Category: News

News

Open Doors: 4300 Christians Murdered in 2018

Ralph Tiberius Augustus | Brazil

What does it mean to be a Christian? To some, it means finding shelter and strength through our Lord’s word in order to overcome our daily challenges. To others, it means helping those in need. Whatever are your reasons to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, being a Christian isn’t always an easy task; our faith has tests all the time. To be a Christian sometimes means having to face hatred and persecution. During hard times, it’s quite important for we Christians to keep our faith strong and stay united. 

 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 

 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

– John 15:18-19 (KJV) 

Christian Persecution in the World 

When I say persecution, not only do I mean that Christians are being oppressed through violent means, but also through less obvious means such as biased laws and psychological bullying. A good example of this is how in several countries in the Middle East, laws force Christians to restrict their expression of faith. 

Schools commonly teach about past oppression and violence against Christians. Unfortunately, many of these issues still occur today in parts of the world. Without action, it may only get worse. Currently, persecution of Christians happens mostly in theocratic Muslim countries and areas where terrorist cells have control.

For example, extremists in Syria levied a jizya on any non-Muslims. Those who could not comply had to either convert to Islam or face death. where Christians are a minority and are forced to live under strict regulations such as paying special taxes and not being allowed to practice their faith in public. Moreover, Islamic Saudi authorities violently imprisoned 35 Christians in 2012 for holding a prayer circle.

In several other countries, Christians and other minority religions may only practice their faith in private. In fact, nations with Sharia law often ban items and articles from other religions such as Crucifixes and statues. The mistreatment of Christians is not exclusively in Muslim countries. It also occurs in the Jewish state of Israel and dictatorships such as North Korea. According to Open Doors, the totalitarian state holds some 50,000 Christians in forced-labor camps. 

Open Doors: Christians Murdered in 2018

Sometimes the dedication we have for Christ can even lead to murder. In 2018, 4300 Christians were killed across the globe, according to Open Doors, a non-denominational mission with the goal of helping Christians in countries where Christianity is oppressed for cultural or political reasons. Sadly, the number is only going up. In 2017, there were 3066 murders of Christians for religious reasons. This represents a 40% increase from the previous year.  

However, Open Doors is attempting to eventually bring this number to zero. Andrew van der Bijl founded the group as a small operation to illegally smuggle Bibles to Soviet-controlled Poland in the cold war. Later on, they expanded, smuggling Bibles all over the Communist bloc. Nowadays, Open Doors helps Christians exert their rightful will of regularly practicing their faith in over 70 countries where oppressive laws still exist.

An Increased Danger 

As stated above, the murder rate of Christians drastically increased last year. Unfortunately, the coming years may spell out even more danger for the world’s most common religion. Several factors are leading to this. Michel Varton, the current director of Open Doors, stated that ”The number of vandalized Churches in regions where Christianity is a minority, has highly increased in the past few years”. 

Clashes with Christianity 

In the internet age, information is at everyone’s hands. So, it is becoming more difficult for dictatorships to dumb down the masses. But unfortunately, many countries still use religion as a tool by teaching a twisted, radicalized version of Islam. 

Governments of Muslim-majority countries often see the spread of Christianity as a threat to their power. As a result, they tend to discretely marginalize Christianity through Sharia law. For some of them, Christianity is a symbol of Western imperialism. Thus, they perceive it as a sign of disrespect to their local cultures and customs. 

Some oppressive governments in Asia also see the expansion of Christianity as a threat. This has been a notably growing trend in several parts of Asia with Hindu fanaticism and Buddhist radicalism. Both have taken an aggressive stance towards foreign religions in recent years.  

The Spread of Radical Islam

The vast majority of the incoming immigrants and refugees from the Middle East just want to mind their own businesses and have a chance for a fresh start in the Western world. Unfortunately, a small minority are violent radicals. With a recent uptick in radical Islam in Sweden and other countries, persecution of Christians may increase.  

Moreover, radical Islamic movements have been gaining strength in Asia and Africa. Particularly, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Somalia have seen drastic increases.

