Hillary Clinton Breaks Keystone XL Silence, Announces Her Opposition to the Pipeline
Joining political rival Bernie Sanders in his long-held opposition and distancing herself from the reluctance of the Obama administration to reject the project outright, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton came out publicly against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline for the first time on Tuesday.
"I think it is imperative," Clinton said during a campaign stop in Iowa, "that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is—a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change."
Citing her personal perspective, Clinton continued by saying the controversial project is "one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues. Therefore I oppose it."
Climate action groups such 350.org, which has fought fiercely against approval of the project, welcomed the comments and claimed responsibility for making such positions possible—especially for the former secretary of state who was previously supportive of the pipeline's construction and as one who played such a central role in the federal government's consideration of the project.
"Make no mistake," said 350's executive director May Boeve, Clinton's announcement "is clear proof that social movements move politics. Thanks to thousands of dedicated activists around the country who spent years putting their bodies on the line to protect our climate, we’ve taken a top-tier presidential candidate’s 'inclination to approve' Keystone XL and turned it into yet another call for rejection. Her position on Keystone should set an important precedent for her policies going forward: we cannot afford to approve projects that make climate change worse."
Jane Kleeb, head of Bold Nebraska, championed the decision as a win for farmers, local ranchers and other landowners in her state and along the pipeline's proposed route. "All front runners in the Democratic Party," said Kleeb, "see the lies Big Oil tried to tell in order to shove this export pipeline down our throats. Now all that is left is for President Obama to reject the permit so landowners and Tribal Nations can get on to producing food with clean water."
Even as Clinton has had to contend with widespread mistrust among environmentalists and climate campaigners over her troubling ties with the fossil fuel industry, including specific questions about her members of her team who have lobbied on behalf of the company behind Keystone, Boeve echoed the idea that Clinton's public statements against the project serve to build pressure on the Obama administration to reject it once and for all.
"Today’s news is a huge win for our movement," said Boeve. "As the President himself has noted, building Keystone XL would worsen climate change, unlock development of Canada’s tar sands oil and threaten the safety of farmers and landowners in America’s heartland—all so an oil company can profit by sending oil to the rest of the world. That’s why this pipeline has drawn such intense opposition from every part of American society, ranging from landowners along the route to scientists, farmers, tribal communities and major politicians. President Obama has all the information he needs: it’s time to end this and reject Keystone XL for good."
An aide to Clinton admitted to CNN on Tuesday that her campaign "had been taking on water" by refusing to take a position on Keystone XL. As the Des Moines Register noted Tuesday, Clinton's campaign events in New Hampshire and Maine last week were attended by activists who held signs that read "I'm Ready for Hillary to say no KXL," demanding she oppose the pipeline.
Last week, Clinton hinted that despite her previous refusals to say one way or another about her position, she wouldn't wait or defer to the White House or her successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, much longer before voicing her opinion.
Writing at the Guardian on Tuesday and citing the arrival of Pope Francis in Washington, DC, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben offered this perspective on Clinton's shift on the issue and the timing of her subsequent public announcement:
Literally as the papal plane landed, Hillary Clinton completed her long-running metamorphosis on the Keystone pipeline. Before the pipeline review even began, many long years ago, she said she was “inclined to approve” this fuse to one of the planet’s biggest carbon bombs. But as KXL turned into the defining environmental fight of the decade, she went mum. And now, faced with the clear understanding that climate will be a defining issue in next year’s election, she came out in firm opposition to the plan.
It’s not really divine intervention that moved the former Secretary of State (who had originally gamed the State Department review process to approve the project). It was hard hard organizing—thousands went to jail, hundreds of thousands marched, millions wrote public comments. And that work has gone far beyond this one pipeline: its helped turn almost every fossil fuel infrastructure project on the planet into a full-on battle.
Bernie Sanders played his part too. He’s made no direct criticism of Hillary, but he has pointed out regularly how odd it is she has no position on this key issue. As he rose in the polls, her determination to dodge the issue clearly wavered.
But the pope did help too: his powerful encyclical last summer is a reminder to every politician of exactly which way the wind is now blowing. That wind is in the sails of the climate movement now and so there will be more days like this to come. Whether they come in time to slow the planet’s careening new physics is an open question, but at last the political and financial climate has begun to change almost as fast as the physical one.
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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.
"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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