News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 3rd June 2013

Irish savers facing rate cuts of up to 40% in State schemes

    

Irish state savings schemes will be hit by huge cuts in interest rates after banks put pressure on the Government to lower them.

Tens of thousands of savers flocked to the State schemes in recent years after mistrust of the banks grew, and an average of €1bn is now invested in such products each year.

But while savers who have already bought into schemes will continue to enjoy their agreed interest rates, future investors will be sold products at a lower interest rate from today, meaning a lower return on their money.

Attractive

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which manages the country’s borrowings, is cutting the interest paid on products it sells through An Post by more than 40pc in some cases.

Although the schemes generally involve long investment periods such as five and 10 years, they were attractive to savers who have come to distrust main street banks.

The new lower rates will only affect new savings products sold through An Post.

Following the changes, someone investing €10,000 in a five-year bond will earn €1,110 compared with €1,500 before.

Investing €10,000 in a 10-year bond will bring interest of €3,500 instead of €4,500.

Simon Moynihan – of financial website Bonkers.ie – said while the latest cuts are comparable to the declines this year in the rates offered by retail banks, there are now few attractive savings options for consumers.

The European Central Bank has reduced its key lending rate to an all-time low of 0.5pc, but the scale of the cuts being introduced by the NTMA are certain to catch savers by surprise.

They include a 43pc cut in the interest rate for a three-year savings bond; a 44pc cut in a four-year national solidarity bond; a 27pc cut in a five-year savings certificate, and a 22pc cut in 10-year national solidarity bonds.

Banks have been putting pressure on the Government to cut the interest rates on NTMA products sold through An Post because they are more attractive than what the institutions are offering.

Meanwhile, the Government ruled out exemptions to the property tax for people in financial hardship on the basis it would risk creating a “flood of applicants” and make administration of the tax extremely difficult.

Internal records show the Department of Finance and Revenue Commissioners earlier this year thought about introducing such a measure.

But senior officials warned that an organised campaign of ‘hardship applications’ would seriously affect the total tax collected.

Ireland energy link-up to France proposed

  

Energy chiefs in Ireland and France are considering linking the two countries with a 600km cable to secure electricity supplies.

Experts will spend several months this year studying the seabed in order to identify the best potential route for joining the southern Irish coast with the north west of France.

The aim is to build a connector powerful enough to carry about 700 megawatts of electricity – the equivalent of energy demands from about 450,000 homes.

If it goes ahead, it is not expected to be ready before 2025.

   Two national transmission operators, EirGrid and French counterpart RTE (Reseau de transport d’electricite), have signed a memo of understanding to make further feasibility studies.

EirGrid last year completed the 500MW submarine East West Inter-connector between Ireland and Wales.

Chief executive Fintan Slye said: “The benefits of the Ireland-France interconnector could include increased security of supply, downward price pressure on electricity prices through competition, and the potential to export renewable energy.”

Pierre Bornard, senior executive vice-president at RTE, said: “The construction of the interconnector would facilitate the integration of renewable energy in the European electricity system, and would benefit from the varying wind resources of Ireland and the continent.”

Garda trafic Chief Superintendent O’Sullivan denies claims of a shortage of Gardaí on road patrols

   

Chief Superintendent Michael O’Sullivan of the Garda National Traffic Bureau has denied claims that there is a shortage of Gardaí on patrol, he said a large amount of mandatory alcohol check points and other speed checks and Go Safe Vans were being carried out. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One programme, Chief Superintendent O’Sullivan assured the public that there are large amounts of mandatory alcohol and speed check points happening.

It follows comments in today’s Irish Independent by the Chairman of the Road Safety Authority, Gay Byrne.  Mr Byrne said that people are “taking chances” on the roads because there are not enough Gardaí on patrol or speed checks. He said there are huge resources committed to the roads.

Chief Superintendent O’Sullivan said: “We’ve committed huge resources both from a district and divisional level and divisional traffic units.”He claimed:” anyone who was stopped over the weekend will bear testament to that, that a large amount of mandatory alcohol check points and other checkpoints and speed checks and ‘Go Safe Vans’. So, there are huge resources committed to the roads”.

New stamps to mark JFK visit here 50 years ago

Two new stamps marking the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland have been printed.

