Monday, September 22, 2008

RIAC to open post at Casa dos Açores in Fall River, says Carlos César

Local immigrants may soon be gaining easier access to enhanced public services in the Azores, but exactly to what extent still remains a subject of contention.President Carlos César of the Regional Government of Azores announced that a bureau of the Rede Integrada de Apoio ao Cidadão (RIAC) or Integrated Network for Citizen Support will open soon at the Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra in Fall River.RIAC was introduced several years ago in the Azores to facilitate citizens' access to public administration services, while maximizing quality, promptness and convenience. Currently there are about 40 RIAC bureaus in the Azores, which are used to pay utility bills, take care of real estate matters, request financial incentives or apply for a slew of official documents, including passport, criminal record, national ID, national health medical card, Social Security card and birth, marriage and death certificates, among others.César said the intention is to provide immigrants who reside in this area with a vast package of services similar to what already takes place in the Azorean islands.

"It will certainly be a great benefit in terms of accessibility for our fellow-citizens who reside there [Fall River] and it will be accomplished with the support of Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra, an institution that has great credibility and has distinguished itself in a very positive matter from other institutions," said César in Ponta Delgada, after meeting with João Pacheco, president of the Casa dos Açores of Nova Inglaterra (CANI).Pacheco, who returned to the United States on Tuesday, told O Jornal that CANI, which is currently headquartered in East Providence, will be opening a delegation office at 308 South Main St., Fall River. He praised the decision of the Regional Government of the Azores to open a RIAC in Fall River, but admits he has some reservations about its full implementation."RIAC has played an extremely important role in Portugal, but I don't know if it will be viable in the United States," he said. "If RIAC opens in Fall River, I think it will be with limited services."He says he foresees the new office as a venue to provide more information than actual services."I don't want to deceive the community with false hopes, saying that we are going to open the RIAC office a month from now and we don't have anything to offer," he said.Pacheco said a similar project has been stalled in Ontario, Canada.

"In Ontario, they [Casa dos Açores] already have the furniture since February, but they still have no guidelines," he said. "There is no lack of promises." O Jornal contacted the press office of the Azorean Presidency to find out more details about the new office, but did not receive a return call by press time.Pacheco said César told him he expects to send a representative from his administration to this area to help plan and implement the new bureau.

Genetic structuring and migration patterns of Atlantic bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus (Lowe, 1839)

Large pelagic fishes are generally thought to have little population genetic structuring based on their cosmopolitan distribution, large population sizes and high dispersal capacities. However, gene flow can be influenced by ecological (e.g. homing behaviour) and physical (e.g. present-day ocean currents, past changes in sea temperature and levels) factors.

In this regard, Atlantic bigeye tuna shows an interesting genetic structuring pattern with two highly divergent mitochondrial clades (Clades I and II), which are assumed to have been originated during the last Pleistocene glacial maxima. We assess genetic structure patterns of Atlantic bigeye tuna at the nuclear level, and compare them with mitochondrial evidence.
Results: We examined allele size variation of nine microsatellite loci in 380 individuals from the Gulf of Guinea, Canary, Azores, Canada, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. To investigate temporal stability of genetic structure, three Atlantic Ocean sites were re-sampled a second year.

Hierarchical AMOVA tests, RST pairwise comparisons, isolation by distance (Mantel) tests, Bayesian clustering analyses, and coalescence-based migration rate inferences supported unrestricted gene flow within the Atlantic Ocean at the nuclear level, and therefore interbreeding between individuals belonging to both mitochondrial clades. Moreover, departures from HWE in several loci were inferred for the samples of Guinea, and attributed to a Wahlund effect supporting the role of this region as a spawning and nursery area.
Our microsatellite data supported a single worldwide panmictic unit for bigeye tunas. Despite the strong Agulhas Current, immigration rates seem to be higher from the Atlantic Ocean into the Indo-Pacific Ocean, but the actual number of individuals moving per generation is relatively low compared to the large population sizes inhabiting each ocean basin.

Conclusions: Lack of congruence between mt and nuclear evidences, which is also found in other species, most likely reflects past events of isolation and secondary contact. Given the inferred relatively low number of immigrants per generation around the Cape of Good Hope, the proportions of the mitochondrial clades in the different oceans may keep stable, and it seems plausible that the presence of individuals belonging to the mt Clade I in the Atlantic Ocean may be due to extensive migrations that predated the last glaciation.

