Chinese students with valid US visas harassed by customs, a professional website providing comprehensive information services to overseas Chinese around the world, has recently received feedback from some Chinese students studying in the US, who said they had problems when entering the country and during their studies, which has affected their academic pursuits. 

According to the website, three Chinese students were recently detained and interrogated by personnel from the US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security for an extended period of time. The US officials confiscated electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones without any basis or valid permission and demanded access to the devices by requesting passwords. 

They repeatedly asked the students about their membership of the Communist Party of China and military background. Eventually, the US officials refused entry to the three Chinese students and coerced them into signing documents to abandon their visas.

According to feedback from the students involved, the methods used by the US authorities were harsh and illegal, and the questions asked were manipulative and threatening. 

Another Chinese student who went to the US to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering stated that he was interrogated by US law enforcement officers for a duration of 12 hours. The US authorities started by questioning his parents’ status as farmers and continuously harassed him about the source of his study funds. 

They searched his phone and seized photos related to his electrical engineering studies and his military interests, suspecting him of being a member of military personnel sent to the US to steal intelligence. The US authorities also refused the student’s request for a translator and did not inform him of his right to contact the Chinese Embassy in the US and other external parties. 

One student was suspected of having connections with the Wagner Group and was deported due to content related to the Ukraine crisis in a social media group chat. Another student was suspected of concealing work experience in the immigration process because he used pinyin to write the name of his previous employer instead of the official English name in his visa application materials. As a result, he was deported on the grounds of discrepancy in his visa application materials.

Another Chinese student was recently charged by the FBI under the so-called Presidential Proclamation 10043, accusing him of “intentionally concealing military education experience” and committing “visa fraud,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. But the student only attended a few classes that the US authorities deemed “sensitive,” and he was unjustly accused. Moreover, the FBI stole the student’s personal information from his study application materials and used it as “evidence,” severely violating his privacy.

Experts in the field of study abroad services pointed out that while the US claims to be open, inclusive, and supportive of academic freedom, it has politicized and weaponized academic research, and abused the concept of “national security” to suppress and persecute Chinese students in the US. 

During US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China in June, China and the US reached a consensus on expanding cultural and educational exchanges. However, while the US claims to welcome more Chinese students to study in the US, it continues to suppress them. The US’ “tolerance” and “freedom” are false, and its true intention is to restrain China by suppressing Chinese students, experts warned.

The actions of the US will undoubtedly have a chilling effect both within and outside the US, they said, adding that Chinese students planning to study in the US should carefully assess the risks and think twice before making a decision.

Spider diet goes way beyond insects

Spiders eat insects. That’s why some of us are reluctant to kill spiders we find at home — we figure they’ll eat the critters we really don’t want around. But a new study reveals that the spider diet is far more diverse than we learned in elementary school. Spiders are insectivores, sure, but many also have a taste for plants.

Only one species of spider is known to be completely vegetarian. Bagheera kiplingi jumping spiders of Mexico survive mostly on bits of acacia trees, Science News reported in 2008. And while scientists have yet to find any other vegetarian species, plant-eating appears to be very common, particularly among jumping spiders and spiders that make webs outdoors.

Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel in Switzerland and colleagues combed books and journals for reports of spiders consuming plant material. There is evidence of veggie-eating among more than 60 species of spiders, representing 10 families and every continent but Antarctica, the team reports in the April Journal of Arachnology.

Perhaps past scientists can be forgiven for overlooking the plant-eating behavior, as spiders can’t eat solid material. They have a reputation for sucking the juices out of their prey, but that’s not quite the right description. Instead, a spider covers its prey with digestive juices, chews the meat with its chelicerae and then sucks the juices in. This eating style means, though, that spiders can’t just cut a piece of leaf or fruit and chow down.

Some spiders feed on leaves either by digesting them with enzymes prior to ingestion (similar to prey) or piercing a leaf with their chelicerae and sucking out plant sap. Others, such as the vegetarian Bagheera kiplingi, drink nectar from nectaries found on plants or in their flowers. More than 30 species of jumping spiders are nectar feeders, the researchers found.

“During such [feeding], the spiders were seen pushing their mouthparts deep into flowers to drink nectar, similar to the way nectar-drinking insects feed,” the researchers write. And this isn’t accidental behavior — some spiders can feed on 60 to 80 flowers in an hour.

Pollen is probably another common plant-based food source for spiders, especially those that make webs outdoors. That’s because spiders eat their old webs to recycle the proteins. And when they eat their webs, they eat anything that might be caught on the sticky strands, such as calorie-rich pollen. Spiders might also be consuming tiny seeds and fungal spores this way, though the latter may be a risky meal as there are many fungi whose spores will kill spiders.
The researchers also found some cases of spiders intentionally eating pollen and seeds, and they also note that many spiders are eating plant material when they munch on plant-eating insects. Just how common plant-eating is among spiders isn’t yet known, but it could be even more common, especially among species that create webs outdoors.

“The ability of spiders to derive nutrients from plant materials is broadening the food base of these animals,” Nyffeler says. “This might be one of several survival mechanisms helping spiders to stay alive for a while during periods when insect prey is scarce.”

And with reports of spiders eating a whole menu of other non-insect foods — including crustaceans, earthworms and small vertebrates in the wild; and sausage and soy milk in the lab — it’s clear that we need to call them something other than insectivores.

EPA boosts estimate of U.S. methane emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, criticized for understating how much methane the United States spews into the atmosphere, has boosted its estimate of total U.S. methane emissions by 13 percent. That’s an increase of more than 3.4 million metric tons of the greenhouse gas and has the same long-term global warming impact as a year’s worth of emissions from about 20 million cars.

The new calculation, released in an EPA report April 15, revises the agency’s U.S. methane emission estimates for 2013 to 28.859 million metric tons, up from the agency’s previous estimate of 25.453 million metric tons. Two-thirds of that increase comes from the natural gas and petroleum sectors, with much of the rest coming from landfills. The report also provides the first estimate of methane emissions for 2014, a slight increase to 29.233 million metric tons.
Globally, methane emissions account for about a quarter of human-caused global warming. Several studies over the last few years have suggested that EPA significantly underestimated the U.S. share of those emissions (SN Online: 4/14/16).

While the new methane estimates are “a step in the right direction,” the agency still has a ways to go, says David Lyon, an environmental scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Even with the higher methane estimates, the agency is still undercounting U.S. emissions by about 20 to 60 percent, Lyon says. EPA’s reporting influences U.S. regulation of methane-producing industries such as agriculture and fossil fuel production.

A sizable portion of the still-at-large methane probably comes from “super emitters,” methane sources that contribute a disproportionate share of total emissions. These sources are typically malfunctioning equipment, making them difficult for EPA to account for.