The An Post images of the June 1963 visit were unveiled in Kennedy’s ancestral homeland at New Ross, Co Wexford.

  The 60c stamp shows a photograph of JFK being served tea by his cousin’s daughter, the late Mary Ann Ryan.

The 90c stamp shows President Kennedy and Taoiseach Sean Lemass laying a wreath at Arbour Hill military cemetery in Dublin.

Actor Michael Douglas links oral sex and throat cancer

   

Michael Douglas has issued a clarification after a newspaper published an interview where the actor seemed to suggest that he contracted throat cancer from performing oral sex on women.

The actor’s spokesperson said Monday that Douglas did not say that oral sex was the cause of his throat cancer. Douglas was discussing what causes oral cancer during his interview, spokesman Allen Burry said.

The Guardian newspaper published an interview Monday in which Douglas said, said “without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), which actually comes from cunnilingus.”

One of the causes of oral cancers is HPV, a common virus that can be transmitted through genital contact and oral sex.

The 68-year-old Douglas, who was diagnosed in 2010, has been free of cancer for more than two years after receiving extensive chemotherapy and has returned to acting.

Douglas has starred in many movies, including Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. He is currently appearing in an acclaimed biopic about Liberace.

Dr. Michael Brady, who specializes in sexual health as medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, told The Associated Press that oral sex could have contributed to Douglas’s cancer but that it was difficult to pinpoint a single cause.

He pointed out that Douglas had been a smoker and a drinker, two factors that he said are the most common causes of oral cancer.

“There are often a number of factors, genetic, environmental, viral, that could be playing a role,” he said.

Brady said there are hundreds of different types of HPV virus and that in most cases it does not cause damage. The risk is so low, he said, that he does not believe people should worry or change their sexual practices.

James Cameron puts Avatar before ocean

    

The Titanic director James Cameron who has a fascination with the underwater environment – is currently touring the US with his one man submarine Deep-sea Challenger, but told Variety it is set to be housed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and put into a “dormant” state for now.

Cameron explained: “Making it operational is really funding for ship time, which really boils down to fuel to get it out to some of these remote sites for diving.

“So at some point, ideally, we’ll go raise millions of dollars together to go take the sub out on a new programme. If it happens without me, it can happen at any point, if it happens with me, it has to happen after the Avatar films.”

The director has written two sequels to his Oscar-winning 2009 film Avatar, set on the mythical planet of Pandora.

He took inspiration from his research into aquatic life to create the imaginary world of Pandora and has previously revealed he wants to set at least one of the sequels in Pandora’s ocean.

Cameron took the Deepsea Challenger to the deepest spot in the Earth’s oceans in March 2012. He was only the third person to reach the depth of more than 35,000 feet, and the first to go there solo.

He will reveal what happened on his voyage in the upcoming documentary Deepsea Challenge 3D.

Hackers are increasingly targeting Android devices warns McAfee 

     

Android users should be wary when downloading apps, a new report warns. Above, Hugo Barra, vice president of product management for Android at Google, at a conference in San Francisco. 

   The volume of malware targeted at mobile devices, such as Superclean and DroidCleaner, surged nearly 40% in the first quarter of 2013, according to researchers at security solutions provider McAfee. Although the growth rate dropped slightly from the previous two quarters, McAfee researchers said the number of mobile attacks remained on course to top 2012 numbers.

The company’s quarterly threat report also noted that mobile malware had spread to countries such as South Korea and India. South Koreans were targeted by an app that forwarded and deleted text messages. It was disguised as an app to receive mobile coupons for a coffee chain.

Overall malware growth across all computing devices totaled about 15 million new pieces of malicious attacks entering McAfee’s “zoo” in the first three months of 2013. Among the growth areas were an attack aimed at Facebook users who received a fake message from a friend, one in which compromised USB thumb drives sent personal information back to a hacker and one that took advantage of out-of-date software (Java, Office, Internet Explorer) to install “ransomware.”

“With ransomware, cyber criminals hold a system hostage and insist on payment to unlock a computer,” the report says. “But will they free the machine after the victim pays? There are no guarantees, and  anonymous payment systems make it basically impossible to track their movements.”

The McAfee report also found an uptick in spam globally after a drop in 2012. But in the United States, the volume of spam continued to decline.

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