Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 16, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Widespread Protests Rock Russia

Have you heard of Alexei Navalny? He is an activist, lawyer, and blogger who leads the Russian opposition movement against President Vladimir Putin. Navalny has millions of followers and regularly calls out Putin and his United Russia party with accusations of corruption. He compares the current state of the Russian government to life under tsarist Russia in the early twentieth century. His Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) recently released a video showing an opulent Black Sea palace given to Putin by wealthy associates. The palace features a casino and skating rink. (Putin and his government deny the claims.) More than 100 million people have viewed the video.

A year and a half ago, Navalny was poisoned by Novichok, a nerve agent. The attack almost killed him, and he spent five months in a coma, recovering in Berlin. Navalny accuses Putin of being behind the Novichok attack, and the EU agrees, imposing sanctions on six top Russian officials.

After Navalny recovered, he returned to Russia, and was immediately arrested. The Russian people took to the streets to protest. Russian authorities responded by shutting down Metro stations and arresting more than 5,000 people in 90 cities. An additional 3,000 protestors were arrested the week before. In one city, Vladivostok, police forced demonstrators onto the frozen bay, where they held hands and chanted, “My Russia is in prison.” More protests are scheduled for this week.

Dig Deeper Go online to view footage of the Russian protests. What are your impressions? In your opinion, how are these protests similar to, and different from, recent protests in the United States? Write a short paragraph describing your reactions.

New Zealand’s Necktie Debate

What’s the dress code at your school? Are there rules against saggy pants, spaghetti straps, or short shorts? Have you ever violated the dress code? What happened? The New Zealand Parliament has a dress code too. And recently, member Rawiri Waititi was ejected for refusing to follow it.

man's folded blue and white checked dress shirt and yellow necktie
The New Zealand parliament’s dress code made news recently. Credit: © Image Source, all rights reserved

While this may sound like a funny story, the reason behind the dress code violation is quite serious. Waititi, who is the co-leader of the country’s indigenous Maori Party, refused to wear a tie because of its colonial implications. Instead, he wore a traditional green stone pendant called a hei-tiki. He said that in his culture, what he was wearing was appropriate for the situation. But Speaker Trevor Mallard disagreed. He wouldn’t allow Waititi to ask questions, and then ordered him to leave.

This is the latest event in an ongoing debate in the New Zealand parliament over ties. Waititi has nearly been thrown out of Parliament for not wearing a tie in the past. But this time, it made a difference. The day after the incident, a subcommittee led by Speaker Mallard met to discuss eliminating the tie rule altogether. The majority agreed to get rid of the requirement. While neckties might not seem like a big deal to you, this battle over dress code is significant because of the country’s attempts to acknowledge its colonial history. For years, indigenous Maori people were prevented from celebrating their traditions and speaking their language. This is changing now, but nevertheless, the tie rule–which dates back to British colonial rule–is one example of how many laws still reflect this troubling past.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to research the Maori culture in New Zealand. Write a paragraph about what you learn.

Judy Chu’s Congressional Mission

The current Congress is the most diverse Congress in U.S. history. But there is still a long way to go before Congress resembles the people it is supposed to represent. One Congresswoman, Representative Judy Chu of California, has made it her mission to increase Asian American representation in government. In 2009, Chu became the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress She currently serves as the head of Congress’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Caucus.

While the election of Kamala Harris as vice president is certainly a big step forward, Chu is focused on calling out places where improvements still need to be made. For example, the Biden administration did not appoint any AAPI cabinet secretaries and did not appoint any AAPI members to his Immigration Task Force. This is despite the fact that 70 percent of the adult AAPI population are immigrants. Chu believes in speaking out about these omissions so that they don’t go unnoticed. Meanwhile, the caucus continues to push for AAPI candidates to be appointed to federal judgeships, deputy secretary positions, and other key roles.

Currently, there are 21 AAPI members of Congress: the highest number in our nation’s history.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to figure out the racial demographics of the current Congress. Make a chart or graph to illustrate your findings.