Tag: world news

Life on Mars? Scientists Examine Mushrooms and Methane

Ryan Lau | @RyanLau71R

For decades, the idea of life on Mars has had its place in pop culture. With many references in The Twilight Zone and Doctor Who and a David Bowie song named such, the people of Earth have a clear fascination with what may reside above. Until now, much of this has been in the context of pure fiction. But this week, scientists are closely analyzing two key happenings that may prove the existence of life on the Red Planet.

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What Mining Companies Can Learn From the Brumadinho Disaster in Brazil

Rafael Augusto B.L. de Oliveira | 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. 


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. 


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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Paul, Lee Only Senators to Vote Against U.S. Support of NATO

By Kenneth Casey | United States

At around 7:00 EST on Tuesday, the Senate voted on a motion that supports continuing U.S. support and funds to NATO by an overwhelming majority of 97-2, with the only two dissents being libertarian-leaning Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee. With all the buzz and craziness going on about Donald Trump’s recent nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the vote of the two Senators flew under the radar.

This vote comes about 6 hours after President Trump criticized fellow participating countries in NATO for not paying their expected expenses to the treaty whilst relying on the U.S. for expected funding and defense.

Trump’s rhetoric on NATO goes back to when he was running for president. He was often criticizing our involvement in NATO and was one of the only Republican candidates calling for decreased spending within the treaty.

Rand Paul, who as mentioned prior was one of two Senators to vote against the motion, seemed to agree with President Trump on the issue of America’s involvement in NATO. He tweeted out the following:

Paul’s opposition to the expansion of NATO is unsurprising, as the libertarian senator has long expressed disapproval for our involvement in the treaty. Back in March of 2017, Rand objected to the adding membership of Montenegro to the treaty, which promptly led to Senator John McCain of Arizona accusing Rand of “working for Vladimir Putin”. The Senate ended up confirming support of Montenegro’s addition to NATO, with only two Senators objecting: Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Mike Lee commented on the addition of Montenegro to NATO:

“Of course, treaties and alliances with other countries can be beneficial, but the founders of this country understood their seriousness as well as going to war. That is why both of these powers-the power to make and ratify treaties and the power to declare and execute a war- are shared by the legislative and executive branches, and treaty ratification must be achieved by a supermajority in the Senate.”

-Senator Mike Lee of Utah

Unfortunately for libertarians who want the United States’ involvement in NATO to decrease, for both the purpose of cutting foreign aid and being involved in fewer entanglements overseas, Rand Paul and Mike Lee alone don’t have a ton of power in the Senate. 98 other Senators sharing opposing views which favor U.S. alliances and involvement abroad, so the only way for this to change is by electing more libertarian-leaning Senators.

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An Unprecedented Peace Summit With High Ratings. Now What?

By Craig Axford | United States

To give you some idea just how much of a priority the Korean Peninsula really is to the Trump administration, it just got around to nominating an ambassador to South Korea on May 23rd, about three weeks before Trump’s unprecedented peace summit with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore. In fact, as of May 25th only 84 of the 188 career and political ambassadorship positions the president is empowered to fill had either ambassadors or nominees according to the American Foreign Service Association.

While talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will undoubtedly help to thaw tensions for a time, peace takes more than a handshake. Frankly, neither North Korea’s leader or President Trump is all that interested in true peace. They were meeting in Southeast Asia for a photo op each desperately wanted for their respective domestic audiences and little more.

As President Obama could have told Trump, and perhaps even did but he just wasn’t listening, negotiating a nuclear deal involves years of planning and effort. This president doesn’t do that. His neglect of the State Department leaves him with a less than adequate team to work out such details. Meanwhile, John Bolton, the president’s National Security Advisor and a well-known hawk, is standing in the wings looking for the first opportunity to blow the whole effort up should it start getting off the ground.

It doesn’t take a psychic to predict what the future is likely to look like here. Trump will come home thumping his chest having “accomplished what no president has before,” a meeting with a North Korean leader. He’ll never mention and his base won’t care that the reason such a meeting has never taken place is past presidents wanted the North Koreans to change at least a few facts on the ground in exchange for such a meeting.

Trump was willing to give the North Koreans an unconditional meeting so he could have his place in history. The foreign policy implications of the meeting never even entered his mind. We should be expecting a tweet regarding the ratings for the peace summit at any moment.

Having provided the world’s worst regime a greater measure of legitimacy and achieved his place in history books, tensions should remain low for a while. Neither government has any real incentive to invest much political capital in working out anything like complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID). The statement coming out of this meeting is certainly a far cry from that.

