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Coal Boss Sues HBO Over John Oliver Show

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Just like John Oliver predicted, Robert E. Murray has filed a lawsuit in response to the Last Week Tonight host's June 18 show about coal that devoted a large segment skewering the Murray Energy Corporation CEO.

The Republican coal baron and outspoken Donald Trump supporter is suing Oliver, HBO, Time Warner and the writers for the show, the Daily Beast reported.


The suit was filed on June 21 in the circuit court of Marshall County, West Virginia. The complaint claims that the British comedian and his team "executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies."

"Worse yet, Defendants employed techniques designed solely to embarrass Plaintiffs, including Mr. Murray, a seventy-seven year old citizen in ill health and dependent on an oxygen tank for survival, who, despite the forgoing, continuously devotes his life, including by working seven days each week, to save the jobs and better the lives of the thousands of coal miners that he employs in West Virginia and elsewhere," the complaint states.

The complaint also said Murray's website "was hacked and inundated with the message incited by Defendants: 'Eat shit, Bob.'" In case you haven't seen the show, at the end of airing, a man in a squirrel costume joined Oliver onstage with a missive at Murray: "Hey, Bob. Just wanted to say, if you plan on suing, I do not have a billion dollars. But I do have a check for three acorns and 18 cents ... it's made out to 'Eat Shit, Bob.'"

To be fair, Oliver practically welcomed the lawsuit. He pointed out during the episode that Murray is particularly litigious. His team also sent Last Week Tonight a cease-and-desist letter before the episode aired.

The segment compared Murray to "a geriatric Dr. Evil" and portrayed how his companies were not doing enough to protect its workers' safety in light of its 2007 Utah mine disaster in which nine people were killed. Murray insists the collapse occurred because of an earthquake but government investigators say it was caused by unauthorized mining practices.

The complaint alleges that Oliver's team ignored studies that supported the coal boss' argument.

"Because Defendant Oliver omitted any mention of the other reports he was aware of that evidenced that an earthquake caused the collapse, as Mr. Murray correctly stated following the collapse, Defendant Oliver's presentation intentionally and falsely implied that there is no such evidence," it said.

The lawsuit claims the show's "callous, vicious and false" segment about Murray ignored facts and advances "biases against the coal industry" and disdain for Trump's pro-coal policies.

"Since the date of the broadcast, and due to the stress and physical damage caused by the malicious and defamatory conduct of Defendants, and resulting misconduct of others incited by Defendants' conduct, Mr. Murray's health has significantly worsened, likely further reducing his already limited life expectancy," the lawsuit concludes. "No reasonable person could be expected to endure the emotional distress and physical damage that Mr. Murray has suffered as a result of Defendant's conduct."

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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