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California (EQCA) Executive Director Geoff Kors issued the following
statement as the trial on the federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8
we are reminded of the devastation Prop. 8 has inflicted upon same-sex
couples and their families. Anti-gay extremists targeted a minority
group, stripped away a precious freedom and relegated lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender Americans to second-class status with a
divisive agenda built on fear mongering and a blatant disregard for the
"But we are also hopeful that the
court will fulfill its moral mission to shield minorities from tyranny
and to uphold the indispensable protections enshrined in the U.S.
Constitution designed to safeguard all persons equally."
time has come for elected leaders to empower all Americans, regardless
of sexual orientation or gender identity. Once again, we call on the
Obama administration to join Equality California and others in urging
the federal courts to strike down this grossly unjust law. In doing so,
we will bring our nation one step closer to realizing its promise of
equality for all. Our country's bedrock principles of democracy and
freedom are at stake."
sign Equality California's petition urging the Obama administration to
join the federal challenge opposing Prop. 8, click here: https://www.eqca.org/Obama.
To read Equality California's amicus brief supporting the federal challenge to Prop. 8, click here: https://www.eqca.org/Prop8brief.
Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.
"It is important to remain vigilant and keep a strong focus on mitigating global food insecurity given that world food prices remain at elevated levels, with many staples near record highs," said the FAO's chief economist.
Russia's war on Ukraine, climate change-intensified drought, and other factors drove global food prices to a record high and worsened hunger around the world in 2022, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.
The FAO Food Price Index—which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of grain, vegetable oils, and other commonly traded food commodities—averaged 143.7 points last year. That marked the highest level since records began in 1961 and an increase of 14.3% over the 2021 average, according to the Rome-based U.N. agency.
As The Associated Pressreported:
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February exacerbated a food crisis because the two countries were leading global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other products, especially to nations in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia that were already struggling with hunger.
With critical Black Sea supplies disrupted, food prices rose to record highs, increasing inflation, poverty, and food insecurity in developing nations that rely on imports.
The war also jolted energy markets and fertilizer supplies, both key to food production. That was on top of climate shocks that have fueled starvation in places like the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya are badly affected by the worst drought in decades, with the U.N. warning that parts of Somalia are facing famine. Thousands of people have already died.
In the month of December, the FAO Food Price Index fell to an average of 132.4 points, a slight decrease from the previous year. The U.N. attributed most of the decline to a recent drop in the price of palm, soy, rapeseed, and sunflower oils. Lower vegetable oil prices, which hit an all-time high in 2022, came as a result of reduced global import demand, expectations of a seasonal boost in soy oil production in South America, and declining crude oil prices, according to the FAO.
While world prices of wheat and maize surpassed previous records in 2022, the price of both cereals declined slightly in December, the organization said, thanks to ongoing harvests in the Southern Hemisphere, which increased global supply.
The price of rice, however, rose last month, as did the price of sugar and cheese, FAO noted. Beef and poultry prices fell slightly in December, but that came at the end of a year in which dairy and meat prices reached their highest levels since 1990.
"Calmer food commodity prices are welcome after two very volatile years," FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero said in a statement. "It is important to remain vigilant and keep a strong focus on mitigating global food insecurity given that world food prices remain at elevated levels, with many staples near record highs, and with prices of rice increasing, and still many risks associated with future supplies."
"Wherever they come from. Whenever they are forced to flee. Everyone has the right to seek asylum," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
The United Nations refugee agency warned Friday that the Biden administration's new expansion of Title 42, the Trump-era policy under which the U.S. government has expelled more than 2.5 million migrants, is "not in line with refugee law standards" that the administration is obligated to follow under international law.
The White House announced on Thursday that it will be sending up to 30,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua to Mexico per month unless they arrive in the U.S. via a humanitarian parole program, while allowing 30,000 asylum-seekers from each of the three countries to live and work in the U.S. for two years if they meet certain requirements, such as being able to afford a plane ticket and finding sponsorship. President Joe Biden implored people not to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without being authorized to enter the country.
Rights advocates have said the policy will leave the most vulnerable people without the option of finding safety in the United States, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reminded the administration that "seeking asylum is a fundamental human right."
"This week's policy announcements are completely out of touch with the actual circumstances of people seeking asylum, many of whom arrive at our border fleeing imminent threats to their lives."
UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov said Friday that while the U.N. applauded the administration's plan to welcome tens of thousands of people into the country each month, the U.S. "must not preclude people forced to flee from exercising their fundamental human right to seek safety."
