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Debate Den / Signs of water found on one of Saturn's moons
« on: March 09, 2006, 04:06:41 pm »
(CNN) -- The Cassini space probe has found evidence of geysers erupting from underground pools of liquid water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists announced on Thursday.

High-definition pictures beamed back from the probe showed huge plumes of ice coming from the moon's south pole.

"We're inferring that there is a liquid water reservoir under the surface and it's erupting in a geyser-like fashion, maybe like the Yellowstone geysers you would see," said Linda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist.

Spilker said it was very surprising to see this much activity on such a small, cold moon. The average temperature at Enceladus' south pole is minus 307 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 188 Celsius) -- that's a little warmer than the equator, which was minus 316 Fahrenheit (minus 193 Celsius).

She said that the water was likely kept at the relatively warm temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) by tidal or radioactive forces. It freezes instantly as it escapes vents in the surface.

"At first we thought it might be like an ice volcano, with little ice particles coming out. And then, as the analysis continued, we looked at the amount of material coming out ...there had to be more of a pressure source underneath," she said.

Water might be an indication that life could exist on Enceladus. But Spilker was not ready to suggest life existed there.

"That's a very tough question to answer, but certainly something that we'll be thinking about now that there appears to be a liquid water source on Enceladus," she said.

"Because on the Earth, in ocean beds that are deep on the ocean floor, where there is no sunlight or anything, you get life forms that can exist in those conditions where you get the ingredients for life out of those volcanic vents."

Scientists are searching for signs of water on Mars and believe that Jupiter's moon Europa has a liquid ocean deep under it's frozen crust. (Watch finding puts Enceladus in an elite group -- 1:22)

"Now Enceladus joins the ranks of those bodies, Mars and Europa, that have evidence of liquid water in them and also energy sources coming from radioactive heating and tidal heating that make the very interesting places to look for the origins of life," said Torrence Johnson, a member of the Cassini team. "These are habitats that are similar to types of places we think life may have originated and could possibly survive in today."

The finding's were published in this week's issue of "Science."

Cassini is scheduled to fly within 217 miles (350 kilometers) of Enceladus in 2008, and Spilker said scientists may try to have it fly through the plumes and collect samples.

In the meantime, Spilker said Cassini probably would take measurements from a distance.

"Thinking ahead, maybe this might mean that some day we might want to land a probe near a crack on Enceladus or something and maybe be able to probe more precisely what's happening," she said.

Spilker said the findings already have answered some questions about Saturn's rings.

"One of the questions that Cassini came in with was that the E-ring around Saturn was thickest around Enceladus, and we knew somehow Enceladus was involved in being the source of the E-ring," she said. "And now we know how that's happening. Through these geyser-like plumes, that's the material that goes on to create the bulk of the E-ring."

Cassini, which was funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, launched in 1997 and took seven years to make the 934 million-mile (1.5 billion-kilometer) trip to Saturn.

Last January, the European Huygens spacecraft detached from Cassini and landed on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. (Full story)

Computers & Video Games / Microsoft unveils Vista editions
« on: February 27, 2006, 06:08:17 pm »
Microsoft is planning six versions of the next incarnation of its Windows operating system.

Three versions of the software, called Vista, will be for home users, two will be for businesses and one will be for emerging markets.

One of the home versions of Vista will include features that let users store and play back TV shows.

No fixed date has been given for the release of Vista but it is expected to be launched by the end of 2006.

Vista, which was known as Longhorn during its long development, is a major re-working of Windows that makes changes, among other things, to the way the operating system looks and how it handles networking and sound.

Microsoft said the six versions were designed to match the demands different users have for its software. No details have been given about the pricing of the separate versions.

Vista Business
Vista Enterprise
Vista Home Basic
Vista Home Premium
Vista Ultimate
Vista Starter

Vista Business will be the basic version for companies of all sizes and includes tools that will help organisations manage their PCs.

The Enterprise version of Vista will have all of the features in the basic version and add to them improved encryption including a BitLocker system that will stop confidential data being viewed if a computer is lost or stolen.

The Home Basic version is intended for those who only want to use their PC to browse the net, use e-mail and create and edit basic documents. It will also include desktop search and security tools.

Vista Home Premium includes everything in the Basic version and adds the new graphical interface called Aero.

Microsoft said it will also have improved media handling abilities so it can help users organise and enjoy their digital images, music and movie collections. Also included will be tools to help people author and burn DVDs.

PCs running the Premium edition will also be able to connect their machine to an Xbox 360 gaming console.

Vista Ultimate has all the features of the business and home editions in one package.

The Starter edition is a streamlined version intended for low powered PCs found in many developing nations.

Also available will be versions made specifically for Europe that, in accordance with an EU mandate, remove the Windows media player.

Microsoft pointed out that the current version of Windows, XP, is available in six different versions though most of these are tuned for the different types of hardware, such as a Tablet PC, people are using.

