Tag: rachel smith

Iran Protests

Social unrest in Iran has led to the largest public movement since 2009. Protests began the night of January 4th, and have amassed in response to the rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Iranian economy is sputtering, its government is filled to the brim with corruption, and supplies such as food and gasoline are running low. Many Iranian citizens expected life to get better after 2015, when Iran made a deal with the P5+1 (the US, the UK, Russia, China, and France- the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council). The deal involved the shutdown of Iran’s nuclear program and was supposed to lift severe sanctions on the country. However, many promised changes never came to fruition, and new sanctions have since been made.

Trump Iran


Despite the lack of economic development that was expected to come out of the deal, it is not the only cause for the protests. Iran has faced intense economic and political strife for years; citizens view the government as highly corrupt, and clamor for the end of inequality and the beginning of social justice for minorities such as women. Many of the protesters are young Iranians focused less on politics and more on social changes, such as unemployment and inequality.

According to CNN News, the protests in Iran have resulted in 21 deaths and 450 arrests– and the people have been in the streets for barely a week. The last major protest in Iran, the Green Movement in 2009, lasted for months. Remnants of the Green Movement still linger for many Iranians who hope for social, political, and economic change. Yet over 3,000 protesters have been detained, the Iranian government is filtering social media to prevent Iranians from gathering information on other parts of the world, and the situation is looking bleak despite support from many countries, like the US. The struggle for social justice in Iran will continue to be fought by these brave protesters.

By Rachel Smith



Slavery in Libya

This week, CNN released a video containing footage of sub-Saharan migrants being sold at auction in Libya. Libya is a transit country for tens of thousands of migrants who are fleeing their home countries due to economic or political conflict. Most try to make their way to Europe in search of better opportunities, selling everything they own to finance the journey across the Mediterranean. Recently, however, the Libyan coast guard has been more strictly reinforcing their boundaries. This means that fewer ships are making it out to sea. As a result, smugglers are finding themselves with vast amounts of human lives and nowhere to send them. That has led to smugglers becoming auctioneers, and the refugees their slaves.

The slave trade in Libya is not new. In many seemingly ordinary towns throughout the country, migrants wait in solemn lines to be sold into their fates. Most are being auctioned off as farm workers, going for the US equivalent of around $400. While waiting to be deported, many migrants are kept in detention centers. One interview from CNN recounts the horrors that some migrants face. One detained migrant named Victory explained that he had fled his home state of Edo, in Nigeria, to flee “rampant corruption” at home. He spent all of his life savings trying to reach Europe. Victory made it to Libya, and was held there like many other migrants; sadly, they are held in abject living conditions, deprived of food and abused by their captors. Even after being sold as a day laborer multiple times, he could not raise the funds to free himself from debt. This is only one story out of hundreds of migrants and refugees that have been held in the Libyan slave trade.

According to the Alpha Conde, the chairman of the African Union, they will “use all of the tools at their disposal” to look into the situation. The evidence filmed by CNN has been handed over to Libyan authorities. CNN reports that, as of Friday, December 1, Libya has launched an investigation into the slave trade.

By Rachel Smith

Sources: BBC, CNN

Photo provided by AFP/Getty Images

Las Vegas Massacre


On the night of Sunday, October 1st, Las Vegas fell victim to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. A man since identified as Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concert attendees at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing at least 59 people and injuring at least 527 others. People suffered from gunshot wounds and stampede injuries as 22,000 attempted to flee from the shooter.

Stephen Paddock was a 64-year-old man with no criminal record besides a routine citation from several years ago. According to his family, Paddock was “not a normal guy,” but had indicated nothing about any plans or motives for the shooting. Eric Paddock, Stephen’s brother, said he is “horrified” and “dumbfounded” by what he did. So far, Paddock has not been connected with any terrorist groups, although ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to CBS news. Police believe Paddock acted alone, and have not yet determined his motive.

Paddock was found dead in his hotel room, believed by Las Vegas police to have killed himself before they could reach him. Also in his hotel room were 23 firearms, including a handgun and multiple rifles. In a report from CNN news, authorities announced that thousands of rounds of ammunition and ammonium nitrate, a material used to make explosives, in his car and at his home in Mesquite, Nevada, about 75 miles away from Las Vegas.

Thankfully, many citizens are offering all their help to aid Las Vegas in recovering from this tragedy. Hundreds of Nevadans have lined up to donate blood to U.S. blood banks for those injured in the shooting, waiting in lines as long as 6 hours–and officials in Las Vegas say that no more blood is needed right now. Steve Sisolak, Chair of the Clark County Commission, has set up a GoFundMe page for the families of the victims. As of Monday, October 9th, the page has collected over $10 million in donations for the victims and families affected by the shooting and is still going strong.

