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Nuke drones

People are such worrywarts! What could possibly go wrong?

American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without refuelling.

The blueprints for the new drones, which have been developed by Sandia National Laboratories – the US government’s principal nuclear research and development agency – and defence contractor Northrop Grumman, were designed to increase flying time “from days to months” while making more power available for operating equipment, according to a project summary published by Sandia.

“It’s pretty terrifying prospect,” said Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK, which campaigns against the increasing use of drones for both military and civilian purposes. “Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot. There is a major push by this industry to increase the use of drones and both the public and government are struggling to keep up with the implications.”

A worthy cause

A friend turned me on to this blog they follow. The blogger’s service dog need surgery, so if you can help, I can think of worse things you can do with your money!

Liar, liar

Bank of America sold a bunch of debts to collectors while noting that the amounts could very be wrong – and the people might have paid off the debts already:

At Bank of America, records declared unreliable yet sold to CACH were used to file thousands of lawsuits against consumers, according to a review of hundreds of cases in the state courts where collection suits are typically filed. The overwhelming majority of cases end in default judgments, which are awarded to creditors when borrowers don’t show up to contest the claims made against them.

In cases where debtors do challenge collections demands in court, the original bank-creditor must testify about the documentation supporting the claims. In several such instances, people identified as Bank of America employees have submitted affidavits attesting to the validity of debts sold by the bank to collections firms.

Even though Bank of America previously disavowed “the accuracy of the sums shown as the current balance,” the sworn statements vouch for the borrowers’ debts down to the penny and declare that the bank’s “computerized and hard copy records” back the claims. There are other possible discrepancies, as well: the affidavits state that B of A “has no further interest in this account for any purpose,” while the sales contracts reference a “revenue sharing plan.”

The prospect that B of A was selling unreliable credit card debts did not deter CACH from buying them. A subsidiary of SquareTwo Financial, CACH does not collect debts itself. Instead, it operates like a restaurant franchiser, acquiring rights to the delinquent debts that are the raw materials of the collections business. It then works with law firms around the country that do the actual collections work, providing them with debt files, court witnesses and other services.

In thousands of cases in state courts, CACH has appended a single page from its purchase agreements with Bank of America attesting to its ownership of delinquent credit card debt. CACH has omitted from many such filings the more than 30 additional pages where Bank of America disclaims the accuracy of its debt records. Even so, attorneys affiliated with CACH have cited the reliability of Bank of America’s records as the foundation for their collections lawsuits.

Tales of the mercury retrograde

Okay, I moved my account to T-Mobile and got one of their Android phones. But then they told me that ATT hadn’t ported through my old number, so what happened was I had two cell phones, neither of which worked.

So I spent most of yesterday on the phone (Comcast landline), trying to get at least one of my phones running. This was not easy; T-Mobile insisted ATT hadn’t permitted the number to be ported; ATT insisted they’d given permission “at 3:37 p.m. yesterday.”

It turns out that the T-Mobile rep was supposed to give me a temporary phone number until they got the old one from ATT, but the rep who waited on me forgot and of course today was her day off.

In the meantime, I was on the phone all day with both the store manager AND the T-Mobile tech department. The tech department kept insisting ATT didn’t give their permission to port the number. ATT kept insisting they had. Finally, the tech person said he could give me a temporary number, but I’d have to authorize a $50 deposit on the account. “Woh, hold on. I did that yesterday,” I said, and hung up.

Finally, I got a temporary number after I finally figured out how to get the back off the phone (broke a nail – turns out I forgot I’d bought a case and that’s why I couldn’t get the back off) so I could read the SIM card number to the store rep. But then I had to call tech support again, and we had to reset the phone settings to the factory default in order for me to set up my email account. (I kept getting a “not connecting to server” message, but we finally got that straightened out.) Then I noticed at the bottom of an email from my brother that he had the same phone, so I called him. He emailed me his manual.

There was more, but I’ve blocked it all out so I don’t have to relive the trauma.

Anyway, I now have a cell phone. I can make outgoing calls, I’m not getting incoming. They say they’ll have it all straightened out in 24 hours, but I’m not counting on it. I have to dial into my old number to hear the voicemails, yet under the circumstances, I can live with it. And T-Mobile is $20 a month less than ATT, so there’s that.