By contrast Vista versions are organised by what people plan to do with their computer.

"We don't want customers to be forced into buying something that isn't going to meet all their needs," said Barry Goffe, Microsoft's director of Windows client product management.

Everything Else / Pop/Soda/Coke/Soft Drinks!
« on: February 25, 2006, 09:04:47 pm »
What are your favorite types of soft drinks?

My personal favorites would most definitely be Squirt and Vault. I've been uber-addicted to Vault recently (which if you didn't know is like SURGE), and Squirt has always been a favorite of mine.

Debate Den / Alito sworn in
« on: January 31, 2006, 01:48:41 pm »
Alito sworn in as nation's 110th Supreme Court justice
Senate confirms nominee 58-42 after filibuster fails

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Samuel Alito was sworn in as the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice Tuesday after being confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 58-42.

The vote was the closest confirmation for a nominee since Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed 52-48 in 1991.

The confirmation vote came a day after an attempt by some Democratic senators to block his nomination fizzled.

Alito was sworn in at the Supreme Court, just hours before President Bush's State of the Union address. He will join Chief Justice John Roberts in the House chamber for Tuesday night's speech.

Judge Alito will be ceremonially sworn into office Wednesday in the East Room of the White House.

Alito watched the Senate vote from the Roosevelt Room of the White House with President Bush and his wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner.

Only one of the Senate's 55 Republicans voted against Alito's confirmation -- Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a moderate facing re-election this fall in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.

The four Democrats who broke party ranks and voted for Alito are Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. All four of the states represented by the senators were carried by Bush in both 2000 and 2004.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, condemned the "very bitter partisanship" over Alito's nomination and blamed Democrats for playing politics. "When you have a man who has the decency, the legal ability and the capacities that Judge Alito has treated this way, I think it's despicable," Hatch said.

Alito, 55, replaces retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate swing vote and the first woman appointed to the high court.

At a Republican news conference following Alito's confirmation, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona praised fellow O'Connor for her service and noted "she is being replaced by an exceptional jurist."
Filibuster ended

Alito's supporters in the Senate, as expected, cleared the final roadblock Monday when senators, by a vote of 72-25, decided to cut off debate and proceed to a final vote, rebuffing an attempt by a cadre of liberal senators to talk the nomination to death.

The vote easily exceeded the 60 votes needed to pass the motion to end debate, called a cloture motion. (What is a filibuster?)

In the end, only 24 of the chamber's 44 Democrats went along with the filibuster, a maneuver allowed under Senate rules to block a vote by extending debate indefinitely. It was also supported by the chamber's lone independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont.

Arguing against cutting off debate, Sen. John Kerry -- who spearheaded the filibuster effort with his fellow Massachusetts Democrat, Sen. Ted Kennedy -- said Alito's record during his 15 years on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given "the extreme right wing unbelievable public cause for celebration."

"That just about tells you what you need to know," Kerry said. "The vote today is whether or not we will take a stand against ideological court-packing."

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the move to cut off debate fulfilled a "very straightforward principle -- a nominee with the support of a majority of senators deserves a fair up-or-down vote."

"The sword of the filibuster has been sheathed because we are placing principle before politics, and results before rhetoric," Frist said.

The motion to cut off debate drew the support of 53 Republicans and 19 Democrats, including all 14 senators who signed on to an agreement last year that ended a series of Democratic filibusters of Bush's judicial nominations.

The so-called Gang of 14 included seven Democrats and seven Republicans.

The Democrats agreed not to support judicial filibusters except under "extraordinary circumstances," which would be up to each senator to define. In return, the GOP members agreed not to support any attempt by Republican leaders to change Senate rules to permanently end the practice.

Among the 24 Democrats who supported the filibuster were five senators being mentioned as possible 2008 White House contenders -- Kerry, who lost to Bush in 2004; Hillary Clinton of New York; Evan Bayh of Indiana; Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; and Joe Biden of Delaware.

The Senate's top two Democrats, Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, also supported the Kerry-Kennedy filibuster effort.

CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Everything Else / Favorite ice cream flavor?
« on: January 19, 2006, 05:37:55 pm »
I figured this topic would go well with the actual Everything Else description. :P

I love vanilla personally, but I'm boring...

Debate Den / Union votes to end New York transit walkout
« on: December 22, 2005, 02:02:49 pm »
Official says workers to return 'right away'; talks continue

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The executive board of the union representing more than 30,000 New York transit employees voted Thursday to return to work while contract negotiations continue with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The vote was 36-5, with two abstentions, two union board members said.

"They go back right away," said Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint, who was greeted with chants of "T-W-U" as he approached the podium outside union headquarters. He added only that more information would come "in the next several days."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he expected workers to return to work for their next shifts -- at 4 p.m. Thursday -- but that it could take between 10 and 18 hours to get the system up to full capacity.

