#AceNewsServices – November 06 – Excellent post by Nwo Report and posted without any changes and with agreement.
US government is unaccountable, released from constitutional and legal constraints
Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma.
Geologists don’t know when or where the state’s next big earthquake will strike, nor will they put a number on the increased risk. “We haven’t seen this before in Oklahoma, so we had some concerns about putting a specific number on the chances of it,” Robert Williams, a research geophysicist with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Golden, Colorado, told Live Science.
“But we know from other cases around the world that if you have an increasing number of small earthquakes, the chances of a larger one will go up.”
That’s why earthquakes of magnitude 5 and larger are more frequent in states such as California and Alaska, where thousands of smaller temblors hit every year.
This is the first time the USGS has issued an earthquake warning for a state east of the Rockies, Williams said. Such seismic hazard assessments are more typically issued for Western states following large quakes, to warn residents of the risk of damaging aftershocks, he said.
The geological agencies took action after the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma outpaced that of even California for the first few months of 2014. (California regained the lead in April.)
“The rate of earthquakes increased dramatically in March and April,” Williams said. “That alerted us to examine this further and put out this advisory statement.”
While Oklahoma’s buildings can withstand light earthquakes, the damage from a magnitude-5 temblor could be widespread. Oklahoma’s last major earthquake was in November 2011, when a magnitude-5.6 earthquake centered near Prague, Oklahoma, destroyed 14 homes and injured at least two people.
“Building owners and government officials should have a special concern for older, unreinforced brick structures, which are vulnerable to serious damage during sufficient shaking,” Bill Leith, a USGS senior science adviser for earthquakes and geologic hazards, said in the joint statement.
While scientists haven’t ruled out natural causes for the increase, many researchers suspect the deep injection wells used for the disposal of fracking wastewater could be causing the earthquake activity. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting oil and gas by cracking open underground rock
Ongoing studies have found a link between Oklahoma’s high-volume wastewater injection wells and regions with an uptick in earthquakes.
According to the USGS, the number of quakes magnitude-3 and stronger jumped by 50 percent in the past eight months in Oklahoma. Some 183 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater struck between October 2013 and April 14, 2014. The state’s long-term average from 1978 to 2008 was only two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger per year.
If the earthquakes are caused by wastewater injection, then the activity could continue or decrease with future changes in well usage in the state.
“We don’t know if this earthquake rate is going to continue,” Williams said. “It could go to a higher rate or lower, so the increased chances of a damaging quake could change in the future.”
#AceWorldNews – UNITED STATES – April 28 – A powerful tornado storm system has ripped through several US states, killing one person in Oklahoma and at least 16 others in central Arkansas while causing major damage in the Great Plains, Midwest and Southern states.
A tornado killed one person in Quapaw, a small residence in Oklahoma, on the border of Kansas and Missouri, authorities announced, saying the storm struck the town around 5:30pm local time.
My hometown sustained a direct #tornado hit. Pray for those in Quapaw, Oklahoma and neighboring communities affected. pic.twitter.com/B8deCqBKaP
— Mr. Saturday Night (@MSN_Barry) April 28, 2014
The authorities are still trying to access the scene which has allegedly suffered damage to half of the community.
2 dead after tornado strikes Quapaw, Oklahoma. @cbsnewspath: Aerials of storm damage. Via @tomcbs4 pic.twitter.com/fNcAxfhn2r
— Brendon Geoffrion (@tvbrendon) April 28, 2014
“Looks like about half of the town got extensive damage as well as the fire department,” Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan announced.
From Katie Elizabeth: Damage earlier today in Baxter Springs, KS from a tornado. #KSWXpic.twitter.com/e7XLflnwdd
— Nathan Young (@nvyoung) April 28, 2014
The tornado then continued towards, Baxter, where authorities say the twister injured several people and caused extensive damage. Emergency service responders are now checking the roughly 4,200 residents.
Tornado earlier in Baxter Springs, photo by Trevor Burrows pic.twitter.com/D5TMIyLGUg
— William Lynch (@WilliamLynchMO) April 27, 2014
Tornado warnings are also in effect in for parts of Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee. More twisters were also recorded in parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, but no injuries were reported there.
“The greatest risk for a few intense tornadoes will exist across much of Arkansas perhaps into western and central Missouri,” a weather service advisory said.
Pray for Mayflower, guys. It’s needed right now. #arwxpic.twitter.com/NGLO5lxb9v
— Jesse (@WhistlePig11) April 28, 2014
Television footage showed damaged and overturned vehicles after a massive tornado struck about 10 miles (16km) west of Little Rock, Arkansas moving north-eastward for 30 miles (48km).
