TIME energy

Obama Approves Sonic Cannons to Map Atlantic for Offshore Oil and Gas

Offshore drilling in the Atlantic is up for debate
The Atlantic offshore territory has been off limits to U.S. oil drilling, but that could change Brasil2 via Getty Images

Over environmental objections, the Obama Administration moves forward with exploration that could yield new domestic oil and gas sources

The Obama administration reopened part of the Eastern seaboard Friday to offshore oil and gas exploration, promising to boost job creation in the energy sector while at the same time fueling the fears of environmental groups.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that 4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas lies beneath the coast from Florida to Maine. The recent decision allows exploration from Florida to Delaware and could create thousands of new jobs supporting expanded energy infrastructure along the East Coast.

“Offshore energy exploration and production in the Atlantic could bring new jobs and higher revenues to states and local communities, while adding to our country’s capabilities as an energy superpower,” American Petroleum Institute upstream director Erik Milito said in a statement.

Environmentalists worry about damage to shorelines, and to the tourist industry. They also worry about the safety of ocean wildlife. The exploration will initially be conducted via seismic surveys that use sonic cannons to locate oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor. The cannons emit sound waves louder than a jet engine every ten seconds for weeks at a time.

“We’re definitely concerned,” Hamilton Davis, energy and climate change director for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, told TIME. “The exploration activities lead in the direction of actual development of oil and gas, and from our perspective as a coastal organization that worries about our environmental ecological landscape as well as our [tourism] economy, the oil and gas industry certainly doesn’t seem to fit into that equation. Just the impacts from exploration activities on marine wildlife I think would give most people pause… You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of animals that will be negatively impacted as a consequence of these activities.”

BOEM said it approved the seismic surveys with the environment in mind. “After thoroughly reviewing the analysis, coordinating with Federal agencies and considering extensive public input, the bureau has identified a path forward that addresses the need to update the nearly four-decade-old data in the region while protecting marine life and cultural sites,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter D. Cruickshank in a statement.

Sonic cannons are already used in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, but many constituents and elected officials in the newly opened East Coast territory have expressed their concerns about the testing and eventual drilling. Congressional officials from Florida, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, signed a letter to President Obama opposing the decision.

“Expanding unnecessary drilling offshore simply puts too much at risk. Florida has more coastline than any other state in the continental United States and its beaches and marine resources support the local economy across the state,” the letter states.

The area to be mapped is in federal waters, not under the jurisdiction of state law. Energy companies will apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits expire.

 

TIME Body Image

Harvard Women’s Rugby Team Wants You to Know Strength Is Beautiful

Lydia Burns and Shelby Lin

"Ripped," "so strong" and "fearless"

Amid movies and advertisements that promote stick-thin women, and even fitness magazines that focus on “lean” and “toned” bodies, the Harvard women’s rugby team has an important message: strength is beautiful.

The team staged a photo shoot in which they all wore matching sports bras and spandex and wrote empowering messages on each other’s bodies. “Powerful,” reads one girl’s knuckles. “Ripped,” says another’s bicep, and “Beautiful & Fierce!” announces another girl’s stomach.

“I think the notion of strength being beautiful is so overlooked in our society because strength is historically associated with masculinity, and women are taught that they must be strictly feminine to be beautiful,” player Helen Clark told TODAY.com.

The photos were published in June along with an essay in the Harvard Political Review, and have gone viral in recent weeks.

“We hope seeing our photos will encourage women to go out and find a space like rugby where their bodies are celebrated for their inherent strength and power,” Clark said, “Rather than just for how they look in a bikini.”

TIME Food & Drink

This Sweet Invention Dispenses Cake from a Can

Think microwaveable cake batter

Looking for a way to binge on baked goods without the wait-time of actually baking?