"It can't be turned on or off with the flip of a switch," he said.

The transit workers went on strike early Tuesday, shutting down the nation's largest public transportation system and creating hardships for more than 7 million commuters. The transit strike is the first in the city since 1980.

Richard Curreri, director of conciliation service of the state Public Employment Relations Board, said the mediators had met separately over the past 48 hours with the union leadership and representatives of the MTA. He described the talks as "fruitful."

"We requested the leadership of the TWU to take the action necessary to direct its membership to immediately return to work, and they have agreed to take such actions," he said.

One key issue -- the union's pension plan -- continues to be a sticking point. Earlier, Toussaint had said taking the plan off the table would "go a long way" toward getting the union to return to talks and that "the pension demands put forth by the MTA are illegal and burden the negotiations."

But the mediator said that the transit authority had agreed to look at the possibility of finding cost cuts in the health care arena.

The disagreements between the MTA and TWU created "emotionally charged" talks, Curreri said, but the bitter feelings between the two sides had dissipated over the course of the day.

"At this point in time, I'm not aware of any formal negotiations that have been scheduled, but we anticipate that they will be in short order," the mediator said.

Union members are seeking raises, improved health plans and a stronger pension fund, which faces a $1 billion shortfall, according to its leaders.

Under an MTA proposal, new employees would contribute 6 percent of their salaries to their pension funds, instead of the current 2 percent. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority withdrew a proposal to increase the retirement age from 55 to 62.

On Tuesday, the Public Employment Relations Board, acting as a mediator, denied a union request to remove the pension issue, said an MTA spokesman.

The strike violates New York's Taylor Law, which forbids public employees to walk off the job, but Toussaint argued, "We have pointed out that there is a higher calling than the law, and that's justice and equality."

Bloomberg accused the union of "claiming to be the champions of working families," while the "illegal actions they are taking are costing New Yorkers their livelihoods."

Negotiators reported some progress on wage negotiations before talks collapsed early Tuesday. An authority offer Monday night, rejected by the union, included a three-year contract with wage increases of up to 4 percent a year.

The strike forced millions of people to adopt creative ways of getting around -- or simply abandon plans altogether. Even cabdrivers complained that despite the higher fares they can charge, they spend much of their time stuck in traffic jams throughout the city.

Wednesday's cover of the New York Post captured a popular sentiment: "You Rats."

The mayor has said that the economic consequences of the strike, which coincides with the height of holiday shopping and tourist season, range "from severe to devastating, depending on the business."

The city looked to lose another $300 million in revenues Thursday, bringing the total loss for the strike to $1 billion, according to Jeff Simmons, spokesman for city Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.

CNN's Ronni Berke, Katy Byron, Tom DiDonato and Brian Vitagliano contributed to this report.

Computers & Video Games / Google acquires stake in AOL
« on: December 21, 2005, 07:02:46 pm »
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc. and America Online Inc. Tuesday expanded their search and advertising alliance to include video and instant messaging, shutting out Microsoft Corp., which had fought hard for a deal with Time Warner Inc.'s AOL unit.

America Online said Google had agreed to invest $1 billion to take a 5 percent stake in AOL, as part of an enhanced pact where Google will move beyond text-based advertising to allow AOL to sell graphical ads to Google's fast-growing ad network.

The stake effectively values AOL at $20 billion, a key benchmark should Time Warner elect to spinoff or sell a part of its Internet unit in response to dissident shareholder Carl Icahn's proxy campaign to break up the company.

Terms of the deal call for AOL to make more of its Web sites searchable via Google search, including a plans to feature AOL's premium video services within Google Video, a way of searching for Web-based video programming.

They also said they had agreed, under certain unspecified conditions, to allow users of Google's recently introduced instant messaging system Google Talk to communicate with users of AOL's market-leading AIM instant messaging service.

Ahead of the announcement, analysts called the new agreement a major defensive win for Web search leader Google, depriving Microsoft (Research) of a major customer that would have jump-started its push to compete with Google in the online ad services market.

In a letter to Time Warner's board of directors released Monday, billionaire investor Icahn labeled the potential AOL-Google deal as "disastrous" because it may rule out potential future deals AOL might do with Google rivals such as eBay Inc. (Research) or Microsoft.

Shares of Google (Research) edged lower in after-hours trade on the Nasdaq Tuesday after closing at $429.74. Time Warner (Research) shares edged higher after the bell after closing over 1 percent higher at $17.74 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Time Warner is the parent company of

Debate Den / Senate gives Patriot Act six more months
« on: December 21, 2005, 06:58:21 pm »
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate leaders reached a bipartisan agreement Wednesday night to extend expiring and controversial provisions of the Patriot Act for six months.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, announced the agreement from the Senate floor, ending an impasse over the measure.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 251-174 to renew the 16 provisions after striking a compromise that altered some of them.

