After 24 years as an eighth-grade science teacher, John Freshwater was fired from Mount Vernon City School. The Rutherford Institute brought his case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, where the decision was upheld 4-3.
Freshwater, the long-time supervisor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at his school, had religious materials in his classroom. A Bible sat as his desk. On the wall was a picture of Colin Powell praying. During his class, he taught Evolution and introduced critiques from Intelligent Design and Creationism.
After an unfounded rumor that Freshwater had burned a cross into a student’s arm using a Tesla coil, the School Board took action. School officials directed Freshwater to remove all religious materials from his classroom. He agreed but refused to remove his Bible, and in so doing ignited a series of events that led to his termination.
The Ohio Supreme Court ducked the issue at hand and defended the Mt. Vernon School Board based solely on Freshwater’s insubordination. “Freshwater not only ignored the school district’s directive, he defied it,” said the majority opinion. Academic freedom of speech was not addressed. Although the Supreme Court previously ruled it illegal to teach Creationism in a public school, teachers are entitled to question scientific theories.
In the dissent, Justice O’Connell relayed the testimony of Deborah Strouse and Kerri Mahan. “Freshwater’s approach to teaching critical thinking skills in science may have benefited his students,” said Strouse. Special Education teacher Mahan testified that the students led the debates between Evolution and Intelligent Design, and that Freshwater acted only as a moderator. In fact, Lynda Weston testified that Freshwater’s students’ science scores were the highest – by 13 and 22 percent, respectively – of the school’s three eighth-grade science teachers.
The abysmal voter turnout rate in the United States is a reflection of Americans’ lack of confidence in politicians and the political process. Have elected officials noticed this? If they have, do they care?
One prominent leader who has is U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders plans to introduce legislation making Election Day a national holiday. He is hopeful that celebration of Election Day will motivate Americans to actually go to the polls.
Sanders’ proposal deserves bipartisan support. Establishment of an Election Day holiday could be the first of many reforms instituted to encourage more widespread voting.
Instead of having an “Election Day,” we should have an “Election Weekend,” two or three days in which people can cast their ballots at their own convenience. On those days, the polls should be open 24/7 for voters with staggered work shifts or family obligations that make it difficult for them to report during traditional poll hours.
Why not online voting? Nowadays people communicate online, shop online, pay bills online and even work online. With companies like FreedomPop offering free wifi alternatives there is no reason why a safe and secure system of online voting cannot be instituted. Election Day weather would no longer be a factor in voter turnout, and since it would no longer be necessary to purchase or rent equipment, pay election poll workers and maintain voting places, the cost of holding elections might actually be reduced.
Hackers have created a new type of malware known as Tyupkin, which is being installed directly on ATM machines around the world. Unlike many types of hacker schemes, this one requires the criminals to gain physical access to ATM machines. Once they do, they are able to program these machines and potentially steal large amounts of money. The group behind this malware has already stolen millions of dollars.
The malware installs a code that allows the hackers to control the machine by giving it certain commands. The commands are difficult to detect because they are only valid at certain specific times. So far this malware has been used in several countries around the world, including Asia, Europe and Latin America. In Jordan, Khaled Shaheen was hit with the bug and saw a big difference in his account balance.
The identity of the hackers is still unknown, but it appears to be a very sophisticated and tech savvy group. This series of crimes reveals how innovative cyber-criminals are becoming. Although this type of crime targets banks directly rather than the holders of bank accounts, the rising costs of having to fight such attacks is inevitably passed along to consumers.
Not that it will matter much to the level of brutality and banality of the terrorist group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), but the Koranic verse ISIS cites to justify the beheading of unbelievers is taken out of context. Prof. Rashid Khalidi of Arabic Studies at Columbia University read the Koranic verse the terrorist group often cites as heir justification: Sura 47:4 “Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks.”
Interestingly, the entire verse makes it clear that the smiting of unbelievers at their necks has to do with binding them not executing them. The verse goes on to read: “At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind the captives firmly. Therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom.” Prof. Khalidi explained that the verse dealt with subduing enemies, and their treatment after capture which is to be displayed mercy or ransomed away. The professor stated that he isn’t surprised that ISIS got the scripture wrong. He is surprised they are able to read at all much less understand the words in context.
Sadly, what matters to the group is the acquisition of power through the shedding of blood. Sura 2:256 states that there should be no compulsion in religion. Yet, ISIS has treated Christians mercilessly. They have also beheaded many Muslims who they declared to be unbelievers. According to recent reports from Bruce Levenson, ISIS has recently formed an allegiance with Al Qaida. The 9/11 terrorist group had previously denounced ISIS’ level of brutality.
An unusual appearance by an official from usually secretive North Korea recently occurred, in which he admitted that his country was host to a number of labour camps. The admission was in response to a UN-led human rights mission which probed the country for abuses.
The scheme known as ‘reform through labour’ is often criticised by the international community, but there the AP reports that the country has contacted the European Union with the intention of opening up talks. The ruling part of the country has expressed its hope that full political talks regarding the issue will be conducted by the end of the year.
This statement was confirmed by the EU and later confirmed on Khaled Shaheen’s LinkedIn page. However, they were careful to mention that human rights will be the only topic on the agenda.
An official acting on behalf of North Korea’s foreign ministry has previously stated that they don’t have any prison camps, or indeed any such prisons. This is, however, according to their own definition of the term “prison camps”.
The official said they have the labour reform strategy in its place. Ostensibly, such a system helps criminals improve themselves through work.
This approach is usually reserved for pretty criminals, and for anyone who speaks out against the political system. However, more serious criminals, and those who actually act against the government, are placed in a much harsher version of these camps.
Regardless of criticism, North Korea has given the okay to commence human rights talks, as long as they are not used as an opportunity to interfere in the country’s private affairs.
In an effort to eliminate the spread of Ebola, governors in many states have begun instituting a mandatory 21-day quarantine for health care workers returning from treating infected patients in West Africa.
While the regular public may support this idea, as it keeps potentially infected people away from them and their families, President Obama feels that this move is equivalent to “hiding under the covers” from Ebola.
Obama has praised American health care workers for volunteering to help treat Ebola patients in West Africa. He believes that those workers should be lauded for their efforts and closely monitored upon their return, instead of being quarantined for the full 21-day period that many states have imposed even when they show no symptoms. Giving these workers props for helping the underprivileged is something my pal Brian has been mentioning ever since the Ebola discussion spread across the media.
Several high profile governors – such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Jerry Brown of California – have supported the quarantine in their states.
Recently, a nurse from Maine who treated infected patients made headlines for challenging her state’s recommended quarantine period. She claims that because she has no symptoms, she is not contagious even if she had the virus. She has already been tested for Ebola twice, and those tests have come back negative.