While U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday did not directly address Biden's new measures, he appeared to comment on them indirectly on social media, tweeting, "Everyone has the right to seek asylum."
\u201cWherever they come from.\n\nWhenever they are forced to flee.\n\nEveryone has the right to seek asylum - a fundamental human right for people fleeing violence, persecution or war at home.\u201d— Ant\u00f3nio Guterres (@Ant\u00f3nio Guterres) 1672949370
Melissa Crow, director of litigation for the U.S.-based Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, called the Title 42 expansion "reckless" and warned it will "exact a horrific human toll and leave a lasting stain on the president's legacy."
"This week's policy announcements are completely out of touch with the actual circumstances of people seeking asylum, many of whom arrive at our border fleeing imminent threats to their lives," Crow said. "By doubling down on illegal, Trump-era asylum bans, the Biden administration totally disregards the United States' legal obligations to protect people fleeing persecution and torture. It has been deeply disturbing to hear the president affirm that seeking asylum is legal, pledge to create a safe and humane process at the border, and then turn around and announce policies that further undermine access to the U.S. asylum process."
While Biden's humanitarian parole program may help hundreds of thousands of people this year, said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, it "should not have come at the expense of barring others from exercising their rights to asylum."
"We are also extremely concerned that the new parole program will be inaccessible to the most vulnerable among us, particularly those en route to the U.S. border who will be ineligible for this program," said Jozef. "We can have a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system that welcomes all with dignity and that is rooted in justice and language access."
"Few people have done more to advance human rights than Kenneth Roth," the ACLU's executive director asserted. "If Harvard's decision was based on HRW's advocacy under Ken's leadership, this is profoundly troubling—from both a human rights and an academic freedom standpoint."
Advocacy groups on Friday denounced a decision by a Harvard dean to deny a research fellowship to former longtime Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth, allegedly over the organization's criticism of Israeli apartheid and other crimes in Palestine.
For 29 years, Roth headed Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of a growing number of international and Israeli mainstream human rights advocates—including Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic—to call Israel's globally condemned policies and actions against Palestinians apartheid.
"There is no suggestion that Roth's criticisms of Israel are in any way based on racial or religious animus."
After stepping down from his HRW job last April, Roth was offered a position as a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
"We thought he would be a terrific fellow," Kathryn Sikkink, a professor of human rights policy at the Kennedy School, toldThe Nation.
\u201cUnreal that the \u201cgodfather\u201d of human rights, Kenneth Roth, who is himself Jewish, is denied a \u2066@Harvard\u2069 fellowship over Human Rights Watch calling out Israel\u2019s human rights abuses.\n\nHRW former head denied Harvard fellowship over \u2018anti-Israel bias\u2019 https://t.co/X5y2uBkVxs\u201d— Amie Wexler (@Amie Wexler) 1673017033
In a statement reacting to Harvard's decision, ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero said that "few people have done more to advance human rights than Kenneth Roth. If Harvard's decision was based on HRW's advocacy under Ken's leadership, this is profoundly troubling—from both a human rights and an academic freedom standpoint."
"Scholars and fellows have to be judged on their merits, not whether they please powerful political interests," Romero added. "We urge Harvard to reverse its decision."
In an interview with The Guardian, Roth recounted that he and Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf "had a perfectly pleasant chat for about half an hour or so, but toward the end he asked the question, 'Do you have any enemies?' And I said: 'I've got many. That's a hazard of the trade.'"
"But what he was clearly driving at was Israel," said Roth, who is Jewish. "He didn't want to hear about how I've been sanctioned by China, sanctioned by Russia, or attacked by Rwanda or Saudi Arabia. He wanted to know: what was my position on Israel?"
\u201cHarvard @Kennedy_School Dean Douglas Elmendorf doesn't seem to understand that it is NOT academic freedom when Israel is exempt from criticism. He shouldn't be soliciting donors to an academic institution who think otherwise. https://t.co/ZNEphF01Jh\u201d— Kenneth Roth (@Kenneth Roth) 1673022509
Roth believes Elmendorf bowed to pressure from staunchly Zionist donors to the Kennedy School and withdrew his fellowship offer.
"I falsely assumed that the dean of the Kennedy School values academic freedom," he said. "Maybe I'm naïve in retrospect, but I assume that criticism of Israel, as criticism of any other government, is just par for the course. That's what a leading foreign policy center does."
Free expression advocate PEN America led criticism of Harvard's move.
