Archive for 10/12/2011

Thomas J. Morgan – 

David Swain and his children declared Friday that they are thankful for the decision last week by an appeals court in the Virgin Islands to overturn the former Jamestown Town Council member’s conviction for the murder of his wife. They insisted he was innocent, and appealed for privacy.

The joint family statement represented the first indication that Swain had returned to the United States. The statement did not address whether he had returned to Rhode Island.

Swain’s children, Jennifer Swain Bloom and Jeremy Swain, said, “We are grateful that our father is free … We never doubted his innocence.”

David Swain, 55, who was freed from a prison sentence of 25 years to life, denied any role in the death of his wife, Shelley Tyre. “I miss her every day,” he said. “She died an accidental death while scuba diving … I had nothing whatsoever to do with this tragedy.”

Swain’s words and those of his children were contained in a statement issued by Boston lawyer Timothy J. Bradl.

After being found culpable for Tyre’s death in civil court, Swain had been judged guilty in criminal court of murdering her while on vacation in 1999.

Prosecutors in Tortola alleged that Swain, during a dive on a shipwreck, turned off Tyre’s air supply and held her down in 80 feet of water.

An appellate panel a week ago overturned the conviction and barred a retrial of the case. It found that Swain’s defense — that his wife’s death had been accidental — had been prejudiced by the instructions the trial judge issued to jurors. The panel declined to order a new trial because of the amount of time that had elapsed.

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Maritime journal – 

The Master of the oil spill vessel Rena has been arrested and charged by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) 1994, “for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk”.

He has been remanded on bail until 19 October, on the condition he surrenders his passport.

The second officer in charge of the navigational watch of the vessel Rena is also due to appear before the courts on the same charge tomorrow (13 October).

The s65 charge carries a maximum penalty of $10,000, or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

This news comes as the scale of the disaster escalates.

The vessel ran aground off the Tauranga coast in New Zealand last week. It has since suffered substantial structural damage caused by the movement of the vessel as the stern, which is still afloat, shifts with the waves, while the front part of the ship remains stuck on a reef.

There is a concern that this may cause the vessel to break up. The salvors have three tugs mobilised charged with either holding the stern on the reef while further effort is made to remove the oil, or to tow the stern to shallow water where they will remove the oil.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) estimate that the amount of oil escaped so far has been between 200 and 300 tonnes. Pumping operations have commenced this week to try to empty the ship of oil but has been sporadic due to bad weather conditions.

Two water recovery vessels have been mobilised and are ready to intercept any oil which may migrate into the northern end of Papamoa. There is also a boom in place at Maketu.

Full story…

Sally Kestin –

The two divers left behind by their dive boat off South Florida last weekend made it back to land unharmed, but that did not stop hundreds of people from calling and emailing the boat operator with vulgar, hate-filled messages.

The attacks became so vicious that RJ Diving Ventures Inc. of Miami Beach has taken down its website and Facebook pages and stopped answering the telephone unless the call comes from a recognized number, said owner Robert J. Arnove. “I am shocked at the animosity and hatred displayed by these people,” he said.

Although severe, the reaction is hardly unusual. In business and politics, the discourse has become increasingly hostile, raising the question: Have we become meaner ?

I think we as a nation are much more frustrated than at other times,” said Joel Kimmel, a psychologist in Coral Springs. “We just live in this polarized society: You’re either a good guy or a bad guy.”

Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler has come to expect rancor in some of the communications she receives, whether they are about relocating Muscovy ducks or allowing guns in government buildings and on beaches.

In one recent email on a proposal for the county to take over Everglades Holiday Park, the author called Wexler a “prejudiced, biased, racist bigot,” and urged her to leave the park alone.

“People have not been shy about sharing their anti-government, leave-us-alone opinion,” she said.

Wexler, an elected official for almost 20 years, said she has seen a shift to more abusive and hostile commentary in recent years.

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By Rebecca Boyle –

You never know exactly what you’ll find when you go churning up muck, but apparently odds are pretty good you’ll find some viruses. The other day we heard how raw sewage is a hotbed of unknown viruses; now a French team has found the largest virus ever, living in the sea off the coast of Chile.

Named Megavirus chilensis, it barely beats the previous record-holder, Mimivirus, as the world’s most giant virus. It’s a linear double-stranded DNA molecule with 1,259,197 base pairs — by far the biggest viral genome ever discovered.

Its complex genome gives it some abilities, like protein translation, that overlap with simple cellular organisms like parasitic bacteria, according to the researchers who found it. Viruses aren’t cellular organisms; they need to invade other cells and hijack their machinery to produce new versions of themselves.

It is so large that it can be seen with a regular light microscope rather than an electron microscope, as Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, told the BBC.

It has several DNA-repair enzymes, which allow it to correct damage due to ultraviolet light, radiation or chemicals, Claverie and colleagues say. Its cell-like genes may be a holdover from an ancestor it shares with Mimivirus, which may have gotten its genes from a cell.

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By Michael Warren –

The jawbone of an ancient whale found in Antarctica may be the oldest fully aquatic whale yet discovered, Argentine scientists said Tuesday.

A scientist not involved in the find said it could suggest that whales evolved much more quickly from their amphibian precursors than previously thought.

Argentine paleontologist Marcelo Reguero, who led a joint Argentine-Swedish team, said the fossilized archaeocete jawbone found in February dates back 49 million years. In evolutionary terms, that’s not far off from the fossils of even older proto-whales from 53 million years ago that have been found in South Asia and other warmer latitudes.

Those earlier proto-whales were amphibians, able to live on land as well as sea. This jawbone, in contrast, belongs to the Basilosauridae group of fully aquatic whales, said Reguero, who leads research for the Argentine Antarctic Institute.

“The relevance of this discovery is that it’s the oldest known completely aquatic whale found yet,” said Reguero, who shared the discovery with Argentine paleontologist Claudia Tambussi and Swedish paleontologists Thomas Mors and Jonas Hagstrom of the Natural History Museum in Stockholm.

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