(TMU) — An Arizona Republican official is hoping to force children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, by law, unless they are explicitly excused from doing so by their parents.
Rep. John Fillmore of Apache Junction introduced House Bill 2017 late last month, which would require all K-12 students to stand for the daily pledge unless parents intervene to excuse them. Students would also be required to sit for at least one minute to engage in so-called “quiet reflection and moral reasoning.”
Schools in Arizona, like most across the nation, designate time for students to recite the pledge if they are so inclined. However, the law does not compel people to participate in such patriotic displays unless they choose to.
In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in West Virginia that required students to stand for the pledge on the basis that it would violate the First Amendment’s requirement of free speech and religious freedom, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of due process.
At the time, the Supreme Court issued an opinion declaring that “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
Gov. Doug Ducey, who is also a Republican, commented Tuesday that he wasn’t aware of any requirement for students to say the pledge, but he refrained from commenting on the pending legislation—simply commenting that he believes that reciting the pledge is “a great idea.”
According to the Arizona Republic, Ducey told reporters:
“I’m a fan of the Pledge of Allegiance … I would be hopeful that all of our kids, especially our kids in grade school, would begin each day with the pledge.”
However, when pressed on whether he would embrace a bill that would deny students who don’t believe in the pledge the right to refrain from reciting it, he gave a somewhat clearer response:
“No. I think of course, you have an option.
This is America … That’s why I’m not commenting on the bill. I’m commenting on the idea of saying the pledge, which is a good idea every day.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has repeatedly defended students’ right to refrain from reciting the pledge, has argued that the proposed law would violate students’ rights.
Various local governments and school districts have attempted to undermine the 1943 decision by punishing students who don’t say the pledge.
In 1998, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against a San Diego, California school district that required a dissenting student to stand silently for the pledge, exit the classroom, or face detention. The school district later settled out of court with the civil liberties group and changed its policy.
ACLU of Arizona spokeswoman Marcella Taracena told KTAR news that students themselves have the right to choose whether or not to recite the pledge. She said:
“You know, the Supreme Court made it clear decades ago that forcing students to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.
Requiring them to seek parent approval takes away that individual [First Amendment] right.
What if the student has conflicting views with the parent? What if the student is estranged? Or, what if they have opposing political views? This can really chill their speech because it’s requiring kids to seek that approval.”
In addition to HB 2017, Fillmore also filed 32 other bills including HB 2005, which would put a halt to education about intimate partner or domestic violence in schools, and filed HB 2022, which would prohibit schools from discussing the “economic and social implications” of environmental topics.
Cher Escorted World’s Loneliest Elephant To a New Life in Cambodia
A 36-year-old elephant who garnered worldwide sympathy after being dubbed “the world’s loneliest elephant” will be turning the page on a dark chapter of his life and enjoying brighter days ahead at a renowned sanctuary in Cambodia, thanks to the hard-fought efforts of U.S. pop star Cher.
Kaavan had long been Pakistan’s only Asian elephant, and suffered from poor health and wretched conditions at a dilapidated zoo in Islamabad, where the bull elephant was unable to exercise and gained excessive weight while living in a structure decried by animal rights groups as totally inappropriate.
Now relocated to Cambodia, Kaavan will now make the province of Oddar Meanchey his home, where he will live in a special wildlife sanctuary along with 600 other elephants.
“Cambodia is pleased to welcome Kaavan. No longer will he be ‘the world’s loneliest elephant,’” Cambodia’s deputy environment minister, Neth Pheaktra, said. “We expect to breed Kaavan with local elephants – this is an effort to conserve the genetic fold.”
When Kaavan’s companion died in 2012, the suffering pachyderm was forced to contend with isolation and descended into “zoochosis” – a type of mental illness brought about by miserable living conditions and solitude, reports BBC. Scarred both mentally and physically, he soon earned the ignominious title of the “world’s loneliest animal.”
However, after years of suffering in silence, animal rights groups turned Kavaan’s plight into a cause célèbre – with Cher using her social media clout and the wildlife protection group she co-founded, Free the Wild, to back the campaign in 2016.
