White House Blasts Seattle Judge’s Ruling on Asylum-Seekers

The White House is blasting a Seattle judge’s ruling that says the Trump administration can’t indefinitely lock up migrants who are seeking asylum without giving them a chance to be released on bond.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman on Tuesday blocked a new administration policy saying that asylum-seekers will no longer get bond hearings but instead must remain in custody as they pursue their claims. 
She said it’s unconstitutional for the government to detain people without demonstrating it’s necessary.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement Wednesday calling the ruling “at war with the rule of law.” She says it “only incentivizes smugglers and traffickers.”

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Michael Tan says the ruling “upholds the law against this administration’s ongoing attempts to violate it.”

Ben Gurion Incident Exposes West’s Vulnerability to GPS Disruption 

This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian service.

A spate of GPS disruptions at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport has confirmed what several prominent tech analysts have long feared: that Western nations, and the U.S. in particular, are unusually vulnerable to foreign meddling with location-based technology. 
Most location-based software programs, such as the U.S.’s Global Positioning System (GPS), the European Union’s Galileo, China’s BeiDou and Russia’s Glonass, depend on the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), the vast network of international satellites orbiting the Earth. 
The technology plays an integral part in our everyday lives, affecting such things as personal phone use, car navigation, international shipping, air travel, power grids, financial markets, and law enforcement and emergency response services. It’s also vital to military operations. 
So it is no surprise that authorities were alarmed last week when several aircraft flying near Ben Gurion reported disruption to their satellite navigation systems. Officials said they thought the disruptions were caused by signals emanating from Syria, where Russian forces are involved in that nation’s long-running civil war. 

FILE – A U.S. soldier in Kuwait holds a GPS navigation device.

Russian diplomats ridiculed the claim, but it was not the first time their country has been singled out. A report issued in March by the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) charged that Russia has been hacking non-Russian navigation systems on an extraordinary scale. 
Since February 2016, C4ADS analysts reported, Russian intelligence had meddled with GPS equipment aboard 1,311 civilian ships. The report said 9,883 hacking incidents were reported or detected by maritime vessels or aircraft in 2017, with most of the incidents involving planes and ships near the Black Sea, Russia and Syria. 
Beyond pinpointing geographic coordinates, GNSS is also used for precision timing, a feature that can also be hacked and manipulated. Various cybersecurity and automotive trade journals reported in March that an unknown entity hacked the GPS systems in a range of high-end cars featured at the annual Geneva Motor Show, programming the cars to report a location of Buckingham, England, in the year 2036. 
How it works 
GPS spoofing is an attack in which a radio transmitter located near the target is used to send out false GPS signals. Using tools that are cheap and easily accessible online, the attacker can transmit inaccurate coordinates or no data at all. 
Russia has been known to protectively scramble radio signal devices near sensitive state facilities or along routes traveled by VIPs. For example, multiple ships reported phony geographic coordinates in the Kerch Strait on the day that Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a truck across a newly completed bridge to Russian-annexed Crimea. 
But some analysts say the scale of recent disruptions indicates that Russia is taking its coordinates-spoofing game to another level, methodically calculating the damage it can inflict on unprotected systems in case of conflict. 

FILE – A Ukrainian sailor, right, is escorted by a Russian FSB officer to a courtroom in Simferopol, Crimea, Nov. 27, 2018. Russians captured Ukrainian seamen and their vessels two days earlier as they were about to transit the Kerch Strait.