But even if CVID did get worked out, there remains the problem of the tens of thousands of long-range artillery sitting just north of the DMZ aimed at Seoul. True peace would require their removal as well. Both the media and the public ought to know better than to think any of this could have been worked out in a 35 minute face-to-face meeting between two leaders with a reputation for bluster.

Everyone agrees that the worst possible outcome here is conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Such an eventuality would be very unlikely to remain isolated to the two Koreas and could very quickly escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. Should such an event occur, Donald Trump’s name will replace Neville Chamberlain’s as our best example of an appeaser.

But Neville Chamberlain’s primary sin was naivete. He, at least, was motivated by a desire for peace even if he should have known a man like Hitler wasn’t really all that interested. Trump is inexperienced to be sure, but it’s narcissism that’s his Achilles heel. If diplomacy mattered at all to him he would have appointed someone other than Rex Tillerson to be his first secretary of state, or at least would have instructed him to make filling key positions in the State Department a top priority.

The best we can hope for now is a slightly more tolerant status quo than we witnessed during the first few months of Trump’s tumultuous presidency. Fortunately, that’s also far more likely than war. The North Koreans will still have their guns pointed squarely at downtown Seoul and will still have at least as many nukes as they have now on inauguration day in January 2021.

Even before the handshake, Trump’s ad hoc foreign policy had led Russia and China to ease the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, and that will probably continue without much opposition from Washington unless Trump sees some political advantage to making an issue out of it. In other words, the Singapore summit was just another episode in Trump’s reality TV presidency.

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The Case for Complete Global Free Trade

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

The debate over free trade gone on for centuries. It began in the 1700’s when world-renowned economist Adam Smith published his prolific work, Wealth of Nations. Many question whether everyone truly benefits from ‘free trade’ or whether it is better for individuals, groups, single or several nations, or the world as a whole. Of course, though there are possible issues in the argument, there is a clear economic case for free trade, despite possible losers in a free market.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, free trade is the “buying and selling of goods, without limits on the amount of goods that one country can sell to another, and without special taxes on the goods bought from a foreign country.” Free trade can also occur within a country, and this is generally known as laissez-faire. Simply put, ‘free trade’ and ‘laissez-faire’ are the free and voluntary exchanges of goods and services. There are few examples of this existing in the world for the general public, but that does not mean it is not possible. However, many still use the wording in the hope that we may move in that direction

The general standard case for ‘free trade’ held by most economists is that everyone benefits from free trade as it increases the standard of living for all. It is also stated that ‘free trade’ is good for a nation, but maybe not for every individual as there may be some losers as trade is freed. Likewise, some nations will benefit greater than others in acts of ‘free trade’. This consensus is held as an institutional norm in the economics field.

According to Dr. Robert Driskill, a professor of economics at Vanderbilt University, there are three possible problems with the economist’s basic assertion of ‘free trade’ benefiting everyone.

The first issue he provides is that the idea that every member of a nation that participates in ‘free trade’ cannot possibly benefit in that many can and do lose their jobs or money. He claims that economists rely solely on the statement that everyone in a nation benefits, yet they do not provide the evidence for such an assertion.

His second point is that economists tend to assert that when ‘free trade’ is conducted by two nations, no one in those nations is hurt but some are actually bettered because of it. When no one is hurt by ‘free trade,’ and someone actually gains, this is known as a Pareto equilibrium, primarily preached in the field of macroeconomics. Pareto improvements are continually made until equilibrium can be achieved. Conversely and realistically, he stresses that there can be and often are losers found among the trading nations, but he proposes that economists believe it is better to turn a blind eye towards the losers because it is assumed the losers will benefit from the winners either as being directly paid by the winners or benefiting from working with the winners.

The third point Driskill makes is that the general argument in favor of ‘free trade’ made by economists often suggests that the losers in ‘free trade’ are often politically organized better than the winners due to their frustrations for losses and passion to regain their losses. This assumes that the losers will be given recompense from either the winners directly or through government coercion of the winners (11). Overall, these add to the idea that economists have an area within their field in which they are no longer thinking critically (12). For Driskill, this is a major concern.

Of course, Driskill is correct in that there have been losers in everything even close to ‘free trade.’ There have been losers in all realms of trade, especially so under anything closer to a socialistic or communistic economy. The very nature of mankind produces winners and losers whether it is of an individual’s own volition, the loss to competition, limited resources, subjugation by others, disease, laziness, others working harder, newer technology, lower costs, better quality, popularity, customer experience, location, etc. The list goes on and on that explains the various possibilities of winners and losers in the marketplace.

