‘Secret’ life of sharks: Study reveals their surprising social networks

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sharks have more complex social lives than previously known, as shown by a study finding that gray reef sharks in the Pacific Ocean cultivate surprising social networks with one another and develop bonds that can endure for years.

The research focused on the social behavior of 41 reef sharks around the Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii, using acoustic transmitters to track them and camera tags to gain greater clarity into their interactions.

Far from being solitary creatures, the sharks formed social communities that remained rather stable over time, with some of the same individuals remaining together during the four years of the study.

The researchers documented a daily pattern, with sharks spending mornings together in groups of sometimes close to 20 individuals in the same part of the reef, dispersing throughout the day and into the night, and reconvening the next morning.

“Sharks are incredible animals and still quite misunderstood,” said Florida International University marine biologist Yannis Papastamatiou, lead author of the research published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

“I like to talk about their ‘secret social lives’ not because they want it to be a secret, but because only recently have we developed the tools to start seeing and understanding their social lives,” Papastamatiou added. “Not all sharks are social and some are likely solitary.”

The reef shark is medium-sized, reaching about 6 feet (2 meters) long. Its sociality bore similarities in terms of stability over time to certain birds and mammals but differed in that it did not involve nesting, mating, making vocalizations or friendly interactions.

The researchers suspect the sharks hang out together because it may help ensure that the various individuals find prey.

“For some time we have known that sharks are capable of recognizing particular group mates and having social preferences,” said marine biologist and study co-author David Jacoby of the Institute of Zoology in London.

“Our study reveals for the first time that they are actually capable of maintaining social partners for multiple years. Further we offer a possible mechanism for such long-term social structure – namely that social groups likely operate as information centers from which individuals can follow one another to offshore feeding areas.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

15 U.S. states to jointly work to advance electric heavy-duty trucks

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday unveiled a joint memorandum of understanding aimed at boosting the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and phasing out diesel-powered trucks by 2050.

The announcement comes weeks after the California Air Resources Board approved a groundbreaking policy to require manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024 and to electrify nearly all larger trucks by 2045.

The 14 states said the voluntary initiative is aimed at boosting the number of electric large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks, with the goal of ensuring all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2050 with a target of 30% ZEV sales by 2030.

The states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont.

The states committed to developing a plan within six months to identify barriers and propose solutions to support widespread electrification, including potential financial incentives and ways to boost EV infrastructure.

Trucks and buses represent 4% of U.S. vehicles, but account for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

California’s mandate will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035. California’s planned rules will initially require 5%-9% ZEVs based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030 and nearly all by 2045.

The push comes as a rising number of companies – including Rivian, Tesla Inc., Nikola Corp., and General Motors work to introduce zero emission trucks.

Major businesses like Amazon.com, UPS and Walmart have also said they are ramping up purchases of electric delivery trucks.

California later plans to adopt new limits on nitrogen oxide emissions, one of the major precursors of smog, as well as require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Hogue)

U.S. tops 3 million known infections as coronavirus surges

By Callaghan O’Hare and Lisa Shumaker

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. coronavirus outbreak crossed a grim milestone of over 3 million confirmed cases on Tuesday as more states reported record numbers of new infections, and Florida faced an impending shortage of intensive care unit hospital beds.

Authorities have reported alarming upswings of daily caseloads in roughly two dozen states over the past two weeks, a sign that efforts to control transmission of the novel coronavirus have failed in large swaths of the country.

California, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas on Tuesday shattered their previous daily record highs for new cases. The biggest jumps occurred in Texas and California, the two largest U.S. states, with more than 10,000 each. About 24 states have reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week.

In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks.

The trend has driven many more Americans to seek out COVID-19 screenings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday it was adding short-term “surge” testing sites in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

In Houston, a line of more than 200 cars snaked around the United Memorial Medical Center as people waited hours in sweltering heat to get tested. Some had arrived the night before to secure a place in line at the drive-through site.

