Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 14, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Turkey Invades Syria

Last week, Turkish forces invaded northern Syria, causing many civilians to flee an area that has already been war-torn for several years. Turkey is attacking a Kurdish-led militia called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Why? Because Turkey claims that the SDF has ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a terrorist group based in Turkey and Iraq. Turkey says the PKK is responsible for violent attacks and beheadings throughout the region.

So what does all of that have to do with the United States? The Kurds in northern Syria are backed by the U.S. In fact, the U.S. and the Kurds fought together to remove ISIS from Syria. Yet the Trump administration did not take any military action to halt the invasion. Instead, Trump proposed using economic sanctions against Turkey if it doesn’t withdraw from the country. Meanwhile, Turkey invaded northern Syria from the ground and also from the air, insisting that the U.S. has no authority over that airspace.

So what has been the response in the U.S. to the White House’s withdrawal of American troops from the area? Both Republican and Democratic leaders have expressed concern. First, there is the matter of the U.S. allegiance with the Kurds. Second, there is the humanitarian crisis that will result from Turkey invading towns and villages in northern Syria, an already-devastated area. Third, there is concern that removing U.S. troops and abandoning Kurdish fighters will allow ISIS to regain control in the area. Because Kurdish fighters who have been busy working to stop ISIS will now have to focus on defending themselves against Turkish forces instead.

Syrian flag
Credit: Digital Archive Japan/Alamy Stock Photo

Until the recent invasion, northeastern Syria was relatively safe, a place where war refugees from the rest of the country could escape to and receive access to food, water, and other aid provided by humanitarian agencies. However, after the events of this past weekend, an estimated 100,000 civilians in northeastern Syria had already been displaced by the fighting that followed Turkey’s invasion. Furthermore, a hospital had to be abandoned, and a water pumping station that serves 400,000 people was taken out of services. Water shortages are already being reported. Refugee camps in the area have also been evacuated after being hit with artillery shells from the fighting, and humanitarian agencies (including doctors) are beginning to pull out of the region. Tens of thousands of citizens are retreating south, deeper into Syria, where the devastating and violent civil war is still going on, putting many of them in harm’s way.

At the same time, the concern about the potential resurgence of ISIS in the region might be occurring. As of the weekend, five Islamic State militants had already escaped from a Kurdish-run prison. ISIS also claimed responsibility for a bombing in the regional capital, an area which until last week had been considered relatively stable. So far, as of the weekend, more than 54 Kurdish fighters and at least 17 civilians already have been killed in the invasion.

So what happens next? Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his plan to return two million Syrian refugees who are living in Turkey to so-called “safe zones” within Syria. But human rights activists have voiced serious concerns about the safety of this plan, which could potentially place millions of civilians right back in harm’s way again.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, should the U.S. use military force to halt the Turkish invasion of northern Syria? Why or why not?

City of Women

Have you ever thought about streets, parks, statues, and other important landmarks in your town, and who they are named after? Chances are, they are usually named for significant men (and especially significant white men) in your community’s history. But what if that wasn’t the case? Now, thanks to a new book called Nonstop Metropolis, we can imagine what New York City would look like if the streets and subway stations were named for women rather than men. The “City of Women” subway map features names of influential women, from the historical (Helen Keller, Geraldine Ferraro) to the popular (Madonna; Serena and Venus Williams; Lady Gaga) to the artistic (Wendy Wasserstein, Edwidge Danticat). The authors of the project argue that when important places are named primarily for men, it makes it so that only male contributions are remembered; in essence, these places then “belong” to men.

The authors also point out that this happens not just with the New York City subway system. Everywhere, in every city and state in the country, mountain ranges and universities and museums are named for men. (When women are remembered, they are often portrayed as someone’s wife or mother, rather than recognized for their own contributions.) Still, due to the number of people who use the New York subway on a daily basis, it seemed to the authors like a good place to start. It’s the first step, they say, toward creating a country which women feel belongs to them as well as to men.

Dig Deeper Following the “City of Women” model, draw a map of your school and “name” the hallways after significant female leaders or women in history or culture. Who did you choose, and why?

Eco-Friendly Penn State

Climate change sometimes feels like a problem so big that it’s impossible to solve. But that might not be the case. Penn State University has managed to cut its greenhouse emissions by a third even as it continues to grow as a community–and all without losing any money. How is that possible? In 2004, the university adopted an “ecological mission,” endorsed by faculty and students, which was essentially a collection of projects that would reduce the university’s overall energy usage: everything from tuning up the heating and air conditioning systems, to using natural gas instead of coal. The school also purchased energy-saving windows and solar energy whenever it could. Over ten years, the investments were paid for by the energy costs saved over time. The university expects that in a few more years, it will have reduced its greenhouse emissions to almost half of 2004 levels, with the hope of cutting it by 80 percent by 2050. Other universities have similar goals in mind.

So if the rest of the United States follows Penn State’s lead, will the climate change crisis be solved? It’s not quite that easy. First of all, the university is able to take advantage of funding sources to make long-range purchasing choices that may take ten years to pay off, which most homeowners and businesses can’t afford to do. And second: sadly, even if the plan works and emissions are reduced by 50 percent, this still wouldn’t be enough to counter the effects of climate change.

Dig Deeper Penn State is a good example of making small energy-saving changes that lead to large results over time. Using Internet resources for help, come up with a list of at least four things you can do to reduce energy usage in your own home.