Freedom Magazine. Addiction issue cover
April 2017
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February 2017
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December 2016 Special Edition
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October 2016
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June-July 2016
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July 2015
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June 2015
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May 2015
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March 2015
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February 2015
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December 2014 Special Edition
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November 2014
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October 2014
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September 2014
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August 2014
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December 2016
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Special Clearwater Edition.
August 2015
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July 2014
Special Edition
Church of Scientology
since 1968

Ferguson MO: What News?

Since Freedom last reported on racial tension and police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, there are numerous developments, but little change.

A Department of Justice investigation verified what many suspected: Ferguson police disproportionately used force against African Americans, noting, among other things, that during the study period, 100 percent of incidents in which a police dog bit a suspect involved blacks; 95 percent of people kept in jail for more than two days were black; African Americans were disproportionately targeted for harassment and citations, including thousands for their “manner of walking;” and that police and the municipal court system acted with intent to generate revenue by handing out fines and tickets to black and low-income residents.

Six Ferguson officers or officials, including the chief of police, have resigned since the DOJ report was released in early March. Yet the atmosphere in Ferguson remains volatile. Protests continue, including one in which two police officers were shot, though not seriously hurt, outside a police station. And some residents have initiated an effort to force a recall election of the city’s mayor, James Knowles, who vowed, “Let me be clear, this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department, or in any department in the city of Ferguson.”

Standardized Testing Increasingly
Gets a Failing Grade

Five years after Common Core test standards were adopted in 45 states, parents are opting out of controversial standardized tests, states are repealing their participation, and educators are questioning their value.

The Washington Post reported in March that some schools are even bribing students to take the tests. While incentivizing students to do well on standardized testing is a common practice, the stakes seem to be raised.

In New Jersey, one school offered students the chance to skip their English and math finals after only 59 percent of eligible students participated in the first day of standardized testing; another school included an American Express gift card among the incentives for the grade with greatest test participation.

One New York school offered gift cards to GameStop, iTunes and others; while in Colorado, one district offered one elective credit for scores of at least “proficient” on the tests.

Common Core was adopted in recent years as an attempt to define higher standards for what children need to be ready for college. Since then, three states—Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma—have opted out. Last month, the Arkansas House voted 86-1 to end participation in the tests after June 30. And a central Missouri court recently ruled the consortium that designed the tests unlawful, giving some Missouri and North Dakota school districts cause to limit the tests. And now a University of Pennsylvania education researcher questions if the tests are effectively helping to prepare students for college. “There’s still a huge divide between K-12 and higher ed,” says Cecile Sam.

Though colleges and universities were part of the team developing the standards, she says, colleges have made few changes in aligning their admissions criteria or education policies to the new standards.

“Most definitions of ‘ready’ are far too narrow, and we don’t gather data in many key areas where students could improve their readiness,” says University of Oregon education professor David T. Conley.

“It’s going to be a while before we see a significant change in the preparation level of students,” agrees Jacqueline King of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a federally funded group that develops Common Core tests.

Whales May Soon Be Hunted Again in the Pacific

From onegreenplanet.org

According to new research, a female killer whale lives longer than males of the species—as much as 40 years longer—and, after menopause, becomes “an influential leader of younger killer whales.”

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, is the first to show that females gain importance within their social structure after their reproductive period, and points out that only in humans and two species of whales do individuals survive long after they are able to reproduce.

Meanwhile, North Pacific gray whales may soon be hunted off the coast of Washington State. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report recommends returning hunting rights to the Makah Indian tribe, permitting the harvest of as many as 24 whales in a six-year period. The whales were removed from the endangered species list more than two decades ago; the NOAA estimates there are about 20,000 gray whales in the North Pacific.

Despite the cultural significance for the Makah tribe, wildlife biologist D.J. Schubert with the American Welfare Institute is concerned. “Whaling is inherently cruel,” he says.

No final decision has been reached on the NOAA proposal.

Earthlings learning more and more about Mars

A new study reveals that the planet Mars once had an ocean that contained as much water as Earth’s Arctic Sea, and that Mars also had lakes that existed for millions of years. And while the Red Planet’s water appears to have been literally lost in space, researchers say there could still be water locked deep underground. The study, published in the journal Science, also reports that four billion years ago, a one-mile-deep ocean may have covered almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere.

NASA’s Maven spacecraft is studying the remaining thin atmosphere of Mars. And the European Space Agency’s first ExoMars mission is scheduled to arrive at the planet next year. “In the next five years, we’re going to probably change our perception of what Mars was in the past,” says NASA scientist Geronimo Villanueva.

Human Trafficking Law Stalled in Senate

Republicans and Democrats are at odds over a GOP addition of abortion-funding language to a bill that would increase funds both for victim support, and for law enforcement crackdown on underage sex rings.

The number of human trafficking victims continues to climb nationwide, as several recent municipal crackdowns led to arrests in Florida, Wisconsin, Maryland and North Carolina. Many cities and states have passed similar enhanced funding legislation, but the federal bill seems stalled since the language about conditions under which abortions might be covered for sex-trafficking victims was added.

Human Rights Champions

Each year, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights recognizes individuals who work to expose abuse and enact reforms in the field of mental health. Awards in 2015, presented at a recent ceremony in Los Angeles, went to Serbian filmmaker Sasha Knezev, for American Addict 2—part of a film series highlighting the conflicted relationship between the FDA, Big Pharma and physicians—and to attorney Stephen A. Sheller, who has represented whistleblowers in numerous high-profile lawsuits against drugmakers, recovering over $6 billion for the U.S. government.

Feds Spend Billions on Medicare
or Medicaid Overpayments

Nearly $125 billion in improper payments for Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit were reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report last month, a 17 percent increase in overpayments from the previous year. Though the GAO made numerous suggestions for systemwide improvements after a 2013 review, 2014 numbers instead show an increase in fraudulent payments for the first time in four years. Medicare fared the worst, with nearly $60 billion in wrong payments in 2014, and fraudulent or erroneous Medicaid and Earned Income Tax Credit disbursements totaled more than $17 billion—each.

Barbie Talks, Listens and Reports to Big Brother Mattel

It may be the most troubling doll since Chucky. Mattel introduced a Barbie Doll that converses with a child, then records the conversations and transmits them back to the toy maker. It goes on sale this fall.

Hello Barbie is Wi-Fi connected and uses an embedded microphone to record children’s voices, which the doll then transmits to cloud servers. Mattel can then push data back to the child, and says the technology will “deepen that relationship girls have with Barbie.”

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) says this also “ensures that Mattel—not the child—drives the play,” and has a petition to waylay Hello Barbie. “It’s creepy,” said CCFC Director Susan Linn.