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Former Pence Aid Endorses Biden, Says Trump Cared More About Re-election Than Stopping Coronavirus

Politics
Former Pence Aid Endorses Biden, Says Trump Cared More About Re-election Than Stopping Coronavirus
In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.


In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT) Thursday, a former homeland security advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, as well as his top aide on the White House coronavirus task force, accused the president of caring more about his chances of reelection than the pandemic.

"Towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if Covid would become a big pandemic here, it was a matter of when," the aide, Olivia Troye, said in the video, as CNN reported. "But the President didn't want to hear that, because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year, and how was this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success?"

Troye also said she witnessed Trump dismiss the severity of the new disease.

"It was shocking to see the president saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything's OK when we know that it's not," Troye said. "The truth is, he doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself."

Troye's video comes about a week after the release of tapes in which Trump acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he did in fact understand the severity of the virus, but downplayed the risks to the public in order to prevent panic. The disease has now sickened more than 6.6 million Americans and killed almost 200,000, according to Friday morning figures from Johns Hopkins University.

In another shocking revelation, Troye recalled an extremely callous remark Trump had made about the new disease.

"Maybe this Covid thing's a good thing," Troye claimed the president said during a meeting. "I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people."

Troye continued by reflecting that "those disgusting people" were the same people who supported the president and who he claimed to care about, as CBS News reported.

"If the president had taken this virus seriously, or if he had actually made an effort to tell how serious it was, he would have slowed the virus spread, he would have saved lives," Troye said.

The White House responded by saying that Troye, who left the administration in late July, was merely lashing out at her former employers.

"I haven't read her comments in any detail, but it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee who's left the White House and now has decided to play politics during an election year," Pence told reporters, as CNN reported. "I think my staff has indicated that she made no comments like that when she was serving on our team here at the White House coronavirus task force."

White House spokesperson Judd Deere said that Troye never attended private meetings with the president and that her statements were inaccurate, as CBS News reported. And White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted a letter Troye sent to the coronavirus task force upon her departure in which she praised its members for their efforts.

However, POLITICO pointed out that the letter was addressed to the task force and did not mention Trump, while Troye's video criticized Trump specifically. In the ad, Troye maintained that serving on the task force was the "honor of a lifetime," but she felt her efforts were undermined by Trump's decisions.

"I put my heart and soul into this role every single day," she said in the ad, as POLITICO reported. "But at some points I would come home at night, I would look myself in the mirror and say, are you really making a difference? Because no matter how hard you work or what you do, the president is going to do something detrimental to keeping Americans safe."

Fellow task force member and top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that Troye was a "good person" and "important to the team," as CBS News reported.

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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