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Bottled Water Kicked Out of Maryland State Offices

Bottled Water Kicked Out of Maryland State Offices

Corporate Accountability International

Sept. 29, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced plans to phase out taxpayer spending on bottled water for all state agencies and support public tap water. With this announcement, Maryland becomes the sixth state to respond to the urging of the grassroots to think outside the bottle. 

Maryland’s drinking water quality is among the highest in the world, yet Maryland residents drink more than 261 million gallons of bottled water a year.  At the same time, Maryland’s drinking water infrastructure needs an investment of $3.96 billion over the next 20 years. 

“Today’s decision by the Green Purchasing Committee will have a positive impact on our state’s budget and our environment,” said Gov. O’Malley. “I want to thank the committee for its work implementing the Green Purchasing Act and ensuring that we are proactively taking responsive steps to improve our environment and cut costs at the same time.”

The state of Maryland has been a hotbed for bottled water free activity at the city and county level—both Fredrick and Montgomery County as well as the City of Takoma Park are bottled water free. In March, dozens of establishments around the state capital announced that they were going bottled water free and urged the state government to make this same simple, yet important policy change. 

“This is a no-brainer for our city,” said Mayor Bruce Williams of Takoma Park. “Our public officials are championing investment in public water systems since these systems provide needed drinking water, create green jobs and preserve the long-term viability of our most essential shared resource. It’s a win-win equation when states stop pouring taxpayer dollars down the drain and plastic into landfills.”

Over 30 local businesses in Annapolis, including Level: A Small Plates Lounge and Free State Press signed on to support Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign, which aims to promote, protect and ensure public funding for the nation’s public water systems. Seventeen of these 30 businesses and institutions have gone bottled water free. 

 “It is a shame that consumers are being led to bottled water while the political will to adequately fund public water systems has waned. Today, bottling giants like Nestlé stake their long-term growth on the continued decline of public water infrastructure and their ability to disparage it,” said Jim Martin, president of Free State Press. “But states don’t have to feed this vicious cycle any longer. I am proud that our leaders have voted for the tap by kicking bottled water out of the Maryland State House and state office buildings.”

Maryland is the sixth state to kick the bottle. Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Colorado and Illinois have already cut bottled water spending. These states are supported by 140 cities, hundreds of businesses, dozens of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals nationwide that are supporting public water systems by bucking the bottle.

A study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests that closing the tap investment gap could create tens of thousands of jobs, and help generate tens of billions of dollars in GDP. Conversely, bottled water has a range of costs to taxpayers. For example, each year cities and states pay at least $42 million to dispose of plastic water bottles.

“During these tough economic times our government should be spending scarce public dollars on projects that provide vital public services and grow the economy at large, not just the coffers for a handful of private corporations,” said Kristin Urquiza, Think Outside the Bottle director at Corporate Accountability International. “Investment in public water is, in this respect, one of the wisest investments we can make. We encourage other state leaders to follow the example set by Gov. O’Malley and mayors across the state.”

The decision to phase out spending on bottled water was an action item of the Maryland Green Purchasing Committee, a committee established by the Department of Natural Resources when O’Malley signed into law the Green Maryland Act of 2010. The announcement came in response to the groundswell of public support mobilized for such official actions by Corporate Accountability International supporters across the state.

For more information, click here.

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Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact) is a membership organization that has, for the last 34 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment and human rights. Think Outside the Bottle is Corporate Accountability International’s national campaign to promote, protect and ensure public funding for the nation’s public water systems.

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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