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Hallelujah

Finally have the new phone connected to my old number and all’s well with the world. (Mercury went direct at 6:11 a.m. today. Thank you for not flogging me anymore.)

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. I am now convinced that businesses make dealing with their customer service departments an ordeal on general principles. The phone number is not actually working yet. Just like before, I can make calls out, but I’m not getting calls in.

UPDATE: I had another chat with my new best friends in the offshore tech support center. It turns out that no one ever bothered to enter the data plan for the phone, so the web access wasn’t working. I think I may have found a company that’s actually worse than Comcast.

Virtually Speaking Science tonight

Wed, April 4 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Science | Feeling down about spaceflight? Lift your spirits with Yuri’s Night MSNBC.com’s Alan Boyle (Cosmic Log) talks with Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto, director of marketing for Yuri’s Night 2012, about spaceflight’s past and future.  VS Science is produced in cooperation with MICA, the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics. Pre-show interview at CosmicLogFollow @b0yle @YurisNight @RyInSpace #YurisNight Listen live and later on BTR

Clean coal

Go read all of this very good piece of journalism. Here are some lowlights, but click through for much more.

For [Robert] Maddox, the first signs of trouble would come in the middle of the night, when he would wake up with nose bleeds mixed with clear mucus. Then his muscles started twitching, and then he got kidney disease, and then sclerosis of the liver. […]

The neighbor who used to live in the now-empty house has abdominal cancer. In the house two doors over, a once healthy woman has a form of dementia that’s left her “unrecognizable,” according to Maddox.

Maddox lives across the highway from Plant Scherer, a giant coal-fired power plant and the largest of greenhouse gas producer in the United States.

For its part, Georgia Power claims it didn’t know about any health problems among residents living near the plant.

But then again, it also says it isn’t offering to buy properties around the plant.

The spokesman, Mark Williams, says Georgia Power routinely purchases property around power plants. However, in the case of Scherer, Williams says Georgia Power “is not approaching people and offering buyouts.”

Yet, three homeowners across from the plant showed CNN business cards left by Georgia Power employees indicating the company was opening up discussions to purchase their homes.

When presented with this contradiction, Williams holds firm.

“We have not been approaching people,” Williams said.

Some residents have high concentrations of uranium in samples of their hair. The EPA thinks the uranium is coming from under a layer of underground granite near Atlanta, which is about 70 miles away. But Plant Scherer stores it’s uranium-rich coal ash in an unlined pond that is considerably closer.

“The EPA has estimated the risk of people getting cancer around unlined ash ponds were as high as one in 50 individuals exposed,” Stant notes. “So, it’s extremely important to line these ponds. It’s nine times higher than the risk of cancer from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for your entire life.”

Luckily, the government is staying out of the way, with no pesky regulations forcing the company to line the coal ash pond or bureaucrats hanging around asking questions or inspecting things.

But that might be just because the bureaucrats don’t want to get sick.

Sheriff of the year

All that leather just gets him excited, I guess:

A former Colorado police sheriff, who was once named national “Sheriff of the Year,” pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of trading methamphetamine for sex with a male prostitute.

According to KUSA-TV, 69-year-old Patrick Sullivan confessed to a felony drug possession charge and a misdemeanor charge for soliciting a prostitute.

Sullivan was caught in an undercover sting operation last November after going to a home in Aurora, Colorado to trade meth for sex with a male prostitute. Deputy Attorney General Michael Dougherty said Sullivan’s actions during the sting, such as undressing after throwing the meth on the bed, revealed that Sullivan committed the practice multiple times before.

Center Forward

Just saw a commercial on CNN for these morons, and I knew they had to be up to no good. Turns out they’re a bunch of Blue Dogs who lost their seats, but managed to scrape up some “stink tank” money so they could continue to live their luxurious lifestyle at the expense of the suckers they con into supporting their “save the rich!” vision.

I love this country.

I wonder

If Etch-A-Sketch Romney has changed his position on tornado damage aid since last year…

That’ll teach them

Not to protest tuition hikes! A little pepper spray’s good for them!

I have seen no allegation that any of the students were violent or even used civil disobedience; the main problem seems to have been — in the college president’s words — that the small boardroom wasn’t able to accommodate all of the students who wanted to speak: ”We expected some students, but we didn’t expect that big of a crowd with such enthusiasm.”

When students demanded entrance to the room the meeting was being held — a tiny room, with room for only a handful of outsiders (by a great coincidence) — the police went wild.

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.

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