By Elena G Gonzalez, Peter Beerli and Rafael Zardoya

It's official: the summer was a total washout

Summer officially ends today, with the Met Office confirming it as one of the wettest and least sunny of any on record.
With the September equinox tomorrow heralding the start of autumn, figures show an average of 327.3mm (nearly 13in) of rain fell in the UK between 1 June and 31 August, and this month is also proving to be one of the worst.

With floods causing six deaths and tens of millions of pounds of damage, forecasters say an average rainfall of 81.6mm was recorded by 15 September - a total almost equal to the 100.4mm average for the month and on track to rival the worst ever, when 181.8mm was recorded in 1918.

In addition, the UK experienced just 463.9 hours of sunshine up to 31 August, which is below average and included the dullest August since records began in 1929.
September saw only 46.5 sunshine hours during its first 15 days, which could certainly challenge 1945's record worst of 91.4 hours. The normal total is 123.1 hours.
The Met Office blamed the summer washout, the fifth wettest since records began in 1914, on the jet stream: fast-moving, high-atmosphere winds which were further south than usual, preventing the Azores high bringing hot weather from southern Europe.
Spokeswoman Sarah Holland said: 'We predicted this summer would not be very nice, and it hasn't been. August was awful and September has been very wet and dull. There could now be showers on Monday.'

By Caroline Davies

A whale tale to cherish

As image changes go, the whale has undergone the biggest transformation going. Since Herman Melville penned his 19th century tale of ferocious sea beast Moby-Dick, this most mysterious of sea creatures has gone from feared to revered.

Over the years the heavily hunted whale has evolved in the public perception from terrifying monster to gentle giant.

And whether we are hunting the creature or lining up on a tourist boat just to catch a glimpse of it, the whale has always held a deep fascination for humans.

None more so than bestselling writer Philip Hoare – Noel Coward’s biographer and author of Spike Island and England’s Lost Eden.

Philip was so intrigued by the animals, he embarked on a four-year adventure around the world exploring man’s complex relationship with these awe-inspiring creatures.

The result – a captivating book about his experience and a feature-length documentary to be aired on BBC2 tonight.

“It’s where human history meets natural history,” says Philip, whose interest began when he saw a killer whale at a safari park as a child. We have gone from a world of hunting whales to a world of whale-watching. Before the discovery of petroleum the world ran on whale. All street lamps ran on whale oil and it was a huge industry.

“Up until the late 1980s whalers were still hunting in the Azores but they still had an intimate relationship with the whales, watching them on their days off. Now these guys take tourists whale-watching. I wanted to explore what was happening and why.”

Philip’s epic journey takes him from the waters of the Solent to the whaling ports of New Bedford, Nantucket and the Azores.

We even see the Sholing, Southampton-born writer floating in three-mile deep Atlantic waters alongside the legendary sperm whale.

“It was the culmination of it all but I’ve never been so scared in my life,” admits Philip, who is both fascinated and frightened by the sea. The sperm whale is the world’s biggest predator. It can swallow giant squid and even sharks. It was terrifying but then I felt it using its echo location. I could feel it vibrating through my rib cage. It was scanning me – it knew exactly where I was. Then it just glided off. It was amazing.”

During his adventure, Philip visits the house where Melville wrote his masterpiece. “It was moving to stand at his desk, look out of the window and see the mountain which he thought looked like the shape of a whale.”

In fact, says Philip, the story of Moby-Dick (one man’s obsessive pursuit of the great white whale) has parallels with the modern world. “It’s just like George Bush hunting Osama Bin Laden. This idea of chasing evil. What is it? Does it even exist?”

Philip happily admits to being “obsessed” by whales.

“I saw my first whales during holidays in Cape Cod in the late 1990s. It got to the point where people said I spent more time with whales than humans! That’s how I started the journey. When you’re standing on a beach in a cold New England winter freezing your bits off, you do ask yourself what you’re doing there. But the rewards are worth it.”

The biggest bonus of all, he says, was getting up close to the creatures once again.

“I have seen grown men crying when they see a whale for the first time. It’s not just their size. When they look at you, there is intelligence behind those eyes.

“There’s also something mystical about them because they are so huge but we know so little about them.

“When I started out I had a much more pragmatic, less emotional response to the whole whaling thing. I took an objective approach.

“But when I swam with whales I felt a sense of guilt, as if I should be apologising to them for how we’ve treated them.

“Whaling is still going on in some parts of the world and they are also suffering through pollution and climate change. They are victims. But these are enlightened times and I hope all that can change.”

By Paula Thompson