An End in Sight?

At this time, it does not appear that the next few years will bring an end to these horrific murders. However, groups like Open Doors and others hope to minimize the casualties and enrich religious freedom. We have only scratched the surface about this, but as the internet thrives, it appears that awareness for Christian persecution may also rise. With this, awareness groups may hope to raise more funds and rally more people to their cause to end intolerance.


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Will Oklahoma Become The 15th Constitutional Carry State?

Tom DiGennaro | United States

Less than two weeks ago, South Dakota joined the ranks of constitutional carry states. Oklahoma may be following suit. The Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee passed HB 2579, which allows for constitutional carry, nine votes to two. The Oklahoma State Senate is also working on a similar bill.

Last year, both houses of the Oklahoma State Legislature passed a similar constitutional carry bill. Former Governor Mary Fallin vetoed it. However, current Governor Kevin Stitt states he is absolutely going to sign the bill if it passes. In that case, Oklahoma will be the 15th Constitutional Carry state in the United States.

Constitutional Carry allows for the unlicensed purchase and carry of a handgun. This legislation removes the government mandated training which is part of the carry permit process. Many supporters in Oklahoma have expressed that the government mandated training is unnecessary, as most people will get training regardless of any law.

Stitt has expressed that business owners will still retain the right to ban the carry of firearms on their property. Obviously, carry will also be prohibited in public buildings, professional sporting events, casinos, and schools.

The growing number of states that are allowing constitutional carry is very promising for gun rights advocates. One of the most appealing features of Constitutional Carry is that it eliminates the government’s power to pick and choose who can carry. It also eliminates their power to discourage people from purchasing and carrying through application fees, mandatory training, and waiting periods. Constitutional Carry has its obvious benefits and hopefully, more and more states will allow it.


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Libertarian Jeff Hewitt Delivers Passionate SOTU Response

Sanders Jett-Folk | United States

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump presented his long-awaited State of the Union address to the American people. The Libertarian Party, represented by Riverside County (CA) Board of Supervisors member Jeff Hewitt, quickly gave a passionate response to the President’s address. In doing so, they hoped to unite Americans in the face of political division.

Jeff Hewitt: Bringing Americans Together?

Of the many themes that Hewitt presented in his statement, bringing Americans together was among the most important.

Hewitt stated that despite the division that Democrats and Republicans are trying to cause in our country, “…Americans are finding new ways to work together, to prosper, to help each other and to help themselves.”

He went on to say that new markets, voluntary exchange of ideas and goods, and innovation has “given all of us new ways to learn, to communicate, to travel, to heal ourselves, and to heal our world.”

He also denounced fearmongering politicians, such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump; Hewitt claimed they “try to frighten Americans by pronouncing disaster after disaster, which they say only they can save us from.”

Progress In America

A strong focus of Jeff Hewitt’s powerful statement was how far America has come over the years.

Hewitt spoke of America’s “agricultural and technological revolution” and expansion of “the circle of humanity to embrace the natural rights of people who were previously beaten down by centuries of oppression.”

One point made was how crime rates have decreased; “Here in America, violent crime rates have plummeted by 74 percent since their peak in 1993.”

Another strong assertion came about the decline of rampant poverty. “Since 1990, 1 billion people have transcended extreme poverty,” Hewitt said.

This fantastic progress, in Hewitt’s words, is the result of our laws holding “arbitrary political power subject to the rule of law.”

Limiting Government

Hewitt then discussed what the Libertarian Party firmly believes is holding our nation back: the government.

Speaking against rampant discrimination and division, Hewitt asserted that “Old-party politicians seek to divide us by nationality, by race, by religion, by gender and sexuality, and by any other means they can think of to create categories of people whose rights somehow matter less than the rest of ours.” He then affirmed the Libertarian belief that “All Americans should be equal before the law”.

Moving onto our economic situation, Hewitt stated that “Our federal government lacks fiscal discipline. Our national debt has skyrocketed to almost $22 trillion.” Affirming another Libertarian belief, he stated: “It is not acceptable for politicians to rack up this kind of debt.”

