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California Endowment grants will help refugees

The California Endowment will make emergency relief grants available to several organizations helping Syrian refugees arriving in the Golden State, it announced Tuesday.

CalEndowWith more than $3 billion in assets, the foundation is one of the nation’s largest private healthcare foundations, created in 1996 when Blue Cross of California acquired the for-profit subsidiary WellPoint Health Networks.

“This is a moment to stand up for our values as Americans,” Dr. Robert Ross, the California Endowment’s president and CEO, said in a news release. “Inclusion and compassion are at the core of The Endowment’s mission to create healthier communities across our great state. We are committed to do our part and support Governor Brown’s decision to welcome refugees to California.”

More than half the nation’s governors, mostly Republicans, have spoken out against accepting refugees from the civil war that has wracked Syria for years. But Gov. Jerry Brown said last week he’ll work closely with President Barack Obama to ensure any Syrian refugees coming to California are “fully vetted in a sophisticated and utterly reliable way.”

The endowment will make small, one-time-only emergency grants available to several community-based organizations support Syrian refugees, designed to increase those organizations’ capacity in select California communities where refugees will be arriving.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Under: International politics, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Mike Honda blasts calls to lock up Syrian refugees

Rep. Mike Honda, who spent part of his childhood in a World War II-era internment camp for Japanese-Americans, opened a six-pack of verbal whup-ass Wednesday all over state and local politicians who have suggested not only barring Syrian refugees from entering the country, but perhaps locking up those already here.

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, issued a statement Wednesday hailing his city as “welcoming” and America as “the melting pot of the world,” but saying that “it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia.”

“Thus, today, I’m requesting that all Roanoke Valley governments and non-governmental agencies suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until these serious hostilities and atrocities end, or at the very least until regarded as under control by U.S. authorities, and normalcy is restored,” Bowers wrote. “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis [sic] now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada told the Tennessean that said his state should “activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”

“I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks,” he said. “We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.’ ”

And Rhode Island state Sen. Elaine Morgan, a Republican, sent an email Tuesday saying her state should reject Syrian refugees in part because “the Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim.”

“If we need to take these people in we should set up [a] refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous,” she wrote. “I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important issue here.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, issued a statement Wednesday noting he knows “firsthand how that dark moment in our nation’s history led to repercussions that have resonated over the years.

“I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned,” he said. “We simply cannot let the extremist perpetrators of these hateful acts of violence drive us into such a misguided action. For it is when we allow these criminals to lead us down a dark path, away from our principles and ideals, that we as a country suffer.”

“The Japanese and Japanese Americans interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was an outrage, as was turning away Jews at our borders who were fleeing German persecution. We cannot allow this to happen again and reverse the progress we have made in the last several decades,” Honda said. “We look back, as a nation, and we know this was wrong. We look back and know, as defined by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, that the internment was a result of ‘race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.’ We look back and know that an entire ethnicity was said to be, and ultimately considered, the enemy. We know that internment happened because few in Washington were brave enough to say ‘no.’”

Now it’s time to say no to the likes of Bowers, Casada and Morgan, he said, “who would make such ill-advised and backwards-thinking recommendations. They are perpetuating the messages of hate and fear that fly in the fact of what America stands for in the world.”

“As we learn more about the complexity and the extent of the attacks on Paris, this tragedy continues to send shockwaves through the world community,” Honda said. “I am hopeful we will not allow our anger and outrage towards these terrorists and their cowardly attacks on civilians to turn us away from compassion and generosity. We need to find ways to help the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who are entering through our thorough screening and resettlement process now to find safe haven in the United States. As a world leader, we need to help these people escape from the brutal ISIL regime – they are fleeing the very perpetrators of these senseless acts of violence.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
Under: International politics, Mike Honda, U.S. House, War on Terror | 6 Comments »

Barbara Lee meets with Raul Castro at U.N.