“A ship that has falsified information navigating through the Kerch Strait, for instance, would be at a much greater risk of colliding with another ship or of potentially violating some sort of territorial water regime,” said Thomas Ewing, C4ADS chief analyst, referring to a Nov. 25 incident in which Russia seized three Ukrainian navy vessels near the Kerch Strait and detained their crews. 
Ewing also said evidence of spoofed coordinates had been recorded by U.S. forces in Syria, suggesting that Russia may be hacking satellite networks as part of its electronic warfare campaigns. There have also been reports of Russian spoofing of GPS signals during the Russian military training exercise Zapad in 2017 and NATO’s Trident Juncture in 2018. 
“Our report details a number of Russian assets that are designed to interfere with GNSS as part of a general electronic warfare capability,” Ewing told VOA.  
Some analysts have questioned why Russian intelligence would meddle with commercial airliners servicing Tel Aviv, the most populous city in a country with which the Kremlin seeks friendly relations.
Others, however, say formal attribution to a malign state actor is beside the point. 
“The basic danger is that when your positioning, navigation or timing information is falsified, you could make a decision based on information that doesn’t correspond to reality,” said Ewing, explaining that spoofed coordinates could easily spark an international dispute. 
Dana Goward, president of the U.S. Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, said the U.S. remains particularly vulnerable. 
Because American engineers designed GPS to be used by everyone, its signal characteristics are routinely published and easily accessible. That makes them easier to imitate than signals relayed by mainly ground-based positioning systems in China and Russia. 
America’s ‘gift to the world’ 
“I think that European countries and the United States are especially vulnerable because Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea have alternate navigation systems that transmit from the ground,” Goward told VOA’s Ukrainian service. He said those systems “have very high power and are very difficult to disrupt. So those countries are not nearly as dependent upon satellite navigation as Europe and the United States.”  
Asked about the erroneous coordinates reported by vessels in the Kerch Strait and along the Syrian coast, Goward said he thought Russia was using the vulnerabilities of the technology to demonstrate its power. 

FILE – A GPS station is seen in the Inyo Mountains of California. (S. Lawrence/UNAVCO)

“America likes to think of GPS as its gift to the world,” he said. “But by doing this, Russia is saying to the whole world that ‘we can take that away from you with a flip of a switch, so America’s gift is not so great.’ So they’re certainly using it as an instrument of strategic state power as well.” 
To protect itself, Goward said, the United States should increase its protection of GPS frequencies, use only high-quality receivers that can resist jamming and spoofing, and augment the GPSS with a ground-based system that would be harder to disrupt.  
The incident in Ben Gurion again attracted attention to the need to create a fully functional backup system for GPS, Goward said. “It is fortunate that aviation has a terrestrial electronic navigation system it can rely upon when GPS is not available,” Goward said. He praised the 2001 U.S. Department of Transportation decision not to give up the terrestrial system completely in favor of the GPS-based one. 
U.S. policy has called for maintaining an effective backup system since 2004, but experts say its full implementation is still in the works both in the United States and Europe.  
According to the Military Times newspaper, the U.S. Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany will field test jam-resistant positioning, navigation and timing gear in September, including a Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module in some vehicles.

Frenchman Takes Groping Complaint Case to Vatican

One of a half-dozen men who have accused the Vatican’s ambassador to France of groping them said Wednesday he plans to take his legal complaint directly to the Vatican, alleging the Holy See had invoked diplomatic immunity for the high-ranking churchman in a French criminal probe.

Mathieu De La Souchere filed a police report in Paris earlier this year accusing Archbishop Luigi Ventura of touching his buttocks repeatedly during a Jan. 17 reception at Paris City Hall. De La Souchere met with one of Pope Francis’ sex abuse advisers about the allegations Wednesday.

The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into alleged sexual aggression. The Vatican said Ventura was cooperating with the investigation. But De La Souchere said the French case was essentially stalled over the immunity question.

“The French government’s request to the Vatican to lift the diplomatic immunity remained unanswered,” he told The Associated Press.

De La Souchere said his lawyer plans to file a complaint with the Vatican City State’s criminal tribunal next week. The tribunal largely follows the Italian penal code and is separate from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse-related crimes under the Catholic Church’s canon law.