It is unclear how the House will act on the six-month extension.

If an agreement is not reached, 16 provisions in the act will expire on December 31.

GOP leaders in the Senate have been unable to overcome a filibuster by critics of the act.

Earlier, President Bush urged Congress to renew expiring provisions of the act, telling reporters, "The terrorist threat is not going to expire at the end of this year."

Bush called a Senate filibuster "inexcusable."

"The senators obstructing the Patriot Act need to understand that the expiration of this vital law will endanger America and will leave us in a weaker position in the fight against brutal killers," Bush said.

At a separate media event, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, "If the impasse continues, when Americans wake up on January 1, we will not be as safe."

Bush has said he would veto a three-month extension, arguing it would be inadequate.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the extension would enable common sense to re-enter the debate over the act. Leahy told reporters that 52 senators -- including eight Republicans -- had signed a letter to Frist calling for an extension.

On Friday, the Senate rejected a similar proposal.

Sen. John Sununu, R-New Hampshire, who co-sponsored the measure with Leahy, said there are "a number of different ways that we could work through this issue."

Sununu, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the extension would give ample time for senators to work out differences on the sticking points of the debate.

The Senate needs 60 votes to override a filibuster and end debate, which is called "invoking cloture." Cloture would have brought the Patriot Act to a final vote, allowing the Senate to renew it by a simple majority.

But only 52 senators voted Friday to cut off debate; 47 voted against cloture.

Republicans who voted against cloture included Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas, Larry Craig of Idaho and Sununu.

The Bush administration has lobbied intensely for making key elements of the provisions permanent, as well as making some changes to the existing law. Top officials, including Gonzales, have called lawmakers in hopes of swaying them to the administration's position.

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, created after the September 11, 2001 attacks, allows the government broad authority to investigate people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. Controversial measures include those allowing the FBI -- with a court order -- to obtain secret warrants for business, library, medical and other records, and to get a wiretap on every phone a suspect uses.

Frist is among the most outspoken supporters of re-authorizing the provisions and has argued that voting against immediate reauthorization "amounts to defeat and retreat at home."

But because of the complexity of Senate rules, Frist voted against cloture. The vote allows him to try to bring the act up for another vote.

The Senate remains stuck over the changes to the act, but Sununu said he thinks Congress will reach an agreement.

"I do think there are changes that can be made, acceptable to both the House and Senate, that will enable us to get strong, bipartisan majorities in both chambers," he said.

Debate Den / Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling
« on: December 21, 2005, 06:38:48 pm »
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

The Senate blocked opening the nation's largest untapped oil reserve in an Alaska wildlife refuge Wednesday, denying President Bush his top energy priority and delivering a victory to environmentalists who said drilling would threaten wildlife.

It was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska, one of the Senate's most powerful members, who had hoped to garner more votes by putting the measure onto a defense spending bill. That forced senators to choose between supporting the drilling measure, or risking the political fallout from voting against money for the troops and hurricane victims.

Instead, Stevens found himself a few votes shy of getting his wish.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (news, bio, voting record), D-Wash., who led the floor debate in opposition to the drilling provision, called it "legislative blackmail" and said Democrats agreed they "were not going to get jammed" by the tactic.

Republican leaders could not break a Democratic filibuster threat over the drilling issue, falling three votes short of the 60 votes need to advance the defense spending bill to a final vote. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., left the bill in limbo as he, Stevens and other GOP leaders gauged their next move.

The measure was widely expected to be withdrawn and reworked without the refuge language, although Stevens warned he was ready to stay until New Year's if necessary to fight for the drilling, a cause he has pursued for 25 of his 37 years in the Senate.

Democrats as well as a number of Republicans were already angered by Stevens' tactic that delayed action on the $453.5 billion defense bill including $29 billion for hurricane relief, the war and border security, and $2 billion to help low-income households pay this winter's heating expenses.

"Our military is being held hostage by this issue, Arctic drilling," fumed Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), the Democratic leader.

But Stevens, 82, the Senate's most senior member known for his sometimes cantankerous nature and fiery temper, expressed frustration, but had no apologies.

"Every time this subject comes up ... the minority has filibustered," Stevens complained, reminding colleagues of his 25-year campaign to get Congress to allow development of an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil beneath the coastal tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the far northeastern corner of his state.

After the vote, Democrats celebrated as did environmentalists, knowing they had tangled with one of the Senate's toughest members and won.

"It took a lot of guts for a lot of people to stand up," Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said after the vote. He said he expects the 43 senators who voted against drilling — all but four Democrats as well as GOP Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — not to yield to further pressures and change their vote.

But no one believes the issue — which has galvanized environmentalists determined to protect the refuge from development — is going away.

"I expect to see it again next year," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a longtime drilling opponent.