Rep. Barbara Lee met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

President Obama earlier this month nominated Lee, D-Oakland, as a Representative of the United States to the 70th U.N. General Assembly. She’s been a longtime supporter of normalized relations with Cuba.

“I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the renewed diplomatic relations between our two countries and to personally congratulate him on the historic steps taken toward normalizing relations with the United States,” Lee said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work in Congress to lifting the travel ban and ending the failed trade embargo. President Obama has shown bold leadership by opening up relations with Cuba – it’s past time for Congress to act as well.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, International, International politics, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lifting our lamp beside the golden door

Here’s why America must welcome Syrian refugees with open arms: Because it’s who we are and how we win.

As I strolled, ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans while on vacation last week, I thought often of people far less fortunate – both in that beautiful but still-troubled city scarred by storm and neglect, and on the other side of the world fleeing a war of great cruelty and horror.

I thought of Hungary, where refugees have been herded into pens at gunpoint – a particularly European deja vu that should make the world shudder.

I thought of Germany, where residents flocked to Munich’s train station to donate food and water and to applaud weary travelers as they disembarked – a scene allowing some small hope that we’re not doomed as a species.

I thought of our nation, where the Obama administration recently announced we’ll take 10,000 refugees next year – a promise that set the professional critic class and the anti-Muslim bigots howling, even though it’s the tiniest fraction of those who’ve been displaced.

The refugees now swamping Europe had no choice but to run away with little more than their babes in arms and the clothes on their backs, leaving homes pocked with bullet holes if not reduced to rubble. They come not with some devious intention of undermining us, or some haughty intention of converting us, but with the simple intention of continuing to draw breath. They come because they have nowhere else to go.

They’re Muslims, but they’re not our enemies. The “godly” agents of chaos they’re fleeing from are our enemies. And we can kill our enemies with kindness.

The refugees are desperate, and we are rich. For a relative pittance, we can welcome them with open arms and restore to them some degree of stability and hope. Even if it costs more than a pittance, it’s both a sacred gift and a sound investment. In giving this gift, we demonstrate that we are not the devils that the wild-eyed gun-toting mullahs say we are. We show that our way – compassion, mercy, friendship, tolerance – is the right way.

They will remember this kindness all their lives, they will teach it to their children. In that way, no matter what tongue they speak in praising God, they will become us.

If you’re Christian, this is the moment to be Christ-like by doing unto others. If you’re Jewish, this is what the Eternal did for you when you went forth from Egypt, and the very essence of tikkun ha-olam. If you’re an atheist, this is how you prove morality can exist without religion. If you’re human, this is what it means to be human.

Some say recent decades have been a clash of cultures, a war of ideas, as fundamentalist Islam wrote its complaint in blood around the world. Surely we’ve learned by now that you can’t shoot your way out of a war of ideas – you must have the better idea, and you must live it. Fortunately, we lucky Americans had that idea a long time ago.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It’s time to live it.

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015
Under: International politics | 6 Comments »

Jerry Brown will lead trade mission to Mexico

Gov. Jerry Brown will lead a trade and investment mission to Mexico – California’s largest export market – in the last week of July, he announced Tuesday.

California’s neighbor has a role to play in the Golden State’s push to address its energy and environmental needs, Brown had said in his State of the State address in January.

“Reducing our oil consumption, two-thirds of which is imported by ships and tank cars, will take time, breakthrough technologies and steadfast commitment. It will also require that the countries which burn the most fossil fuel join with us,” he said at the time. “We’ve started building those partnerships with other states and countries like China. We will go to Mexico next. California can’t do this alone.”

A delegation of California government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders will join Brown on this mission, which is being organized by the California Chamber of Commerce. The focus will be on boosting direct investment in the state, expanding bilateral economic and environmental cooperation, and connecting California businesses with new opportunities and partnerships.

Brown met last month with Mexican consuls general from cities across California.