“I got tested because my younger brother got positive,” said Fred Robles, 32, who spent the night in his car. “There’s so many people that need to get tested, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Dean Davis, 32, who lost his job due to the pandemic, said he arrived at the testing site at 3 a.m. Tuesday after he waited for hours on Monday but failed to make the cutoff.

“I was like, let me get here at 3, maybe nobody will be here,” Davis said. “I got here, there was a line already.”

In Florida, more than four dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 counties reported their intensive care units had reached full capacity, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Only 17% of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds statewide were available on Tuesday, down from 20% three days earlier.

Additional hospitalizations could strain healthcare systems in many areas, leading to an uptick in lives lost from the respiratory illness that has killed more than 131,000 Americans to date. At least 923 of those deaths were reported Tuesday, the biggest single-day toll since June 10 but still far fewer than the record 2,806 tallied back in April.

A widely cited mortality model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected on Tuesday that U.S. deaths would reach 208,000 by Nov. 1, with the outbreak expected to gain new momentum heading into the fall.

A hoped-for summertime decline in transmission of the virus never materialized, the IHME said.

“The U.S. didn’t experience a true end of the first wave of the pandemic,” the IHME’s director, Dr. Christopher Murray, said in a statement. “This will not spare us from a second surge in the fall, which will hit particularly hard in states currently seeing high levels of infections.”

‘PRESSURE ON GOVERNORS’

President Donald Trump, who has pushed for restarting the U.S. economy and urged Americans to return to their normal routines, said on Tuesday he would lean on state governors to open schools in the fall.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said some people wanted to keep schools closed for political reasons. “No way, so we’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

New COVID-19 infections are rising in 42 states, based on a Reuters analysis of the past two weeks. By Tuesday afternoon, the number of confirmed U.S. cases had surpassed 3 million, affecting nearly one of every 100 Americans and a population roughly equal to Nevada’s.

In Arizona, another hot spot, the rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive rose to 26% for the week ended July 5, leading two dozen states with positivity rates exceeding 5%. The World Heath Organization considers a rate over 5% to be troubling.

The surge has forced authorities to backpedal on moves to reopen businesses, such as restaurants and bars, after mandatory lockdowns in March and April reduced economic activity to a virtual standstill and put millions of Americans out of work.

The Texas state fair, which had been scheduled to open on Sept. 25, has been canceled for the first time since World War Two, organizers announced on Tuesday.

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine said the state was ordering people in seven counties to wear face coverings in public starting Wednesday evening.

(Reporting by Callaghan O’Hare in Houston and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter, Caroline Humer and Peter Szekely in New York and Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason in Washington Writing by Paul Simao and Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Cynthia Osterman, Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)

New telescope reveals sun’s surface in closest detail yet

New telescope reveals sun’s surface in closest detail yet
(Reuters) – Images from a powerful new telescope installed on top of a volcano in Hawaii show the surface of the sun in the closest detail yet, revealing features as small as 30km (18 miles) across.

They were captured by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which sits at around 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) above sea level near the summit of Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii.

The telescope, which features the world’s largest solar 4-meter (13 feet) mirror, could enable a greater understanding of the sun and its impact on our planet, according to the National Solar Observatory, a public research institute headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.

A pattern of turbulent, “boiling” gas is shown covering the sun, which is some 93 million miles from Earth.

An image shows the Sun’s surface at the highest resolution ever taken, shot by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the world’s largest solar telescope, on the island of Maui, Hawaii, U.S., January 29, 2020, in this image obtained January 30, 2020. NSO/NSF/AURA/Handout via

Inside visible cell-like structures, each around the size of the U.S. state of Texas, hot plasma can be seen rising before cooling off and sinking below the surface in dark lanes, as part of a process called convection.

Markers of magnetic fields are also visible with new clarity, the NSO said.

