The Cable

Shakira gets the Oval Office treatment

Lebanese-Colombian singer and activist Shakira got the red-carpet treatment in Washington today, meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House and then joining World Bank President Robert Zoellick to announce a new $300 million initiative for early childhood development.

"It was such a privilege to sit down with the president in the Oval Office to discuss our shared commitment to education and early childhood development. We agreed that investing in our children is the smartest strategy governments can use to boost economic growth, fight poverty, and promote global security and peace," said Shakira.

By contrast, the Dalai Lama didn't score an Oval Office meeting when he visited the White House last Thursday, meeting with Obama in the Map Room instead.

"I briefed the president on the progress made this year through ALAS with the heads of state of Latin American governments, and explained that we have made early childhood development a central topic of discussion during the next Ibero-American Summit to take place in Argentina later this year," Shakira added.

ALAS is a group Shakira founded comprised of Latin American artists and business leaders advocating for comprehensive ECD programs.

This was the second encounter for Shakira and President Obama, who first met at his inaugural ceremonies last January. 

And Shakira isn't confining her advocacy to education; she also wants Obama to push forward on immigration reform. White House officials told Shakira that they hope to reach an agreement this year with the Republican Party to legalize undocumented immigrants, her representative said.

At the World Bank, Shakira and Zoellick unveiled the new initiative to a group of over 100 ambassadors, officials, and international organization leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean. The partnership involves ALAS, the World Bank, and Columbia University's Earth Institute, which is headed by economist Jeffrey Sachs.

"We look forward to working closely with ALAS and the Earth Institute in the months and years to come as we move this important agenda forward," said Zoellick. "ALAS -- Shakira in particular -- have made an enormous contribution toward placing young children at the heart of the public policy discourse in Latin America."

The Cable

U.S. allies pressure Obama over nuke plans

In an unprecedented display of Japanese concern about U.S. nuclear plans, more than 200 Japanese parliamentarians have written to President Obama asking him to drastically alter the U.S. approach to nuclear weapons.

The letter comes as the Obama administration is putting the final touches on its wholesale review of nuclear weapons policy, called the Nuclear Posture Review.

"As members of the Diet of the only country to have experienced nuclear bombings ... We strongly desire that the United States immediately adopt a declaratory policy stating that the ‘sole purpose' of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter others from using such weapons," said the letter, which Japanese lawmakers hand delivered to U.S. Ambassador John Roos on Feb. 19.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, however, administration officials have told The Cable that although the final version of the NPR isn't finished, no fundamental change in the role of nuclear weapons is expected to be announced.

The letter also contained a thinly veiled reference to the concern that Japan could consider a nuclear program of its own.

"We are firmly convinced that Japan will not seek the road toward possession of nuclear weapons if the U.S. adopts a "sole purpose" policy," the letter stated.

The Japanese aren't the only allies calling for quick action on Obama's pledge to move toward a nuclear free world, as promised in his April speech in Prague. On Feb. 20, Belgian officials announced they would spearhead a call by Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway for the U.S. to remove all of its nuclear warheads from Europe.