The News That Matter, All At a Glance

Colombian military reads The Way to Happiness
Tools for Peace Colombian military reads The Way to Happiness.

Ceasefire An End to Hostilities

In late September, the longest running war in the Americas came to an end when Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement. Although narrowly rejected in a popular vote in October, both sides have pledged to maintain peace until a lasting agreement is accepted.

Helping the military ease the transition to peace, Church of Scientology programs have trained soldiers in human rights and The Way to Happiness, a secular guide to morality and ethics written by L. Ron Hubbard. When Scientology opened a new Church last year in Bogota, Lt. Colonel Polania described the human rights and ethics programs as “reaching down to the very foundation of our institution—the Colombian soldier—[and] teaches the importance of respecting human rights. Working together we reached 100 percent of the Colombian Army in just 12 months.”

During four years of negotiations that required the factions to overcome numerous impasses, the public grew weary of the delays because its safety was at stake. The 52-year conflict killed 220,000 people and displaced more than 5 million. The agreement lays out plans for the rebels to abandon their arms then re-enter civilian life.

In a nationally televised address, President Juan Manuel Santos said, “I will not give up, I will continue seeking peace until the last day of my presidency.” Pledging to arrive at a lasting peace, FARC leader Timochenko said, “To the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us, peace will triumph.”

No More Mosques

Targeting Islam What Freedom of Religion?

The number of groups that support or promote Islamophobia in the United States has grown to 74, according to a report released in late June by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and University of California, Berkeley Center for Race & Gender. The primary purpose of 33 of those groups “is to promote prejudice against, or hatred of, Islam and Muslims.” Between 2008 and 2013, the core group, which includes the Center for Security Policy, ACT for America, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Jihad Watch, had access to nearly $206 million in funding. “The hate that these groups are funding and inciting is having real consequences like attacks on mosques all over the country and new laws discriminating against Muslims in America,” said Corey Saylor, author of the report and director of CAIR’s department to monitor and combat Islamophobia.

The First Amendment is under attack.

Opioids Elephant Tranquilizer Ravages Midwest

Elephant Tranquilizer

At least 189 overdoses in the Cincinnati area and in Southern Indiana in a one-week period are suspected by authorities to be caused by a drug called carfentanil. The synthetic opioid, which is 10,000 times as potent as morphine and is used to tranquilize large animals such as elephants, appears to have caused four deaths in the region in late August.

Overdose victims who would normally be resuscitated by a single dose of naloxone if they had taken only heroin are requiring multiple doses of the drug that reverses the effects of opioids.

Just in Newtown, Ohio, overdoses have gone from four or five in a day to as much as 50.

Data Storage Double Helix to the Rescue

Double Helix

Information stored on hard disks or flash drives can fail after only a few years, magnetic tape can preserve info for decades, and DVDs can survive as long as a century. DNA, however, may be the answer to the impermanence of the world’s storage methods, because it may be able to store data for thousands of years.

In July, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington managed to encode synthetic DNA with 200 megabytes of data. Among the data encoded then retrieved were a music video, more than 100 books and translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The information successfully stored and retrieved shattered the previous record nearly tenfold.

Luis Ceze, the principal researcher on the project, told The Seattle Times, “This is a concrete example that we can build computers in a very different way, that’s more than just silicon.” He added that DNA is “the ultimate backup. Very dense, very durable.”

Legal Reversal So Much for the Constitution …

In a 5-3 decision the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that evidence gathered by police officers using unlawful tactics can be used to convict people accused of crimes if there is an outstanding arrest warrant for a minor traffic violation.

This new precedent can be far-reaching. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her 12-page dissent that the decision gives police officers “incentive to violate the Constitution,” adding, “the Fourth Amendment does not tolerate an officer’s unreasonable searches and seizures just because he did not know any better.”

Unlike elsewhere in the legal world, apparently ignorance is an excuse. “The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

We the People…

Environment Feds Allow Kids to Ingest Toxins

Danger illustration

Despite knowing that the soil in a housing complex in East Chicago, Indiana, contained lead levels 66 times higher and arsenic levels 55 times higher than the upper limits set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency took 18 months to let residents know their children were in danger. As a result, Shantel Allen, a 27-year-old mother of five, learned that her 2-year-old son has a blood-lead level 6.6 times higher than the upper limit. Lead has been proven to decrease IQ. Allen’s children are among the numerous kids who live in the complex who have played in the soil for the last year and a half. “I blame everybody who knew, everybody that knew and didn’t inform us,” Allen told CNN.