Studying the sun’s activity, or “space weather”, can help scientists predict problems on Earth. Magnetic eruptions on the sun can disrupt satellites, disable GPS, impact air travel, bring down power grids and cause blackouts.

“This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms,” said France Córdova, NSF director.

(This story refiles to fix typographical error in paragraph 4)

(Reporting by George Sargent; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

U.S. Navy sailor shoots dead two, then himself, at Pearl Harbor base

American Flag - VOTE

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – A U.S. Navy sailor shot dead two civilians working at Hawaii’s historic military base of Pearl Harbor on Wednesday and wounded a third before turning his gun on himself, military officials said.

Authorities did not identify the victims or the gunman, described by a witness as wearing a U.S. Navy uniform, but local media reported they were all men. Base officials said the victims were civilians working for the Department of Defense.

It was not immediately clear what the gunman’s motive was for the shooting, three days before the 78th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on the naval base that led the United States to declare war on Japan and enter World War Two.

The gunman died of “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound”, and the third victim was in stable condition in hospital, military officials told a news briefing.

“We have confirmed that two (victims) are deceased,” said the regional commander, Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick.

The gunman “has tentatively been identified as an active-duty sailor assigned to USS Columbia SSN 771,” he said.

The base, a combined U.S. Air Force and Navy installation located eight miles (13 km) from the state capital of Honolulu, was placed on lockdown for about two hours after the incident at about 2:30 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time.

“We have no indication yet whether they (the victims) were targeted or if it was a random shooting,” Chadwick said.

He said he also did not know the type of weapon used by the attacker and that bringing personal weapons on the base was not authorized.

Emergency services sent ambulances and firefighters to the scene, which was secured by late Wednesday and the base reopened.

An unidentified witness told Hawaii News Now he had heard gunfire near Drydock 2 of the base and looked up from his desk to see the gunman, wearing an U.S. Navy uniform, put the weapon to his head and shoot himself.

“Details are still emerging as security forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam investigate,” Hawaii Governor David Ige said, using the official name of the base.

The White House had offered him assistance from federal agencies as needed, Ige said.

A White House spokesman said: “The president has been briefed on the shooting…and continues to monitor the situation.”

Hawaii police detectives are assisting the military in an investigation that could require up to 100 witnesses to be interviewed, local media said.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Steve Gorman in Culver City, Jeff Mason in Washington, D.C. and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Stephen Coates, Clarence Fernandez and Timothy Heritage)

Back-to-back hurricanes churn towards Hawaii

Hurricanes Erick and Flossie 7-31-19

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Back-to-back hurricanes churned in the eastern Pacific on Wednesday towards Hawaii, with one set to lose punch when it reaches the U.S. archipelago state even as its mate gains might.

The closest to Hawaii was Hurricane Erick, which swelled from a tropical storm on Monday to a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

But it has since weakened to Category 3 with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said on Wednesday.

It was about 695 miles (1,115 km) from Hawaii’s Big Island.

Erick is expected to continue to lose its might, dwindling back into a tropical storm by the time it makes its closest approach to Hawaii.

It is forecast to skirt south of the Big Island on Friday morning. Meteorologists see a higher chance of gale-force winds from the storm on the Big Island later this week.

Meanwhile, farther east in the Pacific, Hurricane Flossie, a Category 1 with sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), is expected to gradually gain power and speed over the next few days, the NHC said early on Wednesday.

It was about 1,150 miles (1,850 km) southwest of the Mexican state of Baja California, an advisory said, and was slowly headed west, getting stronger over the next few days.

The latest forecast shows it approaching the island by 8 p.m. Sunday, a forecaster at the NHC said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

As Hurricane Erick heads toward Hawaii, another Pacific hurricane expected to form

Hurricane Erick - NOAA track photograph

(Reuters) – As Hurricane Erick gained strength in the eastern Pacific as it churned toward Hawaii, another weather system, tropical storm Flossie brewing farther east is likely to become a hurricane later on Tuesday, forecasters said.

