Oklahoma Earthquakes Are a National Security Threat

[Note:  This item comes from friend Judi Clark.  DLH]

Oklahoma Earthquakes Are a National Security Threat
North America’s biggest commercial oil storage hub is already on guard against terrorism, but quakes could prove the bigger risk.
By Matthew Philips
Oct 23 2015

In the months after Sept. 11, 2001, as U.S. security officials assessed the top targets for potential terrorist attacks, the small town of Cushing, Okla., received special attention. Even though it is home to fewer than 10,000 people, Cushing is the largest commercial oil storage hub in North America, second only in size to the U.S. government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The small town’s giant tanks, some big enough to fit a Boeing 747 jet inside, were filled with around 10 million barrels of crude at the time, an obvious target for someone looking to disrupt America’s economy and energy supply.

The FBI, state and local law enforcement and emergency officials, and the energy companies that own the tanks formed a group called the Safety Alliance of Cushing. Soon, guards took up posts along the perimeter of storage facilities and newly installed cameras kept constant surveillance. References to the giant tanks and pipelines were removed from the Cushing Chamber of Commerce website. In 2004, the Safety Alliance simulated a series of emergencies: an explosion, a fire, a hostage situation.

After the shale boom added millions of additional barrels to Cushing, its tanks swelled to a peak hoard of more than 60 million barrels this spring. That’s about as much petroleum as the U.S. uses in three days, and it’s more than six times the quantity that triggered security concerns after Sept. 11. The Safety Alliance has remained vigilant, even staging tornado simulations after a few close calls.

Now the massive oil stockpile faces an emerging threat: earthquakes. In the past month, a flurry of quakes have hit within a few miles of Cushing, rattling the town and its massive tanks. According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, more than a dozen quakes have registered 3.0 or higher on the Richter scale within a few miles of Cushing since mid-September. The biggest, registering at 4.5, hit about three miles away on Oct. 10.

This is all part of the disturbing rise in earthquakes in Oklahoma, which has corresponded to increased fracking activity and oil production in the state. Since 2008, Oklahoma has gone from averaging fewer than two earthquakes per year that measure at least 3.0 in magnitude to surpassing California as the most seismically active state in the continental U.S. This year, Oklahoma is on pace to endure close to 1,000 earthquakes. Scientists at the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado recently published a paper (PDF) raising concerns that the welter of moderate-sized earthquakes around Cushing could increase the risk of larger quakes in the future. 

Seismologists believe the quakes are the result of wastewater injection wells used by the fracking industry. Horizontal oil wells in Oklahoma can produce as many as nine or 10 barrels of salty, toxin-laced water for every barrel of oil. Much of that fluid is injected back underground into wastewater disposal wells. It is this water, injected near faults, that many seismologists—including those at the U.S. Geological Survey—say has caused the spike in earthquakes.

The role that fracking plays in the rise of earthquakes has been hugely controversial in Oklahoma, where one in five jobs is tied to the oil and gas industry. This year, as Bloomberg reported, seismologists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey were pressured by oil companies not to make a link between the earthquakes and fracking-related wastewater injection wells. Under the weight of mounting scientific evidence, Republican Governor Mary Fallin’s administration in April finally acknowledged the role fracking played in earthquake activity.

In June, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said that a woman injured in an earthquake could sue an Oklahoma oil company for damages. That company, Tulsa-based New Dominion, is one of the pioneers of a new breed of high-volume wastewater injection wells that can suck down millions of barrels of water and bury it deep underground. In April, Bloomberg Businessweek profiled David Chernicky, its charismatic founder and chairman.


America’s Top Fears 2015

[Note:  This item comes from friend Judi Clark.  DLH]

America’s Top Fears 2015
By Sheri Ledbetter
Oct 13 2015

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears, Wave 2 (2015) provides an unprecedented look into the fears of average Americans. In April of 2015, a random sample of 1,541 adults from across the United States were asked their level of fear about eighty-eight different fears across a huge variety of topics ranging from crime, the government, disasters, personal anxieties, technology and many others.

Domains of Fear

Fear Domain Types of Questions Included
Crime Murder, rape, theft, burglary, fraud, identity theft
Daily Life Romantic rejection, ridicule, talking to strangers
Environment Global warming, overpopulation, pollution
Government Government corruption, Obamacare, drones, gun control, immigration issues
Judgment of others Appearance, weight, age, race
Man-Made Disasters Bio-warfare, terrorism, nuclear attacks
Natural Disasters Earthquakes, droughts, floods, hurricanes
Personal Anxieties Tight spaces, public speaking, clowns, vaccines
Personal Future Dying, illness, running out of money, unemployment
Technology Artificial intelligence, robots, cyber-terrorism

Top Fear Domains, 2015

Each fear question asks Americans to rate their level of fear on a scale ranging from 1 (not afraid) to 4 (very afraid). The average score for each domain of fear provides insight into what types of fear are of greatest concern to Americans in 2015.