Two Harvard students are working to patent Spray Cake, which releases cake batter out of a dispenser that works like a whipped-cream can. The accelerant in the can releases air bubbles inside the batter, eliminating the need for baking soda and baking powder so the confection is ready to eat almost instantly. It takes 30 seconds to bake a cupcake in the microwave, and only one minute to bake a full cake.

John McCallum, a junior and the brains behind Spray Cake, came up with the idea as a final project for his freshman year Science and Cooking class. It was his soon-to-be girlfriend, Brooke Nowakowski, who saw its potential: “He was just like, ‘Cool. Lab project,’ ” she told The Boston Globe. “But I thought it could go somewhere.” And she argues it’s good for weight control because, “You can simply pull it off the shelf, make one cupcake, then put it back in the fridge” — which won’t take nearly as long as it took Kristen Wiig’s character in Bridesmaids to make a single cupcake for herself:

 

TIME Crime

Murdered Boy Gets Superman Logo On His Memorial After All

U.S. Anticipates Return Of "The Man Of Steel"
CHICAGO - JUNE 27: A moviegoer wearing his Superman tee-shirt is seen in the lobby prior to watching the new Superman Returns movie on June 27, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. The theater had a special showing of the much anticipated new Superman movie at 10pm. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images) Tim Boyle—Getty Images

DC Entertainment will now allow the Superman "S" to appear on the gravestone of a 5-year-old boy murdered by his grandparents

After initially saying the famous Superman “S” logo could not be used on a young boy’s memorial statue, DC Entertainment has reversed its decision.

Jeffrey Baldwin, 5, was starved to death by his grandparents—they were later convicted of second-degree murder— in 2002. His family said he loved to dress up like a superhero and pretend to fly, so Ottawa resident Todd Boyce raised money for a statue that would depict the young boy as his beloved Man of Steel. But DC Entertainment refused to grant the rights to use the iconic “S” shield logo on his memorial.

On Wednesday, however, the company changed its tune.“We are honored by the relationship that our fans have with our characters, and fully understand the magnitude of their passion. We take each request seriously and our heartfelt thoughts go out to the victims, the family and those affected,” according to a statement from the company.“DC Entertainment uses a flexible set of criteria when we receive worthy requests such as this, and at times have reconsidered our initial stance.”

TIME U.S.

Duck Dynasty Family Takes On Public Health

Duck Dynasty Mia Roberts cleft lip
Duck Dynasty's Mia Robertson attends a press conference to raise awareness of cleft lip and palate treatments on July 8, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. Paul Morigi—WireImage/Getty Images

The Duck Dynasty family is leveraging its fame in pursuit of a new challenge: treating cleft lips

America’s much-loved Duck Dynasty clan seems to be all over Washington these days – Willie Robertson was recently spotted at a Nats game with the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Phil Robertson’s nephew is running for Congress, and the family has attended the White House correspondents dinner two years running. Now they are in the nation’s capital taking on a new issue: public health.

Mia Roberston, 10, daughter of Jase and Missy Robertson, was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. After her final corrective surgery in January, the family started the Mia Moo Fund to raise awareness and money for research and treatment of the birth defect. Mia and her parents spoke alongside Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), also born with a cleft lip and palate, in front of the Capitol Tuesday about the work of the Fund and the struggles of growing up with the condition.

“As the Robertson family, we don’t back away from any challenges,” said Missy about their commitment to their daughter and other children born with cleft lips or palates.

According to the Mia Moo Fund’s website, “The organization began in 2014 after Mia… completed surgery for her cleft palate. As Mia entered surgery, thousands of supportive fans tweeted, blogged and talked about how strong and beautiful she was. It was both empowering and inspiring. It has since become our mission to bring this type of support and love to each and every child that suffers from cleft lip and palate.”

Both Franks and the Robertsons invoked God as they talked about this mission.

“God has blessed kids like Mia and Representative Franks with an extra measure of courage,” Jase said.

Mia was quick to refer her own experience to faith, as well. “God is bigger than any of your struggles,” she said, her voice barely audible as she read from her prepared speech. “Don’t forget that.”