“This new judicial step here in the Vatican, we hope, will be one more step toward the trial that we all the victims in France are waiting for,” De La Souchere said after meeting with the Rev. Hans Zollner, a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

De La Souchere met with Zollner and another man who has accused Ventura. Catholic online site Crux has said as many as a half-dozen men have accused Ventura of unwanted groping over the course of his diplomatic postings, which have included Canada and Chile.

Ventura has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. His French lawyer, Bertrand Ollivier, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

The archbishop’s whereabouts are unknown, but he attended a meeting at the Vatican last month of all the Holy See’s apostolic nuncios, or ambassadors.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Ventura “has fully and voluntarily cooperated with French judicial authorities who are in charge of his case, and will continue to do so.” He didn’t immediately respond when asked about the status of Ventura’s immunity.

Ventura did agree to investigators’ request to take part in a “confrontation” with his accusers in May, according to French media reports. All accused him of putting his hands on their buttocks, sometimes repeatedly, or making other inappropriate gestures.

Speaking to one alleged victim, identified as Benjamin G., Ventura first claimed he didn’t remember the incidents in question and then said Benjamin misinterpreted his actions, according to French newspaper Le Monde.

The Vatican has previously recalled its diplomats when they get into trouble during overseas postings, as is common for governments with diplomats serving abroad.

In the most high-profile case, the Vatican recalled its ambassador to the Dominican Republic and prepared to put him on trial in the city state’s criminal tribunal for allegedly sexually abusing young boys. But he died before trial started.

More recently, the Vatican convicted a diplomat from its U.S. embassy for possession and distribution of child pornography and sentenced him to five years in prison.

The Vatican also invoked immunity during the recently-concluded trial in France that convicted French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of failing to report an admitted pedophile to police. Also accused in the case was a Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who now heads the Vatican office in charge of handling sex abuse cases.

The Vatican invoked Ladaria’s immunity as a public official of a foreign sovereign — the Holy See — and he was not prosecuted. Barbarin enjoyed no such immunity as the archbishop of Lyon and was convicted and given a six-month suspended sentence.

Francis recently named a temporary administrator to run the Lyon archdiocese after Barbarin stepped aside pending his appeal.

Scientists Sound Alarm After 6 Rare Whale Deaths in One Month

Scientists, government officials and conservationists are calling for a swift response to protect North Atlantic right whales after a half-dozen died in the past month.

All six of the dead endangered species have been found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Canada. At least three appear to have died after being hit by ships.

There are only a little more than 400 of the endangered species left. 
The deaths have led scientists to sound the alarm about a potentially catastrophic loss to the population.

Some say the whales are traveling in different areas than usual because of food availability. That change has apparently brought whales outside of protected zones and left them vulnerable.

 Trump Claims Census Question on Citizenship Still Alive 

U.S. President Donald Trump contended Wednesday that the government will still try to ask a question about citizenship in the once-a-decade census in 2020, a day after top officials announced they had given up on including the citizenship question following a Supreme Court ruling on the matter last week.

“The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!” Trump claimed on Twitter. “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”

The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019


But his comment sowed confusion about the inclusion of the question, coming after both the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department said they had abandoned the effort for the census that starts April 1. The government has said it already has started printing the questionnaires this week in order to have them all ready for use in nine months.

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross speaks at the 11th Trade Winds Business Forum and Mission hosted by the US Department of Commerce, in New Delhi, India, May 7, 2019.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, “I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” for the first time since 1950. “The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question. My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department, is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts answers questions during an appearance at Belmont University, Feb. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.

In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberal justices in ruling that the reasoning the Trump administration offered for including the citizenship question — that the information was needed to protect minority voting rights — was “contrived” and did not meet the standards for a clear explanation of why it should be asked.

Government officials offered no explanation of why they were dropping their effort to include the question, but were confronting weeks and maybe months of new challenges to the question. The census is important because it determines how many seats in the House of Representatives each state is allotted and how $800 billion in federal aid is disbursed.