On average, Americans expressed the highest levels of fear about man-made disasters, such as terrorist attacks, followed by fears about technology, including corporate and government tracing of personal data and fears about the government (such as government corruption and ObamaCare). The complete, ranked list of Domains of Fear follows:


DecodeDC: Episode 111: Conversation in the Digital Age…nvm, tldr.

DecodeDC: Episode 111: Conversation in the Digital Age…nvm, tldr.
How does our constant need to stay connected affect our ability to well, connect?
By Dick Meyer
Oct 22 2015

It’s a bizarre question at first: Is our capacity for meaningful, soul-nourishing conversation something that can go away? Sherry Turkle, professor of psychology at MIT, and author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age”,  says yes, emphatically.

On this episode of DecodeDC, Dick Meyer has a long conversation with Turkle about conversation. Turkle is our foremost scholar of how new technology affects old emotions, behaviors and ways of bonding. Spoiler alert: We’re all at risk of becoming device-addicted, never-present techno-dweebs if we don’t wise up fast.

Audio: 18:15 min

The Dark Web isn’t as revolutionary as you’d think

The Dark Web isn’t as revolutionary as you’d think
Oct 25 2015

When the United States Naval Research Laboratory began development of The Onion Router (TOR) in the mid-1990’s they meant well.

How could they have known it would eventually become a popular habitat for hackers, child pornographers and criminals?

The goal was to create a portal where dissidents of oppressive regimes can communicate their strife to the US government anonymously, which is all very well and good, until the portal became a hotbed of criminal activity known as The Dark Web. The Dark Web is a network of underground websites which are not readily accessible to your average internet visitor.

How the Onion Router Works 

The name of The Onion Router aptly describes how the network works and how it offers (partial) anonymity to its users.

When using The Onion Router to browse the Web all actions and requests filter through three different nodes; the passing of messages, from one node to the next, works similar to runners passing a baton during a relay race. 

In a relay race each runner passes the baton to the next runner, but has no interaction with the subsequent runner after that. Similarly, the three nodes interact with one another in a similar fashion, so the first and third node never interact, and never know of the other. 

The three nodes used are computers which have been volunteered by their operators to route requests through The Onion Router. Each request is encrypted in a way that resembles the layers of an onion- so each node is only visibile to the computer that provided the request and the computer where the request will subsequently be forwarded to.

In this way, the “node” that speaks to the server cannot find out where the request originated. The node that speaks to the user’s machine – the one that sent the request – does not know (and will never know) where the request is heading – it only knows to which “node” it should relay that request to. 

Thus users in the router remain anonymous, at least partially.

From Haven of the Oppressed to Criminal Wonderland

Once the TOR framework was created one problem still remained. While users of the network could remain hidden, those who wanted to share content had to do so through regular servers, potentially exposing their identities to their tyrannical governments.

To correct this vulnerability TOR added another feature – Web servers which could only be accessed through The Onion Router network itself.

Theoretically speaking, when both client and server remain anonymous they cannot be tracked; now dissenters of oppressive governments had a way to communicate with the outside world.


Jim Comey Describes the Dangerous Chilling Effect of Surveillance (But Only for Cops)

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Jim Comey Describes the Dangerous Chilling Effect of Surveillance (But Only for Cops)
By Marcy Wheeler
Oct 24 2015

For at least the second time, Jim Comey has presented himself as a Ferguson Effect believer, someone who accepts data that has been cherry picked to suggest a related rise in violent crime in cities across the country (I believe that in Ferguson itself, violent crime dropped last month, but whatever).

I have spoken of 2014 in this speech because something has changed in 2015. Far more people are being killed in America’s cities this year than in many years. And let’s be clear: far more people of color are being killed in America’s cities this year.

And it’s not the cops doing the killing.

We are right to focus on violent encounters between law enforcement and civilians. Those incidents can teach all of us to be better.

But something much bigger is happening.

Most of America’s 50 largest cities have seen an increase in homicides and shootings this year, and many of them have seen a huge increase. These are cities with little in common except being American cities—places like Chicago, Tampa, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Orlando, Cleveland, and Dallas.

In Washington, D.C., we’ve seen an increase in homicides of more than 20 percent in neighborhoods across the city. Baltimore, a city of 600,000 souls, is averaging more than one homicide a day—a rate higher than that of New York City, which has 13 times the people. Milwaukee’s murder rate has nearly doubled over the past year.

Yesterday, Comey flew to Chicago and repeated something its embattled Mayor recently floated (even while Bill Bratton, who is a lot more experienced at policing than Rahm Emanuel, has publicly disputed it): that cops are not doing their job because people have started taking videos of police interactions.

I’ve also heard another explanation, in conversations all over the country. Nobody says it on the record, nobody says it in public, but police and elected officials are quietly saying it to themselves. And they’re saying it to me, and I’m going to say it to you. And it is the one explanation that does explain the calendar and the map and that makes the most sense to me.

Maybe something in policing has changed.

In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?

I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, “We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.”

I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.