The twister ripped through along Interstate 40 between the suburbs of Maumelle and Mayflower, causing damage there. There were no immediate reports of causalities there. But a “mass casualty situation” was reported in the town of Vilonia, Arkansas, a spokesman for the Faulkner County Sheriff’s office said.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management confirmed late Sunday that at least eleven people had died after a tornado tore through central Arkansas.
According to the Storm Prediction Center of the national weather service, affected areas that remain under threat of “severe potential” tornadoes with “95 percent probability of watch issuance” are Arkansas, far eastern Oklahoma, and far north-east Texas.
#AceWorldNews – MICHIGAN – March 21 – A federal judge struck down on Friday Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law passed by voters a decade ago is unconstitutional. US district court Judge Bernard Friedman’s ruling, however, does not make clear whether the state can file an appeal.
Nor is it clear whether marriages can begin immediately, given the timing of the decision came after most county clerk offices in the state were closed.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.
Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia, though appeals to those decisions have put the cases on hold.
Oklahoma City police charged two activists recently for enacting a “terrorism hoax” after the pair unfurled a banner covered in glitter at a fossil-fuel company’s headquarters. Authorities took the glitter as evidence of a possible biochemical attack.
Tar Sands Resistance group demonstrated recently at Devon Tower, headquarters of Devon Energy. They were there to protest the company’s fracking practices, its role in producing Canadian tar sands and its ties to TransCanada, the energy behemoth constructing the contentious crude-oil Keystone XL pipeline.
Activists blocked the doors to the building as two others, Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson, hung two banners from the second floor of Devon Tower’s atrium. One banner featured The Hunger Games “mockingjay” symbol and the text, “the odds are never in our favor.”
Police arrested two other activists for trespassing while Warner and Stephenson received trumped-up charges of perpetuating a faux bioterrorism assault. In Oklahoma, a conviction for a “terrorist hoax” – defined as “the willful conduct to simulate an act of terrorism” – is punishable with a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Oklahoma City Police Department spokesman Capt. Dexter Nelson said Devon Tower security worried the “unknown substance” falling from the banners might be a toxin because of “the covert way [the protesters] presented themselves… A lot were dressed as somewhat transient-looking individuals. Some were wearing all black.”
“Inside the banners was a lot of black powder substance, later determined to be glitter,” he told Mother Jones.
Nelson said responding police officers on the scene called it a “biochemical assault.”
“Even the FBI responded,” he said.
A spokesman for Devon Energy did not comment to Mother Jones. Devon currently has plans to target Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale for gas extraction using hydraulic fracking – the highly controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground.
Attorney for the activists Doug Parr called the seldom-used “terrorism hoax”statute an inappropriate charge for the activists.
“I’ve represented any number of political activists in Oklahoma for 35 years,”Parr said. “This is the first time I am aware of that anyone has been arrested on terrorism-related charges for protest activity.”
Parr pointed to TransCanada’s outsized influence in pushing law enforcement to use terrorism-related charges against non-violent activists in the South and Midwest who have slowed progress of the Keystone XL.
In June, activists of the group Bold Nebraska used an open records request to reveal TransCanada PowerPoint presentations aimed at law enforcement officials in which the pipeline company encouraged arresting Keystone XL protesters on terror charges. Part of one presentation suggested police could contact district attorneys for “information regarding the applicability of state or federal anti-terrorism laws prohibiting sabotage or terroristic acts against critical infrastructures” regarding the activities of nonviolent environmental protesters. One presentation dated April 2012 was designed specifically for the FBI.
Attorney Parr says while he was on the scene at Devon Tower on Friday, he overheard an officer there, Maj. Steve McCool, request guidance by phone regarding how banner-droppers Warner and Stephenson could be charged under Oklahoma’s anti-terrorism statute.
Oklahoma City Police spokesman Nelson said an officer would consult a city or district attorney about such charges. “Who they contacted, I wouldn’t know,” he said.
Warner said “there was no chaos or panic” when he and Stephenson released the banners, which were promptly removed by Devon Tower employees.
“It was anticlimactic and boring until the cops overreacted,” Warner said.
Warner said he told police on the scene that the banner contained glitter, yet police responded to him that they still wanted to test the “unknown substance.”Though Nelson said the protesters would not talk to police at the scene.
Warner, who has been arrested before for protesting, said the charges show increasingly aggressive intimidation tactics by law enforcement – at the urging of energy companies – against environmental demonstrators.
“It’s scary,” Warner said. “These companies want to make it seem like they’re benevolent neighbours and no harm comes from their activities… To do that, they’re trying to criminalize dissent.”
