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Keystone XL Pipeline Historic Standoff Continues

Energy
Keystone XL Pipeline Historic Standoff Continues

Truthout

By Candice Bernd

More than 50 blockaders on Monday tried to enter the site where activists have been holding a historic standoff to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, to expand and support the ongoing Tar Sands Blockade tree village in east Texas.

Several managed to break through police lines to attempt to re-supply activists who have been occupying trees in the pathway of the Keystone XL pipeline since Sept. 24. The rest of the blockaders rallied nearby, blocked by police and TransCanada's hired security, who had formed a human barrier around the pipeline easement.

Two blockaders locked themselves to construction equipment. By the end of the day ten blockaders were arrested. Six of the blockaders have been released on $1,500 bail and charged with trespassing. The two blockaders who locked down are expected to see a judge today.

One 70-year-old Cherokee woman was tackled by local security hired by TransCanada.

Blockaders have been trying to negotiate with security hired by TransCanada to get food and water to activists occupying the trees in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline, to no avail. Now they are taking a stand together to get supplies to the activists occupying the tree-sit so they may maintain their standoff.

The activists were gathered at the location in Winnsboro, Texas, after spending the weekend at a direct-action camp hosted by Tar Sands Blockade. Activists traveled from across the country and were trained in climbing, media relations, organizing and body blockade techniques.

"Coming out here had been one of the more inspiring things that I have done in years now," says Toby Potter, an Earth First!er.

Potter helped lead workshops over the weekend for camp participants in lockdowns and body blockades. "It gives me a lot of hope, seeing all this resistance from the area ... and from around the country, and knowing that there's [sic] other fights against tar sands at the same time."

Potter helped camp participants erect a 30-foot wooden tripod used by activists who sit at the top of it during a blockade action. Many of the weekend's campers participated in Monday's blockade in Winnsboro to defend the tree village.

TransCanada filed a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) last week, naming 19 individual defendants, three organizations and another six unidentified tree-sitters. The broad civil action seeks an injunction, declaratory relief and damages.

Most of the defendants have been arrested in previous Tar Sands Blockade actions. Ron Seifert, the blockade's media spokesman, was also named, although he has not yet been arrested in connection with the ongoing protest. Actor Daryl Hannah, who was arrested while defending Area Landowner Eleanor Fairchild's home, is not named in the SLAPP suit. Fairchild, however, is named in the suit.

Another activist, going by the name Kevin Redding due to security concerns, recently escaped arrest at a secondary tree-sit the Blockade launched last week at West End Nature Preserve outside Mt. Vernon, Texas, where TransCanada had announced plans to cut trees.

"I've lived in Texas my whole life, and when I heard about TransCanada putting the pipeline through, I didn't like the idea of any part of Texas having a tar sands pipeline going through it," Redding told Truthout. "I've been here for a long time, and I don't plan on going anywhere."

Redding said local police tried to intimidate him, as he sat in a tree, with threats that he would be charged with terrorism. When company representatives said they would under-bore through the preserve, rather than cut trees in the ecologically sensitive area, the activist left the site, unobserved.

Monday's action comes on the heels of an ongoing police crackdown not only on the tree-sitters, but also on journalists trying to tell their story. Two New York Times reporters were detained Oct. 10 while covering the tree-sit. They were released after identifying themselves as media.

Two independent live streamers, Elizabeth Arce and Lorenzo Serna, embedded on a timber wall, were arrested while covering the blockade in Winnsboro. Another videographer (full disclosure, my partner) was arrested while filming a lockdown action at a pipe yard in Livingston, Texas.

Serna was detained while livestreaming during Monday's action.

"Right now, in the blockade, the press can't go onto the wall. They can't talk to those people, so there has to be someone willing to take that risk on," Serna says.

Arce and Serna remained on the wall for nearly a week until they were forced to come down. Trespassing charges against the two livestreamers have been dropped. Currently members of the media cannot approach within 60 feet of the pipeline easement at the site of the tree-sit.

"I think we've done a good job building a reputation for respecting people's desires to be filmed or not to be filmed, and building a culture of consent when filming," Arce says. "We really care about the people, and are not afraid to connect to it in an emotional way and care about the story."

According to TransCanada, the live streamers are not real journalists, but activists claiming to be journalists in order to demonstrate.

The New York Times reporter, Dan Frosch, did not mention the fact that he was detained in his coverage of the ongoing tree-sit.

"They've created this way of somehow controlling the story, controlling the message about what's occurring through a legal framework, and it's just being allowed," Serna says. "It's controlling the press' ability to engage things. It's controlling our ability to understand what's going on in this country, and I think that some people have to be willing to breach that."

Solidarity rallies were held Monday in support of the Tar Sands Blockade's ongoing action in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Austin and Denton, Texas.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

 

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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