"Meeting with President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev" by the Kremlin is licensed under Creative Commons (via Google Images)

In April 1951, 9,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses boarded the Trans-Siberian railway and were sent to the far eastern corner of Russia, where they would effectively disappear. In both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses were accused of being unpatriotic. Adherents to this sect of Christianity don’t vote, don’t attend patriotic statements that glorify violence, and don’t participate in war. In Nazi Germany, they refused to profess “Heil Hitler”, and now under Vladimir Putin, they refuse to join the Russian Orthodox Church or publicly oppose Syrian rebels. On April 20, Russia’s supreme court labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group, putting them on the same level as other militant extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and IS. Russia’s supreme court ordered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian headquarters be closed, as well as their 395 local chapters.

Screen Capture from "Kendall Jenner for PEPSI Commercial" (via Youtube)

On April 4, Pepsi recalled an ad less than 24 hours after its release on account of ridicule for its insensitivity towards social justice movements. In the ad, Kendall Jenner is in a photoshoot when she notices a protest occurring outside. Prompted by a head nod from one of the protesters, she joins the crowd and eventually hands the police officers on duty a Pepsi; outbursts of applause and cheering come from the crowd when the officer accepts the Pepsi.

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"French Flags" by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

On Sunday, French citizens went to the polls and advanced Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to the next stage of their presidential election process, eschewing the traditional, mainstream parties that have long dominated French politics. For the first time in French history since the establishment of the Fifth Republic, neither a candidate from an established center left party nor the primary center right party advanced to the final round of the election. It is only the third time a candidate not representing one of those parties has made it to the second round.

The French public’s rejection of the historical mainstream parties is part of a larger global trend of rejecting so-called political insiders and electing far-right candidates, seen in the U.S.’s election of President Donald Trump in 2016 and the Polish election of the Law and Justice Party in 2015. Some reporters called this French election a referendum on Europe, as the European community reels from the blow of the Brexit vote in 2016.

"X-Files Tagline" by IQ.kz is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

On, March 4th, 2017, Donald Trump claimed, without evidence, that Barack Obama wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower during the presidential election.  This is not the first baseless claim that Trump has made about the former president.  As the American population is well aware, Trump was one of the most vocal participants in the birther movement.  Even after Obama made his birth certificate public, proving that he was born in Hawaii in 1961, Trump said, in an interview with ABC News, ”Was it a birth certificate?  You tell me.  Some people say that was not his birth certificate.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.  I’m saying I don’t know.  Nobody knows.”

Easter was recently celebrated by Christians all over the world. 2017 was one of those rare years when the Julian and Gregorian calendars coincide in their timing of Easter; therefore, the Eastern and Western Churches celebrated Jesus’ resurrection on the same day.

Yet, a recent BBC poll revealed that a quarter of British Christians do not believe in the resurrection. We do not have poll results for the rest of the world. The United Kingdom is among the most secularized countries in the world, so the results are probably not representative of other countries. Yet, the modernizing and secularizing tendency seems to be spreading in the rest of the world, and it would be safe to assume that the percentage of people that do not believe in Jesus’ resurrection is on the rise.

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"cigarette" by Raul Lieberwirth is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

For the second year in a row, Indiana legislators have introduced and advanced a bill that aims to raise the consumer taxes on cigarettes. In the nation, Indiana ranks 37th for the price of a pack of cigarettes, with the tax on a pack of cigarettes at less than $1. Though during the 2016 General Assembly a bill that targeted cigarettes and gasoline did not pass, H.B. 1578 is on track to make it to the governor’s table. Not only does H.B. 1578 raise cigarette taxes by $1.50, but it also aims to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. Though nobody advocates for the harmful side effects that cigarettes cause to personal and community health, what are the ethics of increasing taxes on a consumer product that is used more heavily by the poor?

"BJP and Shiv Sena Flags" by Al Jazeera English is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

The censorship, riots, and public outcry surrounding the events at Ramjas College in Delhi, India, sparked public debate about the future of India as a democracy. What happened at Ramjas – as explained in the first article of this series, “What Happened at Ramjas : A Voiceless India – was a clear violation of Indians’ right to free speech under the name of nationalism. Identifying the philosophical structures used to justify actions on both sides will help us gain a better understanding of a pressing issue facing modern day India.

"Mike Pence and Karen Pence walking the parade route" by Pvt. Gabriel Silva is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

On March 28th, a Washington Post profile on Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, emphasized the closeness in their marriage by reiterating a controversial policy of theirs: Mike Pence does not eat alone with any woman besides Karen, nor does he attend any event that has alcohol present without her. While some laud this commitment to honoring and protecting his marriage, others have voiced concerns about the practicality of following such a rule and fairly performing the roles of his professional position.

"Pope Francis" by Alfredo Borba is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

With two deeply conservative predecessors (John Paul II and Benedict XVI), Pope Francis has raised a lot of eyebrows over the years. He has not made any significant reform (unlike, say, John XXIII), but his populist style has definitely struck a chord of sympathy amongst many Catholics. John Paul II was a populist as well, but he was closer to the original version of populism, gathering huge crowds all over the world. Francis, on the other hand, is not so apt at crowd gathering, but he is apt at appearing to be in touch with common folks. He has repeatedly washed people’s feet (in remembrance of Jesus’ humbleness), and he is very warm to journalists and visitors. Unlike Benedict XVI, he does not seem to be too interested in pompous rituals or luxurious protocols. We may never know whether these gestures are genuine, or a calculated political image; they are most likely something in between.