TransCanada has begun pumping oil into the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, a company spokesman announced last week. However, it remains to be seen whether President Obama will actually approve the project, which spans from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Since the southern section of the pipeline – in Oklahoma and Texas – does not cross international borders, it does not need Obama’s approval.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in September that he “won’t take no for an answer” on the pipeline, although current and former Obama administration officials have made comments indicating that Harper may have to prove his assertion.
Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance said the banner used Friday in Oklahoma City featured imagery from the film The Hunger Games “to highlight the parallel between industrial sacrifice zones in real life, and the resource colonies (Districts) that are subjected to state and economic violence in the series.”
Protests have occurred on the pipeline’s route and elsewhere, as activists and landowners have often teamed up to oppose TransCanada and the collusion of private and public entities to chill dissent.
Another activist present at the Devon demonstration alluded to such steamrolling tactics, especially used in the resource-rich area along Keystone XL’s southern leg.
“I’m opposed to the industry’s blatant disregard for human wellbeing in the pursuit of profit,” said Cory Mathis, according to the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance website. “These industries poison countless communities, often deceive and coerce folks into signing contracts, and when that doesn’t work, they use eminent domain to steal the land. Texas and Oklahoma have long been considered sacrifice zones for the oil and gas industry, and people have for the most part learned to roll over and accept the sicknesses and health issues that come with the temporary and unsustainable boost in employment.”
A version of this story will be published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday.
“I really needed the cash, and that was the only thing that I could think of doing at the time,” she said. The decision has hung over her life ever since.
A single mother who works unpredictable hours at a chiropractor’s office, she made payments for a couple of months, then she defaulted.
So AmeriCash sued her, a step that high-cost lenders 2013 makers of payday, auto-title and installment loans 2013 take against their customers tens of thousands of times each year. In just Missouri and Oklahoma, which have court databases that allow statewide searches, such lenders file more than 29,000 suits annually, according to a ProPublica analysis.
ProPublica’s examination shows that the court system is often tipped in lenders’ favor, making lawsuits profitable for them while often dramatically increasing the cost of loans for borrowers.
High-cost loans already come with annual interest rates ranging from about 30 percent to 400 percent or more. In some states, if a suit results in a judgment 2013 the typical outcome 2013 the debt can then continue to accrue at a high interest rate. In Missouri, there are no limits on such rates.
Many states also allow lenders to charge borrowers for the cost of suing them, adding legal fees on top of the principal and interest they owe. One major lender routinely charges legal fees equal to one-third of the debt, even though it uses an in-house lawyer and such cases usually consist of filing routine paperwork. Borrowers, meanwhile, are rarely represented by an attorney.
After a judgment, lenders can garnish borrowers’ wages or bank accounts in most states. Only four states prohibit wage garnishment for most debts, according to the National Consumer Law Center; in 20, lenders can seize up to one-quarter of borrowers’ paychecks. Since the average borrower who takes out a high-cost loan is already stretched to the limit, with annual income typically below $30,000, losing such a large portion of their pay “starts the whole downward spiral,” said Laura Frossard of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.
The peril is not just financial. In Missouri and other states, debtors who don’t appear in court also risk arrest.
As ProPublica has previously reported, the growth of high-cost lending has sparked battles across the country. In response to efforts to limit interest rates or otherwise prevent a cycle of debt, lenders have fought back with campaigns of their own and by transforming their products.
Lenders argue their high rates are necessary if they are to be profitable and that the demand for their products is proof they provide a valuable service. When they file suit against their customers, they do so only as a last resort and always in compliance with state law, lenders contacted for this article said.
After AmeriCash sued Burks in September 2008, she found her debt had grown to more than $4,000. She agreed to pay it back, bit by bit. If she didn’t, AmeriCash won the right to seize a portion of her pay.
Ultimately, AmeriCash took more than $5,300 from Burks’ paychecks. Typically $25 per week, the payments made it harder to cover basic living expenses, Burks said. “Add it up: As a single parent, that takes away a lot.”
But those years of payments brought Burks no closer to resolving her debt. Missouri law allowed it to continue growing at the original interest rate of 240 percent 2013 a tide that overwhelmed her small payments. So even as she paid, she plunged deeper and deeper into debt.
By this year, that $1,000 loan Burk’s took out in 2008 had grown to a $40,000 debt, almost all of which was interest. After ProPublica submitted questions to AmeriCash about Burks’ case, however, the company quietly and without explanation filed a court declaration that Burks had completely repaid her debt.
Had it not done so, Burks would have faced a stark choice: declare bankruptcy or make payments for the rest of her life.
Appointed to Missouri’s associate circuit court in St. Louis last year by Gov. Jay Nixon, Judge Christopher McGraugh came to the bench with 25 years’ experience as an attorney in civil and criminal law. But, he said, “I was shocked” at the world of debt collection.
As in Burks’ case, high-cost lenders in Missouri routinely ask courts to hand down judgments that allow loans to continue growing at the original interest rate. Initially, he refused, McGraugh said, because he feared that would doom debtors to years, if not a lifetime, of debt.
“It’s really an indentured servitude,” he said. “I just don’t see how these people can get out from underneath [these debts].”
But he got an earful from the creditors’ attorneys, he said, who argued that Missouri law was clear: The lender has an unambiguous right to obtain a post-judgment interest rate equal to that in the original contract. McGraugh studied the law and agreed: His hands were tied.
Now, in situations where he sees a debt continuing to build despite years of payments by the debtor, the best he can do is urge the creditor to work with the debtor. “It’s extremely frustrating,” he said.
Since the beginning of 2009, high-cost lenders have filed more than 47,000 suits in Missouri, according to a ProPublica analysis of state court records. In 2012, the suits amounted to 7 percent of all collections suits in the state. Missouri law allows lenders to charge unlimited interest rates, both when originating loans and after winning judgments.
Borrowers such as Burks often do not know how much they have paid on their debt or how much they owe. When creditors seek to garnish wages, the court orders are sent to debtors’ employers, which are responsible for deducting the required amount, but not to the debtors themselves.
AmeriCash, for instance, was not required to send Burks any sort of statement after the garnishment began. She learned from a reporter how much she had paid 2013 and how much she still owed.
After AmeriCash’s deduction and another garnishment related to a student loan, Burks said she took home around $460 each week from her job.
No court oversees the interest that creditors such as AmeriCash charge on post-judgment debts. For instance, the judgment that Burks and an attorney for AmeriCash signed says that her debt will accrue at 9 percent interest annually. Instead, AmeriCash appears to have applied her contractual rate of 240 percent a year.
That seems unjustified, McGraugh said. “I would believe you’re bound by the agreement you made in court.”
In the past five years, AmeriCash has filed more than 500 suits in Missouri. The suits often result in cases like Burks’, with exploding debts. One borrower took out a $400 loan in late 2005 and by 2012 had paid $3,573 2013 but that didn’t stop the interest due on the loan from ballooning to more than $16,000. (As in Burks’ case, AmeriCash relieved that debtor of his obligation after ProPublica submitted a list of questions to the company.)
AmeriCash, a private company based in a Chicago suburb, has five stores in Missouri, as well as 60 more across four other states. The company did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails about its practices. The firm’s attorney, Wally Pankowski of the Evans & Dixon law firm, declined to comment.
Cases in which lawsuits led to exploding debts abound in Missouri, and ProPublica found examples involving several different lenders.
Erica Hollins of St. Louis took out a $100 loan from Loan Express just before Christmas 2006. She soon fell behind on the payments, but instead of suing immediately, the company waited, the debt growing at 200 percent interest all the while. When the company sued two and a half years later, it received a judgment to collect on $913, including interest.
For years, the company garnished Hollins’ paychecks from her job at a nursing home. When, after a total of nearly $3,600 in payments, Hollins still had not cleared her debt, she called Loan Express’ attorney, she said. As in Burks’ case, the lender was represented by Pankowski. “I asked him would I ever be done paying for this?” she recalled. “And he said, 2018Maybe, maybe not.’ ” (Pankowski declined to comment on the case.)
Hollins sought legal help. Now she’s filed suit against the company, alleging it intentionally delayed suing so that her debt would multiply. The suit is ongoing.
Todd Stimson, who owns Loan Express, as well as three other stores in Illinois, said his company waited to sue Hollins because he believed her wages were already being garnished by another creditor. He also said his company gave her ample opportunity to avoid a suit in the first place but that Hollins didn’t pay. Companies like his have to sue in such situations, he said. Otherwise, “word gets out in the neighborhood, 2018Oh, you won’t get sued anyway, just don’t pay them.'”
As for Hollins paying back more than 35 times what she borrowed, Stimson said his company might have stopped the garnishment if Hollins had asked, although he added that “legally, I don’t have to.”
Not all lenders pursue as much as they are legally entitled to. Some lenders charge triple-digit rates in their contracts, but they lower the rate after receiving a judgment.
Speedy Cash, for instance, has filed at least 9,382 lawsuits in Missouri over the past five years, more than any other high-cost lender, according to ProPublica’s analysis. It has six stores in the state, in addition to making loans online.
Speedy Cash’s loans can be very expensive. A 2011 contract for a $400 loan, for instance, shows a 389 percent annual interest rate and total payments of $2,320 over a year and a half.
Missouri allows high-cost lenders who win judgments against delinquent borrowers to charge unlimited interest rates on the debts, inflating the amount owed. Here are three examples: