Volkswagen’s Dirty Diesel

by Breanna Racher

Protecting the environment is a high priority for most consumers in the worldwide market today, especially when it comes to purchasing vehicles that they will use daily. For auto companies, there is a constant race to produce the cleanest, most efficient, and most affordable cars in order to succeed. The German car company, Volkswagen, supposedly had succeeded in all of these requirements. However, in 2008, the company released a line of “Clean Diesel” cars; these cars claimed to run on diesel fuel (which has higher fuel efficiency), but release fewer emissions than the standard car at that time. These cars were first introduced into the US market in 2009 and the company received environmental awards for their accomplishments. All appeared to be smooth sailing for the company, until a group of five scientists from West Virginia University conducted a test on three diesel cars, two of which were Volkswagens.

When cars are officially tested for emissions, they go through “laboratory dynamometer testing,” which consists of placing the car onto a treadmill-like machine and measuring the emissions released over a period of time at varying speeds. When the Volkswagen clean diesel cars went through these testings, their emission levels were well above the safe levels. The scientists at West Virginia University also tested the two Volkswagen cars on live road tests. The results they received, however, far exceeded legal limits set by both European and US standards. The scientists tested the cars repeatedly and got the same results each time. After presenting their results to the Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental organizations, and after a year long investigation, an answer to the discrepancies in test results was finally revealed.

It was revealed that Volkswagen used a software commonly called a “defeat device” in order to pass regulation tests without actually meeting the standards. The device allowed the car to hold the emissions in until the steering wheel was turned. Since the vehicles are on a treadmill-style device during lab testing, the cars do not make any turns and Volkswagen was able to cheat their emission amounts. After the company admitted to their crime, they revealed that 11 million cars containing the “defeat devices” were produced and distributed internationally. Volkswagen claimed they would spend $18.2 billion in order to compensate for the emissions and to recall and refit the vehicles involved. In 2017, Volkswagen plead guilty to criminal charges and a US Federal judge ordered the company to also pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine.

This scandal raised awareness about other automobile companies that are thought to be guilty of the same the same fraudulent crime. Because of this scandal, the EPA and other regulators have made efforts to further investigate their tactics and the ways that the testing system was prone to different types of cheating.

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Students Take a Stand

by Emily Pickering

On March 25, Little Rock joined cities across the nation in the March for our Lives. People of every age and from all over the state gathered for this march to protest gun violence, demand gun law reform, and honor the victims of gun violence- specifically the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. The main march took place in Washington D.C. The march itself was very short, just a quick walk to the steps of the Capitol. The protesters marched with signs in hand while chanting “this is what democracy looks like” and “vote them out”, in reference to congressmen and senators who support the NRA.

On the steps of Little Rock’s Capitol, speeches were given by parents, students, and activists. The Little Rock march was organized by Chris Kingsby, who was the first to speak at this event saying, “Today, you have made a vow that not one morenot one more child will lose their life in the classroom.” One parent who spoke, Eve Jorgensen, is the leader of Moms Demand Action, an activist group demanding common sense gun laws. In Jorgensen’s speech she stated “We demand that lawmakers act in our best interest, and not the gun lobbies”.

One of the most powerful speeches was given by Wylie Greer, a senior at Greenbrier High School. He spoke about being one of only three at his school to participate in the school walkout on March 14. Greer’s school allowed him to choose his punishment; either two days of school suspension or two swats from a wooden paddle. All three participants chose the corporal punishment. Greer spoke on the punishment saying “I chose the swats. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret what I did in the slightest. In fact, I plan to walk out again on April 20.”

Some gun rights activists attended the rally to protest- one being Greg Giuffria, a member of the NRA. He believes that “the NRA is not powerful because they bought the politicians, but because the belief of self-defense is such a powerful belief.” He stated that he attended the march to exhibit the opposing side’s beliefs about guns.

This movement has promoted a new voice in many young Americans who feel passionate about this issue.  A group of Mount student gathered at the local march to show their support for gun reform while honoring victims of gun violence.  It is our time as young adults to stand up for this movement and use our voices to spark this change.

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Tragedy in Austin

By Josie Fitz

On March 2, 2018, a bomb went off in Austin, Texas.

To most residents of the town, Austin is a haven of peace. When bombs disguised as packages suddenly began appearing on people’s doorsteps, everyone was petrified. Emma Schmidt, a freshman at St. Andrew’s Academy in Austin, said

“It was really scary because you never knew who was next. I didn’t know anybody who was hurt or killed, but I know of two people whose friends and family were injured and/or killed…it was alarming because Austin used to seem like a really safe and accepting city. It still is, but in that week you had to be careful and it was a good reminder that something can always happen.”

Austin residents were frightened by this very serious threat. Many say that it is the first true terror in their town since the University of Texas tower shooting in 1966. Today’s social climate only fed that fear. The Austin package bombings were random, meaning no one was safe. People were scared to pick up packages on their doorstep, schools were shut down, and GoodWills were bombed. Panic rose quickly and people didn’t know what to do.