"Yes, it'll be back," agreed Lieberman.

Environmentalists rejoiced, aware that never before had drilling proponents come so close to victory. The House already had approved the defense bill with Steven's drilling measure included and President Bush was eager to sign it. Congress approved ANWR drilling in 1995 as part of a budget package that was immune from Senate filibuster, but President Clinton, a drilling opponent, vetoed it.

The Sierra Club called it "an against-all-odds" victory.

"Drilling proponents pulled out all the stops, and tried every trick in their playbook," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "This is a tremendous victory for all Americans and proof that the fate of the Arctic refuge must be debated on its merits, not as part of a sneak attack."

Stevens argued that Congress in 1980 agreed to allow ANWR's oil to be developed at some future date as part an a compromise he supported that expanded the federal refuge to 19 million acres.

It was a commitment, he maintains, that has not been met.

Those who advocate drilling contend the oil — an estimated 1 million barrels a day during peak production — is needed for national security to reduce the country's dependence on imports. Drilling opponents say ANWR's oil would do little to curtail imports.

Steven's proposal would have required the Interior Department to issue its first oil leases in the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain of the refuge within 22 months and another package of leases in 2010. Oil was not expected to flow before 2015.

Developing the Arctic refuge's oil has been one of Bush's top energy priorities and the administration stepped up lobbying for the ANWR provision this week. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has said repeatedly that the oil can be developed without harming wildlife given environmental safeguards in the bill and use of the most modern drilling techniques.

But drilling opponents argued that ANWR's oil should not be exploited because of the coastal plain's fragile ecosystem and wildlife. While the region looks bleak during its long winters, and oil can be seen seeping from some of its rock formations, the coastal strip also is the calving ground for caribou and home to polar bears, musk oxen, and the annual influx of millions of migratory birds.

"Destroying this wilderness will do very little to reduce energy costs nor does it do very much for oil independence," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif.

Debate Den / Court rejects 'intelligent design'
« on: December 20, 2005, 01:36:18 pm »
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- "Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote.

The board's attorneys had said members were seeking to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory that evolution develops through natural selection. Intelligent-design proponents argue that the theory cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.

The plaintiffs challenging the policy argued intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools. The judge agreed.

"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 wrote in his 139-page opinion.

The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.

Jones wrote that he wasn't saying the intelligent design concept shouldn't be studied and discussed, saying its advocates "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors."

But, he wrote, "our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

The controversy divided the community and galvanized voters to oust eight incumbent school board members who supported the policy in the November 8 school board election.

Said the judge: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

The board members were replaced by a slate of eight opponents who pledged to remove intelligent design from the science curriculum.

Eric Rothschild, the lead attorney for the families who challenged the policy, called the ruling "a real vindication for the parents who had the courage to stand up and say there was something wrong in their school district."

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which represented the school board, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The dispute is the latest chapter in a long-running debate over the teaching of evolution dating back to the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade teaching evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed his conviction on a technicality, and the law was repealed in 1967.

Jones heard arguments in the fall during a six-week trial in which expert witnesses for each side debated intelligent design's scientific merits. Other witnesses, including current and former school board members, disagreed over whether creationism was discussed in board meetings months before the curriculum change was adopted.

The case is among at least a handful that have focused new attention on the teaching of evolution in the nation's schools.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Georgia heard arguments over whether evolution disclaimer stickers placed in a school system's biology textbooks were unconstitutional. A federal judge in January ordered Cobb County school officials, in suburban Atlanta, to immediately remove the stickers, which called evolution a theory, not a fact.

In November, state education officials in Kansas adopted new classroom science standards that call the theory of evolution into question.
Text of the school's statement

Text of the statement on "intelligent design" that Dover Area High School administrators have been reading to students at the start of biology lessons on evolution:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available in the library along with other resources for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

Debate Den / Bush says he signed NSA wiretap order
« on: December 17, 2005, 09:09:11 pm »
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In acknowledging the message was true, President Bush took aim at the messenger Saturday, saying that a newspaper jeopardized national security by revealing that he authorized wiretaps on U.S. citizens after September 11.

After The New York Times reported, and CNN confirmed, a claim that Bush gave the National Security Agency license to eavesdrop on Americans communicating with people overseas, the president said that his actions were permissible, but that leaking the revelation to the media was illegal.

During an unusual live, on-camera version of his weekly radio address, Bush said such authorization is "fully consistent" with his "constitutional responsibilities and authorities." (Watch Bush explain why he 'authorized the National Security Agency ... to intercept' -- 4:29)

Bush added: "Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."

He acknowledged during the address that he allowed the NSA "to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."

The highly classified program was crucial to national security and designed "to detect and prevent terrorist attacks," he added. (Transcript)

The NSA eavesdrops on billions of communications worldwide. Although the NSA is barred from domestic spying, it can get warrants issued with the permission of a special court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court.

