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Bernie Sanders Vows to Stop 'Disastrous' TPP Deal

Politics
Bernie Sanders Vows to Stop 'Disastrous' TPP Deal

Amid a last minute scramble, leaders from the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries announced Monday that they had reached agreement on a sweeping trade deal, one that critics, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, say will slash standards and protections for both consumers and workers—with impacts to be felt across the globe.

The agreement, known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would tie together as much as 40 percent of the world's economy, has for nearly eight years been negotiated in secret. Though details of the compromise were not yet revealed early Monday, critics said that—minutia aside—the global trade pact will certainly be a boon for corporate power

"TPP is a deal for big business," said Nick Dearden, director of the UK-based Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was also quick to condemn the deal. Saying he was disappointed but not surprised by the "disastrous" agreement, Sanders added: "Wall Street and other big corporations have won again. It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multi-national corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense."

The compromise was reached after five days of round-the-clock negotiations in Atlanta, Georgia. U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly "spent recent days contacting world leaders to seal the deal."

The negotiations had been extended after talks got stuck over the issue of how long a monopoly period should be allowed on next-generation biotech drugs. The compromise reportedly reached between the U.S. and Australia "is a hybrid that protects companies’ data for five years to eight years," the New York Times reports, falling short of the 12 years desired by U.S. negotiators.

Other final compromises reportedly reached included "more open markets for dairy products and sugar and a slow phaseout—over two to three decades—of the tariffs on Japan’s autos sold in North America," the New York Times continues.

One of the more controversial aspects of the deal is the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision, which permits multinational companies to sue governments over allegations that profits were lost due to local regulations.

"Two fifths of the global economy will be covered by corporate courts, meaning a huge rise in governments being sued for protecting the public interest from corporate greed," Dearden explained. Then highlighting some of the other alarming provisions of the deal, he continued: "Medicine prices will rise as Big Pharma gets more power to monopolize markets. Small farmers will suffer from unfair competition with industrial scale agribusiness. No wonder this has been agreed in secret."

Chris Shelton, president of the Communication Workers of America, said the agreement is "bad news" for working families and communities. In a statement, Shelton said, "Despite broad promises from the Obama administration," the TPP "would continue the offshoring of jobs and weakening of our communities that started under the North American Free Trade Agreement" and "would mean labor and environmental standards that look good on paper but fall flat when it comes to enforcement."

"It’s a corporate dream but a nightmare for those of us on main street," he added.

It now falls on signatory governments to ratify the agreement. In the U.S., many members of Congress as well as presidential candidates have expressed skepticism over the pact, which heretofore had been largely undisclosed to legislators. Reportedly, the full 30-chapter text will not be available for another month.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch questions whether the pact will pass in Congress, given the amount of pushback the deal received when the U.S. House and Senate voted this summer to pass Fast Track trade promotion authority.

Wallach explains: "If there really is a deal, its fate in Congress is at best uncertain given that since the trade authority vote, the small bloc of Democrats who made the narrow margin of passage have made demands about TPP currency, drug patent and environmental terms that are likely not in the final deal, while the GOP members who switched to supporting Fast Track in the last weeks demand enforceable currency terms, stricter rules of origin for autos, auto parts and apparel and better dairy access for U.S. producers."

For his part, Senator Sanders said he "will do all that I can to defeat this agreement." in the U.S. Senate. "We need trade policies that benefit American workers and consumers, not just the CEOs of large multi-national corporations," he added.

In Canada, the deal comes just two weeks ahead of national elections. In a statement, Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians encouraged Canadians to "vote against the TPP" during the upcoming election.

"Just what are we supposed to make of a deal that has been kept secret from the Canadian public?" Barlow asks. "Our own legislators don’t even know what’s in it."

"The Harper government has signed a deal that will lay off thousands of auto workers and put thousands of dairy farmers in jeopardy while giving even more foreign corporations the right to dictate Canadian policy," she continued, adding that "Stephen Harper negotiated the TPP during an election when his mandate is simply to be a caretaker government. Parliament now has the ability to vote on the TPP. We strongly encourage the next government to reject it."

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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