removes Cuba from Terrorist List


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON—United States officials on Friday removed Cuba from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

The move comes more than six months after President Barack Obama announced plans to re-establish diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana. That’s because State Department officials’ 45-day review was the last hurdle to cement a relationship with Cuba.

State Department officials said that even though the country was removed from the list, the U.S. and Cuba still have differences. The U.S. placed Cuba on the list in 1982 because it allegedly support terrorist organizations in Latin America.

“While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

Currently, only Syria, the Sudan and Iran remain on the list.

The President in December 2014 officially requested Cuba’s removal after a meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro in Panama, where the Summit of the Americas was held.

This move paves the way for the U.S. to have embassies in America and Cuba. Officials are expected to announce details next week.

The recent development will also remove selected trade barriers against Cuba. However, Congress would have to reverse the overall embargo.

 

 

 

 

 

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White House Agrees to Sign if Senate Passes NSA Reform Bill


By Ann-Marie Adams, White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — White House officials said Thursday that President Barack Obama would sign the USA Freedom Act if the Senate passes a bipartisan bill aimed at rolling back the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens.

 
This attempt at National Security Agency reform in Congress, officials said, would clear the way to curb bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and other personal information with warrantless FBI investigative tools under the Patriot Act’s Section 215.

 

 

So the National Security Act, would help restrict breaches to privacy rights. The bill, proponents said, is aimed at overzealous government officials who target foreigners in the US and for Americans who have a probable-cause warrant because they travel overseas. After the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, George Bush signed the Patriot Act, granting sweeping changes to civil liberties.

 

 

The House passage of the bill comes after the  Obama administration tried to change America’s surveillance methods after a NSA Consultant Edward Snowden revealed massive spying by the American government on its citizens and others.

 
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said if the Senate fails to pass the USA Freedom Act before leaving for the Memorial Day break, it would jeopardize national security.

 
“The USA Freedom Act represents a reasonable compromise that strengthens the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s privacy and civil liberties protections,” Earnest told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday after the House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act with overwhelming bipartisan support, 338-88. “We strongly support this bill just as many national security professionals, as well as civil libertarians do.”

 
Passage of the USA Freedom Act means a break up the so-called “haystack” of domestic phone records so that telecommunications companies can oversee intelligence agencies and change the process of collecting data.

 
Senator Mitch O’Connell (R-Ky.) in a recent meeting said that Senate Republicans prefer a clean renewal of the Patriot Act, rather than a two-year extension.

 
Under the reform, however, NSA would still have authority to collect thousands of call records based on a single court order, which ruled that a provision of the Patriot act did not permit a dragnet collection of US phone records.

 
Also, polls showed broad and deep bipartisan antipathy to government surveillance.

 
The Senate is expected to consider the bill after Congress returns on June 1.

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Obama Tackles Climate Change in Graduation Speech at U.S. Coast Guard Academy


By Ann-Marie Adams, White House Correspondent

NEW LONDON — In his commencement speech at the United States Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, President Barack Obama addressed the issue of climate change, saying there has been too much equivocation in Congress about a dramatic change to the climate, which has implications for national security.

 
Obama called on Congress to direct attention to proposals that have already engendered much debate.
“I know there are some folks back in Washington, who refuse to admit that climate change is real,” he said to more than 200 graduating cadets. “Denying it or refusing to deal with it undermines our national security.”

 
Obama also catalogued the impact of climate change, emphasizing the issue at the core of each cadet’s mission, whether it’s cleaning up ravaged coastlines or intercepting drug traffickers from Latin America, the Caribbean or Europe. The newly commissioned ensigns will, he said, will soon be working with refugees from flooded and drought stricken countries, helping to open oil drilling plants and dealing with weather related disasters.

 
The location for his address about climate change was fittingly in one of Connecticut’s coastal communities, where Super Storm Sandy devastated the New England coast in 2012, causing $394.3 million in damages.

 
Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states on the eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine.
“The science is indisputable,” Obama said. “The planet is getting warmer….The world’s glaciers are melting.”

 
Last year, the president also outlined a series of plans he has pushed to restrict carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, promote “clean energy” production such as wind and solar projects and increase federal protection of public lands, saying climate change is a threat to homeland security. As a result, he recently announced the country’s intention to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to cut carbon pollution and strengthen developing countries’ resilience.

