5 Fast And Easy Ways To Be A More Informed Citizen

5 Fast And Easy Ways To Be A More Informed Citizen

Prove Winston Churchill wrong.
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Winston Churchill once said that the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.

This philosophy unfortunately seems to be true at times and is highlighted in videos like this one that Jimmy Kimmel Live produced back in 2013 about whether people preferred Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (newsflash, they’re the exact same thing).

So how can we combat the ignorance? The easy answer is to just get informed. In today’s fast-paced 24-hour news cycle, that may seem hard. However, there are easy, fast ways to get the news and become a better, more educated voter. Here are five of those ways:


1. NPR One

National Public Radio sounds boring, but it’s actually one of the best ways to stay in the know about all the latest happenings. NPR One is an app you can download for free off of the app store, and it will play random segments put together by the NPR team that is uploaded early that morning. Every time you open the app, it will automatically play the hourly newscast which is usually under five minutes. I often listen to this while I’m getting ready in the morning, and it gives you things to talk about for the day!


2. NYT Now

The New York Times is easily one of the most respected names in journalism. It’s great that they now have a free app that gives you a “morning briefing.” You can read what you need to know for the day, and how it may affect the world. It takes under five minutes to read, but it is very comprehensive and even comes with a “back story” that goes more into depth about a particular news story.


3. FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits Newsletter


FiveThirtyEight is one of my absolute favorite websites for keeping up to date with politics. This is a statistical journalism news source that gives you great analysis of statistics from everywhere from politics to sports. This also has a daily newsletter called “Significant Digits” written by the hilarious Walter Hickey. This newsletter gives you the stats you need to know for the day and is chock-full of little quips by Mr. Hickey. This newsletter is a great and easy way to start the day.


4. theSkimm

theSkimm is a more recent daily newsletter that is gaining a lot of popularity. Unique in its use of vernacular and “plain english,” theSkimm also is a summary of what you should know for the day. Another reason I love it is that it takes the time to explain to you the background of various events and why you should care about them. It’s extremely easy to read and I would strongly recommend it for newcomers that want the stay informed, but don’t want something difficult to understand.


5. Vox

Vox’s motto is “Explain the news,” and boy, does it accomplish just that. Like theSkimm, Vox will take the time to explain complicated issues to its readers, as well as producing fun, visually stimulating videos. Known for its articles entitled “Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask,” Vox will take the time to break down complicated issues in a non-condescending way to its readers. Vox is one of my absolute favorite news sources and it should become your favorite, too.


Technology has made it all too easy for us to become better informed citizens. Take ten minutes of your time each day to help prove Winston Churchill wrong. America will be better for it.

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads

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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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Sociolinguistics Series: Part 50

Language is a powerful tool.

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It's part 50--halfway to 100! I'm so glad to still be here writing! In this section, we will talk about Dr. Shikaki's findings on how Palestinians view the state of Israel.

25 years ago, 85% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution. 10 years ago, this number decreased to 70%. Dr. Shikaki believes this was due to an increase in the prominence of Islamism in Palestinian society during the second intifada; Islamists were opposed to the two-state solution. In the most recent survey, the December 2018 one, only 43% of Palestinians supported the two state solution.

In 2000, American President Bill Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Camp David Summit to come up with a solution to the conflict. It ended without an agreement, but in December of 2000, Clinton once again proposed a resolution: the Clinton Parameters.

The content of the Parameters basically allowed Israel to annex settlements while Palestine to take 94-96% of the West Bank, as well as Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. There were other guidelines regarding territory, refugees, security, and the end of the conflict. Essentially, the West Bank would have been split up by Israeli roads and settlements--which is kind of the reality today.

Both the Israeli government and Arafat accepted the terms with reservations, and Arafat wrote to Clinton a letter asking for clarifications on the terms. Clinton and Dennis Ross, an envoy of the Parameters, publicized that Arafat had refused to accept the terms; they painted Palestinians in a negative light, saying that Israel wanted to accept the peace negotiations but Palestine did not.

American Lawyer Robert Malley was at the Camp David Summit and oversaw parts of the Clinton Parameters. In 2001, he said that three myths had come out of the failure of both negotiations, and that these three myths were dangerous to any future peace processes if people kept believing in them.

These myths are as follows: "Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions," "Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations," and "The Palestinians made no concession of their own."

He said that these three statements were not true but very heavily publicized by America and Israel after the negotiations failed; rather, there is more nuance to each of these issues, and America and Israel have just as much responsibility in the failure of the Summit and Parameters as Palestine did. Malley wrote, "If peace is to be achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the growing acceptance of these myths as reality."

Anyway, what does this have to do with Dr. Shikaki? He polled Palestinians not only on the their attitudes to the two-state solution, but the Clinton Parameters as well. 25 years ago, there was 60% support for the Clinton Parameters by Palestinians, but the June 2018 poll showed that the number had gone down to 37%.

The last ten years shows a significant decrease in public support for both the two-state solution and the Clinton Parameters, and it could be a result of disagreeing with specific parts of the proposals (such as how the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock or Jerusalem is delegated).

I did some further digging when I got home, and I found this data from the UN Division for Palestinian Rights website:

"A 25 December [2000] published poll found that 48% of the 501 Israelis questioned were opposed to the proposals; 57% would object to Palestinian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound; 72% were against even a limited return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. A 29 December published poll found that 56% of the Israelis would oppose a peace agreement reached on the basis of the Parameters."

This shows that though public media--especially Western media--may have painted the Palestinian government as the villain (and Israel and America as the "victims"), the proposals accepted by either government had varied support among its people.

The Israeli civilian population did not want to accept the Clinton Parameters because of the way certain things would be resolved; their reservations lie with the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque because the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in the world for Jews, would have been given to Palestine, while Jews would have control of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (which is the status quo).

In addition, there was a section in the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the right of return for Palestinians, where there would be a certain number of Palestinian refugees who settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while other Palestinians either would become citizens of their host countries, move to a third-party country, or settle back into the land that is Israel Proper (with permission from the Israeli government, of course); many Israelis did not support this.

That was the public opinion years ago. Today, there is even less support for these proposals. Dr. Shikaki outlined three issues as reasons for a decrease in support of compromise, which we will cover in the next section. Stay tuned!

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