Oh look

I suppose I’d be a little more sympathetic to the ideal of a chilling effect on the bench if the 5th Circuit wasn’t famous for being so batsh*t crazy. But it is, so when one of the Republican activist judges pitched a little hissy fit over the president’s remarks earlier this week, well, I find it hard to work up any sympathy:

A federal judge on Tuesday expressed concern over President Obama’s comments on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the health-care law and demanded a letter explaining whether Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. believes federal judges have the authority to strike down federal laws.

Judge Jerry Smith, a Republican appointee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, was part of a three-judge panel hearing arguments in a lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act when he issued his unusual demand, saying the Justice Department must submit the three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom. The demand was first reported by CBS News.

The lawyer said Smith cited Obama’s statements Monday, when in unusually blunt language, the president said overturning the law would amount to an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” of judicial activism.

The judge “said the president has been saying that unelected branches of government shouldn’t be activist and strike down federal laws,’’ according to the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing either side.

A court order cited the letter but did not give details. The other two judges hearing the case are also Republican appointees.

As Think Progress points out, the 5th Circuit appellate court is the right-wing equivalent of DisneyWorld:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit may be the most ideological court in the country.

When the oil industry’s allies in Congress wanted to protect the industry from drilling lawsuits, they passed a bill trying to force those lawsuits into thereliably industry-friendly Fifth Circuit. When a high school cheerleader sued her school district after it made her cheer for her alleged rapist, the Fifth Circuit ordered the alleged rape victim to pay more than $40,000.

When one of the court’s few progressives asked a series of probing questions to a prosecutor during a court hearing, Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones yelled at him to “shut up” and asked him if he would like to leave the courtroom.

Suspiciously sensible, once upon a time

From Grist, further evidence that Mitt “Etch-A-Sketch” Romney is/was the the moderate, Northeastern Republican that haunts the dreams of the party’s extreme fringe — otherwise known as the Republican leadership. Now, while I’m always happy to catch a Republican with his ideological pants down, in this case, it may not work to the Democrats’ advantage. Because the more moderate Mittens appears in the eyes of the true believers, the more pressure there will be to pair him with an extremist personality like Paul Ryan or Eric Cantor to excite their base and get them to turn out:

A new document has surfaced [PDF] showing Mitt Romney’s strong support for regulating carbon dioxide in 2003, when he called cap-and-trade “an effective approach” to combating climate change.

The comments were made in a letter from Romney to New York Gov. George Pataki (R) about a regional cooperative system for regulating greenhouse gases. In the letter, Romney agreed with Pataki on the need to “reduce the power plant pollution that is harming our climate.”But today, in trying to align himself with conservative political backlash against climate science, Romney says “we don’t know” whether humans are warming the planet, and that doing something about the problem “is not the right course for us.”

Here’s the full letter [PDF] from Romney to Pataki:

Thank you for your invitation to embark on a cooperative northeast process to reduce the power plant pollution that is harming our climate. I concur that climate change is beginning to effect on our natural resources and that now is the time to take action toward climate protection. Furthermore, I share your interest in ensuring that the economic and security contributions made by our electricity generating system are not negated by the impact of emissions from that system on the health of our citizens.

As you may know, the commonwealth is making major strides to reduce the environmental impact of our power plants. Specifically, I am making good on my pledge to clean up the six oldest and dirtiest power plants in the state and bring them up to new plant standards for NOx, SOx, mercury and CO2. We are the first state to enact a cap on CO2, implementing regulations that, by 2008, will reduce these emissions by 10%, removing 6,750 tons of Co2 per day. Furthermore, Massachusetts, along with the other New England states and Canadian provinces, has a target of reducing greenhouse gases and improving the efficiency of the grid substantially over the next 20 years.

I believe that our joint work to create a flexible market-based regional cap and trade system could serve as an effective approach to meeting these goals. I am ready to have my staff work with yours to explore how we might design such a system — one that would keep the cost of compliance as low as possible, diversify our fuels, encourage energy efficiency and renewables, and keep our energy dollars in the region. Thank you for your initiative in proposing this project.

Even though he’s done everything but demand drilling on every block in America to make up for it, Republicans are still suspicious that Mittens is, deep down, a sensible sort. And in the modern Republican party, we can’t have that!

Make it easy on yourself

More Walker Brothers:

Secret o’ life

India Arie:

Needles and pins

The Searchers:

Every time you walk into the room

Jackie DeShannon:

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