 
Obama is scheduled to travel to Paris in December for a Climate Summit to discuss a global accord limiting greenhouse gases. The U.S. has already committed to reduce carbon emissions by 2025.

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President Obama to Visit Connecticut


Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday will travel to New London to give a commencement address and much support for a fundraiser event in the area.

The President will give the address at the 134th commencement at the United States Coast Guard Academy and attend a Democratic National Convention meeting in later that day, White House officials announced on Friday.

The graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 20 at 11 a.m. on Cadet Memorial Field in New London.

It’s a tradition for presidents to deliver a commencement address at one of the U.S. service academies on a rotating basis.

The school is the smallest of the nation’s five service academies. Cadets receive full scholarships and graduate with an obligation to serve five years in the Coast Guard.

After the commencement address, the president on Wednesday will attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser event in the private residence of Michael and Terran Whittingham in Stamford. According to sources, about 30 supporters are expected to contribute about $33,000.

at the home of Michael and Terran Whittingham. Approximately 30 supporters, contributing a total of $33,400, are present, according to the DNC.

 

 

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White House Honors East Hartford Teacher


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House recently honored one of Connecticut’s best teachers.

President Barack Obama honored Cara Quinn, one of 55 teachers from across the nation who gathered in the Rose Garden on a sunny afternoon. a East Hartford resident.

Quinn, who is not teaching now because of her father’s illness, has taught sixth grade at Sunset Ridge School for more than 10 years.

During her career, Quinn has developed programs to prepare students for college, including a college immersion experience. She said she focuses not only on academics, but on character development.

“I think its important to nurture students to be globally aware,” she said.

Last October, Quinn was also named Connecticut’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

“In her classroom, Mrs. Quinn not only teaches the material, she also teaches her students about their community and about their world,” Former Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a press release. “She encourages her students to give back through service and inspires them to make a difference.”

A teacher of 11 years, Quinn was chosen from over 100 district-level Teachers of the Year.

Quinn succeeded the 2014 Connecticut Teacher of the Year,  John Mastroianni. He is a music teacher at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford

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President Obama to Preview State of the Union Address


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will preview new policies in his state of the union speech on Wednesday while in Iowa.

There,  he will introduce plans to help “move the middle class forward” with affordable broadband Internet,  according to a White House spokesperson.

Iowa, once called the dirtiest little city in the nation, was selected to highlight the possibilities of every town welcoming broadband internet into their businesses and home.

The president is aiming to use his executive power to accomplish this goal.

“There are some steps we can take through executive actions that allow us to make sure every community can do  what Cedar Falls is doing,” Obama said.

That’s because the Cedar Rapids has internet speed nearly 100 times faster than the national average. And this high-speed internet is for an affordable price, according to a new report issued today by the National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisers.

The need for broadband is an economic imperative, officials said. And Obama will stress the need for affordable high-speed broadband for all Americans, and how several small cities and towns setting up themselves to compete with world cities.

“This isn’t about streaming videos and movies,” said a White House official in a conference call. “It’s about strengthening the economy and attracting the next generation of start ups.”

He said this is to aid a “nationwide movement” to help Americans develop new skills and find paying jobs because most jobs require access to the internet.

High-speed, low-cost broadband, he said, is paving the way for economic revitalization not just in Cedar Falls, but in places like Chattanooga, TN, Kansas City, MO, and Lafayette, LA — all of which have Internet speeds nearly 100 times faster than the national average.

Nearly forty percent of American households either cannot purchase a fixed 10 Mbps connection or they must buy it from a single provider, the report states.

Also,  94 percent of Americans in urban areas can purchase a 25 Mbps (megabit per second) connection, but only 51 percent of the rural population has access to Internet at that speed.

Last November, the President outlined his plan to keep the Internet open to new competition and innovation by safeguarding net neutrality — which will help ensure no one company can act as a gatekeeper to digital content.

President Obama speaks on the need for affordable high-speed broadband for all Americans, and how certain small cities and towns are taking steps to lay a foundation for broadband access that rivals the most connected cites in the world.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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