Historically speaking, an example of losers in the market of ‘free trade’ would be the automotive industry in the US which had experienced losers when trade with Japan had increased and US auto workers began losing their jobs. Another example is in textiles, when the US began more ‘free trade’ with the Asian market allowing for lower cost labor and products, driving out the US factories and creating losers in the deal. However, Driskill does not address many of these concerns directly, his supposed primary purpose is to better the arguments in support of ‘free trade’ (4).

When policymakers and politicians use the wording in support of ‘free trade,’ they tend to use the justification that it is “for the good of the nation.” From a macroeconomics perspective, Driskill is correct to point out that such a justification turns its face from the actual losers in such a policy (6). Where Driskill is not accurate is that he seems to think of the economy as groups of people acting in ‘free trade,’ when in fact all human action is conducted by the individual. The moral justification of ‘free trade’ is that only individuals can act morally, to suggest that groups are to act “morally” fallaciously anthropomorphizes the collective.

Sure, people do collectively come together to act, but it is only at the credit and discretion of every individual within that collective is a group made. When group decisions are made, it is only the decision of each of the individuals within that group and their acceptance of that group’s standards and practices that actions are taken. Without the support of those within the group, the group does not exist or have authority. Equally, within a marketplace of ‘free trade,’ where it is the free and voluntary action of two parties, trades will only be made if they mutually benefit.

Through the subjectivity of the individual, if one were to buy an apple, for instance, the sacrificial price must be worth the apple’s purchase or it will not be made. If one is a seller, the amount received must be worth the loss of the apple. Throughout this trade, no other individual has any say as to the exchange, unless the apple or money was stolen from someone else. This, in essence, is ‘free trade.’ For the other people who were also on the market to sell apples, it was the decision of the individual purchasing as to which seller from which she would buy.

The “loss” the other sellers accrued through this decision making process is the price of business and the sacrifice we accept in the market place as opposed to reverting back to a state of nature or autarky. The potential gains for the individual in a marketplace conducting ‘free trade’ is greater than the risks of losses involved; the actual gains for the vast majority of people is equally greater than the risks involved in ‘free trade.’

The initiation of going into the marketplace was a purchase of its own. The amount it took to be able to sell was worth the losses the individuals would incur, or they would not have gone into the marketplace of ‘free trade.’ If they did and they were not successful in that venture, they would likely leave that business venture behind to work for others who are successful.

Seemingly, this is the self-correction and improvement that happens naturally in the market as a means to better each individual as they act, even if that betterment means to decide not to trade with certain people making losers through that process. An actual moral issue is when a market is forced or coerced to trade in certain ways outside of the free and voluntary actions of individuals through protectionism. Viz., any losses an individual or company have because of being in trade, is not a moral issue at all. It is often the case that governments, especially within the US and Europe, that the idea of ‘protectionism’ is sold to the people with the sacrificed payment of ‘Liberty.’ The returns are often negligible.

When protectionism and cronyism control markets, and a government reneges on that agreement making losers in the market, this is not a moral issue in that again governments cannot act morally, and the wrong was the initial phase of creating favoritism and conducting in acts of cronyism. The place of the US government, and the contract of the US Constitution, was to act as protector of Life, Liberty, and Property, not to decide the arbitrary place of the market saving particular people, groups, or industries from becoming marketplace losers. When politicians do vote to protect these various entities in the marketplace of ‘free trade,’ it is both no longer ‘free’ and surely the immoral act of that individual voting to decide who the winners and losers should be on the dollar of other tax payers while falsely propagating the market.

If there were a transition to a more general or true ‘free market,’ there would be a plethora of industries that would have losses and losers throughout the global economy, especially within the US. This would be far superior to what we currently have in the US, in that losses could be seen and dealt with by actual measurements of ‘free trade’ and market adjustments. It is through losses that individuals are able to correct their behavior for the better, and to restrict the market from truthfully correcting itself, creates a false front of success that can come toppling at any point, making more losers than winners in the long run.

When a market is able to correct itself, smaller pockets of justifiable losers are still created rather than vast numbers of giant conglomerates and industries. The world is not perfect, there will always be losers in trade, whether free or not. At least allow individuals to act morally and conduct ‘free trade,’ and there will surely be more winners in the long run.

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