“I thought, ‘how can I fix this? How can I save an elephant who’s been shackled to a shed for 17 years and who is a thousand miles away?’,” Cher said in a statement distributed by the Smithsonian Channel, which is filming a documentary about Kaavan. “This is Free The Wild’s first big rescue and I am so proud.”
When Islamabad’s High Court finally shuttered the zoo over its squalid conditions and issued an order freeing Kaavan in May, granting animal welfare group Four Paws International (FPI) permission to relocate the creature, Cher called it one of the “greatest moments” in her life.
For years, Four Paws has worked alongside Cher and Free the Wild to secure Kaavan’s release.
Ahead of his trip on Monday, Cher was filmed serenading Kaavan in Pakistan with her classic song, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
On Monday, Kaavan and Cher arrived in Cambodia and were greeted with fanfare from animal conservationists and officials.
“I’m so happy and I am so proud he is here,” Cher told AFP at Siem Reap airport. “He’s a wonderful, wonderful animal.”
Kaavan had a peaceful flight and conducted himself “like a frequent flyer” during the journey from Pakistan, said Four Paws veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil. Kaavan even ate and slept during the “uneventful” flight and showed no signs of stress, reports the Guardian.
On Friday, prior to the journey to Cambodia, Cher met Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and thanked him on Twitter “for making it possible for me to take Kaavan to Cambodia.”
In a statement from Khan’s office, the prime minister and former cricket superstar extended an invitation to Cher to continue engaging in environmental initiatives in Pakistan.
Mysterious Monolith in Romania Disappears Overnight, Just Days After It Was Discovered
Mere days after it mysteriously popped up on a hillside near the Carpathian mountain range, the Romanian monolith – which bore a striking resemblance to its Utah counterpart – has suddenly disappeared.
The shiny metal monolith, which was discovered late last week around the same time that the monolith in Utah vanished from its remote desert location, was placed near a historic Dacian fortress built in B.C. times. Little is known about who erected the three-sided structure in the location, why it was installed, or if there was any connection to the Utah monolith.
The shiny pillar was found just last Thursday on Batca Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt in the country’s northeastern Neamt County, several yards from the Dacian fortress Petrodava, an important archaeological landmark and fort that was built by the people of ancient Dacia between 82 B.C. and 106 A.D.
The monolith was just a few yards from the old stronghold, with one side facing Mount Ceahlău, a famous Carpathian mountain listed as one of the country’s Seven Natural Wonders and known to locals as the Holy Mountain.
However, on Monday the monolith vanished from the site and left only a shallow, square-shaped hole and pile of rubble behind, in video posted by local media outlet Jurnal FM.
The disappearance of the monolith also coincided with the night of Saint Andrews Day, a holiday celebrating a saint who was the brother of Saint Peter and is considered the protector of Romania due to his proselytizing activities in the ancient province of Scythia, which includes parts of present-day Romania.
The night is also characterized by a number of traditions and superstitions of pagan origin that predate the arrival of Christianity in the region, and is seen by many as the Romanian equivalent of Halloween and as a night filled with roaming spirits, werewolves, and people using garlic to ward off evil spells, ghosts and curses, according to Romania Insider.
“The monolith found near the archaeological site of an old Dacian Stronghold disappeared on the night of Saint Andrew, when reportedly, a bright light surrounded the object,” reported Jurnal FM.
“Locals thought the light came from a car, but the light pointed towards the sky,” the local report mysteriously added.
It remains unknown how exactly the silver monolith was installed in its Carpathian location, but many social media users joked that the Romanian version was a sort of “Wish App” equivalent to its Utah counterpart, with this monolith having a decidedly more scrappy, rough façade filled with doodle-like scrawls.
“The aliens who have planted this monolith should polish their welding skills,” one user commenting on the Facebook post by The Mind Unleashed.
The disappearance comes after local officials complained about the unauthorized installation of the silver structure.
“We have started looking into the strange appearance of the monolith,” said Neamt Culture and Heritage official Rocsana Josanu. “It is on private property, but we still don’t know who the monolith’s owner is yet. It is in a protected area on an archaeological site.”
