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Some Trapped Lacking Snow Plows, Food or Health Care, Indigenous Are Suffering From Government Shutdown

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Some Trapped Lacking Snow Plows, Food or Health Care, Indigenous Are Suffering From Government Shutdown
Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg Creative Photos / Getty Images

Tribal communities across the country are disproportionally reeling from the effects of the partial government shutdown, now in its 21st day.

As detailed in a sobering report from The New York Times, the Chippewa in Michigan are losing $100,000 a day to fund crucial health care programs, food pantries and employees' salaries; Snow-covered roads in Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah remain unplowed because federal maintenance has suspended, trapping many people in their freezing homes; Police officers on the Bois Forte Indian Reservation in Minnesota are being forced to work without pay.


In Idaho, the Shoshone Bannock Tribes have decreased hours of its staff and suspended services each day since the shutdown, according to local news station KIFI/KIDK.

Many tribes rely on federal money that has now dried up due to the ongoing government impasse, which will be the longest in U.S. history this weekend.

This shutdown is all the more egregious to Indigenous peoples as treaty negotiations from generations ago secured government funding for services like health care, education and economic development in exchange for land.

"The federal government owes us this: We prepaid with millions of acres of land," Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians told The Times. "We don't have the right to take back that land, so we expect the federal government to fulfill its treaty and trust responsibility."

The shutdown has inhibited access to basic medical services, endangering the elderly, veterans and children, Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye said in a video by Bloomberg's TicToc.

"It is another example of the government breaking its promises and breaking the treaty that we signed in 1868," he added.

Senator Kamala Harris of California tweeted, "It is absolutely shameful how Native Americans are being disproportionately affected by the government shutdown."

For now, these communities are paying for these services with their own funds without knowing if they will be reimbursed, The Times reported.

Tribes working during the shutdown will not get paid back until the Congress passes a spending bill, according to the Navajo-Hopi Observer.

Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, a ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, is calling on an end to the shutdown, which has drastically impacted his state, especially for tribe members.

"In New Mexico roughly 5,800 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay. These aren't just numbers, these are real people. Real people wondering how they will make their mortgage payments or feed their families," he said this week, according to KRQE.

He added that "because furloughed road crews are not clearing snow and ice on reservation roads, one elder has already died because he was unable to make it to dialysis."

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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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