The court is set up specifically to issue warrants allowing wiretapping on domestic soil.
'Sad day'

After hearing Bush's response, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said there was no law allowing the president's actions and that "it's a sad day."

"He's trying to claim somehow that the authorization for the Afghanistan attack after 9/11 permitted this, and that's just absurd," Feingold said. "There's not a single senator or member of Congress who thought we were authorizing wiretaps."

He added that the law clearly lays out how to obtain permission for wiretaps.

"If he needs a wiretap, the authority is already there -- the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act," Feingold said. "They can ask for a warrant to do that, and even if there's an emergency situation, they can go for 72 hours as long as they give notice at the end of 72 hours."

Bush defended signing the order by saying that two of the September 11 hijackers who flew the plane into the Pentagon -- Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi -- "communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas, but we didn't know they were here until it was too late."

He said the authorizations have made it "more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time, and the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad."
Re-authorized 30 times

Sources with knowledge of the program told CNN on Friday that Bush signed the secret order in 2002. The sources refused to be identified because the program is classified.

Bush, however, said he authorized the program on several occasions since the September 11 attacks and that he plans on doing it again.

"I have re-authorized this program more than 30 times," he said. "I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups."

The New York Times had not responded to Bush's allegations that the paper endangered national security as of Saturday afternoon.

But in a Friday statement, Executive Editor Bill Keller said the newspaper postponed publication of the article for a year at the White House's request, while editors pondered the national security issues surrounding the release of the information.

But after considering the legal and civil liberties aspects, and determining that the story could be written without jeopardizing intelligence operations, the paper ran the story, Keller said, emphasizing that information about many NSA eavesdropping operations is public record.

CNN has not confirmed the exact wording of the president's order.

The political ramifications of the newspaper's report were felt even before Bush acknowledged the report's veracity.

Senators contemplating a vote Friday on whether to renew some controversial portions of the Patriot Act used The New York Times' report as evidence that the government could not be trusted with the broad powers laid out in the act. (Read about the Patriot Act vote)

In particular, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said such behavior by the executive branch "can't be condoned," and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said the report swayed his decision on the Patriot Act proposal.

"Today's revelation that the government listened in on thousands of phone conversations without getting a warrant is shocking and has greatly influenced my vote," Schumer said. "Today's revelation makes it very clear that we have to be very careful -- very careful."

Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added Friday that his committee would immediately begin investigating the matter.

CNN's Kelli Arena contributed to this report.

Debate Den / Crips gang co-founder put to death for 4 murders
« on: December 13, 2005, 11:36:35 am »
Crips gang co-founder put to death for 4 murders

SAN QUENTIN, California (CNN) -- Death did not come quickly for Stanley Tookie Williams, the co-founder of the violent Crips street gang who was executed by lethal injection early Tuesday for the 1979 robbery murders of four people in Los Angeles.

Witnesses and prison officials said Williams appeared to grow impatient as prison staffers searched for several minutes for a vein in his muscular left arm.

Authorities began the process to administer the lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. (3:01 a.m. ET) in the execution chamber at San Quentin. His death was announced 34 minutes later.

"He did seem frustrated that it didn't go as quickly as he thought it might," said San Quentin State Prison Warden Steven Ornoski.

Williams, 51, acknowledged a violent past but maintained he was innocent of the slayings. He became an anti-gang crusader while on death row.

It was the second execution in California this year, and the 12th since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s.

"He had a just punishment," said Lora Owens, stepmother of one of Williams' victims and a witness to the execution. "Now I just want to get on," she told CNN on Tuesday.

Williams' case set off intense debate over capital punishment and redemption, with celebrities, activists and anti-death penalty advocates saying his initiatives and anti-gang message from behind bars meant his life was worth saving.

Williams had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature by an array of college professors, a Swiss lawmaker and others.

Difficulty inserting needle

Seventeen reporters witnessed the execution and gave their accounts afterward.

They said inserting the IVs to administer the lethal chemicals took nearly 20 minutes, with staff having particular difficulty getting a needle into Williams' left arm.

Witness Crystal Carreon of the Sacramento Bee said Williams was restless during the preparations.

Another witness, Kim Curtis, a reporter for The Associated Press, said Williams appeared to say, "You doing that right?" as prison staffers searched for a vein.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez said Williams offered "no resistance," but raised his head several times and looked toward his supporters and the press gallery.

Some witnesses said Williams appeared to wince when the needle found its mark.

Three of Williams' invited supporters shouted in unison, "The state of California just killed an innocent man," as they exited the gallery after his death.

Minutes earlier, reporters said, at least one of the three had given Williams a raised fist salute.

Clemency, appeals denied

The execution went ahead as scheduled after the U.S. Supreme Court late Monday rejected a last-ditch appeal.

The high court's ruling followed California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to deny clemency for Williams.

