Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

Scientists investigating the silence of the crickets in Hawaii have uncovered a bizarre evolutionary story that is part horror movie, part Cyrano de Bergerac.

In the most recent edition of the journal Current Biology, researchers from Scotland’s University of St. Andrews report on the separate but nearly simultaneous quieting of chirping crickets on Kauai and Oahu.

As lead researcher Nathan Bailey explained, Hawaii crickets appear to have abandoned their chirplike mating songs to avoid parasitoid flies. The flies, which are attracted to male cricket song, would lay larvae that would then burrow into the host crickets, killing them within a week.

Adaptive crickets survived and reproduced by silencing their own songs but positioning themselves — like Christian to Cyrano — next to crickets who continued to use their chirps to woo female crickets.

The silent flatwing crickets are present on both Oahu and Kauai. At first, Bailey and his team believed that a single population of silent crickets evolved on one island and spread to the other. However, further investigation made it clear that the crickets came from separate populations but adopted the same trait around the same time.

“This is an exciting opportunity to detect genomic evolution in real time in a wild system, which has usually been quite an challenge owing to the long timescales over which evolution acts,” Bailey said in a release. “With the crickets, we can act as relatively unobtrusive observers while the drama unfolds in the wild.”

http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/20140531_Evolution_silences_some_isle_cricket_populations.html?mobile=true

Thanks to Da Brayn for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Hawaii legislators in both chambers agreed that police should no longer have legal permission to have sex with prostitutes in the course of their duties.

Hawaii was the only US state that permitted officers to engage in such activity with sex workers during investigations.

House and Senate members are still thrashing out the details of House Bill 1926, which they will subsequently send to the governor. But they agree that the crime bill should revoke an unusual exemption that permits police in Hawaii to have sex with prostitutes in the course of their duties.

Originally, the bill cracking down on prostitution would have deleted the exemption, but last month, after lobbying efforts by Hawaii police officers, the exemption was made.

Honolulu police said vice officers needed the legal protection for their undercover work to prevent pimps and prostitutes from knowing the limits of police methods. They also added that the provision is needed to protect the integrity of investigations.

The bill was amended as it passed out of the chamber’s Judicial Committee. Rep. Karl Rhoads, the Democratic chairman of the Judicial Committee, clarified that he corrected the bill to allow the exclusion because of the police testimony. However, experts and sex worker advocates say that this permission is no help and, in fact, even makes things worse.

“It doesn’t help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone. And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?” Derek Marsh, an expert on human trafficking who trains police officers how to handle extraordinary cases, earlier told AP.

Rhoads said now he wants to remove the prostitution exemption for police, and limit police from engaging in sex or sadomasochistic acts with prostitutes.

The House and Senate members are settling on a final version, but once they vote on it, Gov. Neil Abercrombie must sign it into official law.

http://rt.com/usa/hawaii-police-prostitutes-sex-412/

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

UtahReducesHomelessness011814

Earlier this month, Hawaii State representative Tom Bower (D) began walking the streets of his Waikiki district with a sledgehammer, and smashing shopping carts used by homeless people. “Disgusted” by the city’s chronic homelessness problem, Bower decided to take matters into his own hands — literally. He also took to rousing homeless people if he saw them sleeping at bus stops during the day.

Bower’s tactics were over the top, and so unpopular that he quickly declared “Mission accomplished,” and retired his sledgehammer. But Bower’s frustration with his city’s homelessness problem is just an extreme example of the frustration that has led cities to pass measures that effective deal with the homeless by criminalizing homelessness.

•City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates.

•Last year, Tampa, Florida — which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city — passed an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping in public, or “storing personal property in public.” The city followed up with a ban on panhandling downtown, and other locations around the city.

•Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it.

•Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.

This trend makes Utah’s accomplishment even more noteworthy. In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.

How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

It sounds like Utah borrowed a page from Homes Not Handcuffs, the 2009 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless. Using a 2004 survey and anecdotal evidence from activists, the report concluded that permanent housing for the homeless is cheaper than criminalization. Housing is not only more human, it’s economical.

http://www.nationofchange.org/utah-ending-homelessness-giving-people-homes-1390056183

