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Interior Sec. Zinke Orders Native American Activist to 'Be Nice'

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Interior Sec. Zinke Orders Native American Activist to 'Be Nice'

During a tour of the heavily contested Bears Ears National Monument in Utah on Monday, U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke pointed a finger at monument supporter Cassandra Begay and told her to "be nice" after she repeatedly questioned the secretary about not spending more time talking with tribal leaders as part of his monuments review.


Begay, a tribal liaison with the group Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue & Organizing Support, described the encounter as "condescending and unnecessarily aggressive."

Footage of the incident shows Begay among a throng of Bears Ears monument supporters crowding around Zinke. At one point, the Native American activist asks the secretary, "When are you going to meet with the tribal leaders? It's kind of unfair that you've only met with them for one hour, sir. Is there a reason why you're not listening to them more?"

Zinke turns around, juts his finger at Begay and says, "Be nice."

"I'm so nice," Begay responds.

"Be nice," Zinke repeats. "Don't be rude. Thank you."

"I was scared, and my heart was racing," Begay said in a press statement following the encounter. "It felt condescending and unnecessarily aggressive. I have no idea why asking a simple question to somebody who is on a listening tour would react so aggressively."

As EcoWatch reported, the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument is one of the first targets under President Trump's recent executive orders to review 27 national monuments established by prior presidents.

Zinke is on a four-day tour of Utah to inspect two monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The Bears Ears monument, created by President Obama last year, has sparked a fierce debate between Republican lawmakers and conservationists.

GOP lawmakers have accused President Obama, who designated more monuments than any other president, of abusing the Antiquities Act to protect land from fossil fuel development. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's congressional delegation led by Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee have launched a campaign to abolish national monuments.

Notably, the interior secretary is touring Bears Ears with monument opponents, Gov. Herbert, Rep. Bishop and San Juan County commissioners.

But conservationists and tribal supporters of the Bears Ears monument worry that stripping away the designation could leave the environment and sacred lands vulnerable.

"Bears Ears is much more than the preservation of sacred sites and of the environment. It is also the story of our resilience and survival. It is a site of resistance and of restitution," James Singer, a Navajo and Democrat candidate running to unseat Sen. Hatch, said. "I urge Secretary Zinke to stand with us to protect the sacred so that our future generations will continue to walk in harmony."

The secretary has met twice with members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which represents the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni. The group considers many sites within Bears Ears sacred and has complained that Zinke's time with them was insufficient, according to E&E News. Other monument supporters have also criticized Zinke's lack of a public forum and for allegedly refusing to meet with them.

"Tribes are trying to have a voice but every week Utah congressional delegates are claiming that there are no tribes in San Juan county and that no locals support the monument, however there are three tribes in San Juan county and 40-60 percent of its residents support the monument," Begay stated. "We need Secretary Zinke to meet with tribal leaders, who can identify burial sites, ceremonial sites, historic areas, medicinal herbs, and antiquities throughout the monument."

Zinke told reporters Tuesday that he has not made up his mind about whether Bears Ears should remain a monument or if its borders should be shrunk or expanded. He has until June 10 to report back to Trump.

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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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