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Hurricane Ida devastated Louisiana, leaving most without electricity

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Hurricane Ida knocked out all eight transmission lines that deliver power to New Orleans, leaving the entire city without electricity as the powerful storm pushed through on Sunday and early Monday with winds that reached 150 miles per hour. Some of the hardest-hit areas won’t see power restored for weeks. A look at what that means for the coastal city and its residents and businesses.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The hurricane blew ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the 2005 storm that breached New Orleans’ levees, devastated the city and was blamed for 1,800 deaths. The office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Ida caused “catastrophic” damage to the power grid, forcing hospitals, businesses and private residents to rely on generators or go without refrigeration or air conditioning even as temperatures soar to close to 90 degrees. Ida was one of the strongest storms to make landfall in Louisiana and retained hurricane status nearly to Mississippi.

Officials in New Orleans and surrounding areas were encouraging people who evacuated ahead of the storm to stay away in the immediate aftermath, because it remains unsafe to return amid downed power lines, flooded homes, snapped trees and other destruction.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET POWER BACK?

The power company that serves the region said it could be weeks before some hard-hit areas see power restored. The power company, New Orleans-based Entergy, says it is working to provide backup power for water and sewer services, and the city says it is using its own generators at drainage pumping stations, but it’s not clear how long those efforts can sustain.

More than 11,000 Entergy workers, supplemented by 25,000 workers from at least 32 states and the District of Columbia, were working to restore power. As officials begin to assess damage, power will restored in a way that gets service to the greatest number of customers as safely and quickly as possible, Entergy said.

But the company faces a massive challenge. As of early Monday, 216 substations, 207 transmission lines and more than 2,000 miles of transmission lines were out of service, the company said. One transmission tower that spans the Mississippi River and had withstood Hurricane Katrina was felled during Ida, Entergy said.

Road closures, flooding and high winds were affecting crews’ ability to reach some areas and could delay power restoration in those communities. Entergy said.

“Transmission lines are very fragile in New Orleans,″ said Logan Atkinson Burke, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, an advocacy group. The group said in a 2019 report that Entergy’s aging transmission and distribution lines, complicated by the coastal region’s lakes and wetlands, result in an unusual number of outages — even without extreme weather.

ECHOES OF HURRICANES PAST

Ida came ashore 16 years after Katrina and a year after Hurricane Laura wrecked southwest Louisiana, leaving Lake Charles and other communities without power for weeks. Even as Ida was bearing down on New Orleans, marks of Laura’s devastation remained evident in blue-tarped roofs, damaged homes and boarded-up businesses that still dot the region.

Laura, which then was the most powerful storm to impact Louisiana since before the Civil War, struck the southwestern parishes on Aug. 27, 2020, as a fierce Category 4 storm. Less than two months later, Hurricane Delta swept into the same area as a Category 2. Historic flooding followed in May.

“These are lessons we have to learn over and over again,″ said Shelley Welton, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies climate change and energy law. Whether it’s a deadly freeze in Texas, a wildfire in California or a hurricane in Louisiana, “the connective thread is we need to build infrastructure to better withstand stronger storms that we know are coming″ as a consequence of climate change, she said.

‘CASCADING FAILURES’

Just as the deep-freeze in Texas caused extensive suffering and death from cold, Ida will likely cause extreme suffering from excessive heat, Welton and others said. The storm also was affecting water and sewer service, cell-phone service and even 911 service in what Welton called “cascading failures.″

In New Orleans, water and sewer officials said they lost all Entergy power, but teams were working quickly to make up for this with self-generated power sources, as well as backup generators located at drainage pumping stations.

Still, problems were being reported. The New Orleans suburb of Jefferson Parish was estimating it could take at least five days to restore the water system there.

With widespread cell service outages, many people were frantically trying to reach friends and relatives and were unsuccessful. Just because you can’t get reach a loved one by phone, “that does not necessarily mean that they are not OK,” said Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Edwards. “We know that much of this is a communications problem.”

AT&T said Monday its wireless network in Louisiana was operating at 85% of normal, describing “significant outages” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge from power supply disruptions, flooding and storm damages. A mobile tower was sent to the governor’s emergency preparedness office to help get their phones up and running again.

WILL CONGRESS STEP IN?

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said the catastrophe is the latest example of why his state – and the nation – need a nearly trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that was already passed by the Senate earlier this month. “New Orleans is now a case in point” of the need to harden the nation’s infrastructure and improve resiliency, the Republican told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday.

“If we’re going to make our country more resilient to natural disasters, whatever they are, we have to start preparing now,″ Cassidy said. “We can’t look in the rearview mirror and say, ‘Well I wish we were prepared.’ We’ve got to start now for next year’s hurricane, next year’s wildfire, next year’s tornado. That infrastructure package is part of that.″

The bill provides about $50 billion to protect against droughts and floods and weatherize utilities and other infrastructure. It also includes about $60 billion to upgrade the electric grid and build thousands of miles of transmission lines to expand use of renewable energy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House will vote on the bipartisan measure next month.