So the suggestion, the question that has been asked of me, is whether these kinds of things are changing police behavior all over the country.

And the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.


24 states sue to overturn centerpiece of Obama’s climate-change initiative

24 states sue to overturn centerpiece of Obama’s climate-change initiative
“EPA’s rule is flatly illegal” and is an “aggressive” power grab according to 24 states.
By David Kravets
Oct 25 2015

That didn’t take long. The same day that a key feature in President Barack Obama’s climate-change initiative became law, 24 states and other concerned energy entities sued Friday to block the new regulations that are designed to cut US carbon emissions from hundreds of power plants.

The regulations demand a 32 percent reduction in power plant emissions by 2030, with the baseline set at 2005 emission levels. Coal-burning power plants, which generate about a third of the nation’s power, are the hardest hit under Obama’s plan. West Virginia and Kentucky, two of the states that rely heavily on coal for power and jobs, are spearheading the attack on Obama’s plan.

The suit asks a federal appeals court to immediately block the Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are known as the Clean Power Plan. The purpose of the plan, announced in August, is to require the utility industry to shift to cleaner-burning energy sources to power their energy producing plants. The utility industry is currently the biggest source of carbon emissions in the US contributing to climate change.

Instead of shifting to cleaner methods of energy production, however, the states want to focus on building pollution controls at fossil-fuel-fired plants already in operation.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Obama’s climate change plan is “the single most onerous and illegal regulations that we’ve seen coming out of D.C. in a long time.” During a conference call with reporters, Morrisey said the rule would devastate the coal mining industry, increase consumer energy costs, and jeopardize the energy production business overall.

“The EPA cannot do what it intends to do legally,” he said.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator, said that the “Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans, and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.” She said the administration was “confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States.”

The states joining West Virginia’s lawsuit include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Arizona, and North Carolina. As many as 15 other states said they would try to intervene in the suit to support the EPA’s position.


The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black

The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black
An examination of traffic stops and arrests in Greensboro, N.C., uncovered wide racial differences
in measure after measure of police conduct.
Oct 24 2015

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Rufus Scales, 26 and black, was driving his younger brother Devin to his hair-cutting class in this genteel, leafy city when they heard the siren’s whoop and saw the blue light in the rearview mirror of their black pickup. Two police officers pulled them over for minor infractions that included expired plates and failing to hang a flag from a load of scrap metal in the pickup’s bed. But what happened next was nothing like a routine traffic stop.

Uncertain whether to get out of the car, Rufus Scales said, he reached to restrain his brother from opening the door. A black officer stunned him with a Taser, he said, and a white officer yanked him from the driver’s seat. Temporarily paralyzed by the shock, he said, he fell face down, and the officer dragged him across the asphalt.

Rufus Scales emerged from the encounter with four traffic tickets; a charge of assaulting an officer, later dismissed; a chipped tooth; and a split upper lip that required five stitches.

That was May 2013. Today, his brother Devin does not leave home without first pocketing a hand-held video camera and a business card with a toll-free number for legal help. Rufus Scales instinctively turns away if a police car approaches.

“Whenever one of them is near, I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t feel safe,” he said.

As most of America now knows, those pervasive doubts about the police mirror those of millions of other African-Americans. More than a year of turmoil over the deaths of unarmed blacks after encounters with the police in Ferguson, Mo., in Baltimore and elsewhere has sparked a national debate over how much racial bias skews law enforcement behavior, even subconsciously.

Documenting racial profiling in police work is devilishly difficult, because a multitude of factors — including elevated violent crime rates in many black neighborhoods — makes it hard to tease out evidence of bias from other influences. But an analysis by The New York Times of tens of thousands of traffic stops and years of arrest data in this racially mixed city of 280,000 uncovered wide racial differences in measure after measure of police conduct.

Those same disparities were found across North Carolina, the state that collects the most detailed data on traffic stops. And at least some of them showed up in the six other states that collect comprehensive traffic-stop statistics.

Here in North Carolina’s third-largest city, officers pulled over African-American drivers for traffic violations at a rate far out of proportion with their share of the local driving population. They used their discretion to search black drivers or their cars more than twice as often as white motorists — even though they found drugs and weapons significantly more often when the driver was white.

Officers were more likely to stop black drivers for no discernible reason. And they were more likely to use force if the driver was black, even when they did not encounter physical resistance.

The routine nature of the stops belies their importance.

As the public’s most common encounter with law enforcement, they largely shape perceptions of the police. Indeed, complaints about traffic-law enforcement are at the root of many accusations that some police departments engage in racial profiling. Since Ferguson erupted in protests in August last year, three of the deaths of African-Americans that have roiled the nation occurred after drivers were pulled over for minor traffic infractions: a broken brake light, a missing front license plateand failure to signal a lane change.

Violence is rare, but routine traffic stops more frequently lead to searches, arrests and the opening of a trapdoor into the criminal justice system that can have a lifelong impact, especially for those without the financial or other resources to negotiate it.