Hewitt then spoke out against the “absurd security theater” of the TSA, and the NSA’s “unconstitutional mass spying on Americans”. To summarize, “End the surveillance state!”

Continuing the Libertarian Party’s grievances against the government, Jeff Hewitt spoke against rampant war, stating that “Never-ending wars make Americans less safe.” He also renounced the “acts of cruelty” occurring against peaceful immigrants at the Southern border: “The United States should welcome immigrants.”

A Libertarian Future

Hewitt affirmed that the Libertarian Party can bring Americans together in this era of divisiveness.

“Libertarians stand against these injustices, and for the proposition that Americans deserve better”, he testified. “While Republicans and Democrats careen toward socialism and fascism, Libertarians stand for the timeless principles of justice; the self-evident truths of individual freedom; and the rights of every person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

He went on to state that “Americans are better than our current government,” and noted that “elected Libertarians are already hard at work cutting taxes, slashing red tape, shrinking government, and offering thoughtful, pragmatic solutions to day-to-day problems.”

He ended his address by inviting people to “join [the Libertarian Party], as we seek peace, prosperity, and liberty for every American.”

Jeff Hewitt, the former Libertarian mayor of Calimesa, California, narrowly won a seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in 2018. He represents the county’s 5th district. He defeated his opponent, former Republican Assemblyman Russ Bogh, with 51.9% of the vote. Many saw the race as a critical victory for the Libertarian Party, as Riverside County’s population is greater than that of 15 states. His delivery of the official Libertarian response shows how crucial this victory was.


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Amtrak Ran Slower Than an Average Marathon Runner

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In an embarrassing loss for public transportation on Sunday evening, Amtrak’s Vermonter train ripped through a truck just north of Bellows Falls, Vermont. Immediately following the incident, the train screeched to a halt. With few updates, passengers sat in the dark for hours, figuratively and literally.

The Amtrak Vermonter Crash

Eventually, conductors were able to disseminate information to the passengers. Some of them had been en route for more than 12 hours, boarding the train in Washington, D.C.

According to local police and Amtrak officials, the truck had fallen off of the highway due to icy conditions. Then, it smashed through a guardrail and fell onto the tracks. Though police quickly arrived on the scene, they failed to notify Amtrak of the incident with enough time for them to apply the train’s brakes. As a result, the train plowed through the fallen truck, slicing it in half.

Luckily, the driver had already left the vehicle and there were no injuries. Passengers on the Vermonter reported feeling a “slight bump” and “standard train turbulence”, but none were entirely sure of the nature of the stop until much later.

After about three hours, school buses arrived and brought the disgruntled passengers to nearby Bellows Falls Station. There, they waited another two hours for a double-decker bus that would take them to their final destination.

Public Transportation Shortcomings

The events of Sunday clearly portray a number of inadequacies. The quasi-public corporation, of course, cannot control when trucks fall on the tracks. However, they could have easily communicated better with the police in order to prevent the accident in the first place. Doing so would have saved the many passengers a lot of time, and in some cases, money. As a result, several resorted to calling long-distance Ubers to combat the inefficiency of Amtrak.

This is far from the first time that this specific line has had major issues. Last November, the train halted in Massachusetts, causing a four-hour delay before buses finally arrived and departed. The train also has a track record of arriving late to several key stops.

Just one day prior, Amtrak faced another brutal delay. The Lake Shore Limited line, which runs from Chicago to Boston and New York, arrived an astonishing five hours late to Springfield, MA and later stops.

Amtrak Lake Shore Limited delays

Moreover, the amount of time between the crash and the transportation to Bellows Falls shows a lack of organization. In the end, three local school buses reported to the site of the crash. By the time they reached Bellows Falls Station, three and a half hours had passed since the crash.

Bellows Falls Station is roughly 23 miles north of nearby Brattleboro Station. The Amtrak train left there at 5:00. In the time it took to transport the passengers by train to Bellows Falls, around four hours, an average marathon runner could have made the trip. Presumably, the five-hour delays on the Lake Shore Limited line involved similar speeds, for a duration.

