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December 1st, 2012:

Saturday video break: Smooth Criminal

Song #41 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Smooth Criminal”, originally by Michael Jackson and covered by Alien Ant Farm. Here’s the Gloved One:

That’s the radio edit – my Youtube search shows that the full version of this song is more than nine minutes in length. I’ve never been much of a Michael Jackson fan, and that’s at least five minutes too long for me. Here’s the Alien Ant Farm cover:

Still not a big fan of the song, but that version is only three and a half minutes. The shots of the singer in a chair that looks like a sequined glove, with a monkey on his lap, is a nice touch.

The payday lenders’ new tricks

You really need to read Forrest Wilder’s story about the latest scheme by payday lenders to skirt regulation.

As serendipity would have it, I had stumbled onto the latest mutant creature in the wild and wooly world of Texas payday lending. “What you’ve come across is really important,” said Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based group that advocates for social and economic justice. “It looks like they have found a loophole within a loophole,” one that allows Cottonwood Financial (d/b/a Cash Store) to escape new, albeit meager, licensing and disclosure requirements passed by the Texas Legislature as well as more stringent rules adopted by Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.


What’s different about Cash Store’s loans versus a “regular” payday loan? Instead of signing a postdated check for the amount due, like you would in a true payday loan, the Cash Store had me sign a photocopy of a blank check. That small change apparently has magical powers. Voila! Not a deferred presentment transaction, not a payday loan, not a credit access business, and apparently not subject to Texas regulations.

Experts I consulted said the arrangement looked legal on its face, but raised troubling questions about the state’s convoluted and extraordinarily lax legal apparatus surrounding payday and title loans. (You can view my contracts here.)

“There are new products in the payday and auto-loan field that raise questions,” said state Sen. John Carona, a Dallas Republican who chairs the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. “These approaches appear to skirt local ordinances as well as state law. Carona said he would consider filing legislation to address the problem next year.

Read it and learn the details. What this ultimately boils down to is the fact that there are no limits on interest rates and fees that payday lenders can charge, which leads to effective annual percentage rates in the hundreds, even thousands. People who are forced by circumstance to take out one of these loans are often trapped, sometimes for years, paying fees without ever being able to pay off the principal. The simple solution is to do what other states have done and impose caps on interest rates and fees. If the Lege is serious about taking another crack at reform, this is what the goal needs to be.

DRT vs OAG: OAG wins

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have conceded in the fight over how the Alamo has been maintained.

In a news release Tuesday, the Daughters acknowledged recent troubles at the shrine and vowed to use a critical report issued Nov. 20 by the Texas attorney general’s office as a “learning tool” for the 7,000-member historical group.

DRT President General Karen Thompson said the 38-page report “has provided closure about past management practices and operations” at the former mission and battle site.

It was a sudden capitulation after the DRT’s top officer had considered waging a last-ditch public relations battle to try to discount the report. The San Antonio Express-News obtained a copy of a draft release sent to board members Monday in which Thompson is critical of the attorney general’s findings, claiming “many inaccuracies and unsupported allegations.”

But the release she sent to the media Tuesday didn’t challenge the report’s findings.

“We are also mindful of past mistakes and will use this report as a learning tool, and all officers of the DRT will read it and benefit from it,” Thompson said.

See here for the background, and here for the DRT’s press release, in which they list a number of changes they say they have made that were not listed in the OAG’s report. What really matters here is that proper care is being taken of the Alamo. Let’s hope that will be the case from now on.

So you say you have Bigfoot DNA

I have one thing to say about this.

Steve Austin knows the truth

A team of scientists can verify that their 5-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” living in North America. Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species.

The study was conducted by a team of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology, led by Dr. Melba S. Ketchum of Nacogdoches, TX. In response to recent interest in the study, Dr. Ketchum can confirm that her team has sequenced 3 complete Sasquatch nuclear genomes and determined the species is a human hybrid:

“Our study has sequenced 20 whole mitochondrial genomes and utilized next generation sequencing to obtain 3 whole nuclear genomes from purported Sasquatch samples. The genome sequencing shows that Sasquatch mtDNA is identical to modern Homo sapiens, but Sasquatch nuDNA is a novel, unknown hominin related to Homo sapiens and other primate species. Our data indicate that the North American Sasquatch is a hybrid species, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens.

Hominins are members of the taxonomic grouping Hominini, which includes all members of the genus Homo. Genetic testing has already ruled out Homo neanderthalis and the Denisova hominin as contributors to Sasquatch mtDNA or nuDNA. “The male progenitor that contributed the unknown sequence to this hybrid is unique as its DNA is more distantly removed from humans than other recently discovered hominins like the Denisovan individual,” explains Ketchum.

“Sasquatch nuclear DNA is incredibly novel and not at all what we had expected. While it has human nuclear DNA within its genome, there are also distinctly non-human, non-archaic hominin, and non-ape sequences. We describe it as a mosaic of human and novel non-human sequence. Further study is needed and is ongoing to better characterize and understand Sasquatch nuclear DNA.”

If they really have Bigfoot DNA – and if you read the whole press release, at the bottom it says “Full details of the study will be presented in the near future when the study manuscript publishes”, so we’re just taking their word for it, as if there were any doubt about that – then send it to Oxford and let the boffins over there have a go at it. If you’ve really got what you say you’ve got, then a Nobel prize is surely in your future. If not, well, no one should be surprised. Via SciGuy, who treats the announcement with all due respect. For more on why we already do know the truth about Bigfoot, see this Slate article, and for more on the reactions to this particular claim, see TM Daily Post.