Whether you compete in extemporaneous speaking or any form of debate (and especially if you compete in both), staying on top of current events is important. And that could have been left unsaid.

I want to share a few notable, unrelated, but useful news stories that are important for background knowledge (because everything is important for background knowledge), and because these issues could help you out in any NCFCA debate, this season.

1. Syria is “Still of Utmost Concern” to the U.N.

Originally, the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), consisting of 600 individuals, worked to promote a political solution for the turbulence in that nation. Last week, however, the UN pulled half of that force (300) out of Syria, while leaving the remaining UNSMIS to, as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous said, “do what it can.” However, in the same statement issued by the United Nations peacekeeping chief which announced the withdrawal of 300 personnel, the UN assured the world that Syria is “still of utmost concern” to UN peacekeeping.
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2. Recommendation to Legalize Prostitution and Drug Use

On Mondays of last week, the UN-backed Global Commission on HIV and the Law issued a 150-page report advocating that nations around the world should legalize prostitution and “decriminalize the voluntary use of illegal injection drugs” to fight HIV. Specifically, the panel wants to:

A. “Decriminalise private and consensual adult sexual behaviours, including same-sex sexual acts and voluntary sex work.”
B. “Reform approaches towards drug use. Rather than punishing people who use drugs but do no harm to others, governments must offer them access to elective HIV and health services, including harm reduction programmes and voluntary, evidence-based treatment for drug dependence.”
C. “Work with the guardians of customary and religious law to promote traditions and religious practice that promote rights and acceptance of diversity and that protect privacy.”

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3. Swamped with Vetoes

Whether it’s the turmoil in Syria or any other issue, vetoes and obstinate actions of permanent members have swamped the UN with vetoes, and put it into a hopelessly deadlocked situation. This article reviews the history of Russia, China, and explains basically how all of these different nations do not tend to agree a majority of the time.

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To be honest, this post was not intended to be a secondary source where you can read about the United Nations at your leisure. It was to show you things you probably didn’t know off hand about the U.N. right now. But things that were on the first page of a Google News “United Nations” search, and were all included in a single Google Alerts email.

News should be viewed as a story, not a mess of isolated events that have no relevance to anything else. You should view the news this way. But you need to know the news, in order to do this. Sign up for Google Alerts, or just daily browse Google News. (I think that Ethos coaches say this multiple times every year, and so many don’t do it.) Its not hard, and it will reward you with a wealth of current event knowledge—knowledge that you will need to have when tournament season arrives.