TIME Obama

Obama Threatens to Go It Alone if Congress Doesn’t Help Fix Highways

Obama-Infrastructure
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the economy in Georgetown Waterfront Park on July 1, 2014 in Washington. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Obama threatens to continue acting without Congress if they don't fix the Highway Trust

President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday was intended to call Congress to action on replenishing a fund for state and federal highway projects. Instead, it turned into a political rant against House Republicans, with Obama saying he’ll proceed without Congress’ help if need be.

The Highway Trust Fund is due to run out in 58 days, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, putting 877,000 jobs and $28 billion in U.S. exports at risk. The fund is rapidly depleting due to declining gas tax revenues, a problem Obama wants to fix by eliminating corporate tax breaks. House Republicans, however, have balked at his plan.

“House Republicans have refused to act on this idea,” said Obama. “I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted, it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.

“No, seriously. They’re not doing anything. Why don’t they do this?,” Obama added, before arguing that the U.S. spends a smaller portion of its economy on infrastructure than “just about every other advanced country.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, want to keep the highway fund rolling by ending Saturday U.S. Postal Service deliveries or enacting more stringent state online sales taxes. But in Tuesday’s speech, Obama was clearly frustrated by Congress’ inaction and with the increasing partisanship of the issue — House Republicans last month said they plan to sue Obama for what they argue has been the President’s abuse of executive actions, which allow the executive branch to take certain actions without approval from the legislature.

“It’s not crazy; it’s not socialism. It’s not the imperial presidency. No laws are broken, it’s just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing,” the President said, adding that if House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and his party won’t cooperate, he will continue to act independently.

“Middle class families can’t wait for a Republican Congress to do stuff,” Obama said. “So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

TIME Sexual Assault

1 in 5: Debating the Most Controversial Sexual Assault Statistic 

Independent Womens Forum Rape
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, speaks at an Independent Women's Forum panel discussion at the Fund for American Studies in Washington on June 26, 2014. Amber Schwartz

Does America really have a "rape culture"?

A conservative women’s group is trying to debunk the claim that one in five women is a victim of sexual assault in college.

The startling one-in-five statistic has become a rallying cry for campus judicial reform and entered the public lexicon through widespread dissemination by the media and the Obama Administration. Obama created a White House task force on campus sexual assault earlier this year, and Congress is currently considering proposals to combat sexual violence on campus.

At a Senate hearing Thursday, the one-in-five statistic was invoked in opening statements. Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary of education for civil rights, said that “sexual violence is pervasive” on many college campuses and James Moore, compliance manager in the Clery Act Compliance Division of the Education Department, said we are experiencing a “crisis of sexual assault” on campus. (The Clery Act, passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities to publish annual reports on security and crime statistics, as well as publish information about sexual assault policies and programs.)

But the Independent Women’s Forum, based in Washington, D.C., hosted a panel Thursday for about 100 people at The Fund for American Studies that questioned the validity of one-in-five figure.

“I do not believe that the one in five statistic is trustworthy,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, self-titled “factual feminist” and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Inflated statistics lead to ineffective policies. Worse than that, they can breed panic and overreaction, and that’s what I think we have right now. I believe that the rape culture movement is fueled by exaggerated claims of victimization.”

Is it exaggerated? The oft-touted statistic comes from a 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice. The study was a Web-based survey circulated to a random sample of 5,446 undergraduate women at two major public universities. The survey found that 19% of the female respondents had experienced completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college.

Yet the survey response rate was 42.2% and 42.8% at the two universities, and Sommers believes the fact that less than half the women chose to respond to the survey points to a troubling selection bias in the respondents. “The people who feel the most strongly about the survey, for whatever reason, are the most likely to respond,” she said.

Sommers and other members of the IWF panel also question the ways this study defined sexual assault. In the executive summary of the 2007 study, the researchers wrote, “Legal definitions of sexual assault factor in one’s ability to provide consent, and individuals who are incapacitated because of the effects of alcohol or drugs… are incapable of consenting.”

