Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Mar 11, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Cease Fire in Idlib, Syria

The deadly civil war in Syria has been going on since 2011, but it feels like forever. Is it possible that it might finally be drawing to a close? Last week, Turkey and Russia agreed to a cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib region–an area where nearly a million people have displaced since December due to the intense fighting that has broken out there.

Why is this happening in Idlib? Simply put, because it’s an agricultural area. Fighting in Syria was originally focused on cities and suburbs, as both sides struggled to lay claim to these areas. The people who lived there were forced to flee, and they often went to Idlib, which seemed relatively safe by comparison. As a result, the population of Idlib doubled with refugees and displaced persons. But now, the leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad–backed by Putin–wants to reclaim that territory as well. And the refugees living there have no place to go. The rest of Syria is too dangerous, and they likely won’t be able to cross the border into Turkey, as the recent influx of refugees has caused Turkey to tighten up its borders. Turkey also responded to Assad’s aggression by increasing its support of rebel groups to push back against Assad’s forces. This is what has led to the intense fighting in the area during the past few months.

But a cease-fire sounds promising, right? Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his hope that the cease-fire will stop the suffering in the area. But political analysts are quick to point out that a cease-fire is not a treaty. In other words, it doesn’t mean an end to the fighting; it just means that it will be temporarily put on hold. Some experts remain optimistic about the future, saying that Turkey and Russia have many shared interests outside of Syria, and so they will hopefully be able to come to an agreement.

What Do You Think? Do you think the cease-fire in Idlib will lead to lasting peace in the region? Explain.

California Women Gaining Ground in Board Room

March is International Women’s Month, and so it’s a great time to pause and reflect on advances that women have made in recent years. One place where one can find such an advance is in corporate board rooms. Two years ago, the state of California passed SB 826, a bill that required every company based there to have at least one woman serving on its board. If they didn’t, they would have to pay a $100,000 fine.

But, is this fair? Or is it reverse discrimination? Here’s why laws such as this one, which protect (and enforce) gender diversity, are important: out of the 3,000 largest U.S. corporations, only about one out of every five board members is a woman. Which is a shame, not just because it’s discriminatory, but because studies show that companies with women on their boards are more profitable than those whose boards are men-only.

So far, the law appears to be working. Before it took effect, out of the 400 top companies in California, 75 had no women on their boards. But by halfway through last year, two-thirds of these boards had added at least one woman. Companies had until the end of December to comply with the new law. Other states are starting to pay attention to the California law, and are considering similar legislation that would require corporate boards to have at least one diverse board member (such as a woman or a person of color).

What Do You Think? Would you support legislation in your state requiring executive boards to include a certain number of female or diverse members? Why or why not?

Oklahoma’s First Water Lobby Day

On March 5, a group of citizens, tribal leaders, and water protection groups gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol for the first annual Oklahoma Water Lobby Day. The goal of the event was simple: to educate the public, legislators, and other stakeholders about important water-related issues. The event, which ran all afternoon, included table displays and special guest speakers. Groups included the Oklahoma Sierra Club, Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy (ORWP), Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) Agency, and Oklahoma Trout Unlimited. (Interestingly, fishing is one of the state’s largest revenue generators, responsible for more than 15,000 jobs.)

Mount Scott and Lake Lawtonka in Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma
Mount Scott with Lake Lawtonka near Lawton, Oklahoma. Credit: cstar55/iStock/Getty Images

Speakers included Casey Camp-Horinek, Director of the Environment for the Ponca Nation; Johnson Bridgwater, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Sierra Club; Delaware County community organizer Pam Kingfisher; and Attorney General (and former Democratic candidate for governor) Drew Edmondson.

The day began with a training session on “How to Lobby Your State Legislators.” There was also a briefing on some of the major water-related problems that the state is currently facing, as well as some of the water-related legislation currently being considered. At noon, a closed-to-the-public luncheon featured University of Tulsa College of Law Professor Gary Allison, who spoke on the importance of water rights. The day closed out with a meeting between Republican Governor Kevin Stitt and a handful of Oklahoma environmental community leaders, followed by a press conference.

What Do You Think? Citizens and special-interest groups lobby their state governments for all kinds of reasons. Would you ever consider speaking to your legislators about an issue that’s important to you? Why or why not?

Therapy Dog Elected Mayor of Vermont Town

After the nonstop media coverage about Super Tuesday, some of you may be feeling a little burned out on politics. It’s a good thing, then, that Vermont has a race we can all still get excited about.  The town of Fair Haven, Vermont held its mayor race on March 3. The winner? A three-year-old therapy dog named Murfee.

This is the second year that Fair Haven has hosted its race for honorary pet mayor. Any pet owner can enter his or her animal for a $5 registration fee, and children are allowed to vote. The town believes that this is a great way to bring the community together and to teach children about voting and the election process. This year’s race was a close one, with Murfee, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, beating out the incumbent–a three-year-old Nubian goat named Lincoln–by only 25 votes. In last year’s race, which was even closer, Lincoln won by only three votes.

So, what exactly does it mean to be the honorary pet mayor of Fair Haven? Murfee will be responsible for many public appearances. He will also be the face of the fundraising campaign for new playground equipment for the local elementary school. This is in addition to his already-busy schedule as a certified therapy dog who visits nursing homes and hospitals. But his owner is confident that Murfee is up to the task.

Dig Deeper In Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, people vote at midnight. In one neighborhood in Chicago, people vote in a laundromat. Use Internet resources to find more strange and interesting voting traditions. Choose one to describe in a short paragraph.