Bankrupt: Our favorite junk dealers over at The Sharper Image

Read about it here: The Consumerist: Sharper Image Suspends Acceptance of Gift Cards Due to Bankruptcy

From the story:

Despite issuing a press release claiming that they “will continue to conduct business as usual”, The Shaper Image has suspended redemption of all gift certificates after filing for bankruptcy late on Tuesday.

After receiving several complaints that gift certificates were not being honored by the store the Consumerist was able to confirm via email with the Sharper Image’s corporate sales staff that the retailer is no longer selling or accepting the cards.

It seems The Sharper Image has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of idiots, with their overpriced crap like a $4000 vibrating massage chair and their worthless Ionic Breeze. Anyhow, the nitty gritty of the story over on The Consumerist, is that after sending out a press release stating everything would be business as usual while they went under reorganization, they suspended all use of gift certificates for their stores, including manufacturers certificates – leaving many customers stuck with worthless $500 gift cards and the like.

Perhaps this will be a wakeup call to people to stop buying their overpriced, useless crap.

Intelligent Design Outlawed In PA

‘Intelligent design’ teaching ban

A court in the US has ruled against the teaching of “intelligent design” alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution.

A group of parents in the Pennsylvania town of Dover had taken the school board to court for demanding biology classes not teach evolution as fact. The authorities wanted to introduce the idea that Earth’s life was too complicated to have evolved on its own. Judge John Jones ruled the school board had violated the constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools.

The 11 parents who brought the case argued that teaching intelligent design (ID) was effectively teaching creationism, which is banned. They complained that ID – which argues life must have been helped to develop by an unseen power – was tantamount to religious education.

The separation of church and state is enshrined in the US constitution.

The school board argued they had sought to improve science education by exposing pupils to alternatives to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. But Judge Jones said he had determined that ID was not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents”. In a 139-page written ruling, the judge said: “Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

He accused school board members of disguising their true motives for introducing the ID policy. “We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” he said.

He banned any future implementation of the policy in Dover schools. (bold emphasis mine)

The case, the first of its kind, sets an important precedent in a country where several states have adopted the teaching of ID, reports the BBC’s James Coomerasamy in Washington. Ironically, he adds, it is a somewhat academic ruling in the Dover area since parents there voted last month to replace the school board members who brought in the policy. That move provoked US TV evangelist Pat Robertson to warn the town was invoking the wrath of God.

A lawyer for the parents said the ruling was a “real vindication” for those families who challenged the school.

This article was taken from the BBC here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4545822.stm

You can read more here:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/12/20/intelligent.design/index.html?section=cnn_topstories

Intelligent Design Board Members Ousted In Dover Elections/Kansas Department of Education OKs ID

All of the Intelligent Design supporters on the Dover, PA school board were ousted in Monday’s elections.

From the York Dispatch:

Dover CARES sweeps school dir. seats
STAFF REPORTS

Dover CARES candidates swept eight seats available on the Dover Area School Board in tonight’s election, according to unofficial vote totals from the York County elections office.

Sixteen candidates sought the eight seats and were split into two camps, based largely on the issue of intelligent design.

Dover CARES candidates think that if intelligent design is referenced, it should be in an elective course, such as comparative religion.

The incumbent school board members who were ousted in Tuesday’s election favor mentioning intelligent design in biology classes.

Winning four-year seats tonight were Dover CARES candidates Bernadette Reinking (2,754 votes), Terry Emig (2,716), Herbert McIlvaine Jr. (2,677) and Bryan Rehm (2,625).

Incumbent board members seeking those seats were Sherrie Leber (2,584), James Cashman (2,526), Edward Rowand (2,547) and Alan Bonsell (2,469).

Winning two-year seats were Dover CARES candidates Lawrence Gurreri (2,623), Judy McIlvaine (2,658) and Patricia Dapp (2,670).

Incumbent board members seeking those seats were Eric Riddle (2,545), Ronald Short (2,544) and Sheila Harkins (2,466).

In a race for a separate two-year seat, Dover CARES candidate Phil Herman edged school board member David Napierskie, 2,542 votes to 2,516.

A victory for those of us who believe ID belongs in a religious studies class and not in the science classroom. Unfortunately, the Kansas State Board of Education in a 6-4 vote, decided in their vote Monday to allow ID in the classroom.

From the /. article here:

kwietman writes “The Kansas State Board of Education voted 6-4 to allow science students in public schools to hear materials critical of evolution in biology classes. The new curriculum mentions that theories of life arising from similar building-block molecules through purely random processes can be challenged by recent findings in the fossil record and by molecular biology. Not all were happy, however. ‘This is a sad day. We’re becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that,’ said board member Janet Waugh. The new standards will be used in statewide standardized testing; the students are still expected to know ‘basic evolutionary principles.’ As part of the decision, the Board of Education also went so far as to redefine science itself, saying that it is ‘no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.”