In other words, this survey classified sexual encounters that occurred while the woman was intoxicated as a form of sexual assault, regardless of whether the perpetrator was responsible for her intoxication or she consumed the substances on her own. “I can imagine many cases where someone was incapacitated, unconscious: could not consent,” said Sommers. “But there are other cases where it can be quite debatable.”

“Proponents [of the 1/5 statistic] are exaggerating the threat, too often confusing regretful sexual decisions made while under the influence of alcohol or drugs with actual rape,” Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of IWF, wrote in a statement circulated before the panel.

“If sexual intimacy under the influence of alcohol is by definition assault, then I would say a significant percentage of sexual intercourse throughout the world and down the ages would qualify as a crime,” Sommers said. (Sommers wrote an article for TIME in May 2014 about the “panic” she sees surrounding this issue.)

Cathy Young, columnist for Newsday and contributing editor at Reason magazine, believes that conflating drunken sex with more serious assaults undermines the gravity of the issue: “This is trivializing to the experience of women who unfortunately have had the experience of being violently raped,” she said.

Instead of one in five, Sommers believes the real number is closer to one in forty. In 2005, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report called “Violent Victimizations of College Students, 1995-2002,” with a section specifically dealing with sexual assault. This study also has an expansive definition of sexual assault (“Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats”), but does not have the same restrictive view of alcohol as the Campus Sexual Assault survey. “They made it clear they were asking about a serious violation,” Sommers said.

The response rate for this survey was 80% to 88%; double that of the 2007 survey, and the results showed an annual rate of sexual assault against female students to be six per one thousand, which translates to about one in forty over four years. This means that 2.5% of women are sexually assaulted in college, not 20%. It is worth pointing out that the figures in the Bureau of Judicial Statistics survey are at least 12 years old.

“Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem,” said Sommers. “But to get smart solutions, inflated statistics are not the answer.”

But whether the statistic is one in five, one in forty, or somewhere in between, Andrea Bottner, former director of the Office of International Women’s Issues in the George W. Bush administration, believes that those aren’t the numbers we should be worried about.

“One in five does not bother me too much as a statistic,” she said. “Frankly, I think it’s the wrong statistic to be focused upon. The number that comes to my mind is sixty percent. About sixty percent of rapes in this country are never reported… To me, every time a victim comes forward, I imagine two more next to him or her who don’t. Those are the people we need to reach.”

TIME U.S.

Oil Is The New Gold: Inside North Dakota’s Oil Rush

An oil derrick is seen at a fracking site for extracting oil outside of Williston
An oil derrick is seen at a fracking site for extracting oil outside of Williston, North Dakota March 11, 2013. Shannon Stapleton—Reuters

North Dakota is on the new frontier of a U.S. fuel economy, where more oil is produced domestically than imported.

North Dakota is now producing more than one million barrels of oil a day, part of a modern gold rush that holds both promise and uncertainty for the future of the state.

Oil production statistics released by the state’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) revealed that the state produced 1,002,445 barrels per day in April 2014, up from 793,832 the year before. The new statistics mean that North Dakota now joins the ranks of Texas, Alaska, California and Louisiana- the only states to ever generate more than one million barrels per day. (Texas is the only other one still producing that amount.)

North Dakota expects its production to climb: the DMR predicts oil production to peak at 1.5 million barrels per day around 2017.

This tracks a broader, national trend, as well: This year U.S. oil field production outpaced imports by about one million barrels a day.

Sudden turnaround

Just five years ago, North Dakota was producing less than 200,000 barrels a day. Alison Ritter, public information officer for the oil and gas division of the DMR, traces the beginning of the oil boom to the 2006 discovery of the Parshall Oil Field on the Bakken formation, the oil-rich shale rock material under the western part of the state. Using a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” workers initially extracted an impressive 463 barrels a day from the discovery well. “It wasn’t the first time this was used [in North Dakota],” Ritter says of the drilling strategy, “But it was the first time it was used well.”