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Taliban are carrying out mass executions, says Christian missionary helping Afghans

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Less than a month after the U.S. troops withdrew troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have started arresting, and in some instances executing, people they perceive as their enemies. Recent photos and video suggest they’re killing as many as 30 to 40 at a time, Christian missionary David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces and Ranger officer, said in a media interview.

The way the United States pulled out is “dishonorable, and a horrible breaking of promises … and leaving thousands of people behind that we promised we’d take out with us including American citizens,” Eubank, who is from Free Burma Rangers and provides humanitarian services in war-torn areas, told CBN News.

In some instances, the pull-out has been “cowardly,” he continued, speaking from Tajikistan, which neighbors Afghanistan and where many Afghans are arriving after fleeing the Taliban.

“Taliban are hunting down people right now, trying to get all the names of anyone they perceive as an enemy,” Eubank said, adding that the enemies include “people who work with the U.S. government, people who are with other governments, people who work with non-governmental organizations they don’t agree with.”

Eubank, who is in Tajikistan to help Afghans, also said that “many have been executed. … I’ve seen recent photos of 30 to 40 people [being executed].”

Eubank clarified that he doesn’t know the scale of the killings or the arrests, “but I believe it’s countrywide now.”

The Taliban are allowing American citizens who have identity cards to escape, he continued, adding that “anyone who doesn’t have papers, anyone they perceive as an enemy, they are going to arrest them, and, in many cases, execute them.”

The people in Afghanistan “are in terror,” Eubank added.

According to its website, Free Burma Rangers have helped 1.5 million displaced persons to date who would have otherwise died.

In an interview with The Christian Post last year, Eubank shared: “I am motivated by what Jesus does for me and want to share His love and encourage people to follow Him. We are not to be led by comfort, fear or pride, but go in the love God gives us. We go into areas of direct combat to save lives and share love.”

Following the drawing down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly seized control of much of the country, taking the capital Kabul last month and forcing the government to flee.

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern warned last week that as the Taliban is cracking down on protests and journalists, concerns are also being raised among religious minorities of increased oppression and persecution because the Taliban have promised strict enforcement of Sharia law.

Almost all Afghan Christians — estimated to be between 8,000 and 12,000 — are converts from Islam and remain largely closeted and hidden from the public eye due to severe persecution.

“Their status as converts makes Afghan Christians direct targets for persecution by both extremist groups and society in general,” ICC reports. “In Afghanistan, leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered.”
Sources:Christian Post

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ICC report on religious persecution of Christians in China over the past year

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International Christian Concern (ICC) has just published a new report on persecution in China. In it, ICC lists and analyzes over 100 incidents of Christian persecution between July 2020 and June 2021, a period marked by a significant campaign by the Chinese government to forcefully convert independent religious organizations into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This forceful assimilation—also called Sinicization—has continued to intensify since it was introduced as part of the Four Requirements campaign launched in 2018. Since then, the government has only increased its attempts to use the Church for political purposes. It has gone as far as converting church buildings into propaganda centers and even regulating the content of sermons in order to promote communist party values.

Three-Self churches are part of the legal framework the CCP uses to systemically curb Christianity, including Catholicism. If a church is not registered as a state-sanctioned church, it is violating the law and the CCP can step in at any time to shut it down, prosecute individuals, and put enormous social pressure on attendees. As described in last year’s report, registered churches are at the mercy of laws that were passed entirely in contradiction to the constitution and enforced by multiple departments, bureaus, and agencies using them to suppress house church activity.

A significant trend throughout the past year was church raids. In them, not only were churches shut down or demolished, but pastors and church attendees were often arrested. One example of a church raid was in September 2020, in Sichuan province, when China’s Public Security Bureau of Nanbu deployed over 30 police officers to raid an underground Protestant house church, known as Sola Fide. When police arrived on the scene, they arrested 50 Sola Fide members. Throughout this process, the police tore down crosses and other Christian symbols and destroyed hymnals and Bibles.

With the intensified crackdown against churches, both state-vetted and underground, there is no longer a safe place to be a Christian in China. Almost every province in China has seen an increase in Christian persecution over the last year.

The Religious Affairs Bureau and the CCP have a single goal: to prevent religious influence from threatening their communist control.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “China tightening down on people of faith comes as no surprise to observers. What is concerning is the depth and width of persecution and that it continues to expand. From Xinjiang to Sichuan, from state-sanctioned groups to underground churches, from verbal threats to imprisonment, believers in China are constantly watched and persecuted, as documented in ICC’s latest incident report. The international community should not appease Beijing and let it get away with its blatant disregard for human rights.”

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