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

sn-whalecollisions

Humpback whales are facing new dangers in Hawaiian waters, where more than 10,000 of the cetaceans congregate from December to April to calve and breed. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of historical records of ship strikes on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the seas around the Hawaiian Islands between 1975 and 2011. In that 36-year period, 68 such strikes were reported, including the one that injured the humpback calf in the photo above. The scientists have not yet been able to quantify the number of whales lethally wounded or killed outright by such hits. Because more than 63% of the collisions involved calves and subadults, the scientists conclude that these younger animals are particularly susceptible to being struck, most likely because they spend more time at the surface to breathe than do adults. Worryingly, the number of strikes has steadily increased over the years, the team reports in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management—and not because there are more whales. Instead, the increase is apparently due to tourism. The majority of vessels that have collided with whales in Hawaii are small- to medium-sized boats, less than 21.2 meters in length, the scientists say, which happens to be the size of commercial whale-watching vessels. Federal regulations require these boats to remain at least 100 yards distance from the humpbacks. They may be keeping their distance while observing the whales, but not when under way: The majority of collisions occurred when the vessels were travelling at 10 to 19 knots, the team reports—apparently, too fast to avoid colliding with the very animals the skippers and tourists have come out to watch.

http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2013/12/scienceshot-when-whale-watching-turns-deadly

molasses122way_wide-a817154c95efea85da1f060ae57b3175f53e05c2-s6-c30

“Everything down there is dead.”

That’s one stunning quote from Hawaii News Now’s latest report about the devastating damage that’s been done to the marine life off Honolulu’s Sand Island by 233,000 gallons of molasses that were spilled into Honolulu harbor on Monday.

Gary Gill, deputy director of Hawaii’s Environmental Health Division of the Health Department, tells the news station that “this is the worst environmental damage to sea life that I have come across.”

The station sent diver Roger White into the water to see what’s happened to sea creatures there. He shot video and came back to say that:

“It was shocking because the entire bottom is covered with dead fish. Small fish, crabs, mole crabs, eels. Every type of fish that you don’t usually see, but now they’re dead. Now they’re just laying there. Every single thing is dead. We’re talking in the hundreds, thousands. I didn’t see one single living thing underwater.”

As Hawaii Public Radio’s Bill Dorman states that the state Health Department has advised the public to stay out of the water. It warns that “while molasses is not harmful to the public directly, the substance is polluting the water, causing fish to die and could lead to an increase in predator species such as sharks, barracuda and eels. The nutrient rich liquid could also cause unusual growth in marine algae, stimulate an increase in harmful bacteria and trigger other environmental impacts.”

Why is the molasses causing so much damage? In an earlier report, Hawaii News Now:
“… did an experiment to see why molasses is so hazardous to fish. When we poured store bought Molasses into a vase of water we collected from Keehi Lagoon, the concentrated sugary substance went straight to the bottom.

“Unlike an oil spill, which can be cleaned by skimming the surface, the molasses quickly disperses to the deepest points. ‘It’s sucking up all the oxygen,’ explained [state reef biologist Dave] Gulko. ‘There’s no oxygen at depth so the animals that need it can’t get it and are suffocating.’ ”

Because the spill happened in a harbor and there’s less circulation than in the open ocean, it could be months or possibly years before the molasses is completely washed away, David Field, a visiting assistant professor of marine sciences at Hawaii Pacific University, tells the station.

The spill happened as the molasses was being loaded onto a container ship. According to Hawaii News Now, the company responsible, Matson Inc., says it “regrets that the incident impacted many harbor users as well as wildlife. We are taking steps to ensure this situation does not happen again.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/09/12/221709158/massive-molasses-spill-devastates-honolulu-marine-life

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

pluto

Pluto’s orbit may host a formation of 10 or more tiny undiscovered moons, which would each measure just 1 to 3 kilometres across, astronomers say.

This preliminary finding could make life even more difficult for the team planning NASA’s New Horizons mission, which is slated to take the first-ever up-close look at the Pluto system in July 2015.

After Pluto’s fifth known moon, a small satellite known as P5, was discovered last year, officials said they may need to redraw the spacecraft’s path to avoid such obstacles.

In the new study, astronomers led by Scott Kenyon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used computer simulations that treat smaller particles statistically.

Once objects get above a certain size, roughly 1 km across, then the programme renders them individually – and this is when the satellites pop up.

It’s hard to say how many there are, the researchers said, as it’s difficult to simulate collisions among these tiny satellites. There could be anywhere from one to more than 10 objects lurking beyond Hydra’s orbit.

While the team can simulate these satellites, they said it’s unlikely they could be spotted, if they exist, from Earth.

The brightness of the potential objects dance with the edge of the Hubble Space Telescope’s capabilities, Kenyon said, and they are likely beyond the reach of even the most sensitive ground-based telescopes, such as the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

New Horizons might be able to spot smaller satellites before it gets there, but Kenyon said he wasn’t sure when the objects would appear big enough for the spacecraft to detect.

The satellites would be “easily visible” during the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto in 2015, researchers said.

The study was submitted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

http://www.phenomenica.com/2013/03/pluto-may-have-10-more-undiscovered-moons.html