“Before installing something there, they needed permission from our institution, one that must then be approved by the Ministry of Culture,” Josanu added.
The mysterious three-sided structure’s disappearance comes just a few days after the monolith in Utah was removed from its remote desert location by an “unknown party,” local authorities said over the weekend.
The discovery of the monolith by Utah public safety workers in the southwestern U.S. state generated significant viral buzz, with many comparing the monolith to those that trigger massive leaps in human progress in the classic Stanley Kubrick sci-fi film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others bemoaned the discovery of the object in the turbulent year 2020, with some social media users complaining that the discovery of the monolith had triggered their anxiety over worsening fortunes in the year, including a possible extraterrestrial invasion.
However, recent clues may point to a much more down-to-earth explanation behind the disappearance of the Utah.
An Instagram post by photographer Ross Bernards has revealed that a group of four men arrived at the site not long after he had snapped some shots of the viral structure. The men had brought a wheelbarrow with them and pushed against the structure until it fell over.
“They quickly broke it apart as they were carrying the wheelbarrow that they had brought one of them looked back at us and said ‘leave no trace,’” Bernards explained. “If you’re asking why we didn’t’s stop them well, they were right to take it out. We stayed the night and the next day hiked to a hill top overlooking the area where we say at least 70 different cars (and a plane) in and out. Cars parking everywhere in the delicate desert landscape.”
“Mother Nature is an artist, it’s best to leave the art in the wild to her,” he added.
Another Instagram user explains that the men left behind a puddle of urine where the structure had previously stood, and scrawled “By B*tch!” in the dirt.
It all seems like a rather unceremonious end to a structure that kindled the imagination of millions of online users.
However, the disappearance of the structures still has us wondering: where, and when, will the next monolith be found?
Mother of Teen Who Was Killed By Police Gets Shot At His Funeral
A mysterious gunman opened fire on a young man’s funeral service at Riverview Memorial Gardens in Cocoa, Florida, on Saturday afternoon. The funeral was for 18-year-old Sincere Pierce, a young man who was shot and killed by a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy on November 13th, along with his friend, 16-year-old Angelo Crooms.
A crowd of roughly 50 people had attended the funeral service, and two people were hit in the shooting. One of the victims was the mother of the deceased, Quasheda Pierce. Another unidentified 16-year-old male victim was also injured in the gunfire. The bullet reportedly hit the 16-year-old in the leg first, and then continued to travel until it struck Ms. Pierce in the leg.
Mourners at the funeral ran for cover, while others rushed to help Ms. Pierce and the boy that was hit. It is not clear who the intended target was, and police have not released any details about any possible leads or suspects.
The shooting came in the final moments of Sincere Pierce’s funeral. Pierce was shot and killed by a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy on November 13th, along with his friend, 16-year-old Angelo Crooms.
The teens were killed by Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda, who fired multiple shots into their car because they wouldn’t pull over.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said that officer Santiago-Miranda thought that the vehicle they were in might have been stolen, which is why he initially wanted them to pull over. However, the teens reportedly had permission to use the car, and their families say that it was a case of mistaken identity.
Officer Santiago-Miranda insists that he had to shoot at the vehicle because he felt that his life was in danger. He claimed that the vehicle was charging at him, and that he had no other choice but to get out of the way.
However, the families of the victims and the lawyers now representing them say that the officer could have simply moved out of the way.
Tasha Strachan, Crooms’ mother, said, “He was walking toward the car; he put (himself) in danger. The lady deputy got behind her car. But these deputies followed them without any lights, they got out with guns drawn. My son stopped at the stop signs and he was trying to get away He’s a 16-year-old, he was not going to think like an adult. He probably just thought ‘I can just drive away.”
“They took my son. His name was Angelo. I want some justice. If the deputy was in danger, he would have got out of the way,” she added.
Public records on Deputy Santiago-Miranda show that the officer has a disturbing history.
Records from the Osceola Clerk of Courts reported on Wednesday by local news website The Space Coast Rocket show that in 2008, Santiago-Miranda was found guilty of burglary to a dwelling unarmed and aggravated assault with a firearm. On April 20th of this year, Deputy Miranda was also charged with domestic violence against children.
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