Trump’s Democratic opponents have claimed that including the question is a Republican ploy to scare immigrants in to not participating in the census out of fear that immigration officials might target them for deportation when they determine that they are in the country illegally. An undercount in Democrat-leaning areas with large immigrant and Latino populations could reduce congressional representation for such states and cut federal aid.

After the Supreme Court heard arguments on the citizenship question but before it ruled, documents emerged from the files of a deceased Republican election districting expert showing that the citizenship question was aimed at helping Republicans gain an electoral edge over Democrats.  

Although the citizenship question has not been asked in 70 years, Trump tweeted that it was”A very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won’t allow a question of ‘Is this person a Citizen of the United States?’ to be asked on the #2020 Census!” 

When the high court issued its ruling, Trump called it “totally ridiculous.”




Tesla Delivers Record Number of Electric Cars in Quarter

Tesla set a record for quarterly vehicle deliveries in a triumphant response to months of questions about demand for its luxury electric cars, sending shares up 7% after hours Tuesday.

Tesla did not comment on profit — which is still elusive — but the robust deliveries could help jumpstart investor sentiment on Tesla, which has been challenged in recent months.

Before Tuesday’s after-hours spike, Tesla shares were down about a third from the beginning of the year.

Brushing aside concerns about demand that have dogged the company all year, Tesla said orders during the second quarter exceeded deliveries, despite buyers getting a smaller tax credit.

A $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit was cut in half at the end of last year, fell to $1,875 on Monday and expires at the end of the year.

“We believe we are well positioned to continue growing total production and deliveries in Q3,” the company said in a statement.

Tesla delivered 77,550 Model 3s in the quarter, the company’s latest sedan and linchpin of the company’s growth strategy. That compared with analysts’ average estimate of 73,144, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Deliveries of all models rose 51% from the first quarter to 95,200 vehicles, including 17,650 Model S and X. Analysts on average were expecting total deliveries of 89,084.

FILE – Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne, California, March 14, 2019.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has repeatedly said Tesla could deliver a record number of cars in the second quarter, beating the 90,700 it sent to customers in the final quarter of last year.

Wall Street ‘skeptical’

Tuesday’s numbers helped take the sting off a difficult first quarter, in which deliveries plunged and the company lost $702 million.

That fraught quarter — hurt by logistics issues at Tesla’s international ports and a drop-off in U.S. orders after the tax credit was halved — spurred worries that Tesla may have tapped a limited market for electric cars at premium prices.

Despite the positive second-quarter delivery numbers, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives cautioned that “the Street remains skeptical.”

Demand and profitability will remain the two main drivers to buoy Tesla shares in coming quarters, Ives told Reuters, signaling that Tesla’s challenges are far from over.

Garrett Nelson of CFRA Research noted that second-quarter deliveries were likely artificially boosted by customers pulling forward their vehicle purchases before the July 1 tax credit cut, warning that could result in a “significant retracement” in deliveries in the third quarter.

Tesla did not repeat its prior forecast that it would post a second-quarter loss but return to profit in the third quarter.

Delivery challenge

A big challenge for Tesla has been how to deliver its vehicles efficiently and swiftly to customers around the world.

An improved system for logistics helped in the second quarter, Tesla said, without providing more detail.

In prior quarters, Tesla has diverted employees from all parts of the company to help with deliveries in an all-hands-on-deck effort to meet delivery goals. That has proved to be an expensive and inefficient way to meet targets, which reduces potential profit margins on each vehicle.

The delivery numbers included 10,600 vehicles that had been in transit at the end of the first quarter.

The company has pledged to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles in 2019, a goal many analysts predict will be difficult to meet.

Overall, total production rose 13% to 87,048 vehicles compared with the first quarter. The company churned out 72,531 Model 3s in the second quarter, up from a total of 62,950 Model 3s in the preceding quarter.

Tesla said that going forward, it would no longer disclose how many vehicles were in transit at the end of each quarter due to production changes that made the number less relevant. At the end of the second quarter, over 7,400 vehicles were in transit.

