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Federal Judge Bars Denver Police From Using Chemical Weapons on Protesters

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Federal Judge Bars Denver Police From Using Chemical Weapons on Protesters
Police officers pepper spray a woman next to the Colorado State Capitol as protests against the death of George Floyd continue for a third night on May 30 in Denver, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

A federal judge late Friday issued a temporary order barring the Denver Police Department from using projectiles and chemical weapons such as tear gas against peaceful demonstrators, condemning the conduct of some officers against protesters across the nation in recent days as "disgusting."


"The time is past to rely solely on the good faith and discretion of the Denver Police Department and its colleagues from other jurisdictions," wrote Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in his 11-page order. "The Denver Police Depart has failed in its duty to police its own."

The restraining order, which took effect immediately, comes in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of four Denver protesters who said the use of "pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets, flashbang grenades, and tear gas" by city police during a May 28 demonstration against the killing of George Floyd violated their constitutional rights. Jackson's ruling came just hours after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, imposed a 30-day ban on police use of tear gas, which is banned in warfare.

"If immediate relief is not granted, plaintiffs' speech would be chilled and outright denied over the next several days or weeks of demonstrations," Jackson wrote. "Indeed, irreparable harm has already occurred in the form of physical injury and the suppression of speech."

"People have an absolute right to demonstrate and protest the actions of governmental officials, including police officers," Jackson continued. "It is one of the many freedoms on which this country was built ... Citizens should never have to fear peaceful protest on the basis of police retaliation, especially not when protesting that very same police violence."

While Jackson's order was described as "extraordinary" and applauded as a positive step that should be replicated nationwide, it is not without loopholes. As the Colorado Sun reported, Jackson's order allows Denver police to use chemical agents and some projectiles against demonstrators "if an on-scene supervisor at the rank of captain or above specifically authorizes such use of force in response to specific acts of violence or destruction of personal property that the supervisor witnessed."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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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