By: Rachel Smith

Photo credit to David Becker


Hurricane Irma

Two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma came through the Caribbean and southeastern United States, leaving devastating effects in its wake.

Irma passed along the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with max wind speeds of 185 miles per hour, making it one of the strongest storms on record. It arrived in the Caribbean Islands at a Category 5, the strongest category of hurricane, and devastated thousands of homes.

According to the Weather Channel, Florida has already spent over $250 million on preparations and recovery efforts. Experts estimate that in total, Irma may have caused up to $200 billion in damage to property, buildings, businesses, and vital crops such as orange groves. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has said that 25% of houses in the Keys were completely destroyed, and another 65% were damaged. The numbers are even worse in the Caribbean, which was the first to receive Irma’s effects. Even a week after the hurricane passed through, FEDA and the U.S. Military were still helping people blocked in their homes by debris, and families are starting to run out of food and water due to power outages. In many places, that power has still not been restored.

As of Tuesday the 19th, there were still over 92,000 households in Florida that still did not have power back. There are 68 reported deaths due to Hurricane Irma. 32 of these were in Florida, including 8 residents in a Florida nursing home. Thousands have been left without homes.

Thankfully, not all is gloom and despair. The night of Monday the 11th, celebrities came out in droves for the Hand to Hand telethon, a fundraising event which drew in over $44 million for hurricane relief efforts. The FEDA, U.S. Military, the Dutch Red Cross, President Macron of France, and the British Parliament are all helping the Caribbean islands to recover after the storm by supplying rescue personnel and aid in restoring order to the islands.

By: Rachel Smith


Hurricane Harvey


Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas late Friday, August 25. Initially categorized as a tropical storm, it rapidly grew into a Category 4 hurricane, with wind speeds up to 130 miles an hour.
It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, but is expected to make landfall again. Hurricane Harvey moved across the greater Houston area, a span of 10,000 square miles holding nearly 7 million people. It has left thousands of Texas citizens without homes and forced even more to evacuate. Reports state that over 3,000 people have been rescued so far, 1,000 on Monday the 28th alone. So far, there are 38 confirmed deaths due to the hurricane, and hundreds injured.
Rainfall levels have risen as high as 47 inches, and some areas have reported nearly 8 feet of rain, causing massive floods and overflowing some of the largest reservoirs in Texas.
Thankfully, much is being done to provide aid to citizens in need. The Cajun Navy, a volunteer rescue force that rose to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is now offering the full extent of their services, and the US Coast Guard as well as local police and fire stations have all joined the rescue efforts as well. But even this is not enough to keep the people’s panic down. As homes and roads have started flooding, people are becoming desperate for rescue, going so far as to attempt to steal rescue boats and even taking shots at the people manning them.
In every way, Hurricane Harvey has been a disaster for eastern Texas and its surrounding areas, and the damage it is dealing is still far from over.

By: Rachel Smith

Photo provided by the Global Giving Foundation

North Korean Missile Crisis

In the midst of Trump’s “fire and fury” tweets and ominous imagery of nukes hanging overhead, it can be easy to forget the facts. Over the past few months, North Korea has been launching missile tests, experimenting with combining a long-range missile and a nuclear warhead. On the Fourth of July, North Korea launched a missile called an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM]—a missile with the power to cross the Pacific Ocean and land in Alaska. Earlier this week, North Korea announced that they had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, which means that they can be placed inside missiles such as an ICBM. They have officially stated that they have missiles which are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. While most experts believe that it will still be a year or two before North Korea can produce highly accurate long-range missiles, the threat is now much closer than it had been before.

In response to this situation, Donald Trump has asked for China to “put a heavy move” on North Korea and cut off any economic ties between the countries. Additionally, the United States and South Korea both launched several precision missiles into the South Korean Sea as a show of force against North Korea. President Trump has been very clear that any threats to the United States will not be tolerated. Following reports that North Korea had the potential to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, he tweeted that any threat would be met with “fire and fury unlike any the world has seen before.” After this warning, North Korea revealed that they had plans to launch four missiles at Guam, a tiny US territory in the Pacific Ocean that is home to 7,000 US military personnel. While a diplomatic solution is still the goal, and economic sanctions and diplomacy will be attempted before moving into options regarding military force. As of Tuesday, August 15th, Kim Jong Un has announced that the proposal for launching missiles at Guam has been put on hold. It appears that both the United States and North Korea have backed off—for now. Beginning August 21, the US and South Korea have been participating in joint military drills, although they are insisted to be purely defensive. But for the time being, tensions have lowered and we wait in uneasy silence for someone to make the next move.

By: Rachel Smith