Thus raises the question: how does a once calm city like Austin recover from such a tragedy? According to Emma Schmidt, “A lot of people have been supporting each other after the bombings. People have also been more aware because they want Austin to be safe again.” Although the city of Austin was affected by this horrible act of terrorism, it brought them closer together as a community and made them more aware that safety is not guaranteed. The most important thing to do in times like these are to offer support and show love to those around you. Never be afraid to reach out for help, because help is always there when you need it.

A Season of Love and Preparation

By Olivia Parker

Lent is a forty day religious observance that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. The tradition of Lent dates back all the way to the 4th century: people were only allowed to eat one meal a day, and there was a strict diet of no meat or fish.  As Catholics today, we are only called to abstain from meat on Fridays and to make one sacrifice throughout Lent. However, the meaning of Lent still stands the same as we take time to prepare for Jesus.

Ash Wednesday, which takes place on February 14 this year, marks the start of this solemn season of sacrifice. On this day, ashes put on our foreheads in the shape of a cross are made from the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday mass. These ashes are symbolic of our past sins, and remind us of the period of reflection and repenting ahead.  The priest marks these blessed ashes on your forehead saying “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, something that hasn’t happened since 1945. Many see this as a happy coincidence to celebrate their love for others and Jesus. Sadly, you just might have to find a different way to celebrate this Valentine’ Day other than delicious food.

Marching for Equality

By Kelly Hammond

On January 20, only one year after the march in protest of the newly inaugurated Trump, women across America and other countries gathered in their cities to show their continuing disapproval of the president’s policies as well as support the fight for gender equality.  Thousands of people gathered in their local streets once again to display their feelings about the unfair pay gap, lack of women in political offices, and the recent spark of the #Metoo movement.  Protesters wore their famous pink hats from last year’s march as a symbolic message of female empowerment once again.  

The unexpected US government shutdown that fell on the day of the march was put into effect after the political debate concerning legalities of immigrants.  However, this only fueled women’s motivation to fill the streets and use their voices to fight for the rights of immigrants too.  The shutdown stirred up even more emotions from protesters who were already against the recent actions taken by Trump’s administration.

Although a majority of the protesters had differing political views from the Trump administration, including the support of Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice movement,  it is also important to point out the religious diversity that was at this march.  Hundreds of men and women joined the wave of female empowerment on this day with their Feminism and Faith in Unity rally.  People of the Catholic, Episcopalian, Muslim, Unitarian, Lakota Sioux, and Buddhist faiths all gathered to pray for rally participants and the equality of all women.  Lizzie Berne DeGear, a member of the The Women Who Stayed- a religious organization that supports the equality of men and women- said, “Thanks for this opportunity to bring our faith to our feminism, and our feminism to our faith.”

Before the march, a 42-year-old protester named Claudia Grubbs explained,

“I feel like going to the march will help re-center me, refocus me and not make me feel like I don’t know what is happening to our country. I feel like it’ll help me gain a sense of balance and a sense of purpose, and help me pursue things that I want to pursue.”

Like Grubbs, many women used this opportunity to reiterate their goals in this journey towards women’s equality.  While supporting the march in Las Vegas, singer and feminist, Cher, said “This is one of the worst times in our history and that’s why I honestly believe women are going to fix it.”

To check out more about this historic march and see pictures of protesters around the world, visit: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/01/21/protest-movement-women-march-around-globe/1051822001/ & https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/20/us/womens-march.html

Picture by Chris J Ratcliffe, Getty Images: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/01/21/protest-movement-women-march-around-globe/105182200

From Holocaust to Hope

By Emily VanEcko

On Wednesday January 31st students in the AP Human Geography class went on a field trip to the Clinton Library to hear the holocaust survivor, Dr. Irene Butter, speak of her life.

Irene Butter is the daughter of John and Gertrude Hasenberg of Berlin, Germany. Her father was a banker, as was her grandfather. The family practiced Reformed Judaism, but had assimilated into German culture and considered themselves primarily German. Irene had a very happy early childhood throughout her schooling in Berlin and she was very close to her father.

However, Irene and her family were greatly impacted by the German invasion of Holland in May 1940. Ms. Butter was expelled from school and entered a Jewish school for children with all Jewish teachers. Discrimination of Jews had just started to spread across Europe, and they were barred from public places, not allowed on public transportation, restricted to certain hours for store purchases, forced to walk everywhere, and had to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothing. Anticipating what was to follow, Mrs. Butter’s father initiated efforts to obtain a foreign passport or visa from contacts in Sweden.

In a roundup of Jews in June 1943, Mrs. Butter and her family were given ten minutes to pack before they were transported on trucks to a train station before being forced into cattle cars to travel to the transit camp, Westerbork. There they lived in barracks witnessing the weekly departures to Auschwitz. Dr. Butter talked about the horrific conditions she had to endure like malnourishment, disease, and horrible hygiene conditions. While at Westerbork, the documents Mrs. Butter’s father had solicited arrived in the form of Ecuadorian passports or visas; Mrs. Butter isn’t certain which. These documents prevented their deportation to Auschwitz and instead they were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1944. On their way to the new camp they had hope that it would be better and less harsh than their previous one.