Brazil: Protecting Environment Not Only European ‘Interest’

Brazil’s foreign minister said Tuesday that protecting the environment “is not only a European interest” after France said it would ratify a free-trade deal between the European Union and the South American bloc Mercosur only if Brazil respects its commitment to reduce deforestation.
The EU and Mercosur last Friday finalized, after two decades of negotiations, an agreement that would integrate the blocs into a market of 800 million people. But the deal must still be ratified by the legislatures of the countries involved.
The French government said Tuesday that it was yet not ready to ratify the pact, saying Brazil must “respect its commitments” to protecting its rainforest. Before the deal was finalized, French President Emmanuel Macron had said France would not sign if Brazil did not continue within the Paris climate agreement.
Brazilian foreign minister Ernesto Araujo responded to France’s comments by saying: “No country is ready to ratify (the agreement) from the constitutional point of view. It must be still submitted to parliament and approved.”
“Most European countries use more agrotoxins per hectare then Brazil. The agricultural health crisis of mad cow disease began in Europe because of the poor feeding of livestock,” Araujo said at a news conference in the capital, Brasilia. “This issue is not only a European interest, but ours” as well.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has raised fears among environmentalists by promising to open up the Amazon to further development and because of his close ties to the country’s agro-industry lobby.

FILE – In the Atlantic Forest in Bahia, fire and deforestation of hill slopes are forbidden by Brazilian law, but law enforcement is ineffective. (Credit: IESB archive)

A survey by the National Institute of Space Research that was published Tuesday showed that Amazon deforestation grew 60% in June compared to the same month last year, the worst data since 2016.
Mercosur is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

UN Aviation Agency to Review Global Pilot Training in Shadow of 737 Max Crashes

Global regulators will meet in Montreal next week to review pilot licensing requirements, the U.N.’s aviation agency said, as part of a discussion that has gained urgency following two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the past year.

It is the first time that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which sets global standards for 193 member countries, will undertake such a broad review on training requirements.

While the meeting was not called in response to the Max crashes in Indonesia last October and in Ethiopia in March, it coincides with a larger debate on whether increasingly automated commercial jets are compromising pilot skills. 

The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide and could not be back in service for months yet.

FILE – A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, March 26, 2019.

Most attention surrounding the two 737 Max crashes that killed a total of 346 people focuses on suspected flaws in an automated stall-prevention system called MCAS, which Boeing implemented to make the Max perform like previous 737 models.

But the training given to pilots to allow them to handle such problems smoothly is also under scrutiny, expanding an industry debate over pilot skills that has been raging for years as crews spend less and less time flying aircraft manually.

“Recently, with current events, people are discussing whether the minimum requirements or experience are still valid, [or] should we review that?” ICAO’s chief of operational safety Miguel Marin told Reuters.

In addition to regulators, representatives of a global pilots group are expected to attend the July 8-12 meeting, Marin said. Marin called the meeting a “first step,” with any eventual change up to regulators.

Training hours

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration increased the number of required training hours for commercial pilots from 250 to 1,500 in 2013, a move that some players have criticized as excessive, particularly as the industry grapples with future pilot shortages.

At the Montreal meeting, regulators will discuss flying hours and competency-based training, where pilots demonstrate skills like landing an airplane, as opposed to focusing on learning to fly and accumulating hours regardless of aircraft type.

ICAO’s multi-crew pilot license created in 2006 focused on competency-based training, where pilots need 240 hours to become first officers on a single aircraft type.

“What we’re seeing in highly automated aircraft, it’s not how to manage the airplane if things are OK. It’s those unexpected malfunctions that throw the airplane off,” Marin said. “We think that can only be addressed with a different type of approach to training rather than just saying, give them more hours.”

Pentagon: China Missile Test in South China Sea ‘Disturbing’

The Pentagon said on Tuesday a recent Chinese missile launch in the South China Sea was “disturbing” and contrary to Chinese pledges that it would not militarize the disputed waterway.

