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BREAKING: PRESIDENT OBAMA ON BALTIMORE RIOTS: “THIS IS NOTHING NEW”

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON BALTIMORE (During joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe of Japan):

With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points.  First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray.  Understandably, they want answers.  And DOJ has opened an investigation.  It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances.  It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction.  That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.  And I think we have to give them credit.  My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.

Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important.  Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions.  And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks.  And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.  What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis.  This has been going on for a long time.  This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference.  It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces.  I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain.  But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves.

And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities.  The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras.  We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference.  And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.

I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police.  We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  There are some bad politicians who are corrupt.  There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing.  Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing.  And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.  And we’re committed to facilitating that process.

So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore.  Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.  But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.

And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us.

We can’t just leave this to the police.  I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching.  I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.  But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching.  This is not new.  It’s been going on for decades.

And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  That’s hard.  That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force.  And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.

Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.

But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could.  It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.  We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.  And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

That’s how I feel.  I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.  But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time.  And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference.  But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

That was a really long answer, but I felt pretty strongly about it.

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U.S-Japan Joint Statement on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

U.S-Japan Joint Statement on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

 

1.      Japan and the United States reaffirm our commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We commit to work together for a successful Review Conference in New York that strengthens each of the Treaty’s three pillars: nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  The NPT remains the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. In this 70th year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are reminded of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be forever engraved in the world’s memory. Concerns over the use of nuclear weapons underpin all work to reduce nuclear dangers and to work toward nuclear disarmament, to which all NPT parties are committed under Article VI of the Treaty. We affirm that it is in the interest of all States that the 70-year record of non-use should be extended forever and remain convinced that all States share the responsibility for achieving this goal.

 

2.      We reaffirm our commitment to a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, and recognize the progress made since the height of the Cold War. We recognize that further progress is needed. Immediate next steps should include further negotiated nuclear reductions between the United States and Russia, the immediate start of multilateral negotiations of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the protocols to the existing nuclear weapon free zone treaties, and the continued reduction of all types of nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed, including through unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures.  We further emphasize the importance of applying the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency in the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In this regard, the United States welcomes Japan’s leadership in the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative and Japan’s role as the Co-Chair Country for the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, and Japan welcomes the U.S. initiative to launch the International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification. We affirm our readiness to cooperate closely on this new initiative, which will facilitate further cooperation between the nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States with respect to nuclear disarmament efforts.

 

3.      We further note the positive role played by civil society, and hope that activities such as the UN Conference on Disarmament Issues and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s Group of Eminent Persons Meeting, both to be held in Hiroshima in August, and the Pugwash Conference to be held in Nagasaki in November, will strengthen momentum toward disarmament and non-proliferation.

 

4.      We unequivocally support access to nuclear technology and energy for peaceful purposes by states that comply with their non-proliferation obligations.  We are especially pleased to announce that both the United States and Japan which strongly support the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in promoting the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology have pledged to extend their financial support to the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative over the next five years.  The U.S. pledge of $50 million and Japan’s pledge of $25 million will ensure that applications of nuclear science and technology continue to advance medical care and health improvement including cancer treatment and Ebola diagnosis, food and water security, clean oceans and disease eradication in regions of the world most in need. 

 

5.      The IAEA safeguards system is a fundamental element of that framework and plays a critical role in preventing and addressing challenges to the global non-proliferation regime, by verifying that states are not diverting peaceful nuclear energy programs to develop weapons, and by responding to cases of non-compliance.  We call on all states that have not yet done so to adhere to a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol as the recognized IAEA safeguards standard, and renew our willingness to assist states to implement safeguards agreements. We support the evolution of IAEA safeguards at the State level, and emphasize the importance of maintaining the credibility, effectiveness and integrity of the IAEA safeguards system. To preserve the future integrity of the NPT, action is needed to discourage any state from withdrawing from the Treaty as a way to escape its responsibilities or to misuse the fruits of peaceful cooperation with other states, as well as to encourage States Parties to remain in the Treaty by demonstrating tangible progress in all three pillars of the Treaty.

