Obama spoke in front of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 29, 2015, the first sitting U.S. president to do so. He gave a speech encouraging the world to increase economic ties via investments and trade with the continent, and lauded the progress made in education, infrastructure, and economy. He also criticized the lack of democracy and leaders who refuse to step aside, discrimination against minorities (LGBT people, religious groups and ethnicities), and corruption. He suggested an intensified democratization and free trade, to significantly improve the quality of life for Africans. During his July 2015 trip, Obama also was the first U.S. president ever to visit Kenya, which is the homeland of his father.
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
In 2013, the Obama Administration filed briefs that urged the Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex couples in the cases of Hollingsworth v. Perry (regarding same-sex marriage) and United States v. Windsor (regarding the Defense of Marriage Act). Then, following the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (ruling same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right), Obama asserted that, "This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free."More Info
In 2013, Jeffrey Goldberg reported that, in Obama's view, "with each new settlement announcement, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation." In 2014, Obama likened the Zionist movement to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. He said both movements seek to bring justice and equal rights to historically persecuted peoples. He explained, "To me, being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is part and parcel with the values that I've been fighting for since I was politically conscious and started getting involved in politics." Obama expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. In 2015, Obama was harshly criticized by Israel for advocating and signing the Iran Nuclear Deal; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had advocated the U.S. congress to oppose it, said the deal was "dangerous" and "bad."More Info
In 2005 and 2006, Obama criticized certain aspects of the Patriot Act for infringing too much on civil liberties and sought as Senator to strengthen civil liberties protections. In 2006, he voted to reauthorize a revised version of the Patriot Act, saying the law was not ideal but that the revised version had strengthened civil liberties. In 2011, he signed a four-year renewal of the Patriot Act. Following the 2013 global surveillance disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Obama condemned the leak as unpatriotic, but called for increased restrictions on the NSA to address violations of privacy. The changes which Obama ordered have been described as "modest" however.More Info
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