Read the MSN article here.

Some of the comments on /. are not too optimistic about the Kansas approach to things. For instance:

“And those in the Kansas government should know that this issue is making Kansas a laughing stock world wide. There is absolutely nothing that you could do to get me to move my family, science or business there. Speaking of business, we are in the initial stages of moving technologies we have developed into the privately funded domain and early estimates are that we are sitting on significantly large markets right out the door with significant expansion likely in a variety of areas. Kansas does not remotely have a chance of attracting businesses like ours given the educational climate required for our work. We need students and employees who are well prepared in the sciences and are capable of thinking independently, and if the school board succeeds in misleading their students, they are of no use to us.”

It’s almost like a giant leap backwards to the days of cave-dwelling and animal sacrifice IMHO. What will they think of next, re-building Solomon’s Temple and re-establishing the Levite priesthood? Turning water into wine? These people are delusional nutjobs. The scariest thing mentioned though, is that the school board, without review nor approval, decided to redefine the meaning of science. What does this mean for the children taught there? How will they cope with reality once they get to college, and find that everything they were taught in highschool “science” is worthless? Talk about the dumbing down of America. These religious zealots are masters of it.

Senate Panel Votes to Expand the Patriot Act

June 7, 2005 7:22 PM PDT
Senate panel votes to expand Patriot Act

Forget scaling back the Patriot Act.

Instead, the controversial post-9/11 law would be expanded to give the FBI new powers to demand documents from companies without a judge’s approval, according to a vote late Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence committee.

The final text of the Senate Intelligence committee’s amendments was not immediately available (here’s a draft dated last month), and reporters were barred from the secret session during which the vote was held.

But the proposal appears to grant the FBI more power to seek information from banks, hospitals, libraries, and so on through “administrative subpoenas” without prior judicial oversight. The subpoenas are only supposed to be used for terrorism or clandestine intelligence cases.

One other detail: the FBI may designate that the subpoenas are secret and punish disclosure of their existence with up to one year in prison (and five years if the disclosure is deemed to “obstruct an investigation.”)

In testimony in April, FBI director Robert Mueller said: “The administrative subpoena power would be a valuable complement to (existing) tools and provide added efficiency to the FBI’s ability to investigate and disrupt terrorism operations and our intelligence gathering efforts.”

The ACLU denounced the Senate Intelligence committee’s vote. “In a move antithetical to our Constitution, the new ‘administrative subpoena’ authority would let the FBI write and approve its own search orders for intelligence investigations, without prior judicial approval,” the group said in a statement. “Americans have a reasonable expectation that their federal government will not gather records about their health, their wealth and the transactions of their daily life without probable cause of a crime and without a court order.”

In theory, the expand-the-Patriot-Act bill now goes to the Senate floor for a vote. But some negotiations are likely to take place between the Intelligence and Judiciary committee, and that could affect the final form of the legislation.

Posted by Declan McCullagh

The above taken from this News.com article.

Getting Married

Just wanted to let you folks know that I’ve been really busy lately preparing for my marriage in August. ‘Tis why I’ve been absent (work and an addiction to Guild Wars aside) from posting here more regularly. It’s an exciting and scary time for me as I prepare to take the plunge, but I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I also feel more “grown-up” now than before *shudder*. Dammit, I want to be Peter Pan sometimes and stay a kid forever :D

Any sound advice from you “married” folks would be greatly appreciated.

WordPress May Be Banned By Google For Spam

From Slashdot:

WordPress, an incredibly popular Open Source Blogging system was found to be spamming google by inserting hidden links to junk content on high paying Adsense keywords such as mesothelioma and debt consolidation. Following Threadwatch picking up the story an anonymous Google rep appeared in the original thread admonishing bloggers not to use sneaky tactics to rank highly for “duplicate content” such as the 100,000 hidden articles on the WordPress site. The articles have now dissapeared from Google and it remains to be seen whether Google will ban WordPress outright as they tend to do when SEO’s and web dev’s pull these kinds of stunts.

Apparently the dollar amount was just too much for WordPress to resist. Can’t say I blame them though, with the costs of bandwidth like they are, they have to make money somehow, and “spam” for those particular keywords pay out ALOT of money. Apparently anywhere from $40-$100 per click.

Original article appears here: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/03/31/196220
There are more links in the original article for those who care to follow them.