 

6.      We underscore the imperative of addressing challenges to the integrity of the NPT and the non-proliferation regime posed by cases of noncompliance.  We welcome the EU/E3+3 deal with Iran and encourage completion of the work that remains to fully resolve the international community’s concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program as well as to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.  We also remain committed to a diplomatic process to achieve North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. We urge North Korea to take concrete steps to honor its commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, fully comply with its obligations under the relevant UNSC Resolutions, refrain from further provocation including nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, return to the NPT and IAEA safeguards, and come into full compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.  

 

7.      We also underscore the importance of promoting stringent export control in Asia and globally. We are determined to continue to work together to conduct outreach activities for Asian countries with a view to further enhancing their export control capacity as well as to promoting recognition that rigorous export controls foster confidence of trade or investment partners, and create a favorable environment for further economic growth rather than impeding trade and investment.

 

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The U.S. – Japan Enter A Joint Agreement Of Reconcilliation: Official Statement

U.S.-Japan Joint Vision Statement

 

Today the United States and Japan honor a partnership that for seven decades has made enduring contributions to global peace, security, and prosperity.  In this year which marks 70 years since the end of World War II, the relationship between our two countries stands as a model of the power of reconciliation:  former adversaries who have become steadfast allies and who work together to advance common interests and universal values in Asia and globally.  Together we have helped to build a strong rules-based international order, based on a commitment to rules, norms and institutions that are the foundation of global affairs and our way of life. 

 

This transformation into a robust alliance and global partnership was not inevitable.  Generations of people from all walks of life built the relationship between our countries over time, working in the belief that the experiences of the past should inform but not constrain the possibilities for the future.  This endeavor has brought the United States and Japan to where we stand today:  two of the world’s leading economies, advancing regional prosperity through a mutually beneficial economic partnership, anchored by an unshakeable Alliance that is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and a platform for global cooperation.  The journey our two countries have traveled demonstrates that reconciliation is possible when all sides are devoted to achieving it.

 

Over the past 70 years, the U.S.-Japan relationship has successfully grown and adapted to challenges and significant changes in the international system.  Together we helped to win the Cold War and manage its aftermath; we have worked together to fight terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks; we cooperated to strengthen the international financial architecture following the global financial crisis; we responded to natural disasters such as the tragic Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011; we have confronted North Korean nuclear and missile threats, as well as human rights abuses and abductions; we have worked together to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear program; and we have cooperated to address complex transnational challenges.

 

Today’s meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Abe marks a historic step forward in transforming the U.S.-Japan partnership.  Through the United States’ Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategy, and Japan’s policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation, we are working closely together to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the region and the world.  We recognize that the security and prosperity of our two countries in the 21st century is intertwined, inseparable, and not defined solely by national borders.  Our current and future commitments to each other and to the international order reflect that reality.

The United States and Japan are committed to a transparent, rules-based, and progressive approach in pursuing the prosperity of the region.  Our leadership in this area encompasses trade and investment through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), development cooperation, and internet governance. The United States and Japan are leading efforts to set the rules for trade and investment, both in the dynamic and fast-growing Asia-Pacific region and around the world.  As the two largest economies in TPP, we are working to finalize the most high-standard trade agreement ever negotiated.  TPP will drive economic growth and prosperity in both countries and throughout the Asia-Pacific region by supporting more jobs, raising wages, and reinforcing our work together on a range of long term strategic objectives, including the promotion of regional peace and stability. We welcome the significant progress that has been made in the bilateral negotiations and reaffirm our commitment to work together to achieve a swift and successful conclusion to the broader agreement.

 

The new Guidelines for U.S-Japan Defense Cooperation will transform the Alliance, reinforce deterrence, and ensure that we can address security challenges, new and old, for the long term.  The new Guidelines will update our respective roles and missions within the Alliance and enable Japan to expand its contributions to regional and global security.  The new Guidelines will enable us to work more closely on issues including maritime security, and to partner with other countries that share our aspirations, in the region and beyond.  As we strengthen an Alliance that has become global in reach, the United States stands resolute and unwavering in all of its commitments under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, based upon a stable, long-term U.S. military presence in Japan. 

