California’s governor publishes open letter of support to Arab and Muslim Americans

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a four-page letter in which he says California is “a better place” because of the presence of Arabs and Muslims. (AP/File Photo)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a four-page letter in which he says California is “a better place” because of the presence of Arabs and Muslims. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 26 March 2024
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California’s governor publishes open letter of support to Arab and Muslim Americans

California’s governor publishes open letter of support to Arab and Muslim Americans
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a four-page letter in which he says California is “a better place” because of the presence of Arabs and Muslims

CHICAGO: At a time when Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment are increasing in the wake of Israel’s war in Gaza, one American governor has felt compelled to tell Arabs and Muslims in America how much they are appreciated.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a four-page letter in which he says California is “a better place” because of the presence of Arabs and Muslims; offers blessing for Ramadan to the Muslim community; and vows to continue to fight what he calls anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes that are “becoming more common.”

Newsom, a Democrat, also said that he feels the anguish of the loss of life in Gaza and will continue to organize efforts to provide aid to civilians in the region, including utilizing the California National Guard to assist in delivering aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.

Newsom said: “California is a better place because of you — our Muslim, Palestinian American, and Arab American neighbors and friends who contribute so much to our state’s sense of faith and belonging.

“From countless achievements in literature, civil rights, arts, entertainment, government, business, medicine, and science, to the daily contributions to your communities, you form an essential part of California’s spirit.

“And now, as many of you observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, we can all extend our heartfelt wishes and be reminded of the value of introspection and renewal. I am grateful and proud that each of you call the Golden State home.”

Newsom said his administration was “fighting back” against Islamophobia and hate crimes, while “uplifting Muslim and Arab American heritage and culture.”

He added he was “pained” by the grief caused by the suffering in Gaza, where more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed, and dozens of hospitals, schools, government buildings, businesses and civilian homes destroyed in the five months since the “Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.”

He added in his letter, which was published on the state’s government website this week: “That’s why it pains me so deeply to see the ways your communities are suffering, bearing the weight of lost family and friends in Gaza while facing a rise in discrimination and hate here at home.

“As I’ve met with leaders from your communities in recent months, I’ve heard stories of unimaginable loss and widespread fear.”

Newsom said he has had personal contact with people and friends who have lost family in Gaza.

He said: “Here in California, one leader in the Palestinian American community told me of his work counseling community members who have lost family members — but now, after losing 23 of his family members, he is left searching for his own counselor. Others have shared similar devastation with me.

“I have spoken publicly about a close friend of mine who has lost nine of her family members. I’ve listened to stories of entire families in Gaza killed and multiple generations wiped out. These losses are staggering. And now burgeoning disease and starvation threaten to deepen the devastation, especially among children. This is unacceptable.”

Citing the hate-driven actions against several Palestinians in America, Newsom said these were not exceptions but a growing trend.

He wrote: “These are not isolated incidents. Hateful acts targeting those who are or are perceived to be Muslim or Arab American are becoming more common. In California, reported anti-Muslim bias events rose 44.4 percent from 2021 to 2022.

“Reports also indicate a spike in reported anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel — the largest documented surge of its kind since late 2015 and early 2016, amidst calls for a Muslim ban. And now, many Muslim and Arab American communities report a level of fear comparable to the months following 9/11.”

Newsom condemned the killings taking place in Gaza, although he avoided casting blame on Israel’s government and urged the revival of peace talks to guarantee the autonomy of both Palestinians and Israelis.

He said: “Our efforts must continue amidst the current conflict in the Middle East. On top of the pain of discrimination and fear of violence, I have also heard from Muslim, Arab American, and Palestinian American leaders that many fear speaking out against the deaths of civilians in Gaza. Know that I will always defend your right to take part in the California tradition of peaceful protest — to publicly express your opposition to any war or government decision you oppose, including the war in Gaza.

“So let me be clear — I condemn the ongoing and horrific loss of innocent civilian life in Gaza. I support President Biden’s call for an immediate ceasefire as part of a deal to secure desperately needed relief for Gazan civilians and the release of hostages. I also unequivocally denounce Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel. It is time to work in earnest toward an enduring peace that will furnish the lasting security, autonomy, and freedom that the Palestinians and the Israeli people both deserve.”

His administration last November “shipped a field hospital and vital medical supplies to support humanitarian relief for civilians in Gaza.”

He said he has directed state grants to bolster “safety and security” for Arabs, Muslims and Jews at college campuses, schools, mosques, churches and synagogues.

He wrote: “To every Muslim, Palestinian American, and Arab American who calls California home: please know that you belong here.”

Newsom was elected California’s 40th governor in 2019. He previously served as the 49th lieutenant governor of California from 2011 to 2019, and the 42nd mayor of the city of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011.


‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections

‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections
Updated 57 min 19 sec ago
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‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections

‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections
  • Ousmane Dembele: ‘We need to mobilize to get out and vote’
  • FFF planning player proxy vote if still involved in Euro 2024

PADERBORN, Germany: France star Ousmane Dembele admitted on Thursday the political situation in the country had “set alarm bells ringing” and said he and his teammates intended to vote in upcoming legislative elections even if they are still involved at Euro 2024 in Germany.
“We need to mobilize to get out and vote,” Dembele told reporters at the French team’s training base in western Germany where they are preparing for their opening European Championship game against Austria on Monday.
“I think the situation in France has set alarm bells ringing. Everyone needs to rally round and come together to vote.”
President Emmanuel Macron has called elections for the lower house National Assembly with the first round set for June 30 and the second round on July 7.
He announced the snap poll last Sunday in response to the results of the EU elections, in which far-right parties — including the top-scoring National Rally (RN) — managed to take almost 40 percent of the vote in France.
“I was watching the news not long ago and I saw that one in every two people in France doesn’t vote, so everyone needs to vote in the legislative elections,” added Dembele, the former Barcelona winger now playing back in France for Paris Saint-Germain.
The French squad will still be in Germany at the time of the election, provided they make it beyond the group stage.
The first round of the election is set to take place the same weekend as the last 16 of Euro 2024, while the second round comes just after the quarter-finals.
However, Dembele said the French Football Federation was planning to help players set up a proxy vote if they remained in Germany at the time.


Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi

Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi

Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi
  • Pope Francis is the first pope to participate in G7 discussions
  • Pope will have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will meet with the leaders of the United States, Ukraine, France and India, among others, on the sidelines of the Group of 7 (G7) summit in Italy, the Vatican said on Thursday.

Francis, who in January warned against the “perverse” dangers of artificial intelligence, is due to take part in leaders’ talks on the new technology on Friday.

He is the first pope to participate in G7 discussions.

Issuing a program for his one-day appearance, the Vatican said Francis would have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden, a fellow Catholic.

The Vatican said he would also have one-on-one meetings with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kenya’s William Ruto,

Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva.

Francis and Biden met at the Vatican in 2021 and the president said the pope told him he was a “good Catholic” who can receive communion even as conservative US bishops wanted to deny it because of Biden’s support for abortion rights.

The two men also spoke in October last year about the crisis in the Middle East after Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Biden has spoken movingly of his respect for the pope, praising his empathy and calling him a “decent man.” They stay in touch, Biden has said.


Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti
  • Pro-Palestinian demonstrators barricaded the multistory Student Services Building
  • The university posted a “protest action alert” on its website

LOS ANGELES: A takeover of a building at California State University, Los Angeles, by demonstrators protesting Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, leaving the facility trashed and covered with graffiti, TV news reports showed.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators barricaded the multistory Student Services Building on Wednesday and workers inside were told to shelter in place, but it was empty by Thursday morning, said university spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins.
“What I can tell you, at the moment, is that the building is clear of employees and protesters and the building is secure,” said Frost Hollins, who did not immediately offer details on what occurred overnight.
The university posted a “protest action alert” on its website announcing that all main campus classes and operations would be remote until further notice and asking people to stay away.
Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front.
The CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment, a group that has camped near the campus gym for about 40 days, sent an email indicating that members were staging a sit-in in the building, Hollins said.


Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin

Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin
Updated 13 June 2024
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Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin

Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin
  • “What I see is a slowing of the Russians’ advance and a stabilizing of that particular piece of the front,” said Austin

BRUSSELS: Russia’s advance in the Kharkiv area is slowing and the frontline is stabilizing after some allies lifted restrictions on Kyiv’s use of donated weapons on Russian territory, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday.
“What I see is a slowing of the Russians’ advance and a stabilizing of that particular piece of the front. Now, I think we’ll see incremental gains — and we’ll see puts and takes — going forward,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
“But again, a couple of weeks ago, there was concern that we would see a significant breakthrough on the part of the Russians. I don’t think we’ll see that going forward.”


Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns

Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns
Updated 13 June 2024
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Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns

Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns
  • The UN has prepared a contingency plan, with $40 million set aside to respond to any emergencies, said Mohamed Yahya
  • The weather forecasters in Pakistan are projecting above-normal rainfall in the coming weeks

ISLAMABAD: An estimated 200,000 people in Pakistan could be affected by the upcoming monsoon season, which is expected to bring heavier rains than usual, a top UN official warned on Thursday.
The United Nations, with help from local authorities, has prepared a contingency plan, with $40 million set aside to respond to any emergencies, said Mohamed Yahya, the newly appointed Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan.
Yahya told journalists in Islamabad that the weather forecasters in Pakistan are projecting above-normal rainfall in the coming weeks. However, the rains would not be as heavy as in 2022 when devastating floods killed 1,739 people, destroyed 2 million homes, and covered as much as one-third of the country at one point.
Pakistan is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change, in part because of its immense northern glaciers, which are now melting as air temperatures rise. Warmer air can also hold more moisture, intensifying the rains of the monsoon.
Until recently, public opinion and even some government officials took little account of the possible negative impact from climate change on daily life. Pakistan’s weather patterns have changed in recent years, forcing cities to strengthen their infrastructure and farmers to adapt their practices.
The 2022 floods caused more than $30 billion in damage to Pakistan’s already cash-strapped economy.
Analysts and government officials say Pakistan in recent years failed to achieve goals for economic growth because of man-made disasters, which have repeatedly hit the country in the form of droughts, heatwaves and heavy rains, which badly damaged the road network, bridges, power system and other infrastructure.
Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions worldwide, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters. This year, Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall.
Yahya said he was in contact with officials at Pakistan’s ministry of climate change, who were preparing their contingency own plans for monsoon season, which in Pakistan runs from July to October.
Earlier this week, weather forecasters in Pakistan urged people to stay indoors as the third heatwave in a month began. A recent study by the United Nations children’s agency said that Pakistan could avert 175,000 deaths by 2030 by developing resilient energy systems to power its health facilities.
On Thursday, temperatures in various parts of Pakistan soared as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit), forcing many people to stay indoors. Authorities are asking people to hydrate and avoid unnecessary travel.