3-D CAPTCHAS

From my /.org newsfeed:

+——————————————————————————————————+
| Making CAPTCHAs Even Harder With 3-D Models           |
| from the now-what-is-the-man-doing-with-the-rabbit dept.  |
| posted by timothy on Monday January 31, @19:01         |
| http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/01/31/2335253      |
+——————————————————————————————————+

[0]Michael G. Kaplan writes “CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) are commonly used to prevent computers from filling out web forms. Computer vision experts have been able to design programs to [1]foil CAPTCHA with a high degree of success.

I have designed a CAPTCHA that is based on the identification of attributes contained in an image generated by the grouping of easily recognized 3-D objects. I call this the Virtual Photographic CAPTCHA and it is likely to remain invulnerable to automated attack for many years to come. A [2]novel anti-spam system necessitated its development.”

Discuss this story at:
  http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=05/01/31/2335253

Links:
  0. http://mkaplansolution%20%20at%20%20%20lycos%20%20%20d%20ot%20%20%20%20%20co%20m
  1. http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~mori/gimpy/gimpy.html
  2. http://home.nyc.rr.com/spamsolution/An%20Effective%20Solution%20for%20Spam.htm

Looks like you will have even more bleeding edge content to incorporate now, Les smile

This system looks very promising in weeding out those comment spammers that so plague blogs and forums to date. I find the concept very intriguing and wonder why it took this long for some genius to figure out that bots can be trained to read simple 2-D images, but are nowhere near capable of deciphering 3-D images (yet).

ACLU Files Lawsuit Over “Intelligent Design.”

ACLU files lawsuit over Intelligent Design

Harrisburg, PA (AP)

Two civil liberties groups representing 11 parents on Tuesday sued a school district that is requiring students to learn about alternatives to the theory of evolution.

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the lawsuit is the first in the nation to challenge whether public schools should teach “intelligent design,” which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by some higher power.

The Dover Area School District was believed to be the first in the nation to mandated the instruction of intelligent design when it voted 6-3 on Oct. 18 in favor of including the concept in the science curriculum.

The ACLU contends intelligent design is a more secular form of creationism, a biblical-based view that credits the origin of species to God, and may violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

“Intelligent design is a Trojan horse for bringing religious creationism back into the public science classroom.” Witold Walczak, legal director for the state ACLU chapter, said during a news conference.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg. The complaint alleges that the parents “perceive the district’s action as conveying a governmental message that students should subscribe to the religious views reflected in the assertion or argument of intelligent design.”

School district officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuit. Administrators have declined to discuss the mandate, which applies to ninth-grade biology classes at Dover High School.

School board member William Buckingham, who spearheaded the change as leader of the board’s curriculum committee, has said previously that he proposed the change as a way to balance evolution with competing theories that raise questions about its scientific validity.

One of the plaintiffs, Tammy Kitzmiller, expressed concern that the school board would mandate the teaching of “something that isn’t accepted as science.”

Hopefully the challenge in court will succeed, because this IS a blatant violation of separation of church and state in my eyes, and even in the eyes of my mom, and some others, who ARE Christians themselves (I am not a Christian per se, although like a lot of others, I find some good things to filch from the Bible for personal use. I.E. Don’t Steal, etc.). I don’t feel that this theory, which holds less weight scientifically than a goose down feather, has any place in a public school science curriculum.

This matter hits close to home, as I have family members who go to Dover High School, and my girlfriend is a teacher here where we live here in Warren. If the plaintiffs fail in this matter, then it leaves the door wide open for the religious wrong to force their narrow views and crackpot theories into public schools everywhere in my opinion. My girlfriend is still waiting for the Bushies to sneak faith-based crap into NCLB and this would open it up for them to do so, since they would have “legal precedent.”

[Editor’s Note: I was unable to find the original source used in the quote so I’ve linked to a reprint of the news item on the Yahoo! News service.]

One Without a Vote

  Today I found out I was one of the “disenfranchised” Democrat Party voters. It’s a sad day for me indeed, as my absentee ballot never arrived via snail mail as it was supposed to. The local voter officials where I recently moved to can’t do anything about it either, as I am registered in Precinct 2 (Hummelstown, PA) and I now live in Warren, PA, 5 hours away from said Precinct. This is greatly disturbing, as I was really hoping to vote this election, but now it seems that is not going to happen because someone decided NOT to send me an absentee ballot that was requested over 1.5 months ago. I called the Voter Registration office in my old district to no avail, as their deadline was over a week ago, and they of course told me it should have been mailed. Apparently it wasn’t. I seem to have no recourse in this matter. I just hope you all are able to vote, and go do so, as I can not.