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Court temporarily blocks Trump order banning TikTok from US app stores

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TikTok has been granted a last-minute reprieve from Donald Trump’s executive order banning the service from US app stores, after a judge in Washington DC temporarily blocked the ban from taking effect on Sunday evening.

The order, which was due to take effect at one minute to midnight, was the first step towards banning TikTok entirely within the US. It would have required Apple and Google to remove the service from their respective app stores, preventing new users from downloading it, but would not have stopped existing TikTokers from continuing to access the app on their own devices.

Instead, the US district judge Carl Nichols granted a preliminary injunction sought by TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, to allow the app to remain available in US app stores.

Nichols declined “at this time” to block a second set of restrictions requested by the US Department of Commerce, due to take effect on 12 November, which will bar any American company from providing services to TikTok. That order would have make the app impossible to use in the US, TikTok has said, effectively banning it entirely.

The Commerce Department said in a statement that it would “comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so”. The statement, which defended the legality of the TikTok order and Trump’s executive order demanding ByteDance divest its TikTok US operations within 90 days, did not say whether the government intended to appeal.

TikTok said it was pleased with the injunction and it would “maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the president gave his preliminary approval to last week, into an agreement.”

The company’s lawyer John Hall had said a ban would be “punitive” and would close off a public forum used by tens of millions of Americans.

In a written brief filed before the hearing, TikTok lawyers said the ban was “arbitrary and capricious” and “would undermine data security” by blocking updates and fixes to the app.

The company also said the ban was unnecessary because negotiations were already under way to restructure the ownership of TikTok to address national security issues raised by the administration.

Hours before the DC court ruled in TikTok’s favour, a judge in Pennsylvania rejected a separate legal move by three TikTok influencers seeking their own stay on the ban. Doug Marland, Cosette Rinab, and Alec Chambers, who have almost 7 million followers on the app between them, argued in court that access to the app was critical to their livelihood.

If TikTok were to be blocked from US app stores, the three said, they would “lose access to tens of thousands of potential viewers and creators every month, an effect amplified by the looming threat to close TikTok altogether”. But the judge Wendy Beetlestone denied their request to stay the order, agreeing that such a ban would be an “inconvenience” for them, but noting that they had failed to demonstrate the irreparable harm that would be required for a court victory.

One hundred million Americans use TikTok at least once a month, the company says, and half of those use it every day. Globally, the app has been downloaded about 2bn times, placing it in the same tier as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. But unlike those services, TikTok’s parent company is not listed on the US stock market. ByteDance is a privately held company, legally incorporated in the Cayman Islands and headquartered in Beijing.

Government lawyers argued that the president had a right to take national security actions, and said the ban was needed because of TikTok’s links to the Chinese government through ByteDance. A government brief called ByteDance a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese Communist party and said it was “committed to promoting the CCP’s agenda and messaging”.

ByteDance said on 20 September that it had struck a preliminary deal for Walmart and Oracle to take stakes in a new company, TikTok Global, that would oversee US operations, after Trump said he had given the deal his blessing. Negotiations continue over the terms of the agreement and to resolve concerns from Washington and Beijing.

The deal is still to be reviewed by the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

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American Missionary Kidnapped in Southern Niger

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Niger– On October 27, a missionary named Phillip Walton, was at his home in the town of Birnin Konni, near the border with Nigeria. He was there with his family, when gunmen entered his home early that morning. According to a report done by the Daily Mail, the gunmen demanded money. They tied up the family and threatened Phillip. They searched the home, but were only able to find about 35 dollars’ worth of Central African Francs. The gunmen then took Phillip. His family was left tied up and unhurt according to the report.

The police did not find out about the attack until about four hours later because the family had been detained. It is believed that the gunmen took Philip across the border into Northern Nigeria. They are now demanding a ransom for the return of Philip.

These types of kidnapping for ransom have become big business in Nigeria and throughout West Africa. Foreigners and locals alike are taken and ransomed back to family and friends for thousands of dollars. Other missionaries have been kidnapped from Niger in recent months as well. Jeffrey Woodke and Father Pier Luigi Maccalli are two of the more recent victims. Macalli spent more than two years in captivity before being released earlier this month.
Sources:persecution

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North Korean Christians Brutally Tortured for Their Faith

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North Korea– It is no secret that North Korean Christians are facing one of the harshest regimes when it comes to Christian persecution. A recent report by the London-based Korea Future Initiative (KFI) further confirms the atrocities done to North Korean Christians once arrested.

KFI conducted 117 interviews with survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators, all of those who escaped North Korea, on their experience of religious persecution, dating from 1990 until 2019. More than 200 Christians were identified as victims, their age ranging from 3 years old to 80 years old.

One story shows how a man who converted to Christianity claimed to have been imprisoned into a metal cage measuring only 3ft by 4ft wide with bars ‘heated with electricity’. While prisoners typically only survived three or four hours in the cage, his prayers helped him endure 12 before he eventually soiled himself and passed out. But even unconscious, the guards continued to beat him after he was removed from the cage, leaving him severely injured.

Women, especially pregnant women, witnessed horror daily, as pregnant women were injected with medicine to trigger labor. After giving birth to live babies, the newborns would be taken from them, smothered by guards using plastic sheets or cloth sacks and then discarded in a cleaning cupboard.

Only for possessing a Bible, prisoners who were tied to a wooden stake were shot by a five-person firing squad, recalled some interviewees. A Korean Workers’ Party member was arrested for owning a Bible and executed at Hyesan airfield in front of 3000 residents. Others were executed for smuggling Bible pages into the country from China for North Koreans to make prayer books.

Before the Kim regime began in 1948, Christianity once flourished in North Korea. However, over the next decades, the Kim dynasty made the country’s official religion the cult of Kim Il Sung. The country’s supreme leaders are seen as God(s) and all must worship them or they face deadly consequences. North Korea then became known as the harshest country in the world in which to live as a Christian.
Sources:persecution

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