Since then, North Dakota’s economy has exploded. The state now has the fastest growing economy in the U.S. and the lowest unemployment rate: 2.6% compared to a national average of 6.3%, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number is well below that in Williston, the town at the heart of the oil rush, which has an unemployment rate of less than 1%.

People eager to cash in on the boom have been flocking to Williston for years; the town’s population has doubled since 2010. Housing prices are skyrocketing, and construction is struggling to keep pace with the population. In the first quarter of 2013, Williston issued nearly $72 million in building permits, more than twice the amount during the same period of 2012.

Incomes in the town match the rising real estate prices- in 2014, Walmart hired entry-level workers in Williston at a staggering $17.40 per hour to compete with the salaries people can fetch on the oil fields.

“In some ways we would have had more trouble with this had the national economy been good when this started,” says Tom Rolfstad, executive director of Williston Economic Development. “We’ve benefitted. Going into this we were worried about where we were going to get workers… but because of the national recession, we have workers coming from everywhere and we have investors coming in from everywhere looking to invest.”

Growing pains

Yet the steady stream of hopeful workers into the small town means that, even with high wages, many are stuck living temporary housing facilities sprouting up in the Bakken oil region while they wait for more permanent housing to be built.

“They’re not as bad as people think,” Rolfstad says of the facilities, often called man camps. “They’re more like a college dormitory. But we realize that this is going to be a long-term proposition, so we’re more about trying to do things permanently than temporarily. We’re really trying to build a city that has quality and not just quantity.”

North Dakota also needs to expand refining facilities to accommodate the flood of oil. The state currently has only one refinery, capable of refining 68,000 barrels a day. Though two more refineries are in the works, for now most of the oil is shipped via railway and pipeline to other refineries south and east of the state.

But with all the excitement of new growth comes downsides, as well. Williston schools are overcrowded and emergency services are strained. Meanwhile, the character of the town and the state are changing. “When you go to a restaurant now, you might wait in line to get in and wait in line again to pay,” says Rolfstad. “These are big city things we’ve never experienced before.”

TIME U.S.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like: A Day at Ralph Reed’s “Road to Majority” Conference

Road to Majority conservative conference
Attendees recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, June 20, 2014. Drew Angerer—EPA

Members of FFC’s "Road to Majority" Conference come armed with faith and idealism to take on Washington.

Bronson and Misty Oudshoff came to Washington to wage war. “Every day there is a battle between opposing worldviews,” says Bronson, 36, a clinical research coordinator for a urology group with a self-described “conservative Christian worldview… [of] how the Bible instructs us and details the truth of God’s word.”

The Oudshoffs and their three children, ages ten, twelve and twelve, are part of a group that has traveled from Florida to D.C. to attend the Road to Majority Conference, organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, in hopes of meeting with legislators from their state, including Representative David Jolly and Senator Marco Rubio.

“We’re not typical Floridians,” Regina Brown, founder of the biblical Christian activist group Transforming Florida, is quick to point out. “It’s a spiritual battle more than a political battle,” Misty Oudshoff, 38, says, and they’re here to challenge the idea that Washington gridlock can stymie even the most impassioned activists.

After the conference’s opening luncheon with remarks by Senator Ted Cruz, Ambassador John Bolton and Rubio, among others, attended by about 1,500 guests, the eleven in the Florida group pile onto buses with the other self-identifying ‘freedom warriors’ heading to the Capitol. The first stop for the Florida gang: a meeting with Jolly, who many of them worked for during his last campaign. FFC has armed its members with a packet of talking points for their meetings. There is a page on immigration reform, (“FFC opposes amnesty in any form”), a page on religious freedom and the Affordable Care Act, (“We oppose the employer mandates in Obamacare that force employers, including religious charities, to provide health care services that violate their faith and assault their conscience”), and a page on education, (“FFC opposes federal imposition of Common Core because of its one size fits all approach to education”).