"Based on the cumulative weight of the evidence, there is no reason to second-guess the jury's decision of guilt or raise significant doubts or serious reservations about Williams' convictions and death sentence," Schwarzenegger said in a five-page statement explaining his decision.

Before Williams went to the execution chamber, Owens said she felt "justice is going to be done tonight."

"I had faith that when Governor Arnold (Schwarzenegger) looked at the facts of the case that he was going to decide not to do clemency," said Owens, whose stepson, Albert Owens, was shot to death in a convenience store holdup.

"I don't like it being said it's a political decision," she added. "It was an evidence decision."

Williams had maintained his innocence since his arrest and conviction in the 1979 slayings. He denounced gang violence and wrote children's books with an anti-gang message, donating the proceeds to anti-gang community groups.

One of his lawyers, Peter Fleming, called the governor's decision to deny clemency "wrongheaded."

As Williams was being moved to a holding cell next to the death chamber Monday evening, his lead attorney, John Harris, had said the convict was "at peace."
Protesters outside the gates

A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the gates of the prison Monday evening, with celebrities, activists and anti-death-penalty advocates pleading for Williams' life to be spared.

"I am saddened that we are continuing to demean human life by pretending that we are God and making determinations to kill other individuals for what it is claimed they have done," former "M*A*S*H" star and death penalty opponent Mike Farrell told CNN.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who visited with Williams, said Schwarzenegger decided "to choose revenge over redemption and to use Tookie Williams as a trophy in the flawed system."

"To kill him is a way of making politicians look tough," Jackson said. "It does not make it right. It does not make any of us safer. It does not make any of us more secure."

Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and prominent death penalty opponent, compared the death penalty to "gang justice."

"Gang justice is, if you kill a member of our gang, we kill you -- and don't tell me anything about how you changed your life or what you're going to do," she said. "You kill, and we kill you. And that's what the United States of America is doing with this."

But Schwarzenegger questioned the sincerity of Williams' conversion to nonviolence.

"Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?" Schwarzenegger wrote. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption."

He added: "In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do."

Barbara Becnel, the editor of Williams' books, pledged that his supporters would not give up their fight to prove Williams' innocence.

"We are going to prove his innocence, and when we do, we are going to show that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is, in fact, himself a cold blooded murderer," Becnel said.
Prosecutor: Evidence 'rock solid'

Williams was sentenced to death in 1981 in the killing of Owens, a 26-year-old Los Angeles convenience store clerk. The clerk was shot twice in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun while face-down on the floor.

Less than two weeks after Owens' February 1979 slaying, jurors concluded, Williams killed an immigrant Chinese couple and their 41-year-old daughter while stealing less than $100 in cash from their motel. Robert Martin, one of the prosecutors who sent Williams to prison, said the courts "have scrutinized this from every angle and they've found that the evidence is rock solid."

He questioned whether there was any moral equivalence "between co-authoring some children's books and the senseless murder of four people in cold blood."

"The books will live on," Martin told CNN. "We have many authors who have died, and their books are still in print. And if they have any good effect, that can continue. So I don't believe that that is a conclusive argument."

CNN's Ted Rowlands, Kareen Wynter and Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Computers & Video Games / Creative bites into the video Apple
« on: December 13, 2005, 11:25:57 am »
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Almost 18 months after Creative first declared a marketing war against rival Apple, the company has launched a product to compete directly with the iPod video.

Creative chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo said the Creative Zen Vision: M was part of the "next generation" of MP3 players, which has a color screen "to display four times the co lour of competing portable video players."

Apple launched its iPod video in October. Creative is one of the first companies to follow suit.

"M stands for mini, micro, media -- whatever you want. We've taken the whole Zen Vision and squashed it smaller and put more features in," Sim said, speaking in London at the launch of the product.

Despite bearing a resemblance to Apple's iPod -- both in shape and size -- Sim said the company had purposefully avoided making the product too small.

"We've avoided the small syndrome. We believe you can have too small, too slim where quality is compromised," taking a swipe at Apple's Nano, which was plagued with stories of cracked screens, soon after its launch.

Instead, Sim said Creative had focused on putting extra features in the product, which included the improved color screen, an FM radio and a built-in microphone.

The Zen Vision: M will retail for $349 plus VAT, compared with Apple's iPod video, which costs $329 plus VAT.

In July last year, Sim declared a marketing war on the iPod, but the Singapore-based company has failed to play catch-up to Apple's dominance in the portable music market.

In a bid to improve its position, Creative embarked on a strategy of cutting prices, increasing advertising spending and offering retailers rebates for selling some its MP3 products.

In August this year, the company secured a U.S. patent, dubbed by the company as the "Zen Patent," for a user interface for MP3 players. This interface enables users to efficiently and intuitively navigate and select tracks.