At Bergen-Belsen the family stayed together while being housed in special barracks for those with foreign papers. The intent was to exchange individuals held in those barracks for German nationals being held by other countries. Conditions at Bergen-Belsen were unexpectedly worse than the previous camp. Sleeping facilities were wooden bunk beds, three tiers high – two people per bunk. Food was scarce and sanitary conditions were extremely poor. Mrs. Butter’s father was required to do hard manual labor. A brief contact was made with Anne Frank who was in an adjacent section of the camp when she handed off clothes to the girl who only had a blanket to clothe her body.

There was a count to see all the people who were healthy enough to trade for prisoners of war. She and her brother went and got verified for transport during the day. Later that night when her father returned from his daily labor and he was too tired to walk, the children insisted that he get checked by the doctor. So Dr. Butter got dressed and half-carried her father to the doctor’s office where the doctor mistook Irene for her father’s wife. He gave all four the passes they needed for the family to stay together. To this day she does not know if the doctor was trying to help her family stay together, or if he truly did mistake her for her mother.

In January 1945, Mrs. Butter and her family were selected for the exchange of foreign nationals. They took a four-day train ride to Switzerland in which the health of her parents diminished due to the harsh conditions. Mrs. Butter’s father also died and his body was left on a bench at the railroad station of Biberach, Germany. She believes her father died from malnutrition and the effects of internal injuries resulting from beatings received while at Bergen-Belsen. Her mother was still unconscious when he passed.  Upon arrival in Switzerland, the exchange took place and, thereafter, her mother and brother were taken to a hospital. Dr. Butter, who was only 14-years-old at this time, was sent to a DP (Displaced Persons) camp in Algiers, North Africa. There she was able to thrive and regain her emotional and physical strength. This was her first separation from her family and it was incredibly challenging for her.

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Through the assistance of relatives in the United States, Mrs. Butter was able to come to America in December 1945. Her mother and brother followed about a year later. She resumed her schooling and with a scholarship was able to go to a university and then pursue a Ph.D. in economics; she graduated as the only woman in her class.

Today she is living with the memories of her scarring childhood but is also finding ways to create peace. She goes around the country speaking to young children, and has created a organization that works hard to promote peace. She is the co-founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Medal & Lecture series at the University of Michigan, and one of the founders of Zeitouna, an Arab/Jewish Women’s Dialogue group in Ann Arbor.

Her biggest message to future generations is that it is your choice to be an enemy or to not be. Her goal is that children in the upcoming generation will never repeat history but instead learn from the violence of the past.

In Little Rock, at the Clinton Center there is a sapling from the only tree Anne Frank could see from her window. The memorial is there to remind us to choose peace and not repeat history.

 

A Tragedy in Texas

By Emily Pickering


On November 5, a gunman by the name of Devin Patrick Kelly opened fire on a small rural church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 26 people from the ages of 7 to 72 were killed by these gunshots, and 20 additional people were wounded. After another armed man started shooting at Kelly, he retreated and was chased by neighbors into another county. While in this county, he eventually crashed his car and was found dead in his vehicle.

Scott Holcombe’s father, the preacher of the church, was shot and killed as well as his mother. Scott Holcombe spoke after the shooting and said “I’m dumbfounded. This is unimaginable. My father was a good man, and he loved to preach. He had a good heart.” One woman named Sandy Ward, had family members who were also shot at the church, including her daughter-in-law and three of her grandchildren. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, responded to the shooting by saying Texas was asking for God’s comfort, for God’s guidance and for God’s healing for all those who are suffering.”

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs has since been turned into a memorial for all those affected by and killed in the shooting. The associate pastor of the church, Reverend Mark Collins, believes this memorial will help with the healing process that the community needs.

The interior of the building has been painted completely white from floor to ceiling. Inside, there are 26 white chairs for the 26 victims killed, each one placed in the location where the person was shot. On each chair is a single red rose and the name of the victim written in gold cursive. There is also one pink rose which is seated on a chair in honor the unborn child of Crystal Holcombe, Scott Holcombe’s wife, who was two months pregnant when she was shot. There is a recording of some of the victims’ voices reading scripture and praying that plays inside of the memorial. At the front of the church there is a wooden cross and a poster with the scripture that was supposed to be read on the day of the attack. The scripture is Psalm 100 and it reads,  

enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.”

 

 

 

The day the memorial opened, the family members of the victims were allowed into the memorial first where they spent a few moments of silence before the media entered. This was a very emotional experience for them and one women was led out by a chaplain in tears. The pastor of the church, Reverend Frank Pomeroy, said, “I want the world to know that that building will be open so that everyone who walks in there will know that the people who died lived for their Lord and Savior.”  

Click here to see a video of the memorial