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Trump Adds 'Tasteless Insult to Injury' by Pushing Fossil Fuel Deregulation After Fatal Chemical Fire

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Trump Adds 'Tasteless Insult to Injury' by Pushing Fossil Fuel Deregulation After Fatal Chemical Fire
A chemical plant fire at 16503 Ramsey Road in Crosby, Texas on Tuesday, April 2. Harris County Fire Marshal's Office

By Jake Johnson

Just a week after a chemical plant explosion killed one worker and spewed thousands of pounds of dangerous pollutants into the air in Crosby, Texas, President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to visit that city Wednesday to sign executive orders to speed up approval of pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.


In coming to the location of a deadly fossil fuel-related explosion to sign an order that would gut states' power to protect residents from the hazards of oil and gas pipelines, Trump is adding tasteless insult to the injury he is inflicting on our planet," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.

"Trump's support for the fossil fuel industry reflects a real disdain for public safety and a livable climate for generations to come," Hauter continued. "Expediting pipelines means more petrochemical buildout in places like Appalachia, and more disasters waiting in the wings — not to mention climate catastrophe."

According to the Houston Chronicle, Trump will appear at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, where he will deliver a speech about "how he plans to aid the United States' booming domestic oil and gas production."

While the full details of Trump's forthcoming executive orders have not yet been made public, a White House official told the Chronicle they will be geared toward helping oil and gas companies avoid "red tape."

"With oil industry cronies and swamp monsters filling the ranks of his administration, it's no surprise that Trump is once again taking an action championed by climate deniers and fossil fuel companies," Rachel Rye Butler, climate campaigner with Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. "This executive order is nothing but an attempt to trample people's rights to protect their air, water, and climate from polluting oil and gas pipelines."

"This is particularly appalling given that many parts of the country are reeling from climate disasters—like the historic flooding in the Midwest that has much of the Keystone XL pipeline route underwater," Butler added. "Instead of creating jobs in the rapidly growing green energy economy, Trump is putting fossil fuels on life support at the expense of our climate and communities."

The president's move to expand fossil fuel production in Texas and across the nation — including TransCanada's Keystone pipeline — comes as the international scientific community warns carbon emissions must be slashed drastically and quickly to avert planet-wide climate catastrophe.

Oil Change International (OCI) estimated in a report published earlier this year that Trump's Big Oil-friendly agenda has put the U.S. on track to account for 60 percent of global growth in fossil fuel production between 2019 and 2030.

"If not curtailed, U.S. oil and gas expansion will impede the rest of the world's ability to manage a climate-safe, equitable decline of oil and gas production," OCI's report warned.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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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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