Creative, which filed the application more than four years ago, now claims that many competing MP3 players -- including the iPod -- infringe this patent. The company has yet to file a lawsuit.

Despite a boost in sales, Creative reported an 85.5 percent drop in net profit in its first financial quarter to September compared to the previous's year's quarter.

Debate Den / FEMA chief was given dire warning in 2004
« on: December 12, 2005, 12:06:12 pm »
FEMA chief was given dire warning in 2004
Brown was told response teams were not prepared for 'next big one'
The Associated Press
Updated: 8:29 p.m. ET Dec. 7, 2005

WASHINGTON - FEMA’s top official was told more than a year before Hurricane Katrina that the agency’s emergency response teams were unprepared for a major disaster and were operating under outdated plans, documents show.

Additionally, e-mails obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press indicate that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff tried to call Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco the afternoon before Katrina hit, but she could not be immediately reached; she may have been napping.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Wednesday that Blanco was getting personal items at her residence when Chertoff called. “There was no time for napping,” Denise Bottcher said.

The release of the documents comes a day after heated criticism from hurricane victims. On Tuesday, black Katrina survivors told Congress they felt racism played a major role in the government’s slow response to the storm, with some residents telling Congress they believe the government bombed the levees to intentionally breach them.

Congressmen adamantly denied both claims.

Back in 2004, an 11-page memo to Michael Brown, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, described response teams that were not prepared and were getting “zero funding for training, exercise or team equipment.”

The national responders “provide the only practical, expeditious option for the (FEMA) director to field a cohesive team of his best people to handle the next big one,” wrote William Carwile, who was FEMA’s federal coordinating officer.

As for the plans that response teams use during an emergency, Carwile wrote: “Revision should be a priority since not one word of response doctrine ... has been published in over two years.”

Carwile told Senate aides in a meeting this week that his memo largely was ignored at FEMA’s headquarters, as were four budget requests over an 18-month period for money for the teams. He said each team needed about $1.2 million for training and equipment, according to an aide who attended the meeting.

Brown resigned Sept. 12
Brown resigned from FEMA on Sept. 12, under fire in the wake of the government’s sluggish reaction to Katrina and questions about his own professional experience in responding to disasters.

FEMA’s two national response teams are sent from Washington only during catastrophic events. The teams include FEMA’s most experienced emergency managers, who coordinate response and recovery operations with state officials, and assign tasks to other federal agencies.

FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said one team was sent to Louisiana on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina hit.

The teams were redesigned this May 2005 to make them “more responsive and more nimble,” Andrews said. She said the agency budgeted $6.2 million last year to boost similar response operations.

Asked if any of the changes reflected Carwile’s concerns, Andrews said: “It certainly addressed making them more efficient and effective.”

Carwile, who retired from the agency in October, wrote the memo on behalf of the agency’s other regional coordinating officers.

He planned to testify Thursday at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on FEMA’s response operations.

'Very uncomfortable'
The committee’s top aide, Michael Bopp, questioned Carwile during the meeting this week and said the former FEMA official described himself as “very uncomfortable that the teams weren’t ready to go.”

“You have your most senior operations people within FEMA telling you, loud and clear, what needs to be changed to make the response and recovery to major disasters to be effective, and nothing is ever done,” Bopp said. “That is a real failure in management.”

A separate batch of federal documents details Chertoff’s efforts to get in touch with Blanco as Katrina neared the Gulf Coast.

“Your assistance would be appreciated,” Homeland Security senior intelligence analyst Mark Fischer wrote in an e-mail to two of Blanco’s press aides. It was dated 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, the day before Katrina hit.

“Secretary Chertoff, Department of Homeland Security, is attempting to contact Governor Blanco via telephone,” the e-mail said.

Subsequent e-mails between Blanco’s aides show their attempts to get the message to the governor. One, at 1:59 p.m. noted: “I think she’s asleep now.”

'Unavailable' governor
At 2:13 p.m., the e-mails show, Blanco deputy press secretary Roderick Hawkins wrote Fischer back to report: “Governor Blanco is unavailable at the present time. However, I have given her staff the numbers you provided in your original message. You may try to reach her at approximately 3 p.m.”

Bottcher, the governor’s spokeswoman, said Blanco spoke with President Bush that day and talked with Chertoff “several times during the course of the storm.” She said Blanco started her day at 4:30 a.m. and worked until after midnight, returning to her residence briefly for some personal items and to make some phone calls.

“No one got confirmation that she was napping,” Bottcher said. “There was no time for napping.”
NBC News contributed to this report.

© 2005

Birthdays and Events! / Happy (belated) birthday, Lil`Sara! (16)
« on: December 10, 2005, 06:28:22 pm »
Since the server was down, Sara was really mad that she didn't get a birthday topic.

 :happy:  :happy:  :happy:

(it was December 1st, but I was waiting until she'd be online to see it :original:)

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