Packets in hand, the Floridians go to Jolly’s office, where they are seated in a conference room. Jolly is still busy with the vote for the new House Majority Leader, so while they wait the group finds pictures of themselves at Jolly’s victory party to send to his office. They also eagerly discuss the vote – they are all rooting for Tea Party favorite Rep. Raul Labrador over current leadership team member Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

“We need to pray about this,” someone says.

“Can you tell us who he’s voting for?” Brown, 59, asks a staffer. The staffer claims he doesn’t know, and Brown responds, “Well, text him right now and ask!” Before he can respond, Mark Kober, an air-conditioner installer from Largo, gets a breaking news update on his phone: McCarthy has won the election. And in another disappointment for the day, the group is informed that Jolly won’t be able to join them. Brown immediately suggests another time for the meeting, and gets a “maybe” from the staffer. For now, that’s good enough for her. She does a little victory dance and says, “All you need to do is pretend you know what you’re doing!”

Next, the group heads across the street to take a tour of the Capitol before their appointment with Rubio, though Brown hasn’t been able to get confirmation they’ll actually meet him yet, just another “maybe.” As he walks through the Capitol, Kober, 35, marvels at how many famous men and women have walked these same halls, and how, at some point, reverence for that fact must wear off. “That’s why you need people like us,” he says. “To remind you of where you came from.”

Suddenly, Senator Ted Cruz walks by, and smiles. “Did you just see that?” “That was Ted Cruz!” “Did you see him?” The group titters. It’s the closest they’ve been to a lawmaker all day.

But such excitement is ephemeral. At this point it’s past four, so the rotunda is closed and sitting in the nearby gallery overlooking the floor of the Senate means looking down at a room full of empty chairs during a quorum call. The tour ends early. Disappointment begins to set in. “We’re just a day late and a dollar short everywhere we go today,” Misty says.

The group makes a final stop of the day at Rubio’s office. But there the tentative meeting “maybe” becomes “no” and the group meets instead with J.R. Sanchez, Rubio’s director of outreach and senior policy advisor. Still, this last meeting of the day is also their first, and they are eager to talk.

“Give me some solutions,” Sanchez says. “Tell me what I can relay back to Marco.” With an opening to bring up the talking points, someone mentions immigration reform. “Under the current administration, we’ve realized we will never be able to pass real, comprehensive immigration reform,” Sanchez replies.

The Oudshoffs then talk about how they feel the Left is infringing upon their religious freedom by not letting people express Christian religious views in schools.

“At the end of the day you can’t force your faith and values on people,” Sanchez says, “but you shouldn’t have your personal religious beliefs impaired.” How about the decay of the nuclear family unit in society? “We can’t legislate how people should conduct themselves in marriage or not,” Sanchez says, but that they should support laws that encourage the family structure.

The group seems disheartened by such non-committal rhetoric. Finally, Sanchez says, “At the end of the day, the best way you can deal with your outrage is by mobilizing grassroots and not staying at home.” That validation after a day of canceled meetings, “maybes” and truncated tours offers some solace. This group from Florida did not stay home.

But what did they accomplish by coming? That morning, when the buses pulled up and members of FFC got their first look at the Capitol building, Kober looked up and said, “It’s powerful just to be here.”

TIME National Security

Top 10 Rewards for Terrorists

Among the top 10 is the man who's leading the current insurgency in Iraq

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a group of Sunni extremists causing global panic as it seizes major Iraqi cities or small towns in the north with its sights set on Baghdad, is headed by a man who has spent years with a $10 million bounty over his head, from the United States. The Rewards for Justice Program, administered by the State Department, offers compensation for information leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone who either attempts, commits or even plans an act of terrorism against American people or property. Established in 1984, the program has nabbed half of the top 10 bounties ever offered. Here is the list.

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