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Cancer-Afflicted Marines Call on Obama for Support

Cancer-Afflicted Marines Call on Obama for Support

Environmental Working Group

Nearly 40 Marine veterans diagnosed with male breast cancer urged President Barack Obama Dec. 14 to support legislation in Congress that would provide health care for those made ill by carcinogenic chemicals that contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

“We, the undersigned, are constituents of the largest male breast cancer cluster ever identified—73 men,” begins a letter circulated by the Environmental Working Group and signed by veterans, their dependent children and surviving family members. “What happened to us is no coincidence.”

Over a period of 30 years, an estimated 1 million servicemen and women, their families and civilian workers at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune were exposed to tap water polluted by known carcinogens. These include trichloroethylene (TCE), vinyl chloride and benzene—all classified as known human carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Marine Corps leadership was aware of the contamination years before steps were taken to remove the chemicals from the drinking water. Thousands of veterans from the base have filed for disability compensation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but only a handful have been approved for benefits so far.

“These men are just one small group of the tens of thousands of Marines, sailors, their families and base employees who have been affected by their exposures to the fouled drinking water,” said Mike Partain, a son and grandson of Marine officers who was born at Camp Lejeune and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. “Will the medical help we need arrive only after we have all passed away? How many men with breast cancer will it take for our country to recognize that everyone exposed to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune was poisoned? Where is this nation's honor for our veterans and their families?”

Two pending bills—the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011, introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and the Janey Ensminger Act, introduced by Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.)—would provide medical care and services to the affected veterans and family members. Both have bipartisan support.

The Camp Lejeune incident, the largest documented case of drinking water contamination at a domestic military facility, is the subject of the award-winning film Semper Fi: Always Faithful. The film, which takes its name from the Marine Corps motto, was recently short-listed for an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

For more information, click here.

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Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. To visit our website, click here.

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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