Tropical Storm Erick grew into a hurricane late on Monday in the eastern Pacific, packing maximum sustained winds of 1115 mph as it churned more than 1,000 miles (1,610 km) from Hawaii’s Big Island.

Erick, the Pacific season’s third hurricane, is rated a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale and could gain strength in the next two days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

“A weakening trend is expected to begin later in the week,” it said in an advisory.

The weather system is expected to weaken back into a tropical storm by the time it makes its closest approach to Hawaii and is forecast to skirt south of the Big Island on Friday morning. Forecasts call for a higher chance of gale-force winds from the storm on the Big Island later this week.

Another tropical storm, Flossie, was trailing Erick farther out in the eastern Pacific, packing winds of 65 mph (100 kph) early on Tuesday.

Flossie is expected to become the fourth hurricane of the Pacific this season later in the day, forecasters said. It was about 965 miles (1550 km) southwest of Baja, California, an advisory said, and was slowly headed west.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Hawaii’s Maui Island wildfire forces evacuations

A thick plume of smoke hovers over a wildfire next to a road in Maui, Hawaii, in this still image taken from a July 11, 2019 video from social media. Drumnicodotcom/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Thousands of residents and visitors on Hawaii’s Maui Island were ordered to evacuate two communities on Thursday as a spreading wildfire sent smoke billowing high into the sky, officials and local media said.

The 3,000 acre brush fire in Maui’s central valley was uncontrolled Thursday night, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino told a news conference. He said firefighters would monitor it overnight but that it was too dangerous to battle the blaze in the dark.

Smoke blankets the sky as a wildfire spreads in Maui, Hawaii, in this July 11, 2019 photo obtained from social media. Roger Norris/via REUTERS

Smoke blankets the sky as a wildfire spreads in Maui, Hawaii, in this July 11, 2019 photo obtained from social media. Roger Norris/via REUTERS

“We can’t fight the fire tonight,” he said. “We’re not going to send any firefighters into harm’s way.”

A National Weather Service satellite photo showing smoke hanging over the island was posted on local media and social media sites.

The brush fire was reported about 10:30 a.m., local time, and steady winds of up to 20 mph fanned the flames, officials said. It jumped a highway and spread across fallow fields and more brush. Two helicopters from the fire department also dropped water on the blaze to try to contain it.

While thousands were ordered evacuated, it was unclear how many people fled the west Maui coastal communities of Maalaea and Kihei. But three shelters housed about 500 people late Thursday, media reports said.

The Maui High School housed about 200 cats and dogs moved from a local animal shelter, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Kahului Airport was briefly closed and flights were diverted because of the smoke, which also forced the closure of two major roads. But operations were back to normal around 7 p.m. local time, media reported.

No injuries or damage to structures were reported, but some farm equipment burned, Hawaii News Now reported.

Neither Maui County officials nor a representative with the county’s Emergency Operations Center were available for comment early on Friday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Hawaii residents hit by floods from Hurricane Lane as new storm forms

FILE PHOTO: Large waves crash against the shoreline on the east side of Oahu as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – Flash flood warnings were issued on Tuesday for the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with residents on the north coast told to evacuate and others left stranded by high water as the remnants of Hurricane Lane drenched the archipelago and a new storm brewed in the Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii was spared a direct hit from a major hurricane as Lane diminished to a tropical storm as it approached and then drifted west, further from land. But rain was still pounding the island chain, touching off flooding on Oahu and Kauai.

“It has been a steady rain since after Lane but I got up 2:30 a.m. (Hawaiian Standard Time) to the National Weather Service flash flood advisory and that’s when we put out the release as well as an island-wide telephone call,” County of Kauai spokesman Alden Alayvilla said.

The advisory urged residents near Hanalei Bridge on the north side of the island to evacuate their homes due to rising stream levels. A convoy that had been used to escort residents over roads damaged by historic floods in April between was shut down, leaving many cut off.