Mass transit exists to reduce the time between points A and B; the fact that Amtrak operated at less than a runner’s average speed is a stain on not only the company but what it claims to represent.


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What Mining Companies Can Learn From the Brumadinho Disaster in Brazil

Ralph Tiberius Augustus | Brazil

On the afternoon of January 25th, one of Vale’s tailing dams located in Brazil, Brumadinho, which was used to store remains of minerals extracted, burst. Consequently, an entire mining operation and a small town were almost entirely wiped from the map. The company responsible, Vale S.A is a Brazilian multinational corporation that conducts metal refinement and mineral extraction operations. It’s one of the largest companies in the logistics sector in Brazil. The Brumadinho disaster could’ve been avoided if the tailing dams were subject to regular inspection and proper maintenance. The worst of all is that this isn’t the first time Brazilian citizens have to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous, dishonest greedy entrepreneurs who put their profits over the wellbeing of their employers.   

In 2015, Samarco, another big player in the mining extraction business, had one of their tailing dams burst in the town of Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The burst occurred due to lack of regulations. Greedy mining Corporations fail to provide better safety measures and maintain their equipment properly. In the end, those involved in the mining operations and the population of a town close to it paid a big price for their negligence.  

Samarco’s tailing dam burst in Mariana, Brazil 2015 

Vale’s tailing dam burst in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil 01/25/2019 

Tailing Dams

Every mining operation produces several kinds of wastes no matter what type of mineral they are extracting. This is where tailing dams come in hand. Unlike a normal dam, which is only used to store water temporarily, tailing dams are normally used to store byproducts of a mining operation after their extraction.  

As a consequence, this makes a tailing dam much more dangerous in case it breaks. Unlike a normal dam, which will flood only nontoxic liquids if it breaks, a tailing dam can flood liquid, solid materials or a slurry of fine particles into the environment. And since these materials are usually toxic waste, they can be very harmful to the environment. Not only they can make the soil infertile but they can also be a fatal health risk to those who come into contact.

Who do we hold Responsible?

The government and the company’s department of engineering are also to blame for the Brumadinho disaster. Had they made more frequent inspections and better maintenance of the tailing this entire disaster could’ve been avoided. This burst tailing dam was built with a method that has already been banned from other Latin American countries such as Chile and Peru for safety reasons. 

Arrests

Several members of the mining company, are currently under arrest. From engineers who were responsible to maintain the tailing dam to top Vale executives. As of now, Brazilian law enforcement issued a total of five arrests warrants and seven search warrants. They suspect that the company failed to uphold proper safety measures and masked it by falsifying documents about the current state of the burst tailing dam and its environment. 

Aftermath

As of now, some of the search and recovery efforts made by are beginning to slow down due to the belief that most of the victims are already dead by now. The death toll will be around 200. Thus, making their Brumadinho disaster one of the worst human disasters in the history of Brazil. 

After all those tragic occurrences Vale’s Chief executive Fabio Schvartsman, has stated to the press that after carefully reviewing the Brumadinho disaster and the company’s future projects, Vale’s executive board has decided to shut down all of their remaining tailing dams and freeze 10 mining operations scattered in Brazil. They plan on implementing safer means of storing mineral wastes and slowly decommissioning their dams. 

Impact on the company’s budget

According to financial experts at Vale. This massive shutdown of operations will make the corporation halt the production of 40 million tons of iron ore. This translates to a big financial loss in exportations to the company, especially to the Chinese market.  

Things don’t look any brighter for the company’s future. Shareholders and families of victims of the Brumadinho disaster are suing the company. It will be a long time until the company can recover from this.

Hopefully, both the Brazilian government and mining companies will take precautions to avoid future catastrophic accidents such as this one. This mistake costed several lives and almost an entire town and its environment wiped from the map. I wonder if Vale S.A will remain the largest iron ore and nickel producer in the world. Nevertheless, humans’ lives should never be at stake for more profit by greedy entrepreneurs. 


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