"Over his decadeslong career as a leading global human rights advocate, Ken Roth has excoriated many dozens of governments for their abuses; this goes with the territory of building and leading a human rights organization credited with having advanced respect for rights and freedoms the world over," the group said in a statement. "It is the role of a human rights defender to call out governments harshly, to take positions that are unpopular in certain quarters, and to antagonize those who hold power and authority."
\u201c\ud83e\uddf5 PEN America expressed dismay today over the Harvard @Kennedy_School of Government\u2019s decision to deny a planned fellowship for former @hrw Executive Director Ken Roth, reportedly due to Roth\u2019s criticisms of Israel\u2019s human rights record. https://t.co/P4IExzJzSy\u201d— PEN America (@PEN America) 1672972730
"There is no suggestion that Roth's criticisms of Israel are in any way based on racial or religious animus," the group added. "Withholding Roth's participation in a human rights program due to his own staunch critiques of human rights abuses by governments worldwide raises serious questions about the credibility of the Harvard program itself."
Writing for The Nation, Michael Massing contrasted Roth's treatment by Harvard with that of former Kennedy School nonresident senior fellow Michael Morrell, an ex-acting director of the CIA who advised then-President George W. Bush during the early years of the War on Terror and supported U.S. torture and drone strikes that killed at least hundreds of civilians.
Facing pressure from CIA officials, Elmendorf in 2017 also rescinded a visiting fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning—who blew the whistle on U.S. war crimes, including torture—by leaking classified documents, after she was released from prison.
Massing wrote that Harvard's disparate treatment of Morrell, Manning, and Roth suggests a "fundamental reality about the Kennedy School: the dominant presence of the U.S. national security community and its close ally Israel."
\u201cSo much for academic freedom at Harvard's @Kennedy_School: Dean Douglas Elmendorf was so fearful of @HRW's reporting on Israel (applying the same standards as HRW does everywhere else) that he vetoed a fellowship that the Kennedy @CarrCenter offered me. https://t.co/ZFL42AV3lj\u201d— Kenneth Roth (@Kenneth Roth) 1672926415
That presence includes people from the military-industrial complex, including former Pentagon officials and executives from weapons manufacturers, whose policies and products have killed hundreds of thousands of people in numerous countries during the 21st century alone.
The Kennedy School has also received tens of millions of dollars from Israel supporters including billionaire Les Wexner, who, asMassingnoted, played a key role in bringing members of Israel's military and intelligence services to study at the school.
Another major Kennedy School donor, Robert Belfer, "is also closely involved with the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, which have sought to discredit human rights groups over their criticism of Israel," wrote The Guardian's Chris McGreal. "Belfer is a member of the dean's executive board of major donors who advise Elmendorf."
As recognition and condemnation of Israeli crimes including occupation, colonization, torture, extrajudicial killing, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid grow around the world, so too does the backlash from U.S. supporters in the form of laws banning boycotts of Israel and firing or refusing to hire academics, journalists, and others for speaking out against the oppression of Palestinians.
"America's most prominent Jewish organizations have done something extraordinary. They have accused the world's leading human rights organizations of promoting hatred of Jews."
"Over the past 18 months, America's most prominent Jewish organizations have done something extraordinary. They have accused the world's leading human rights organizations of promoting hatred of Jews," wrote columnist Peter Beinart in an August 2022 New York Times opinion piece.
While "for most of the 20th century, leading American Jewish organizations argued that the struggle against antisemitism and the struggle for universal human rights were intertwined," Beinart noted, there was "an ideological transformation" beginning with Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, Egyptian Sinai, and Syria's Golan Heights in 1967.
The result—"largely as a result of lobbying by Jewish organizations," wrote Beinart—has been an attempt to redefine antisemitism to include legitimate criticism of Israel.
In a terrible irony, the campaign against "antisemitism," as waged by influential Jewish groups and the U.S. government, has become a threat to freedom. It is wielded as a weapon against the world's most respected human rights organizations and a shield for some of the world's most repressive regimes. We need a different struggle against antisemitism. It should pursue Jewish equality, not Jewish supremacy, and embed the cause of Jewish rights in a movement for the human rights of all. In its effort to defend the indefensible in Israel, the American Jewish establishment has abandoned these principles.
Roth rejected allegations that HRW singles out Israel for criticism, a common charge by Israel supporters against human rights groups.
"Israel is one of 100 countries that we cover. And even within the Israeli Palestinian context, we deal with Hamas, we deal with the Palestinian Authority, we deal with Hezbollah," he told The Guardian. "We are fair and objective, but we are critical, because the Israeli government deserves to be criticized. It is becoming increasingly repressive, and as we found in the occupied territories it is committing the crime against humanity of apartheid."