“Heavy pounding and hazardous conditions are being reported island-wide. Motorists are advised to drive with extreme caution. Updates will be given as more information is made available,” the Kauai Emergency Management Agency said.

A flash flood watch also remained in effect for Oahu, home to the state capital Honolulu and 70 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents.

Micco Godinez, who lives on the north side of Kauai, said he found the only road out of Hanalei, where he lives, barricaded by police vehicles when he tried to leave for work on Tuesday morning. He expected to be stranded for at least another day.

“I can’t get out at all,” Godinez said. “Our little community of Hanalei is isolated and then west of us is even more isolated,” he said.

Even as Hawaii residents sought to recover from Lane, they kept a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Miriam, spinning in the Pacific Ocean some 2,000 miles to the east and expected to become a hurricane by the time it approaches the islands.

“Miriam is supposed to go north and dissipate in the colder waters and drier air, so I’m not really worried about it,” Godinez said. “But it is hurricane season, and there’s another one behind that. You know what they say: Without rain you wouldn’t have rainbows.”

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Approaching hurricane sparks runs in Hawaii on plywood, water and gasoline

Paul Akamine fills propane tanks for customers as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

By Sue Horton

HANALEI, Hawaii (Reuters) – Micco Godinez, who rents out kayaks on the island of Kauai and loves surfing, said he was twice tempted to hit the waves on Wednesday but kept his focus on a more pressing concern – getting ready to board up his home for a major hurricane.

With forecasts calling for Hurricane Lane to strike or brush past Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” on Friday, Godinez, 66, has joined tens of thousands of others on Kauai, and across the state, in the rituals of disaster preparation.

A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

Lane, wavering between Category 4 and Category 5 strength on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, churned toward the U.S. Pacific island state with sustained winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 kph) on Wednesday, as authorities urged residents to stock up on water, food and medicines.

Across Hawaii, jittery residents lined up at hardware centers, gasoline stations and grocery stores. But nowhere was the sense of urgency perhaps more palpable than on Kauai, where torrential rains four months ago triggered widespread flooding that destroyed homes and washed out roads.

“Some people here were just wiped out in that flood. It rained 50 inches (127 cm) in 24 hours,” said Hanalei resident Charlie Cowden, who owns several surf shops on the island. “Now there is this.”

Many older residents recalled even greater devastation from the last Category 4 storm to pummel Hawaii, Hurricane Iniki, which made landfall on Kauai in September 1992, killing six people and leveling or damaging more than 14,000 dwellings.

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

‘SLIM PICKINGS’

Godinez, who lives two blocks from the ocean in the bayside town of Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore, said he spent part of his day shopping for lumber and a recharging device for his portable drill.

He described the mood in town as “pleasantly apprehensive” and said he even felt the familiar pang of one of his favorite pastimes. “Twice the surf was up, and twice I wanted to go surfing, but I had other things pressing on my mind.”

He recalled getting up early to drive to a Home Depot building-supply outlet before it opened at 6 a.m., only to find two dozen others already lined up ahead of him.

“There’s a run on plywood,” he said. “It was slim pickings when I was there.”

Pausing later after filling up jugs of water, Godinez said he and his wife would spend the rest of the day taking measurements and cutting plywood to fit over more than 18 windows on their two-story house.

“Measure twice, cut once, and away we go,” he said, adding they would wait until Thursday for the latest forecasts before deciding whether to go ahead with fastening the boards to the windows.

Since Hanalei is on the opposite side of Kauai from where the hurricane is most likely to come ashore, Godinez said he was less concerned about ocean storm surge than ferocious winds.

Godinez said he, his wife and two guests planned to “hunker down” in a first-floor laundry room at the height of the storm, should it make landfall by late Thursday or early on Friday.

With two small laundry windows sealed up and probably no electricity, except for battery-powered flashlights, “It’s going to be hot and dark,” he said.

(Reporting by Sue Horton; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)