Green Party Presidential Candidate Arrested in TransCanada Keystone XL Tar Sands Blockade
provided by Janet MacGillivray via DeSmogBlog
Less than one week before the U.S. election, Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein has been arrested for literally walking the walk in her stance against dirty oil and corporate politicking. Dr. Stein was detained while standing with peaceful Tar Sands Blockade protestors entering the 38th day of the Texas standoff against TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL export pipeline. She awaits processing at the Wood County jail.
In the devastating wake of Hurricane Sandy, which has killed at least 120 people in the U.S. and the Caribbean, and caused “almost incalculable” billions of dollars in damages, Dr. Stein traveled to Texas to re-supply tree sitters in Winnsboro, Texas along the southern route of the Obama Administration’s fast-tracked tar sands freeway.
Stein issued a statement prior to her arrest:
"I’m here to connect the dots between super storm Sandy and the record heat, drought, and fire we’ve seen this year—and this Tar Sands pipeline, which will make all of these problems much worse. And I’m here to connect the dots between climate devastation and pipeline politicians—both Obama and Romney —who are competing, as we saw in the debates, for the role of Puppet In Chief for the fossil fuel industry. Both deserve that title. Obama’s record of 'drill baby drill' has gone beyond the harm done by George Bush. Mitt Romney promises more of the same."
Stay tuned for more details of the arrests today, and keep up with the latest at the Tar Sands Blockade website.
As Hurricane Sandy pushes further inland to devastate Appalachia and Canada, three women from New England, including Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein, are risking arrest to highlight the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline's connection to extreme weather events and climate change. Dr. Stein, a Massachusetts resident, is resupplying tree sitters in Winnsboro, Texas as two women from New England launch a new tree blockade a few hours to the south near Sacul, Texas. The Winnsboro tree blockade has sustained resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline for 38 days.
"The climate is taking this election by storm, breaking the silence of the Obama and Romney campaigns that have been bought and paid for by the oil, coal and gas companies," said Dr. Stein. "Hurricane Sandy is just a taste of what's to come under the climate destroying policies of Romney and Obama. We must stand up now and call for climate solutions and green prosperity. The blockaders are heroes. They are on the front line of stopping even worse climate storms in the future."
Now blocking the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from two new tree platforms in Sacul, Texas to the northwest of Nacogdoches are a 24-year-old duo of lifelong New England residents, Pika from Vermont and Lauren from New Hampshire. Their platforms are suspended in trees on either side of a Keystone XL highway crossing and are tied to heavy equipment, effectively immobilizing the equipment to the north and south of the crossing. Both were driven to participate with Tar Sands Blockade after witnessing the extraordinary hardship of extreme weather on their communities and extended families.
“Just a year ago, Vermont was hit really hard by Hurricane Irene. I spent months helping friends and family clean out basements and rebuild houses that were completely destroyed by flooding," shared Pika. “I have extended family in Arizona and Colorado who have been just crushed by the drought and the forest fires that have been happening in the last few years. I came here because this is one of the foremost campaigns against the most destructive resource extraction industry at the root of the climate crisis we are living in today.”
Lauren added, “I've always held the environment in the fore of my mind, but I haven't always been as sensitive to the personal stories of people directly impacted by pollution as I am today. Knowing that the ruin in my home state from Sandy only stands to be amplified by the toxic, leaky Keystone XL and the extreme impact of carbon emissions from ongoing tar sands development; joining with folks from all across the political spectrum to stop it; it's a powerfully humanizing process.”
Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate justice organizers using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to stop the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
“From the protesters defending the coast in British Columbia to the coastal residents of New England, Tar Sands Blockade stands in solidarity with communities across the continent threatened by climate change,” said Cindy Spoon, lifelong Texan and spokesperson for the Blockade. “Texas continues to suffer from the consequences of extreme drought and record setting wildfires. Defending our homes from destructive corporations like TransCanada is the best way to guard against a future of runaway climate change. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will only exacerbate the extraordinary climate challenges we face today.”
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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