Palestine president declares end to international agreement with US and Israel
May 21, 2020
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared an end to Palestinian commitments in the Oslo Accords in a meeting Tuesday in Ramallah.
The Oslo Accords are a set of agreements designed to facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Under the terms signed in the 1990s, Palestinians were granted self-governance in parts of the West Bank and Gaza, and the PLO provided recognition to Israel as a state.
Abbas’s announcement comes in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex one-third of the West Bank. The move would result in Israel surrounding Palestinian land from all sides.
Its unclear what actions Abbas will take after Tuesday’s meeting. The Palestinian President has made similar comments in the past. Though, Palestinian leaders have told reporters that Abbas was serious in his remarks.
The result could have implications in the US political sphere, where President Donald Trump has vocally supported the Israeli government and its annexation efforts. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden criticized annexation in the West Bank and expressed disappointment with the Netanyahu administration.
Pennsylvania becomes third US state to limit child marriage
May 12, 2020
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 360 on Friday, setting 18 as the minimum age to obtain a marriage license without parental consent. Pennsylvania becomes only the third state to limit child marriage following Delaware and New Jersey.
Wolf explained that this bill “will help prevent child exploitation.” The bill says that a minor under the age of 16 cannot obtain a marriage license unless the court decides it is in the best interest of the applicants. In addition, no one under the age of 18 can obtain a marriage license unless a parent or legal guardian gives consent.
Child marriage is a global issue. A report published in 2015 found that while 18 is the minimum age for marriage in 88 percent of countries worldwide, 52 percent of countries allow girls to be married before 18 with parental consent. The report also found an estimated 250 million girls were married before the age of 15.
Venezuela Foreign Minister asks ICC to investigate US sanctions as crimes against humanity
February 14, 2020
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza made a request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor on Thursday to investigate US sanctions imposed on Venezuela as crimes against humanity.
US economic sanctions on Venezuela have allegedly affected people’s rights to health, food and economic development.
The US has long imposed sanctions on Venezuela. Most recently, the Trump administration has issued economic sanctions through executive orders for Venezuela’s “human rights abuses and antidemocratic actions.” These sanctions prohibit the Venezuelan government from accessing US markets, which includes a blocking of Venezuela’s oil sector and Conaviasa airlines.
Arreaza believes this is a failed attempt to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. Arreaza said in a statement, “the consequences of US coercive unilateral measures are crimes against humanity and violate both international laws and the United Nations Charter.”
The ICC currently has an ongoing investigation into alleged crimes committed by the Venezuelan government. The ICC decided to investigate after six states filed a request alleging crimes committed in the context of demonstrations and political unrest. Human Rights Watch claims that Venezuelan security forces have tortured, killed, assaulted and used excessive force against civilians.
Texas refusing refugees in 2020 after new Trump rule
January 14, 2020
Texas Governor Abbot announced in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Friday that Texas would refuse settling refugees in 2020.
Texas has been the state with the most settled refugees since 2010, and the announcement marks a stark change from previous policy. The governor attributed his decision to over-strained resources:
At this time, the state and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless—indeed, all Texans. As a result, Texas cannot consent to initial refugee resettlement for FY2020. This decision does not deny any refugee access to the United States. Nor does it preclude a refugee from later coming to Texas after initially settling in another state.
Texas’ refusal to accept refugees comes on the heels of an executive order promulgated in September. Executive Order 1388 requires that the federal government consult with local and state governments to settle refugees. It allows local and state governments to refuse refugee settlement in their communities and requires explicit consent from such communities for settlement. This order could allow many states and municipalities to follow Texas’ precedent and refuse settling refugees in 2020.
Senate unanimously passes PACT act against extreme animal cruelty
November 07, 2019
The bill expands upon a 2010 law criminalizing the creation or distribution of videos showing animals being crushed, burned or tortured. The underlying acts of cruelty had not yet been made illegal. The Act cracks down on these acts of cruelty and others when they occur in interstate commerce or on federal property, and would not conflict with local animal cruelty laws.
The bill was sponsored in the House by Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) , where it passed a voice vote two weeks ago. It was sponsored in the Senate by Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Deutch said that the bill “sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals.”
The bill received endorsements from advocacy groups such as Animal Wellness Action and The Humane Society, with the President and CEO of the Humane Society’s Kitty Block calling it “one of the largest victories for animals in a long time.”
Law enforcement agencies including the National Sheriffs’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police also gave endorsements, citing the well-established connection between acts of animal cruelty and violent acts toward people.
The bill awaits President Donald Trump’s signature before it can be passed into law.
US files complaint against California for international cap-and-trade agreement
October 24, 2019
The US government filed a civil complaint against the state of California Wednesday for entering into a cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec. According to the federal government, California overstepped its state powers by entering into an international climate change agreement in 2013 with a foreign nation. Cap-and-trade agreements are a major component of California’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to the state of California, also listed on the complaint are: Gavin Newsom, the governor of California; the leadership of and the organization California Air Resources Board; Jared Blumenfield, the Secretary of Environmental Protection; and board members of the Western Climate Initiative.
The complaint condemns California’s behavior stating that: “Allowing individual states in the Union to conduct their own foreign policy to advance their own narrow interests is thus anathema to our system of government and, if tolerated, would unlawfully enhance state power at the expense of the United States and undermine the United States’ ability to negotiate competitive international agreements. ”
Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said: “California’s unlawful cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec undermines the President’s ability to negotiate competitive agreements with other nations, as the President sees fit.”
The US is calling for relief through a declaration that the agreement is in violation of the Constitution, a permanent injunction against the agreement, the cost of the suit and additional relief that court deems just and proper.
Supreme Court hears arguments in landmark LGBTQ+ employment cases
October 09, 2019
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in two landmark cases concerning LGBTQ+ employment rights.
The court first heard oral argument in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. This case was consolidated for oral argument with a similar case, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda. Both cases involved a gay male plaintiff who alleged that he was fired on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that “because of … sex” in the Civil Rights Act implies coverage of sexual orientation.
The court heard first from Bostock’s counsel who argued that treating a man who wishes to date men differently than a woman who wishes to date men is inherently sex discrimination. The justices questioned repeatedly whether they should get involved by extending the Civil Rights Act where many states have addressed this discrimination in state legislatures rather than the courts and where Congress has had numerous opportunities to intervene and chosen not to act, most recently in the Equality Act which passed the House, but has yet to be heard in the Senate. The court also signaled to the second case by asking how this would affect usage of bathrooms by transgender individuals. The court then challenged the employer by analogizing firing a gay man to firing a man involved in an interracial or inter-religion marriage.
The court then heard oral argument in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This case centered on transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who alleges that she was fired from the funeral home that had employed her for six years after coming out as a trans woman to her boss. This case asked whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people either inherently as being transgender or under the sex stereotyping decision in the earlier Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins case.
The respondent argued that the discrimination occurring here was based on sex stereotyping of an individual based on the sex assigned at birth. The court likewise challenged this respondent on how this would affect a future case on transgender usage of single-sex bathrooms, which several justices asserted would quickly follow this case. Justice Neil Gorsuch also questioned whether the court should exercise restraint in favor of the potential for massive upheaval, but the respondent noted that federal courts have recognized discrimination against transgender people as sex discrimination for 20 years with no major upheaval. The petitioner (the funeral home) argued that if the court ruled in favor of Stephens, bona fide occupational qualifications, which allow limited Title VII discrimination, would become per se sex discrimination, but the court challenged this view and argued that those qualifications would likely still remain.