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Bill McKibben Gets Arrested Exposing Exxon's 'Unparalleled Evil'

Climate
Bill McKibben Gets Arrested Exposing Exxon's 'Unparalleled Evil'

Environmental activist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was arrested on Thursday after staging a protest at a gas station in Burlington, Vermont to bring attention to Exxon Mobil's decades-long efforts to undermine climate action for the corporation's own gain—a strategy he called "unparalleled evil" in an op-ed for the Guardian on Wednesday.

Bill McKibben staging a protest at a gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Photo credit: 350.org

McKibben blocked a gas pump at Simon's Quick Stop and Deli Mobile station, armed with a sign that read, "This pump temporarily closed because Exxon Mobil lied about climate (#ExxonKnew)" with a link to a Tumblr page explaining his actions.

In recent weeks, two separate investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that Exxon hid evidence of the role of fossil fuels in climate change from the public and stymied political action on global warming. "They predicted that some Arctic oil fields would become cheaper and more accessible," McKibben told the Burlington Free Press on Thursday.

To explain why he felt compelled to stage his solo protest, McKibben wrote on his Tumblr:

This is not just one more set of sad stories about our climate. In the 28 years I’ve been following the story of global warming, this is the single most outrageous set of new revelations that journalists have uncovered. Given its unique credibility—again, it was the biggest corporation on earth—ExxonMobil could have changed history for the better. Had it sounded the alarm—had it merely said "our internal research shows the world’s scientists are right"—it would have saved a quarter century of wheel-spinning. We might actually have done something as a world before the Arctic melted, before the coral reefs were bleached, before the cycles of drought and flood set fully in.

"I don't want this  story to disappear in all this media clutter," McKibben said before his arrest. "We need to let people know what we now know about Exxon Mobil. In a noisy world, this may be what we have to do."

The demonstration drew immediate support from McKibben's fellow activist and writer Naomi Klein, who tweeted, "Exxon has earned hundreds of billions of profits off of decades of lies and deceit. So proud of my friend Bill today:"

"Recent reporting has shown Exxon to be the willing and cold-blooded perpetrators of one of the worst corporate crimes in U.S history," 350.org spokesman Karthik Ganapathy told The Huffington Post. "We should be paying more attention to it, collectively."

McKibben's protest came on the heels of a congressional push for a federal inquiry into Exxon to determine if the corporation broke the law by "failing to disclose truthful information" about climate change.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) on Wednesday wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether Exxon violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, as well as a slew of other laws, including those protecting public health, truth in advertising, and consumer safety.

"If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon's actions were immoral," Lieu and DeSaulnier wrote. "We request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil's actions were also illegal."

"When I read the Times investigation it occurred to me that it is very similar to what the tobacco companies were doing decades ago," Lieu told the Los Angeles Times. "Evidence showed that what they were saying was incorrect and they kept spreading this disinformation campaign."

Federal prosecutors used the RICO Act to charge tobacco companies after they were found to be withholding information about the health impacts and addictiveness of smoking. "Exxon's situation is even worse," said Lieu. "It was taking advantage of the science ... while denying the facts to the public."

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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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