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Nationwide Protests Call for Immediate Ban on Oil Bomb Trains

Energy
Nationwide Protests Call for Immediate Ban on Oil Bomb Trains

Monday was the second anniversary of the tragic Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, oil train disaster that killed 47 people. Since then, oil trains continue to derail and explode with five already this year. Four of the derailments occurred within just four weeks.

A coalition of environmental and social justice organizations including Sierra Club, GreenpeaceForestEthics, Oil Change International, Center for Biological Diversity, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and Earthworks, have launched a week of action to call for an end to crude by rail shipments. The coalition has organized more than 80 events across the U.S. and Canada to call for an immediate ban on oil trains.

Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club's Dirty Fuels campaign made the following statement:

Exploding crude oil trains do not belong on the nation's rails, and 25 million Americans—most of them people of color—do not deserve to be living in a blast zone. The Department of Transportation needs to take responsibility, and rather than put forward wholly inadequate rules that jeopardize the health and safety of communities along rail lines, the administration should ban bomb trains outright.

For the health and safety of all Americans, we need to leave dirty, volatile fuels like tar sands and Bakken crude in the ground. We don't have to choose between pipelines that spill and bomb trains that explode because we can choose clean energy instead. From Vermont to Oregon, organizers remember those who lost their lives in the disaster.    

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This young woman was arrested along with a fellow activist for attempting to unfurl a banner on a railroad bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area. The large banner, with the message "Stop Oil Trains Now," was sponsored by ForestEthics, Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network as part of the week of action.  

Megan Zapanta, an organizer with Asian Pacific Environmental Network, "estimates 5.5 million Californians live within one mile of an oil train route, which she says is considered the potential blast zone of a catastrophic explosion," according to Public News Service. "Oil trains are carrying extremely volatile, flammable crude oil," she told Public News Service. "Many different derailments have happened across the country, so we're very concerned about seeing an explosion or some sort of spill or damage here."

This map shows all the events around the U.S. and in Canada that the coalition of environmental and social justice organizations is putting on.

We've come very close to more deadly disasters with the recent explosions, as Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics points out: “Five times in 2015 we’ve seen oil trains derail and send toxic fireballs into the sky. Luckily, none of these accidents was fatal, however, each of these trains traveled through heavily populated areas, and would have travelled through more on their way to coastal refineries.”

“ForestEthics calculates that 25 million Americans live in the oil train Blast Zone,” says Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director. “Federal regulations do little or nothing to protect our communities. Our first responders aren’t equipped for these dangerous trains carrying millions of gallons of the world’s most toxic, most carbon intensive, most explosive crude oil. These trains are too dangerous for the rails.”

Watch this video exposing how many Americans are at risk from bomb oil trains:

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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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