The South China Sea is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and Taiwan.

China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said China tested multiple anti-ship ballistic missiles over the weekend.

“Of course the Pentagon was aware of the Chinese missile launch from the man-made structures in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said.

“I’m not going to speak on behalf of all the sovereign nations in the region, but I’m sure they agree that the PRC’s behavior is contrary to its claim to want to bring peace to the region and obviously actions like this are coercive acts meant to intimidate other (South China Sea) claimants,” Eastburn added. PRC is an acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

News of the China missile test was first reported by NBC News.

Study Finds Even Spiders Get Grumpy When They’re Alone Too Long

Baby spiders like to mingle, but adult spiders tend to eat each other.

New research published in PLOS Biology found that adult spiders seem to forget how to behave with each other after being alone too long, which causes them to become aggressive. These findings could help researchers understand why some spider species like to hang out together their whole lives but most would eat another spider if given the chance.

Regardless of how you feel about spiders, they’re an important part of many ecosystems. Despite that, they are often misunderstood, said Violette Chiara, a graduate student at the University of Toulouse, France, who led the study.

“Spiders are not just aggressive, cannibalistic monsters,” Chiara said. “There are spiders that are social at the beginning of their lives, and there are also some species that remain social during their whole lives.”

A friendly start in life

Baby spiders, known as spiderlings, begin their lives cozied up to their siblings — sometimes as many as several hundred. But when they grow up, they tend to live alone. Of the more than 40,000 known spider species, all but 30 lead solitary lives in adulthood.

It’s not clear why so few spider species remain social their whole lives. Many researchers believe that spiders become more aggressive as they grow, which drives them to avoid each other. Chiara decided to test which comes first: aggressive behavior or social isolation.

Chiara and team members Felipe Ramon Portugal and Raphael Jeanson studied labyrinth spiders, which are common in France. They observed that baby labyrinth spiders started to move away from each other five days after emerging from their eggs, which the researchers initially thought pointed to a natural increase in aggression.

However, they found that even spiderlings raised alone started to move around more after five days. In other words, the spiders weren’t fleeing from their siblings because they were worried they’d get eaten, they were just stretching their (many) legs and becoming more mobile as they grew.

If an increase in aggressive behavior doesn’t happen naturally as the spiders age, something must cause it. To test this, the researchers raised some spiders alone and others in groups. They then brought together pairs of spiders that weren’t familiar with each other to see if they reacted peacefully or violently.

Spiders that were raised in groups almost never tried to eat the unfamiliar spider, but those raised alone went on the attack 40% of the time. The more time they had spent alone, the more likely they were to try to eat the unfamiliar spider. The researchers concluded that isolation causes spiders to become aggressive and not the other way around.

Questioning assumptions

Jonathan Pruitt, an evolutionary ecologist who was not involved in the research, said that the study was a good example of “going back and scrutinizing what a lot of people have assumed but don’t even realize that they’ve assumed, and questioning it and finding a very different story.”

The researchers hope to learn what happens to the loners that makes them more likely to attack other spiders they encounter.

“We know that they’re more aggressive, but from a cognitive point of view, what is the change?” said co-author Raphael Jeanson.

One possibility is that when spiders spend too much time away from other spiders, they forget how to read social cues — in this case, chemicals in their “skin” that help them recognize each other. The researchers hope to explore this possibility by studying a species that is closely related to labyrinth spiders, but lives in groups all their lives.

Leticia Aviles, a specialist in social spiders who was not involved in the study, agreed that the lack of social interactions could lead spiders to become more aggressive.

“When they remain together, they are familiar with each other, they have these chemical cues that they can read from each other, so they remain tolerant. But when they have been isolated, the familiarity is lost, and that’s what leads to this intolerant and aggressive behavior,” Aviles said. “I think that has implications for all kinds of systems, not just spiders.”