In 2009, Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which contained in it the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first addition to existing federal hate crime law in the United States since Democratic President Bill Clinton signed into law the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expanded existing federal hate crime laws in the United States to apply to crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity.
On May 16, 2020, Obama delivered two commencement speeches on behalf of the graduating youth who were not able to go to their physical graduation ceremonies due to the COVID 19 pandemic. His first speech was for part of the video streamed online program, “Show Me Your Walk H.B.C.U. Edition” virtual commencement. In his address, he spoke about systemic racism, touching on both the coronavirus pandemic, the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, and the fight to stay politically active saying, "The fight for equality and justice begins with awareness, empathy, passion, even righteous anger. Don't just activate yourself online, change requires strategy, action, organizing, marching, and voting in the real world like never before". His next commencement address was a part of a nationally televised event, titled Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 which aired on NBC.More Info
In February 2011, protests in Libya began against long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi as part of the Arab Spring. They soon turned violent. In March, as forces loyal to Gaddafi advanced on rebels across Libya, calls for a no-fly zone came from around the world, including Europe, the Arab League, and a resolution passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. In response to the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 on March 17, Gaddafi—who had previously vowed to "show no mercy" to the rebels of Benghazi—announced an immediate cessation of military activities, yet reports came in that his forces continued shelling Misrata. The next day, on Obama's orders, the U.S. military took part in air strikes to destroy the Libyan government's air defense capabilities to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly-zone, including the use of Tomahawk missiles, B-2 Spirits, and fighter jets. Six days later, on March 25, by unanimous vote of all its 28 members, NATO took over leadership of the effort, dubbed Operation Unified Protector. Some Representatives questioned whether Obama had the constitutional authority to order military action in addition to questioning its cost, structure and aftermath.More Info
A package that contained a pipe bomb was sent to Obama's home in Washington, D.C, on October 24, 2018. The package was intercepted by the Secret Service during routine mail screenings. Similar packages were sent to several other Democratic leaders, mostly those who voiced strong objections to the policies of Donald Trump and to CNN. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was addressed as the sender of the package. On October 26, 2018, Cesar Sayoc was arrested and faced five federal charges in Manhattan carrying a combined maximum sentence of 48 years behind bars in relation to the pipe bombs. He was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison on August 5, 2019.More Info
On October 1, 2009, the Obama administration went ahead with a Bush administration program increasing nuclear weapons production. The “Complex Modernization” initiative expanded two existing nuclear sites to produce new bomb parts. The administration built new plutonium pits at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico and expanded enriched uranium processing at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In November 2013, the Obama administration opened negotiations with Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, which included an interim agreement. Negotiations took two years with numerous delays, with a deal being announced July 14, 2015. The deal, titled the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," saw the removal of sanctions in exchange for measures that would prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. While Obama hailed the agreement as being a step towards a more hopeful world, the deal drew strong criticism from Republican and conservative quarters, and from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition, the transfer of $1.7 billion in cash to Iran shortly after the deal was announced was criticized by the republican party. The Obama administration said that the payment in cash was because of the "effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions." In order to advance the deal, the Obama administration shielded Hezbollah from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Project Cassandra investigation regarding drug smuggling and from the Central Intelligence Agency.On a sidenote, the very same year, in December 2015, Obama started a $348 billion worth program to back the biggest U.S. buildup of nuclear arms since Ronald Reagan left the White House.More Info
On October 9, 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Obama accepted this award in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2009, with "deep gratitude and great humility." The award drew a mixture of praise and criticism from world leaders and media figures. Obama's peace prize was called a "stunning surprise" by The New York Times. He became the fourth U.S. president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the third to become a Nobel laureate while in office. Obama's Nobel Prize has been viewed skeptically in subsequent years, especially after the director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, said Obama's Peace Prize did not have the desired effect.More Info
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