Calif Gender quotas shot down; Israel plays defense

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Mandating French in Quebec

Furious controversy and public demonstrations have raged this week over Bill 96, one of the toughest pieces of legislation so far drafted in the efforts of francophones to make theirs the official language of Quebec. A May 16 article by Elizabeth Zogalis on the website Global News describes how many anglophones in Montreal and other parts of the province fear the ramifications of such a hardball approach to promoting the use of French in the workplace and public institutions.

It may give readers a sense of the slant of Global News to note that you have go considerably further down, toward the end of the article, to find a differing view of Bill 96. The article quotes Marie-Anne Alepin, president of Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, drawing a distinction between personal bilingualism and institutional bilingualism. In other words, people will still widely use both languages, but the official language of Quebec, and the one used in business settings, will be French. 

Johnny Depp speaking at the 2018 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,’ July 21, 2018. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Depp v. Heard

Johnny Depp’s lawsuit over the alleged libel his ex-wife Amber Heard committed in a Washington Post op-ed piece continues this week, as does her countersuit, with Heard on the stand taking questions under cross-examination from Depp’s lawyer about their heated quarrels. On Tuesday, the courtroom in Fairfax, Virginia, was the site of gruesome and graphic testimony about a fight between the couple during a trip to Australia in 2015 where Depp had acting duties in the fifth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. No pirate could be as beastly and depraved as Heard has accused Depp of being. One of the most harrowing parts of a trial filled with disquieting testimony was Heard’s claim that Depp committed sexual assault with a bottle. Jurors saw a photo of the bottle, which was intact despite Heard’s claim that she feared it was broken while inside her body.

The gruesome testimony, along with Depp’s claims to have lost the tip of his middle finger when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him and to have hidden from her while she went on a rampage looking for him, is the subject of a May 17 article in the New York Post by Elizabeth Rosner and Snejana Farberov.

The trial really is a mess of accusations and counter-accusations, with both parties claiming to have suffered grievous abuse at the hands of the other. Depp’s lawyer presented a handwritten note in which Heard professed her desire to rip Depp apart, signing her name as Slim, a nickname the two used for her.

California Judge Nixes Gender Quotas

Just when you may have thought there was no hope for California, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis last week made a sensible decision striking down gender quotas that had forced corporations in the state to have a certain number of women on their boards. As Evan Symon details in a May 16 article for California Globe, the judge’s ruling finds that SB 826, which has been law in the Golden State for three years, violates the right to equal treatment and is therefore unconstitutional.

Signed into law by then-governor Jerry Brown, SB 826 mandated that any firm with executive offices in California would have to have at least one woman on its board by the end of 2019, and its scope subsequently expanded to require at least two female directors at companies with five directors, and at least three at companies with six or more directors. Corporations that failed to report their numbers of female directors or failed to meet the requirements of SB 826 would have to pay fines ranging up to $300,000.

Israel Defends Itself

As terrorist attacks continue to endanger the civilians, military, and infrastructure of Israel, prime minister Naftali Bennett has pledged a massive response making use of helicopters and missiles, the Jerusalem Post reported on May 17. According to the Post’s article, calls for a tough response have grown in the aftermath of the killing of Noam Raz, a veteran counterterrorist operative, during an Israeli Defense Force operation in the city of Jenin last week, and another incident where IDF soldiers fatally shot a Palestinian man at a checkpoint when he ran at them with a knife, among other incidents. The article details how IDF soldiers have arrested numerous terror suspects in recent days. But clearly such actions have not gone nearly far enough to quell public fears of a sharp uptick in attacks and the need for the military to use its considerable resources to maintain order.

It goes without saying that stopping terrorist activities is among the very highest priorities for any government. But the attacks that have further destabilized the West Bank and nearby areas in recent weeks and months come at a particularly sensitive moment for Israel as the nation seeks to build its economy, promote itself as a dynamic start-up friendly venue, and attract foreign direct investment. The website Trading Economics reports that Israel’s economy, which many expected to grow in the first quarter of 2022, instead suffered an annualized 1.6 percent contraction.

Given these disappointing figures, it is all the more imperative for Israel’s military to crush any terrorist plots or actions that might further demoralize entrepreneurs, investors, and other citizens and might send a message to the world that Israel is not a safe place to do business and invest your money.

By Michael Washburn

Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist. He is the author of the short story collections Scenes from the Catastrophe (2016), The Uprooted and Other Stories (2018), When We're Grownups (2019), and Stranger, Stranger (2020). Michael's story "Confessions of a Spook" won Causeway Lit's 2018 fiction contest.