 

The United States and Japan are building a partnership that addresses global challenges.  Our agenda is broad:  we will work together to address climate change and environmental degradation, one of the greatest threats facing humanity; to further strengthen our economies and to promote strong, sustainable and balanced global growth; to deliver secure, affordable, sustainable and safe energy; to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development; to promote human security; to counter violent extremism; to strengthen the NPT regime to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons; to promote global trade and investment; to combat epidemics and threats to global health; to advance scientific inquiry and promote resilience in space; to ensure the safe and stable use of cyber space based on the free flow of information and an open internet; to promote disaster risk reduction and relieve those afflicted by natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies; to advance human rights and universal freedoms; to promote girls education and empower women and girls around the world; and to strengthen U.N. peacekeeping.  The United States looks forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes Japan as a permanent member.  Seventy years ago this partnership was unimaginable.  Today it is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities and values.

 

As we work to expand our global cooperation, we will be guided by shared principles:

 

·         Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity;

·         Commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes without coercion;

·         Support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law;

·         Expansion of economic prosperity, through open markets, free trade, transparent rules and regulations, and high labor and environmental standards;

·         Promotion of globally recognized norms of behavior in shared domains, including the freedom of navigation and overflight, based upon international law;

·         Advancement of strong regional and global institutions; and

·         Support for trilateral and multilateral cooperation among like-minded partners. 

 

Today the international order faces fresh challenges, ranging from violent extremism to cyber attacks.  State actions that undermine respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity by attempting to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion pose challenges to the international order.  Such threats put at risk much that we have built.  We must and will adapt again, working in concert with other allies and partners.  But we also have before us exciting opportunities to raise our collaboration to a new level, in areas like science and technology, energy, infrastructure, and arts and culture.  The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in these and other areas, supported by public-private collaboration, will continue to be the driving force of economic growth and prosperity in our two countries.  The benefits of our work in these diverse fields will be global in reach.  As we move forward, we will actively promote people-to-people exchange as a key pillar of our relationship, especially among younger generations.  We take up these challenges and opportunities, knowing that the strength and resilience of our 70-year partnership will ensure our success in the decades ahead. 

 

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Readout of the President’s Meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Readout of the President’s Meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Following her swearing-in this afternoon, President Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the White House to welcome her to the team and reiterate that he looks forward to her leadership at the Department of Justice. The Attorney General thanked the President then updated him on several issues, including the events occurring in Baltimore, Maryland following the death of Freddie Gray, which the Department of Justice is currently investigating. Attorney General Lynch assured the President that she would continue to monitor events in Baltimore and that the Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful there.

Earlier today, the President also spoke with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the ongoing situation in Baltimore. The Mayor updated the President on efforts to address the demonstrations and maintain peace throughout the city. The President highlighted the Administration’s commitment to provide assistance as needed and will continue to receive updates on the situation from Attorney General Lynch and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett also spoke with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan today.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan Regarding the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan Regarding the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

Today, the President submitted the Protocol to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.  This is the latest step demonstrating the U.S. commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and to reducing nuclear dangers worldwide. The President looks forward to working closely with the Senate to secure early ratification of this Protocol, as well as the previously submitted Protocols to the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty.

Regional nuclear-weapon-free zone agreements reinforce both the commitment of nations not to pursue nuclear weapons and the nearly 70-year record of their non-use.  This protocol, upon entry into force, would obligate the United States not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States within the regional zone who are Party to the Central Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

In order to continue to build upon this commitment to nonproliferation and international peace and security, the United States will also continue to work toward the signing of the Protocol to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty.  In the context of this month’s NPT Review Conference and beyond, the United States will continue to aggressively pursue practical measures to advance all of the NPT’s fundamental pillars, disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

President Obama to Honor Teachers of the Year

President Obama to Honor Teachers of the Year

 

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, April 29, President Obama will honor the 2015 National Teacher of the Year and finalists, thanking them for their hard work and dedication each and every day in the classroom.  Providing all children in America with the opportunity to get a world-class education is critical to their success and the success of our nation, and there is no more important factor in successful schools than great teachers.

 

The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a national selection committee representing the major national education organizations organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Earthquake in Nepal

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Earthquake in Nepal

The American people express deep condolences for the lives lost in today’s earthquake.  The earthquake and subsequent landslides caused widespread damage and loss of life in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The United States is deploying a team of disaster response experts to Nepal, is providing an initial one million dollars in disaster relief assistance, and stands ready to assist the Government and people of Nepal and the region further in this time of need.