The governor one year ago led a similar mission to China, during which he met with government leaders including China Premier Li Keqiang, opened the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai and signed the first economic and environmental agreements ever between a subnational entity and Chinese Ministries. Brown later last year met with China’s President Xi Jinping in California to sign a climate-change pact; he also has signed pacts in the past year with leaders from Canada, Israel and Peru to combat climate change, strengthen economic ties and cooperate on research.

Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Under: economy, energy, Environment, Gov. Jerry Brown, International politics, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Tauscher to speak at Cal on U.S.-Russia relations

Ellen Tauscher started the summer optimistic that the improving U.S.-Russia relationship would provide fertile ground for new arms-control agreements – but it’s been a tough couple of months since then.

“This is like batting-cage practice when the machine goes wild and is throwing balls at you left and right,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “Events can overtake you.”

negotiating aloneTauscher, a former East Bay congresswoman who served for three years as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, will be back in the Bay Area on Oct. 30 to deliver a speech entitled “Negotiating Alone? The United States, Russia and the Prospect of Arms Control.”

Sponsored by the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, Tauscher’s address will assess the prospects for future arms control agreements between two nations that still retain vast nuclear arsenals.

Tauscher in June had co-authored an article in Foreign Policy magazine with Igor Ivanov – a president of the Russian International Affairs Council and former Russian Federation foreign minister – in which they wrote the U.S.-Russian political dialogue was finally gaining momentum toward mutually assured stability.

But things turned sour this summer. Russia in June enacted new laws limiting civil liberties for gays and lesbians; in August gave asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden; and throughout maintained its support for its longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad during that nation’s brutal civil war. President Obama cancelled a September summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Can this marriage be saved?” Tauscher quipped Monday, before adding that it must be.

“It is a fundamentally important relationship for many, many reasons, and we are not at our best right now – that is for sure – but I think that everybody who has been part of this for a long time knows that relationships ebb and wane,” she said, adding efforts are afoot to “try to get back to a better footing” and “find a way to remember that we do some of the best works in the world together.”

Ellen TauscherThe Syria situation – in which Russia for years has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad’s government, and then last month brokered a deal for destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons – has been particularly trying, Tauscher said.

“This is when it’s very difficult to keep a sense of equilibrium in the relationship because it’s not just the obvious bilateral and international roles that we play,” she said. “It’s very complicated when third, fourth and fifth parties are involved, and that’s part of the situation we find ourselves in now.”

She said she hopes the “Track II” nonofficial talks that she’s a part of will be fruitful as a “back channel way for conversations to keep going when the public face of the relationship is not the prettiest.”

Tauscher is now senior public policy adviser to the Baker Donelson law firm in Washington, D.C. Registration for her Matsui Lecture is available online.

Posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013
Under: Ellen Tauscher, International politics | 2 Comments »

Israel re-opens probe of Oakland activist’s injury

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to reopen an investigation into the grievous head injury suffered by an Oakland activist during a West Bank protest in March 2009, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

Tristan AndersonTristan Anderson, then 39, was at a protest of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank city of Na’alin when a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier struck him in the head, causing severe brain damage.

The Israel Defense Force investigated whether the Border Police were at fault following the incident, but a petition to the court – filed by attorneys for Anderson’s family and by Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights group – claimed the probe was inadequate. The petition said the army did not visit Na’alin and questioned only a few soldiers who were on the scene; it’s not clear whether the army questioned the soldier who fired the canister. No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the case.

“It is the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate suspicions of unwarranted injury of protesters, which occur time after time,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said in a news release issued by Anderson’s supporters Wednesday. “It is a shame that it took three-and-a-half years for the High Court to intervene in order to force the investigators to implement basic investigative procedures.”

Anderson’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said in the release that her son “will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.” The family’s civil lawsuit against the Israeli military and government is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Gabrielle Silverman of Oakland – Anderson’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was injured – said Wednesday that Anderson was released from an Israeli hospital in June 2010 and now lives with his parents in Grass Valley. He remains hemiplegic – paralyzed on his left side – and suffers permanent cognitive and emotional impairments from his injury; he requires around-the-clock care, Silverman said.

Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Under: International politics, Israel, Oakland | 35 Comments »

Romney, Obama spar over U.S.-Israel relations

Mitt Romney’s stumbles over the nation’s “special relationship” with Great Britain aside, it’s the American relationship with Israel that’s fueling a lot of the fire this week between the presidential campaigns.

Romney will be in Israel on Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Kadima Party Leader Shaul Mofaz, and Labor Party Leaders Shelly Yachimovich and Isaac Herzog. The Republican candidate, speaking this past Tuesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Reno, had trashed President Obama’s treatment of Israel.

Romney at VFW (James Glover-Reuters)“President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He has undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was. And even at the United Nations, to the enthusiastic applause of Israel’s enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem,” Romney said. “The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world. And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the President of the United States.”

Romney’s campaign also Tuesday issued a policy paper saying he would make Israel the destination of his first foreign trip as president; within 100 days of taking office, reaffirm as a vital U.S. national interest the existence of Israel as a Jewish state; work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge and increase military assistance; reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, while making clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations is unacceptable; and reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas.

Vice President Joe Biden shot back that same day.

“Governor Romney continues his long litany of untruths about our administration’s policies toward Israel. We’ve provided record levels of security assistance, funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system that intercepted nearly 80 percent of the rockets recently fired from Gaza, close collaboration on longer range missile defense systems, the largest joint military exercises in history, the most consistent and comprehensive exchanges ever between our top political, defense, security and intelligence officials,” Biden said. “And, contrary to Governor Romney’s outrageous accusation that the President joined in the chorus of insults levied against Israel at the United Nations, President Obama has stood up repeatedly, publicly and often alone against efforts to delegitimize Israel at the U.N. and around the world.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 27th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, International politics, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

Barbara Lee becomes Sudan Caucus co-chair

Rep. Barbara Lee is the newest of four co-chairs of the Congressional Sudan Caucus, which is still trying to draw more attention to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in that African nation.

Lee, D-Oakland, succeeds the late Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., as a co-chair; the other three co-chairs are Michael Capuano, D-Mass., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Michael McCaul, R-Tex. The caucus was founded in 2005.

In her news release Tuesday, Lee noted ongoing strife in the Sudanese border areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei, and Darfur, and in Yida and other refugee camps in South Sudan. Civilians are subject to the Sudanese government’s indiscriminate bombing and denial of humanitarian aid, leaving nearly half a million at risk of starvation.

Lee said she’ll work with the other co-chairs “to bring Khartoum, Juba, and all stakeholders together to ensure that peace prevails in the region. At this critical time with Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, it is critical that Congress and the United States use all tools at its disposal to bring the two sides to the negotiating table for peace talks.”

Lee will take part in a subcommittee hearing on Sudan this Thursday and will host U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for a special briefing with members of Congress on international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution.

Lee has been active on the issue for some time, sponsoring legislation recognizing acts of genocide in the region and urging China as well as the Arab League to step up efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur. Her bill to allow divestment from companies doing business in the region was enacted into law in 2007.

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, International politics, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Nancy Pelosi and George Miller are in Egypt

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, are part of a Congressional delegation to Egypt that arrived in Cairo yesterday.

Pelosi & Tantawi 3-15-2012 (AP Photo)The delegation met today with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi – commander in chief of Egypt’s armed forces, and the nation’s de factor head of state since February 2011 – and will be seeing other high-ranking Egyptian government officials, as well as civil society and religious minority leaders.

After meeting yesterday with Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Wafaa Bassim, Pelosi said the U.S.-Egypt relationship “is an important one I believe to both our countries, I know to the U.S. We have always had a relationship with the people of Egypt and we hope to continue that in a very important way. The strength of Egypt, its stability, is important to the region and to world, and we want to be helpful in that regard.”

Other delegation members include Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012
Under: George Miller, International politics, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »