Jaeah Lee

Jaeah Lee

Associate Interactive Producer

When Jaeah isn't coding, researching, or writing for Mother Jones, she's usually reading about foreign policy, climate change, or new dinner recipes. A lover of mass transit, she can pretty much navigate the New York City subway blindfolded.

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Prior to joining Mother Jones, Jaeah worked as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, focusing on China. Her writings have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Global Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Movements.org.

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Confirmed: Fracking Triggers Quakes and Seismic Chaos

| Thu Jul. 11, 2013 2:04 PM EDT

World map vector: Antun Hirsman/Shutterstock

Major earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger reflex quakes in areas where fluids have been injected into the ground from fracking and other industrial operations, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday.

Previous studies, covered in a recent Mother Jones feature from Michael Behar, have shown that injecting fluids into the ground can increase the seismicity of a region. This latest study shows that earthquakes can tip off smaller quakes in far-away areas where fluid has been pumped underground.

Fracking waste fluids "kind of act as a pressurized cushion," said a lead author on the study.

The scientists looked at three big quakes: the Tohuku-oki earthquake in Japan in 2011 (magnitude 9), the Maule in Chile in 2011 (an 8.8 magnitude), and the Sumatra in Indonesia in 2012 (an 8.6). They found that, as much as 20 months later, those major quakes triggered smaller ones in places in the Midwestern US where fluids have been pumped underground for energy extraction.

"[The fluids] kind of act as a pressurized cushion," lead author Nicholas van der Elst of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University explained to Mother Jones. "They make it easier for the fault to slide."

The finding is not entirely surprising, said van der Elst. Scientists have known for a long time that areas with naturally high subsurface fluid pressures—places like Yellowstone, for example—can see an uptick in seismic activity after a major earthquake even very far away. But this is the first time they've found a link between remote quakes and seismic activity in places where human activity has increased the fluid pressure via underground injections.

"It happens in places where fluid pressures are naturally high, so we're not so surprised it happens in places where fluid pressures are artificially high," he said.

The study looked specifically at Prague, Oklahoma, which features prominently in Behar's piece. The study links the increased tremors in Prague, which has a number of injection wells nearby, to Chile's February 27, 2010, quake. The study also found that big quakes in Japan and Indonesia triggered quakes in areas of western Texas and southern Colorado with many injection wells. The study is "additional evidence that fluids really are driving the increase in earthquakes at these sites," said van der Elst.

how fracking causes earthquakes

Animated GIF: fracked Up?

Drillers inject high-pressure fluids into a hydraulic fracturing well, making slight fissures in the shale that release natural gas. The wastewater that flows back up with the gas is then transported to disposal wells, where it is injected deep into porous rock. Scientists now believe that the pressure and lubrication of that wastewater can cause faults to slip and unleash an earthquake.

Illustration: Leanne Kroll. Animation: Brett Brownell

MAP: America's 21 Most Vulnerable Rivers

| Mon Jul. 1, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

If you're one of 142 million Americans heading to the outdoors this year, there's a good chance you'll run into one of at least 250,000 rivers in the country. Much of the nation's 3.5 million miles of rivers and streams provide drinking water, electric power, and critical habitat for fish and wildlife throughout. If you were to connect all the rivers in the United States into one long cord, it would wrap around the entire country 175 times. But as a recent assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency points out, we've done a pretty bad job of preserving the quality of these waters: In March, the EPA estimated that more than half of the nation's waterways are in "poor condition for aquatic life."

Back in the 1960s, after recognizing the toll that decades of damming, developing, and diverting had taken on America's rivers, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 to preserve rivers with "outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition." Unfortunately, only a sliver of US rivers—0.25 percent—have earned federal protection since the act passed.

In the interactive map below, we highlight 21 rivers that, based on the conservation group American Rivers' reports in 2012 and 2013, are under the most duress (or soon will be) from extended droughts, flooding, agriculture, or severe pollution from nearby industrial activity. Find out which rivers are endangered by hovering over them (in orange). Jump down to the list below to read about what's threatening the rivers. For fun, we also mapped every river and stream recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was too beautiful not to.

Endangered Rivers, 2012-13

Running From the Feds? Don't Go to Hong Kong

| Tue Jun. 11, 2013 4:03 PM EDT

Ever since Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who went public with details about two government surveillance programs, fled for Hong Kong, many have questioned whether he made the right choice. Why didn't he go to WikiLeaks' former base of operations, Iceland, where some information activists are lobbying to grant him asylum? (Here's why Iceland may not have been a great option.) Why not France, which has an extradition treaty with the United States but, as Slate points out, also has a "history of reluctance to send people into the US criminal justice system"?

Since 2003, 137 countries have extradited or deported 7,066 people to the United States. Mexico, Colombia, and Canada are at the top of the list, according to data from the US Marshals Service. The number of extraditions by country varies widely and likely depends not just on relations with the United States but how many suspects flee there (Mexico and Canada clearly being favorites for fugitives making a run for the border). While Iceland did not send anyone back to the United States during this time, Hong Kong was number 18, with 47 extraditions.

Top 20 Countries that Extradite to the UNITED STATES

  1. Mexico    2,325 extraditions
  2. Colombia    1,272
  3. Canada    867
  4. Dominican Republic    309
  5. United Kingdom    182
  6. Jamaica    142
  7. Costa Rica    132
  8. Spain    124
  9. Germany    113
  10. Netherlands    87
  11. Belize    82
  12. Thailand    62
  13. Panama    60
  14. Israel    58
  15. Poland    54
  16. Philippines    51
  17. France    48
  18. Hong Kong    47
  19. Australia    45
  20. Italy    42

View the full list here.

Short Takes: Our Nixon

| Mon May 13, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Our Nixon

Our Nixon

DIPPER FILMS

One morning in 1972, Nixon chief of staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman gave press secretary Ron Ziegler some big news: Nixon had just gone to meet with Mao Zedong, head of China's Communist Party, marking the first thaw in a quarter century of US-China relations. In his shock, Ziegler bit into an unpeeled clementine without realizing it. This obscure clip is one of many you'll experience in Our Nixon, a curated collage of 500 Super 8 film reels shot by Haldeman and Nixon aides Dwight Chapin and John Ehrlichman—ambitious men who obsessively documented their lives in the West Wing. The footage, seized by the FBI after Watergate, offers an intimate glimpse into a notoriously secretive administration. "It was a very unnatural kind of life," Ehrlichman reveals. "You had the feeling you were in the middle of a great big, brilliantly lighted, badly run television show."

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